Monday, October 31, 2011

You, Me and the ILP

See here.

Independent Working Class Education

These are students from Ruskin College who went on strike in support of the principle of independent working class education in 1909. This led to the formation of the Plebs League and then the Central Labour College. See our Adult Education thread on related matters. Also link into a history about developments from the time of Ruskin strike entitled "Plebs : the lost legacy of independent working class education". It can be found via the Features section here. (Click onto the photo itself to enlarge it.)

Independent Working Class Education
: (Notice of their Day School).

12th November 2011
10.00 – 5.00
Northern College

We are looking forward to seeing you at the IWCE Day School. Please email now to confirm or book your place to -

Themes of the Day

There will be a wide range of presentations and lots of discussion, exploring “can Independent Working Class Education contribute to today’s class struggle?” We’ll look at anti-deportation campaigning, working class heroes, women in the unions, self taught workers, are Freire and Gramsci still relevant to education? what can we learn from the Plebs, Robert Tressell, from popular education? can we use film in our programmes? and more.

Northern College
[Wentworth Castle]
Barnsley, South Yorkshire
S75 3ET

The College is outside Barnsley
Car: Junctions 36/37 off M1. Bus/train. Look at
£12.00 includes lunch. We can arrange free overnight accommodation, shared travel pool. Please get in touch now. The Northern College is accessible.

IWCE Project tries to -
* seek to offer a diverse range of education materials and approaches for trade union and other working class and progressive movement groups
* respect the role of the working class in making history, and in making the future

Friday, October 28, 2011

Ken Curran is "Seeking A Way Forward" (Part 1).

The map on the left is Danny Dorling's interpretation of the North-South divide. For an explanation of his reasoning see here .

by Ken Curran, Chair of the Sheffield Branch of the Co-op Party and member of the Sheffield District Labour Party.

Labour faces enormous challenges in the future. The current world financial crisis is paralysing most progressive political thought, not just in Britain but across the world. Here in Britain, apart from cuts being imposed by the Tory/Lib Dem coalition, we have a long standing problem which casts dark shadows across the land. The North-South divide which has developed over the years since the Second World War appears more pronounced than ever. What I am proposing is both progressive and visionary. For the idea to have any hope of success will require a future Labour Government not just to share the vision, but to take over its ownership in order to drive the project forward.

I take the view that only radical and dynamic proposals will overcome the current inertia in the British Economy. There is really no shortage of money available for investment, but finding somewhere secure to invest is the problem. My proposal would not create instant wealth. However, it would provide private and public investors with a long term security for their investments, which in time would grow with value.

Coming to the proposals themselves. If they were approved in principle by a future Labour Government and the projects used to stimulate debate, I feel such ideas would have the effect of creating a catalyst.

The political conference season of 2011 has come and gone, I regret to say there were no new exciting ideas. Not wanting to be disparaging about Ed Miliband's speech to Conference, it said more about the current state of the political thought on the democratic left than anything else. He reminded me of a very well intentioned person, groping around in the dark not wanting to tread on anyone's toes! Labour needs big ideas to set our pulses racing creating that sense of purpose that all good people will want to be part of. A NEW VISION FOR BRITAIN!

We have to break the influence of the Financial Institutions who have greatly contributed towards creating the present financial crisis and to deepening of the North-South divide.

The first step is to propose the building of an East-West tunnel under the Pennines (Peak District) perhaps from the east of Sheffield on to the lowland area of Greater Manchester, initially to carry high speed freight from the North West to a new Humber Port Terminal aimed to enabling goods from the towns of Preston, Burnley, Bury, Rochdale, Salford, Liverpool and Manchester to be transported to Moscow in and around 36 to 40 hours. I envisage a line across the North German plain into Eastern Europe and beyond, with Rail Terminals at strategic points to enable links to potential markets. I believe that the time saved in the transportation of goods from Northern and North Midland manufactures would be a huge leap forward in cutting the times of transportation.

At present much of our trade is with Europe, however over time I envisage extending the proposed high speed rail lines beyond the Urals in order to reach the countries of Kazakhstan and Mongolia, opening up a fast overland rail route into China and India. These routes would knock weeks off the current trade routes to the Far East by sea. That is, of course, for the future. Once the Tunnel is operational it would also transform the present travel times for goods in Europe generally.

The envisaged new Port on the River Humber with new rail and ferry terminals would increase the current capacity of trade. It would act as a stimulus for hard pressed areas like North Lincolnshire, Grimsby, Scunthorpe, Immingham, Goole and Hull. The benefits would be shared by Derbyshire, Nottingham, West and South Yorkshire and beyond. In Yorkshire and the North Midlands the expertise to drive a deep tunnel under the Peak District already exists. It would in no way threaten the National Park . I am suggesting a new tunnel because of the need for space on the west of the Pennines to locate a large rail terminal. Although my knowledge of the west of the Pennines leads me to conclude that the current rail routes and tunnels are unsuitable for fast high speed travel.

These are only ideas at present, which I suggest are worthy of consideration. I am aware of no other ideas in the thought locker of the democratic left that would provide British businesses with the opportunities these proposals provide. As previously stated, there is really no shortage of money, only a reluctance to invest! Years ago Denis Healy accused the Tories of building a Candy Floss Economy. This they succeeded with under Mrs Thatcher. The need to restructure the economy is imperative. Giving support to this kind of initiative would boost a much needed confidence. Europe is floundering. Its current leaders lack vision. We could give that much needed leadership. The democratic left can and must provide answers to the problems of our age. Every crisis brings forth opportunities.

I have, however, so far only revealed half of my proposed package. Part two will appear on "Dronfield Blather" shortly.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Urgent - Support Legal Aid Facilities For The Poor - Now

Starting from Monday next week the Commons discusses its final stages of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill which as it stands would have a devastating impact upon the poorest in society. We covered the issue at our meeting in July when we were addressed by Juliette Frangos of the Chesterfield Law Centre. If you have not yet done so, there is just time to seek to protect legal services for the poor by supporting the proposals here and here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Jon Williams on the Tories and the "Squeezed Middle".

This is a very instructive article from Lord Ashcroft on many levels. It seems the Tories intent is to highjack Ed Miliband’s "squeezed middle" slogan whilst reducing its impact with the wider electorate.

Lord Ashcroft has a lofty position in Tory party and has finances to support their activities, such as commissioning polls, rather incisively, in marginal constituencies. The general thread of the article is a repositioning Tory policy towards Labour’s “getting the economy growing and creating jobs” as one of the most important issues facing Britain. He also highlights reducing the deficit, whilst important, shouldn’t be at the expense of job creation.

The centre ground is shifting leftwards when one of the Tories key supporters thinks the Tories should be “the party of the many, not the few” and makes a case to keep the 50p tax rate. If this is true Ed Miliband needs to move quickly to reinforce Labour’s message to the electorate in these marginal constituencies and the rest of the UK.

Leadership was a plus for David Cameron, but not so for Ed Miliband. Labour should use this information as confirmation it’s moving in the right direction. When support for the Tories has been on average the same as the last General Election there is hope for Labour. Ed needs to show more leadership qualities and communicate his (Labour) ideas to the electorate, before the Tories claim them all.

The article includes the following key sections, The emphasis is mine -

"How can the Conservatives expand their vote share at a time of flat or declining living standards? Again, economic competence and leadership hold the key. My research has found that former Labour voters who now think the Tories have the best approach to the economy are 157 times as likely to say they will vote Conservative as those who don’t think that.....A recent poll I conducted in marginal constituencies found that getting the economy growing and creating jobs is seen by some distance to be the most important issue facing Britain. Dealing with the deficit and the debt came further down the list – below the NHS, immigration and education. The Government argues, rightly, that controlling the deficit is a prerequisite for a sustainable recovery. But many feel that it is pursuing deficit reduction at the expense of job creation, rather than as a means to it. The Tories are thought to have the best approach on debt – but the voters they need to win over are less certain there are policies for growth.....The Tories in particular need to show that they are the party of the many, not the few, that they are on the side of the hard-pressed, not just the rich – a case which will be harder to make if scrapping the 50p tax rate seems to be top of the agenda.....If anything, the importance of leadership will grow as the next election nears."

John Williams.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Death Of Party Democracy

See here for my viewpoint on the first day of Labour's Recent Conference.

Harry Barnes.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Hillsborough Disaster

Clive Betts was at Hillsborough on the day of the disaster. See this moving video of his description of what happened.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Jon Williams Reports on "Open Day" at the Labour Party Conference

Question Time at the Labour Party Conference

Wed 28th Sep Labour Party Conference “Open Day” by Jon Williams

As part of Labour’s New Politics, Fresh Ideas to encourage a wider participation in politics Wed 28th Sep was open to specifically non Labour members by invitation; it also allowed Labour members to apply. Activities at Conference were Exhibition stands, Policy Workshops and Seminars plus the access to the Main Hall at 5pm to take part in Question & Answer session hosted by Labour’s leader Ed Miliband. I attended the following events and made a few notes on the discussions below,

Policy Workshop in the Open Zone in the Exhibition Hall: Helping the next generation do better than the last

This was an open forum with 3-4 MPs answering questions from open day attendees. Some of the topics / questions asked by the audience were,

Tax avoidance – more inspectors should be employed to recoup lost tax

Families on low income – how will they cope?

Poverty is on the increase under the Tories

University costs – 30 years to clear £50k worth of student loans

There was concern about the removal of BSF (Building for Schools Fund)

Legal Aid cuts – how this will impact on local authorities to provide an alternative when pressure is to make cuts

Youth employment – NEETS (Not in Education, Employment or Training)

Increase in retirement age will take away a source of child care

Removal of pension tax relief for high earners was sought

Change procurement rules to support UK industry when bidding for European work e.g. Bombardier and include a requirement for companies to run apprenticeships before they can apply for public sector contracts

Support for small business now RDA’s have been scrapped, will LEPs (Local Enterprise Partnership) provide similar support?

Co-operative Councils Network and the Co-operative Party Seminar

Chair Anna Turley Co-operative Councils Network

Rt. Hon MP Tessa Jowell

Cllr Steve Reed Leader London Borough of Lambeth (Co-op Council)

Cllr Sharon Taylor Leader of Stevenage Borough Council (Co-op Council)

Changing local communities together: Co-operative Councils

Interesting and worth explaining,

What is the Co-op Party – it is the political arm of the co-operative movement and is a party of social justice. You can achieve more working together than alone. They believe the only way to create a just and fair society is through power being spread evenly through society and not based on wealth, class, gender or race. Co-operatives don’t have share holders, they have members. The members own and control the organisation. The Labour and Co-op MP Ed Balls introduced co-operative trust schools – a new type of educational institution in which everyone has a stake in the school’s success i.e. parents, support staff, local people and students. There are more than 100 co-operative trust schools in England.

Tessa Jowell:

There are currently x17 co-operative councils working to implement mutualisation, cooperation and partnering, there was a worry Tories were hijacking these themes for the Big Society and a cover for cuts. This was really Tory ideology against the state.

One of the biggest worries was management of risk where ownership of buildings was involved, responsibility for maintenance and financial liability were big concerns.

It was hoped with shared partnership with councils these issues could be overcome.

Overall it was a positive action during these troubled times, it was an alternative solution to cuts.

Sharon Taylor:

The Tories Big society idea was fine for people with wealth and spare time to implement but those without it was almost impossible without help.

Co-op councils provide help for these people to make decisions and run activities, these were normally small/micro/autonomous activities e.g. community centres, parks and open spaces.

Co-op Councils would provide funding support.

One example is a Leisure centre run as a “Not for Profit” company and running an ALMO

Stevenage Borough Council is a fair trade council.

Steve Reed:

Quoted other public sector bodies working with local communities e.g. health and police

The public sector model is changing and driven by Tory cuts agenda

Where the middle classes have a choice whether to use public sector – the working classes don’t have a choice.

Historically public sector was a top down service that issue instructions from above – instead of bottom up.

People were looking for control of their day to day lives – to work together with councils.

Examples quoted were; co-op housing in Rochdale, micro mutual’s, school co-op trust & mutual school services in Newcastle and other community lead service delivery, living wage and local currencies.

Big ideas were “Service Enablers, Labour Localism and Swapping Ideas.

Other contributions from;

James Alexander Leader of York City Council

Current trend of schools becoming academies outside local authority – another option was a mutual trust

New model of service was to become a mutual operation

It is quoted how they set up Wi-Fi hot spots and transferred this expertise to other co-op councils to empower residents

Nick Forbes Labour Group Leader of Newcastle City Council

Suggested private sector contracts could be renegotiated – change them to mutual status

Discussions about what does it mean to be a citizen – how to be less passive and more engaged.

Can being a mutual improve on health in a community?

There need to be changes to how “language” is used to transfer ideas and meaning

Again it was bottom up, empowering and creating local champions

Other questions asked,

  • What was the relationship between trade unions and co-op councils? It was suggested it should be commission lead, workers rights need to be protected and work as a partnership.

  • Employment opportunities for work are limited when child care has to be found, especially when facilities such as Sure Start are being closed.

  • Via the Big Society the Tories are hijacking the agenda of a new way of working in the public sector

  • When setting up mutual contracts should be specific in what is required from the partnership including stating any differences in values.

  • A good example is which has based its work on person centred solutions – bottom up.

  • Similar to Shared Services between NEDDC, Bolsover and Chesterfield

In conclusion it was HOPE versus CUTS.

Young British Talent Showcase

Six young people under the age of twenty gave short presentations of activities they have initiated and run them from day to day. Schemes ranged from giving a spare bedroom over to interns or low wage earners in return for help around the home to combating knife crime and sprucing up redundant buildings as a means of starting the process of getting back to work. The event was to showcase and celebrate the potential of younger generations.

Leader’s Question and Answer Session

Ed Miliband took questions (and gave answers) from open day attendees (non Labour party) and Labour party members in the Conference Hall. These were mostly home topics with one or two foreign questions.

I’ve given a brief overview of the Questions & Answers given below which can be seen in full by clicking on the link at the bottom of the page,

  • Should Scotland leave the Union? No

  • Ed supports Palestine and Israel to determine a two state solution

  • Egypt human right abuses and why nothing was done to prevent such abuses? We need to be on the right side of the movements for change

  • Would Ed allow German companies to take over PFI hospitals? No, only partly e.g. private companies like independent hospitals for hip and cataracts

  • Public sector pension contract changes, made a comparison to Dutch ones where what they sign up to would be the same when they retired.

  • Will Ed be bringing Brother David back into the Shadow Cabinet? That would be his decision

  • Would Ed be legalising drugs? No

  • Disability campaigner asked why gave the impression he treated all sick & disabled people as scroungers – Ed admitted he had got that wrong in his speech and promised to meet up after the conference.

  • What would Ed do about BAE job loses – Government could do more to support.

  • What would you do if we have a double deep recession? Ed only thought there would be low growth.

  • Why are you against the right to strike? Ed does agree it is right to strike only as a last resort.

  • EU referendum – No I think it’s a settled issue

  • Replace Trident – only if it was agreed with other nuclear countries i.e. multilateral.

  • Do you believe in a maximum wage? No but corporate rewards have to been seen to be fair.

My overall impression from attending my first conference was a positive one. There were many new ideas of hope for the future. Even in opposition the Labour Party can make a huge difference to the direction this country takes during these difficult economic troubles.