Thursday, 19 October 2017

Spain to suspend Catalan autonomy

Holly EllyattCorrespondent,
SPAIN's central government has said it will move to suspend Catalonia's autonomy after the regional leader failed to drop a bid for independence.
In a statement on Spain's government website Thursday morning, Madrid said that the Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont had refused to comply with a request to confirm whether the region had declared independence.
Consequently, it said it would "continue with the procedures provided for in Article 155 of the constitution to restore legality in the self-government of Catalonia." Meaning, the government is set to meet Saturday to propose measures to strip Catalonia of some powers and officially trigger Article 155 of the Constitution.
Puigdemont was given until 10 a.m. local time Thursday (4 a.m. ET) to withdraw the declaration of independence he made — albeit ambiguously — last week.
Before the deadline passed Puigdemont said the regional parliament could vote on a formal declaration of independence from Spain if no talks were held between Catalonia and Madrid. He again failed to clarify whether the region had declared independence.

Equivocal response

Puigdemont refused to clarify his government's intentions at an earlier deadline on Monday, at which point the Spanish government gave him one last chance to retract his equivocal response.
With no last-minute change of heart, Rajoy has said he will invoke Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution — its "nuclear option" that would allow Madrid to take control of the region, following approval from the Spanish Senate.
The effects of Article 155 are not likely to be felt for several days due to it requiring approval from the upper house of parliament. The unprecedented triggering of Article 155 is a constitutional crisis for Spain, however, and is likely to spook financial markets. There could also be more social unrest in the wealthy northeastern region.

Crisis a long-time coming

The current political crisis facing Catalonia and Spain has been long-coming. There has been a strong sense of separatism and regional identity in Catalonia, a wealthy region in the northeast of Spain, for decades. There have also been several unrecognized and unofficial referenda on independence in recent years.
The latest vote took place October 1 — 90 percent of 2.26 million regional voters opted for independence. Turnout was low at around 43 percent, however, and thousands of Catalans also took to the streets to protest against independence.
Puigdemont caused confusion following the vote by appearing to declare independence and then immediately suspend it, calling for dialogue with Spain, a request so far denied. His request for the European Union to mediate in the dispute has also fallen on deaf ears with the EU supporting the Rajoy government and saying it would not recognize an independent Catalonia.

Holly EllyattCorrespondent,

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Freedom Press Cartoons at Bradford*

Freedom Press cartoons on exhibition in Bradford
from Donald Rooum (former Friend of Freedom Press)
THE Peace Museum in Bradford is currently hosting an exhibition ‘Cartoons For Peace’ including at least two Freedom Press books.
The March to Death, a book of anti-war cartoons was first published by Freedom Press in defiance of war-time censorship in 1943. The drawings are by John Olday illustrating quotations chosen anonymous by Marie-Louise Berneri. The edition on display, with an introduction and notes, was published in 1995.
Wildcat Anarchists Against Bombs, by Donald Rooum, was published by Freedom Press in 2003 for the Defence and Security Exhibition International (arms trade) fair.
Anti-war and anarchist cartoons, by many artists from around the world include original drawings of Donald Rooum’s cartoons for Peace News in the 1960s.
The Peace Museum is at 10 Piece Hall Yard, Bradford BD1 1PJ,           
telephone 01274 770 241,
open Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, 10am to 4pm, admission free.
‘Cartoons For Peace’, a temporary exhibition, opened on 18 October 2017.
No closing date has yet been announced. 

*   The cartoonist and former Friend of Freedom Press, Donald Rooum, who sent us the above e-mail may not be aware that his colleagues on the Freedom Press Collective  issued the statement below on the 23th, June 2016.  This statement apparently drafted by Simon Saunders, the one-time East Anglian privately educated schoolboy, who now juggles his job as part-time Freedom Editor with his real career as a Morning Star hired hack,  attempts to blacklist the 'Northern Four', Martin Gilbert, Barry Woodling, Brian Bamford and Chris Draper, who are all heavily associated with Northern Voices.
This doesn't say much for the ability of Freedom Press and Simon Saunders to influence 'progressive outlets' yo ban us, or for the coherence of the comrade anarchists in carrying out Simon Saunder's wishes.

Freedom Collective Statement on Brian Bamford | Freedom Press Their brand of disruptive, bullying, self-aggrandising tantrum-throwing is unacceptable and should not be given any support by anarchist or progressive organisations. In our view they should not be welcome in anarchist spaces nor published in the anarchist outlets – they are persona non grata in our eyes. We hope other organisations will support us in rejecting their toxic approach.

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Appeal to support jobs at Bombardier

                  We have lunched a Petition That calls on government must act to defend Jobs & Skills at Bombardier, Northern Ireland

·       As the UK is the second biggest Boeing client globally. We call on the government to follow-through on their words and use their leverage to defend UK jobs from US protectionism; to compel Boeing to withdraw their meritless case and lift the threat hanging over thousands of Northern Ireland workers.

Our Target is over 100,000 signatures, Link to the Petition is below, please sign and share with as many family and friends as you can. Current signatures at 3,621 after great work from our Unite workplace representatives over the weekend, but this will take all our support.
The UK is the second biggest Boeing client globally. We call on the government to follow-through on their words and use their leverage to defend UK jobs from US ...

Also colleagues we are trying to keep our workforces concerns in the public domain, so can you all please use your social media follow and retweet etc Unite the Union NI is on both Facebook and Twitter @UniteunionNI . If we could manage over 1000 retweets / likes etc it would keep the focus on our issues.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Protests at Arrest of Catalan Separatists

TENs of thousands have gathered in Barcelona for a candlelit protest after two leaders of the Catalan separatist movement were jailed.
Jordi Sánchez and Jordi Cuixart are being held without bail while they are under investigation for sedition.
The men were leading figures in the disputed 1 October independence vote, which Madrid has branded illegal.
Spain's Constitutional Court appeared to back central government's position on Tuesday, ruling the vote void.
It had initially suspended the law used by Catalan authorities to call the referendum.
However, Catalan government spokesman Jordi Turull suggested neither the court decision nor the imprisonment of Mr Sánchez and Mr Cuixart was going to stop the drive for independence, telling reporters "surrender is not something this government is considering".

Fake News or What?

By Les May

‘EX-MP set up deal to keep sex abuse secret’ screams the half page headline on the front page of today’s Rochdale Observer. Look inside and it’s just a claim made by Martin Digan to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.   A claim for which by his own admission he has absolutely no evidence.

Digan claims that a deal was struck between Cyril Smith, the late Jim Dobbin and Colin Lambert, in which Smith would ‘keep quiet’ about ‘a serious offence against a child in a public toilet’ supposedly perpetrated by an un-named Rochdale Council leader, in return for Dobbin and Lambert keeping quiet about sexual abuse at Knowl View.  He also claims to have given a ‘dossier’ about the abuse to Dobbin.  As is all too frequent when claims are made about Smith and Knowl View we are kept in the dark about when these events are supposed to have taken place.  And ‘when’ is critical in evaluating the likelihood that any of this might be true.

We’ll return to the ‘dossier’ later, but just to clarify, Jim Dobbin was Labour MP for Heywood and Middleton from 1997 to his untimely death in 2014.  He had previously been a Rochdale councillor from 1984, Labour leader from 1994 and Leader of the Council from 1996.  Colin Lambert was a Labour councillor and worked in Jim Dobbin’s constituency office.  He later became leader of the Labour group and delivered a stunning electoral result in 2014 before finding himself displaced by the present incumbent.

Now we’ve met Mr Digan before. In the section of Simon Danczuk’s 2014 book where he claims that Smith was sexually abusing the pupils at Knowl View Special School, Digan is the prime witness. I say ‘witness’, but in fact Danczuk writes that although he had been at the school since the late 1970’s he ‘was oblivious to what was happening at the school’ ‘Oblivious’ or not, it didn’t stop him claiming in Danczuk’s book that ‘boys were sold to paedophile gangs’.  Nor can we consider him to be the most reliable of witnesses.   The story about an event at Knowl View he told in a Radio 4 programme was subtly different from the same story which appears in Danczuk’s book.

As for the ‘dossier’, it’s a favourite term in the Cyril Smith/Knowl View saga, which seems to cover everything from a handwritten note of a short telephone conversation twenty years earlier, upwards. It consisted of copies of two reports one made by Aids worker Philip Shepherd and the other by psychologist Valerie Mellor, which Digan found in the Headmaster’s office and which had previously been submitted to Rochdale Council in 1991 and 1992.

So how likely is it that Digan’s claim about a ‘deal’ has any merit?   In cases like this it helps to ask who stood to gain? Certainly not Labour. From 1986 to 1992 Labour was running the council.  Any revelations about sexual abuse at Knowl View would have have had to be answered by them.  So why would they need any deal as an inducement to keep quiet?  I have seen the Shepherd report and can state categorically that it makes no reference to Smith.  Though I know the contents of the Mellor report I have not seen it in full, but I have been assured by someone who sees themselves as fighting for ‘justice’ for the ex-pupils of Knowl View that it makes no reference to Smith.

Digan likes to be seen as a ‘whistleblower’. Had he confined himself to trying to get the Shepherd and Mellor reports published and in the public domain so that we could see for ourselves what had been happening at Knowl View I would have felt that such a label was justified as that is what I want to see myself because these reports contain information about some very unsavoury goings on between some of the pupils at Knowl View. But, as his present claims show, he hasn’t.

In Danczuk’s book he lets himself be used as a tool for Danczuk to fashion his claims about Cyril Smith and Knowl View school. Now he’s gone freelance.   But apart from the story of ‘a deal’, the best he can come up with at the inquiry is that he had often seen Smith bouncing young boys on his knee during parties held on the premises to coincide with governors meetings.  So no ‘smoking gun‘ then?

No doubt he told the police all this when he was interviewed as part of the ‘Operation Clifton’ investigation.   The fact that the police concluded there was no evidence of a ‘cover up’ at Knowl View suggests in the absence of evidence of ‘a deal’ they did not take take the claim seriously. Claims like this just make the inquiry look like an amateurish shambles.

Russian Revolution in Somerset

Subject: The Russian Revolution in Somerset

Bridgwater Trades Union Council is hosting a special public discussion to mark the October 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia.
Date: Tuesday October 31st. Time: 7pm. Venue: The Engine Room, 50-52 High St, Bridgwater, Somerset, TA6 3BL
The meeting is part of the Engine Room's "Bridgwater Together" celebrations, running from Saturday October 28th to Saturday 4th November.
From Tuesday 31st to Saturday November 4th, the Russian Revolution theme continues with an Engine Room exhibition of rare and original Soviet Posters and photographic magazines, organised and curated by Bridgwater's Irena Brezowski.
Dave Chapple, Bridgwater TUC Secretary, said:
For millions of people throughout the twentieth century, and for many thousands of socialists in our country today, the overthrow of Kerensky's Government by the Bolsheviks, led by Lenin, Trotsky, and Kamenev in October 1917, was a world-changing, inspiring and liberating event.
October 1917 was hailed by most shades of left-wing opinion in Britain: the militant shop stewards and syndicalists, South Wales miners, Glasgow engineers, the Socialist Labour Party, the British Socialist Party, Sylvia Pankhurst, John Maclean, and many like George Lansbury in the Independent Labour Party. During the next few years it was British Labour's strike threats against Lloyd George's war-mongering  that helped to ensure that the besieged fledgling "soviet" state survived.
However, even before Lenin's death in 1924, many previous admirers world-wide, begun to have doubts about the policies and direction of the new state.
As Lenin and Trotsky gave way to Joseph Stalin's murderous dictatorship, and right down until 1989, millions of workers in the Soviet Union and its satellites developed negative, critical or hostile attitudes to communist state authority, attitudes which led some Russians and Eastern Europeans after 1989 to seek intellectual consolation or refuge in the bright lights of western consumer capitalism.
In Bridgwater today, still Somerset's premier working-class town, live hundreds of unrepentant and dedicated local socialists, and they are working alongside hundreds of migrant workers from Eastern Europe, including many Russian speakers from Lithuania. Local trades unions have welcomed migrant workers into membership and some are already shop stewards. Of course, many migrant workers retain personal or family memories of pre-1989 days, and so will have their own views on communism and October 1917. 
This is why Bridgwater TUC's  public meeting on October  31st is being organised as a serious discussion between different opinions and perspectives,  and not a celebration.’
Speakers are Liz Payne, President of the Communist Party of Britain; Dave Chapple, Secretary of Bridgwater TUC; and Irena Brezowski, a Bridgwater College lecturer who has family and personal links to the old Soviet Union.
Tuesday October 31st, 7pm, The Engine Room, 50-52 High St, Bridgwater, Somerset, TA6 3BL
Please pass this invite onto any of your contacts who might be interested.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Abused lad claims he was punished for whistleblowing on Cyril Smith

A FORMER student at the Knowl View part-time residential school for boys has claimed that he was punished by his headmaster for accusing the then Governor of the school Cyril Smith of child abuse, the ongoing inquiry into abuse heard today.
The witness, who cannot be named, told the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse, that Cyril Smith touched him inappropriately when he 10-years-old in the staff room at Knowl View.
He was placed at the residential school for boys in 1969 in a shared dormitory called 'Nirvana' with older boys.
He said, that the then headmaster, John Turner, 'spanked him on the backside' in front of the other boys in the school gym.  And he added that Mr. Turner accused him of 'trying to ruin the man's career'.
He was sent to other institutions, he believed as another punishment.
He later returned to Knowl View before leaving aged 16.
The witness claimed he was sexually assaulted by other older lads at the school.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

David Swallow & the early miner's union

TWENTY eight people attended a Wakefield Socialist History Group meeting on the history of the Yorkshire Miners at the Red Shed in Wakefield on Saturday.
The first speaker, Ken Capstick (former Vice President of the Yorkshire NUM), gave a fascinating account of the life of David Swallow.
Swallow was born at East Ardsley, Wakefield in 1817.   He is credited with being the founder of the first national miners' union -meeting were held at the Griffin Inn, Northgate in Wakefield.   He also played a leading role in the first national miners' strike in 1844.
Ken argued that Swallow was an organiser of "rare quality" and a great orator who drew large crowds wherever he spoke.  It is "time to recognise and honour a great miners' leader who did not receive the recognition he deserved during his lifetime."
The second speaker, radical historian Alan Brooke, then spoke about working conditions in collieries particularly around Huddersfield in the 19th century.
He noted that hurries -as vital to the operation of colleries as the colliers themselves- were "invariably children or women" and their job was to "push or pull the corves full of coal to the pit bottom."   One hurrier, John Dixon -later Secretary of the West Yorkshire Miners' Association- started work in a pit at Briestfield in 1835 at the age of 7!
Alan -who has a website Underground Histories- also spoke about various reforms/ innovations such as the safety lamp, pit ponies, Mine Inspectors and checkweighmen.
The speeches were followed by a lively discussion session with questions in particular about Swallow's life after he was deposed as a miners leader.
The next Group event, a meeting on the Bolshevik Revolution, is on Saturday 11 November 1pm again at the Red Shed.

Alan Stewart
Convenor Wakefield Socialist History Group

Don't Short Circuit Justice!

 Harvey Weinstein & Natural Justice
by Les May

ON Thursday morning as we sat sipping our coffee on Todmorden Inside Market my wife commented ‘It seems to be open season on Harvey Weinstein’.  As I had never heard of him I could only say ‘Who’s he’?

My ignorance was short lived.   Bang on the front page of my paper was a picture of a somewhat unprepossessing chap, with a younger woman on each arm, which raised in my mind the question of whether they had first been attracted to him for his good looks.

My wife was right.  After several actresses had accused him of making unwanted sexual advances to them it seemed the journalistic equivalent of the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker, plus uncle Tom Cobley and all, immediately decided the women must be telling the truth and decided to ‘give him a good kicking’.   To add an element of farce Harvey decided to check into ‘rehab’ for treatment for sex addiction.

It wasn’t just the journalists. ‘Our Treeza’ decided to get in on the act too.   There was talk of him losing his British CBE and the Oscar board have convened an ‘emergency meeting’.   Phew!

But it’s not all bad news for Harvey.  He got lucky; the police in Britain and the USA have said they will investigate.    That means his accusers will have to make formal statements.  If they are telling porkies they’ll be found out.  He’ll know exactly what he is accused of.  He’ll be innocent until proven guilty. The women will have to interrupt their ‘busy schedules’ to turn up in court.  The legal process will take its course.   (Actually I don’t believe that last sentence; it will end up with a plea bargain.   Followed by a lot of articles about how ‘the system’ let down women yet again.)

Unfortunately it’s not just where ‘celebs’ are involved that there is an eagerness to short circuit the protection the law affords both to the accuser and the accused in interpersonal disputes where ultimately it boils down to nothing more than ‘his word against hers’.

It is becoming the norm that in universities, larger companies, trades unions and the like, these kinds of dispute are dealt with internally in what can most charitably be described as the most amateurish way, by people who have little grasp of the rules of evidence or much concern for natural justice.

Natural justice really boils down to common sense.  Here are some ground rules.
Everyone is innocent until proven guilty.  In other words no-one has to ‘prove’ their innocence.
The accused person should be informed of the specific charges against them and the name of their accuser.
The accused person should have the opportunity to cross-examine the accuser and vice versa.
The same goes for any witnesses, be they for the accuser or for theaccused. If an organisation uses a panel of people to investigate an incident, then a different panel of people should be involved in assessing that evidence and coming to a judgement, and the evidence collected should be available to both parties.

As I observed earlier natural justice is common sense.  It’s about being fair and being seen to be fair. Anything that fails the test of fairness, isn’t justice.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

ICO: Information Commissioner's Office

Construction blacklist

During 2008/09 the ICO carried out an investigation into employment blacklisting in the construction industry. As part of that investigation, the ICO seized information from a company called The Consulting Association. Some of the information we seized amounted to a 'blacklist' of individuals who were considered to pose a risk to their employers if employed within the construction industry.

How do I know if The Consulting Association held information about me?

Since 2009 we have been operating a fast-track service so individuals can telephone the ICO and find out whether their name is included within the information seized from The Consulting Association. You can telephone us and we will check the information held. If there might be information that relates to you we will ask you to provide proof of identity and then we will provide you with a copy of the information held. We have also been trying to proactively contact individuals who might have been affected by the activities of The Consulting Association.

I’ve received a letter from the ICO about the blacklist. What should I do next?

You can see the letter we sent out and a blacklist factsheet here. We ask that you contact us by post or email and provide some additional identifying information. We will then check the seized information and provide you with any information where we are satisfied that it relates to you.

In a few cases, there might not be enough information within the seized information to determine that it relates to a specific individual but if this is the case we will tell you.
You may want to use the template letter below:
[Your full address]
[Phone number]
[The date]
Dear ICO,
Subject access request
[please insert your full name, date of birth and current address]
Please supply the information about me I am entitled to under the Data Protection Act 1998 from the information seized by the ICO from The Consulting Association.
I have included:
• My National Insurance number
• A copy of correspondence showing my name and current address
• A copy of identification showing my name and date of birth (for example, a copy of my passport or driving licence)
• List of my previous addresses
If you need any more information from me, please let me know as soon as possible.
Yours sincerely
[your name]

If all your identifying information is available electronically, you can email your letter and identifying information to us at
Or, post it to us at:
Information Access Team
Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane

I haven’t received a letter. What should I do to find out if I am on the database?

If you wish to check whether information about you is held on the database you can call our helpline on 0303 123 1113 between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday. Give us your name and a contact telephone number and an ICO case officer will call you back. The officer will search the database. If no match is found, we will confirm this straight away.
If the details you provide are similar to, or seem likely to match those of someone on the database, we will ask you to provide us with further identification in writing. Once we have verified your identity and confirmed whether your details match those on the database, we will contact you to confirm if information is held about you and provide you with a copy of it.

Why is the ICO not writing to everyone?

In many cases the seized information is old and incomplete and there simply isn’t enough information for us to be able to confidently identify an individual. We are contacting as many people as we can.

What action has the ICO taken against construction companies?

The ICO issued enforcement notices against 14 construction companies based on the evidence recovered from The Consulting Association.
Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering Limited
Balfour Beatty Construction Northern Ireland
Balfour Beatty Construction Scottish & Southern Limited
Balfour Beatty Engineering Services (HY) Limited
Balfour Beatty Engineering Services Limited
Balfour Beatty Infrastructure Services Limited
C B & I UK Limited
Emcor Engineering Services Limited
Emcor Rail Limited
Kier Limited
N G Bailey Limited
Shepherd Engineering Services Limited
Sias Building Services Limited
Whessoe Oil & Gas Limited

What did the ICO do about The Consulting Association and the construction companies which used it?

The ICO prosecuted Ian Kerr, who ran The Consulting Association. He was fined £5,000 for a data protection offence and The Consulting Association ceased trading. The ICO also issued enforcement notices to 14 construction companies.

Could the ICO have issued a more substantial penalty?

It was disappointing to us that we could not issue more substantial penalties, but these were the maximum legal powers available to us at the time. We have since been given the power to issue civil monetary penalties up to £500,000, but these can only be issued where a breach of the Data Protection Act has taken place after April 2010.


The UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.

Could you have contacted people sooner?

The ICO’s focus since 2009 has been on helping those who feature on the list. To complement our helpline, we set up a fast-track service to allow anyone who suspected they were on the list to find out if they were, and get a copy of any information held about them.
Earlier this year, we wrote to 103 people in the cases where we had the individual’s address and were able to establish its accuracy with the help of Equifax.
In total, we’ve now taken over 4,000 calls from individuals wanting to know if their name was included on the blacklist, using the fast-track process. We have also received over 1,200 written requests, from which 467 individuals have been provided with copies of their information. That figure will continue to grow in the coming weeks, as we help more and more people.
We’ve also worked with construction trade unions to try to proactively reach more individuals whose information is included within The Consulting Association files. We provided details of individuals included on the list to the construction trade unions, which they cross-referenced with their membership lists.

I’ve heard there are other blacklists – what is the ICO doing about this?

The investigation into The Consulting Association did not find evidence of other blacklists. This is the only blacklist held by the ICO. However, if you think you have any evidence about the operation of a further blacklist then you can contact our casework team about this.

How do I find out more about the issue of blacklisting?

The Scottish Affairs Select Committee is conducting an inquiry into employment blacklisting and you can read more about this on their website.

Further Reading

External link

Parliment Square at Royal Exchange

“How far would you go for what you believe in?”

A Royal Exchange Theatre and Bush Theatre co-production
By James Fritz
Directed by Jude Christian
Designed by Fly Davis
18 - 28 October at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester
30 November – 6 January at the Bush Theatre, London
Royal Exchange Press Night: Friday 20 October, 7.30pm – The Theatre Bush Theatre Press Night – Friday 1 December

In his powerful new play PARLIAMENT SQUARE, James Fritz skilfully interrogates the draw of extreme demonstration, compassionately exploring the impact and fall-out of a single, selfless act of protest.

Esther Smith (BBC3’s CUCKOO and UNCLE BBC 3) takes the lead role of Kat, who watches as ‘the world gets worse’ and finds herself compelled to take action. Selected for a Judges Award in the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting 2015, PARLIAMENT SQUARE deftly asks where the line falls between complete commitment and dangerous obsession. Directed by Jude Christian this compelling World Premiere is a Royal Exchange Theatre co-production with the Bush Theatre. It will run in Manchester from 18 – 28 October before transferring to London from 30 November – 6 January.
The Story: 
 Kat gets up one morning, leaves her family behind, and travels to London to carry out an act that will change her life and, she hopes, everyone else’s. But what are the real consequences?

James Fritz’s searingly powerful play 'Parliament Square' won a Judges Award in the 2015 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting. Raw, disturbing and compassionate, it forces a confrontation with some of the most urgent questions we face. What can one individual do to effect change? And where do we choose to draw the line between absolute commitment and dangerous obsession?

Friday, 13 October 2017

What happened to the undercover police inquiry?

TWO years into the public inquiry into undercover policing and campaigners spied upon by the state this week claimed that progress has stalled and no information had been revealed about the officers involved. Jon Robins reports:

Speaking at an event at the Labour fringe on undercover policing and police surveillance, core participants in the undercover policing inquiry together with  their lawyers accused the government of delay and expressed concerns about the new chair of the inquiry.
Helen Steel is one of eight women activists who began legal action against the police having discovered that former long-term partners had been undercover policemen. Steel, who was representing the Police Spies out of Lives group, told delegates they were as much in the dark as the day that the inquiry was launched in July 2015. ‘More than two years into the inquiry and we still have had no disclosure about the relationships or the officers involved. The public has learnt absolutely nothing new about the extent of police in the abuse or how this was allowed to happen,’ she said.
In May this year, Sir John Mitting took over the chairmanship of the inquiry from Lord Justice Pitchford, who had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease. The inquiry has long become bogged down as the police have called for proceedings to be held in secret to protect the identities of the undercover officers – as reported on the Justice Gap (here).
‘The inquiry has finally acknowledged upwards of a thousand groups were spied upon but still hasn’t released the names of those groups,’ Steel told the meeting organised by the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers. Steel argued that whilst the police were prepared to confirm that they sent undercover officers into Isis, ‘they claimed it would be too dangerous to confirm the names of the thousand campaigns spied upon by the Special Demonstration Squad and the National Public Order Intelligence Unit,’ she said. ‘It beggars belief.’
In a message to the meeting Michael Mansfield QC, the president of the Haldane Society, claimed to be ‘under no illusions as to the extent to which agencies in the state have taken an interest in me’ in relation to his work on political cases such as Orgreave, Hillsborough and the Shrewsbury pickets.

For more go to: 

Whatever happened to the undercover policing inquiry? - The Justice ...

Alec McFadden asks Unite to behave 'gracefully'

The statement below is Alec McFadden's legal 
representative's response to Alex Flynn,  Head of Unite 
media and campaigns: 
Mr McFadden’s challenge was not technical.  It was based not merely on his vehement denial of the trumped up allegation but also on the blatantly unfair procedure used against him which included the refusal of both the disciplinary and the appeal panel to even call the complainant to appear before them, thus preventing them or Mr McFadden questioning the complainant.  It was based also on the refusal of the appeal panel to even consider evidence that the allegation against Mr Mc Fadden was fabricated. Unite charged Mr McFadden under a rule which Unite, which the ACO (Assistant Certification Officer) held did not apply, and he rejected Unite’s remarkable defence that the rule meant the opposite of what it said. 
To suggest now that Unite may bring another, different charge under a different rule more than two years after the allegation was made, demonstrates nothing less than persecution of Mr McFadden.  It is impossible to see how the Unite disciplinary process (already found by the ACO to be fatally flawed) could ever have the appearance of justice if it is to rest on bringing repeated charges at two year intervals until a conviction is finally secured.  Unite has spectacularly failed to conduct its disciplinary proceedings fairly or in accordance with its own rules and it should now accept the CO’s findings gracefully and let Mr McFadden return to his valuable work for the union.’

Unite replies in Alec McFadden case

Alec McFadden v Unite the Union 

 Northern Voices contacted the Unite Press Office
for a reply to Alec McFadden's press statement, and for
Unite's interpretaion of the Trade Union certification
officer's ruling.  The union's reply is published in full below:

Hi Brian

Gail forwarded me your email seeking a response to Mr McFadden’s press release. Please find our response below.
A Unite spokesman said: “Unite does not tolerate sexual harassment or discrimination and is committed to equality and fairness for all. The decision by the Certification Officer was based on a procedural and technical challenge and does not appear to make any difference to the findings of the investigation that found Mr McFadden to have a case to answer. Unite will consider the full judgement when it is delivered and assess whether it is appropriate to recharge Mr McFadden under our disciplinary rules.”
All the best

Alex Flynn
Head of media and campaigns
Unite the union

Thursday, 12 October 2017

McFadden case: Unite breaks its own rules

Below Northern Voices publishes the decision of the trade union certification officer over the procedure used by the Unite union to investigate and discipline Alec McFadden, over a complaint of alleged inappropriate behaviour by him in October 2015.  The trade union certification officer's decision shows that the Unite union, in its disciplinary procedure against Mr. McFadden, exceeded its powers.  This decision is based on a failure of natural justice by the Unite union in the manner in which it treated Mr. McFadden:
Press Release 11th October 2017
Alec McFadden's press statement last night begins by declaring:
 'UNITE the Union has been found to have acted outside of its jurisdiction in debarring veteran Trade Unionist and Community Campaigner Alec McFadden from his elected office.'

 Mr Alec McFadden vs Unite the Union
The Assistant Certification Officer, having considered the three preliminary issues set out in the decision in these proceedings dated 24 July 2017, has concluded that the disciplinary proceedings by Unite the Union against Mr McFadden and the consequent penalties imposed upon Mr McFadden were in breach of the rules of the union.  He therefore makes a declaration to that effect, pursuant to sections 108A and 108B of the 1992 Act.
The Assistant Certification Officer will give his reasons for his decision in writing shortly; however this decision is provided in advance of those written reasons so as to make it clear to the parties that the hearings in these proceedings fixed for 9 and 10 October 2017 are now unnecessary; and he directs that those hearings be vacated.
It is not clear to the Assistant Certification Officer whether Mr McFadden seeks any remedy under section 108B of the 1992 Act other than the above declaration.  If he does, he must set out what remedy or remedies he seeks in writing to the Assistant Certification Officer and to the union by 17 October 2017; and the union shall respond thereto in writing to the Assistant certification Officer and to Mr McFadden by 31 October 2017.
Jeffrey Burke QC 3 October 2017

Craft Shortages!

by Martin Gilbert
THERE is a national shortage of crafts people: plumbers, electricians, joiners and others.  Academics have been blamed for admitting too many students.  But the charge against universities is unfounded coming too often from those who do not know what universities are for or what they achieve.

It can be seen as a part of the present climate of devaluing and opposing creative and critical thinking (dare one say “anti-intellectual”). Examples of that process abound:- secondary schools cutting classes in drama, art; dance and music.  All where individuality and creativity can be nurtured. Funding for any kind of community arts is getting increasing scarce.  In spite of lip service being given to “localism” and “community” Local Authorities are forced into impossible decisions.  Short term thinking supports that negative climate.

Another cause is women feeling inhibited or being subtley obstructed from employment however good their skills might be. During both World Wars women filled benches in factories and engineering offices.  Demobilization, when the men came home, sent such women back to their kitchens.

One remedy to fill the skills gaps and get more school leavers into jobs is apprenticeships.  But they would only re arrange the dole que. Too often the apprentice would be fired on finishing his time, often a seven year period.  On-line learning has much shortened the time of some genuine apprenticeship schemes.   But recollections of Youth Training Schemes allow for much scepticism.  A main concern of the training industry was profits for its Directors and share holders rather than it’s consumers.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

The Curse of Danczuk’s Book

by Les May

JUST how thorough is the ongoing Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse going to be?  Press reports, which we must assume follow what was said at the Inquiry, refer to Rochdale Alternative Press. This is a mistake lifted straight from Simon Danczuk’s book where neither he, nor his co-author, Matthew Baker, could be bothered to check that the correct title was Rochdale's Alternative Paper (RAP). If anyone at the Inquiry is relying on this book then we shall still be as much in the dark about what really happened at Cambridge House and Knowl View as we were before the inquiry started

The purpose of this Inquiry should be to determine the facts.  That does not appear to be what is happening. The lead counsel, Brian Altman QC, seems to be trying to tell a story worthy of someone acting for the prosecution in a criminal case. We are told Smith’s knighthood ‘conferred a veneer of respectability and power’ and that this afforded influence over child welfare cases at Rochdale council.

This may or may not prove to be the case. Judging by the infamous, but fictional, ‘Satanic Abuse’ cases from 1989, RMBC child welfare workers were entirely capable of making a mess of things on their own.  But could we please have the facts and save opinions until after the evidence for this statement has been produced?   However often they are repeated opinions and assertions aren’t facts.

Opinion, supposition and an urge to ‘tell a good story’ have bedevilled almost everything that has been written about Smith, Cambridge House and Knowl View special school since Danczuk was ‘handed the story on a plate’ in 2012.

The essay in which in which Manchester Guardian editor C. P. Scott wrote the words ‘Comment is free, but facts are sacred’ is still worth reading today.  Pity about that unfortunate lapse in 1979 when like the rest of the press it ignored the RAP article.

(If you find it difficult to activate any of the links on NV pages press the left mouse button and drag the cursor over the link, then press the right mouse button and select copy from the menu which appears.  This can then be pasted into your web browser, e.g. Firefox.)

Blacklist Complainants Object to Inquiry Chair!

Secret Court of the Investigatory Powers Tribunal 
A PACKED meeting in parliament of core participants, other activists and lawyers for those targeted by undercover police voted unanimously for Sir John Mitting to be removed as chair of the public inquiry into undercover policing.  This follows deep unease by those spied on by police about the 'Minded To' Notes published by Mitting on the UCPI website which appear to be heading in the direction of an inquiry held in secret rather than an open transparent and public inquiry.  Mitting is one of the hand picked members of the senior legal profession to sit in the secret court the Investigatory Powers Tribunal - the antithesis of open and transparent justice.
'paradigm shift'
Neville Lawrence told the meeting he and many other victims of undercover police spying had 'lost faith' in the inquiry given the new direction taken by Mitting.

Imran Khan, lawyer for Doreen Lawrence and the Blacklist Support Group told the meeting that there had been a 'paradigm shift' since Mitting took over from the former head of the inquiry Lord Justice Pitchford who was forced to stand down due to ill health. 

The public inquiry was announced 3 years ago by the then Home Secretary Theresa May but to this day not a single witness has given evidence and not a single document disclosed to the lawyers of the victims.  Suresh Grover from the Monitoring Group told the meeting that "the police have deliberated obstructed justice". 
Garrick Club & 'institutional sexism'
Helen Steel argued that his credentials as a member of the men-only Garrick Club meant he was the wrong person to rule on institutional sexism of the undercover police.  A new 'timeline' on the inquiry website fails to mention the public apology made by the Metropolitan Police to the women activists deceived into long term relationships by the police spies.

Stafford Scott, from Tottenham Rights told the meeting that "families of murder victims are being denied access to files kept on them" due to ongoing institutional racism by the Met Police. 

Dave Smith, blacklisted union activist said that victims had "always been sceptical whether the British state would truly expose the truth about the UK's secret political police units"

The meeting was chaired by Naz Shah MP who said she would raise the concerns on the Home Affairs Select Committee and with the Home Secretary.

Appeal for Rohingya in Myanmar

Dear Foreign Minister Boris Johnson and Ambassador Sir Tim Barrow,

I am appalled at the apparent lack of political pressure, to date, from the
UN over the treatment of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar over a long period
of time. This has obviously been seen as a 'green light' to the military
leaders in that country to commit even greater atrocities.
It is not a sign of weakness to admit our training and arming of Myanmar
forces was wrong, as indeed is our selling of arms to Saudi Arabia to be used against civilians in Yemen.  I quote, hopefully correctly, David Davis MP, 'A democracy that cannot change its mind ceases to be a democracy'.
Please send a clear message to the UN that the situation in Myanmar is
ethnic cleansing and the UN has an obligation to take strong action on this
matter. It is pleasing that the UK has shown the way by suspending training
of the military in Myanmar, but more needs to be done.

John Wilkins (BOLD: Building Our Local Democracy)
[United Kingdom]

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Puigdemont's Catalonia statement in 15 sentences

from La Vanguardia
, Barcelona
The President of the [Catalan] Generalitat, Carles Puigdemont , appeared on Tuesday October 10 before the plenary of the Parliament and at his own request to report the results of the referendum on independence on 1 October .
The speech has been studied to the last detail in the last hours and has been controversial until the last moment in a meeting that have maintained the parliamentary groups of Junts pel Yes and the CUP and that has caused that the president Puigdemont requested the delay one hour from the beginning of the session.
Finally, at 19.00 in the afternoon and before all the deputies of the Parliament and more than 1,000 journalists, Puigdemont has assumed the mandate to turn Catalonia into an independent State in the form of a republic while at the same time asking the House to suspend the application of the DUI to open a process of dialogue.
'I assume the mandate of the people that Catalunya will become an independent state in the form of a republic '
'The Government and myself propose to the Parliament to suspend the effects of the declaration of independence to establish a process of dialogue '
'What I expose today is not a personal opinion, derives from the results of 1-O '
'The 1-O Catalunya held a referendum on self-determination in extreme conditions, amidst attacks on people who queued to introduce their ballot '
'The images of 1-O will remain in our memory forever, we will never forget it '
'We must all take our responsibility to de-escalate the situation. I will not contribute with the word or with the gesture to increase it '
'The votes favorable to the Estatut were 145,000 less than that obtained the yes to the independence the past 1-O '
'Millions of citizens have come to the rational conclusion that the only way to guarantee coexistence is for Catalonia to become a '
'From the point of view of self-government the last seven years have been the worst of the last four decades. There has been a lamination of skills and a shocking contempt against the language, culture and way of life in Catalonia '
'Catalan demands have always been expressed peacefully and from majorities obtained at the polls.'
'I ask for an effort to know and recognize what has brought us here. We are not criminals, we are not crazy, we are not abductees or coup. We are normal people who want to express themselves '
'We have nothing against Spain or against the Spaniards, on the contrary, we want to find ourselves better. To date the relationship does not work '
'Police repression and disqualification have been the response of the Spanish state to a peaceful demand '
'The polls have said yes to independence and this is the way that I am willing to go .'
There is a plea for dialogue that crosses all Europe, which already feels called '

Cyril Smith Saga: More Old News?

by Les May
THE ‘revelation’ that in January 1970 Cyril Smith approached the police to find out if he was going to be charged following the investigation into allegations that he had indecently assaulted young men at Cambridge House hostel in the 1960s is ‘old news'.  It has been in the public domain for about three years and came to light as a result of a Freedom of Information (FoI) request to the Criminal Prosecution Service (CPS).
He told police that he was concerned that if he were charged it would prevent him from standing as a candidate in the forthcoming general election.  I see nothing sinister in this.  It seems to be a perfectly reasonable thing to do.
On this occasion, acting on legal advice, he declined to make a formal statement.  But at the end of February 1970 he returned with a prepared statement which did not address the allegations directly.  It read as follows:
‘I am not prepared to make a statement at this stage as to the allegations made by the eight boys, particulars of which you have supplied to me.  I am, however, prepared to say this.  I was active in the running and administration of the hostel. [Redacted]  The object was to help the under-privileged and deprived boys of over school leaving age, many of whom had social, domestic, health and other problems and to get them settled continuous and productive employment.  In respect of some of the boys, we were faced with difficult problems of discipline arising from general misconduct, [redacted] and work shyness.  At all times, we were in loco parentis to the boys as part of an agreement signed by each boy on his entering the hostel.  I produce a copy of the agreement.  The warden and her husband lived on the premises and the “Quiet Room”, which had no lock on the door, was some three feet away from their living quarters.  Members of the committee were wont to call at the hostel at all times unheralded, and [redacted] would call at least three or four times per week to talk to the boys, sometimes in my presence, but usually in my absence, and they would discuss personal or other problems with the boys.  I should like to point out that two of the boys resident in the hostel were elected to represent the boys and attended the monthly committee meetings.
'I never heard a single complaint as to any conduct of mine being made by any boy or any committee member or anybody else, and I am quite astounded at these present complaints made so long after the alleged events.  I am in the position to call very many witnesses not only as to my general integrity, which has never heretofore been questioned, but also as to the unfailing help and support that I have always been known to give to my fellow townsfolk in general, and the youth of the town in particular. In fact, the greater part of my life has been dedicated to these ends.  Personally, I would just like to point out that the mere existence of these allegations, if they become known, may be damaging to my public and private career.  But, at the same time, I wish to state most emphatically that I have never behaved in any indecent way towards any of these boys, but have done my best to help them at a difficult stage in their lives.’
The redacted words appear to refer to the names of people who some might see as ‘guilty by association’ or accusations against residents of Cambridge House.
It seems clear that Smith’s defence would have relied upon his ‘good standing’ in the town the delay in the allegations being made.  Having seen copies of the affidavits signed in 1979 by some of the men assaulted I have no doubt that he did do some things that most people would consider improper. It should however be pointed out that the 1979 RAP (Rochdale Alternative Paper) article stressed that his behaviour amounted to abuse of power and did not seek to emphasise abuse of a sexual nature.
What does seem to be new is the fact that when the editors of RAP, David Bartlett and John Walker, asked the police about allegations against Cyril, the police lied in their reply.
Whether the police were approached by any of the mainstream press after the RAP article was published we do not know. If they were and gave the same answer, it would explain why the allegations in the RAP article were not taken up by the mainstream press.
One can construct any number of ‘conspiracy theories’ around the fact that the police lied to Bartlet and Walker in 1979.  But none of these exonerate the print and broadcast media. Had the media followed the lead given by RAP, Smith would have been finished as a politician, something he acknowledges in his statement to the police in February 1970.  Had the voters of Rochdale taken note of the RAP article they would not have voted for him in the May 1979 election.  The story of Smith and Cambridge House was ‘hidden in plain sight’ for 33 years until an editor of RAP, John Walker, and an editor of Northern Voices (NV), Brian Bamford, in July 2012 tracked down two of the men assaulted at Cambridge House. Simon Danczuk only became aware of this after Paul Waugh, who ran a political blog, contacted NV in the autumn of 2012 and passed on the story to him.
To my mind the lessons to be drawn from this are twofold.  The first is the importance of the protecting and widening the Freedom of Information Act.  Not least making the supplier of the information responsible for its accuracy and for fulfilling not just the letter of the law, but its spirit also.
The second is to recognise the importance of independent news sources like RAP and NV.  Along with the rest of the press my local paper declined to print the RAP story in 1979.  At that time it was independent and had its own team of reporters.  Now it is part of a larger group so that the same material, by the same authors, appears in the local and regional press. In other words the press is much less diverse than it was then.  Without the original RAP story and the more recent efforts of Messrs Walker and Bamford the story of Smith and Cambridge House would never have been told.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Beleaguered Tameside hospital boss announces retirement!

Retiring - Paul Connellan, Chairman Tameside Hospital

Although I have been attending the Annual General Meeting (A.G.M), of Tameside Hospital, - now known as Tameside & Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust -for a number of years, I'm not sure if I ever learn anything knew. It always seems to me that we get the same message - things are not as bad as you would believe, 'things can only get better.' Watching the hospital bigwigs perform their act, is like watching a stoat or a conjurer in a musical hall. A hospital financial deficit of £13.32m, is dismissed as being better than predicted because we were expecting a £17m deficit. A P.F.I deal that built a hospital facility - Hartshead South - is passed off as "a good financial deal", even though the  repayments are extortionate. Under this P.F.I, investors raised £77.2m and paid Balfour Beatty to build it. From October 2010 to August 2041, Tameside Hospital will have paid back £300m in charges.

At the hospital A.G.M last Monday evening, Paul Anthony Connellan, the Chairman of the Trust since October 2011, announced that he would be stepping down as Chairman, as from 31st October. This sociology graduate, with a background in the travel industry, declared back in 2011 that he had the right skills and experience to get to the root of the problems at Tameside Hospital, such as the high death rates and he was described by former hospital CEO, Christine Green, as a "perfect fit". Almost two-years later, the hospital was  put into special measures in July 2013, following a review by Sir Bruce Keogh, the medical director for the NHS, and consequently, Christine Greene was forced to resign.  The Keogh report stated:

"The Board is not effectively leading the Trust and delivering quality care and the governance and leadership has not delivered the improvements in the quality of care required."

In 2014, the health regulator, 'Monitor', declared the hospital Trust, "Clinically and financially unsustainable in its current form."  While Connellan told the A.G.M. that "What had been lacking for a long time was appropriate leadership and now we've got it," some of us,  who well remember Mrs Green's tyrannical regime at Tameside Hospital, will recognise that what Connellan says, is utter bullshit. Despite her so-called 'inappropriate' leadership, he was part of it, and he backed her up to the hilt, right up to the eleventh hour and many were amazed when he kept his own job. 

After Connellan told the meeting that Tameside Hospital had "an exceptionally bright fututure", the current CEO, Karen James, talked about 'Direction'. The hospital was now  starting to deliver integrated care and had invested £23m to deliver the new model. The hospital had received good CQC ratings and patient's were feeling very positive. It had improved its performance and had launched digital health care. The hospital had opened the Tameside Macmillan Unit and had expanded the Darnton House service. "Staff tells us how much they like working here", declared Ms James.

A number of question were asked about the efficacy of Skype consultations, which have been operating in  30 care homes in Tameside for the last four months. We were told that this had saved 300 A&E admissions at the hospital and that care homes were very enthusiastic. Listening to this, I visualised a fragile old lady in a care home being asked to stick out her tongue by a doctor, sitting miles away, looking at her on his lap top and saying:

"Oh! madam, you're tongue looks heavily pixelated, I think I'd better send for the digital doctor." 

Many of us did wonder how you would take a blood test or check a pulse or the chest of a patient, while doing a skype consultation. But we were assured, that this wouldn't be a problem, because people in the care homes would be trained to do this. Connellan told the  audience: 

"Clinicians will always err on the side of caution. If they think a person needs to be admitted, they will always do so. Elderly people don't always want to go to hospital."

Brendan Ryan, Medical Director, told the meeting that staff and patients were more happy to report incidents and that complaints were going down, with just 450 in 2017. The Trust was reducing the mortality rate - H.S.M.R and S.H.M.I measures and review all deaths at the hospital within 14 working days.

The Director of Finance, Claire Yarwood, presented the annual accounts for the hospital for 2016-2017. "We spent more money than we received", she told the meeting but things were not as bad as they seemed. Although the hospital had a deficit of £13.32m, "We had planned to have a deficit of £17.3m, so we got our deficit down." During the financial year, total operating income was £212.42m and the Trust had made efficiency savings of £8.4m against a target of £7.8m. The P.F.I. - "it's a good financial deal", had to be accounted for separately under 'Financing Costs'. The Director of Finance told the meeting that the hospital was hoping to save money following the introduction of Skype consultations. 

Tameside Hospital is planning to cut 246 beds at the hospital by 2020. If this is implemented, it would leave the people of Tameside & Glossop with 80 beds per 100,000 population against the current UK average of 300 beds per 100,000 population. Hospital management maintain that by treating patients in the community and in their own home, using five multi-disciplinary care teams, demand for hospital beds will decline because health professionals will be able to manage underlying health problems more effectively and prevent hospital admissions.

However, as Professor Michael Marmot points out in his book (The Health Gap 2015), health is related not only to access to technical solutions, but to the nature of society - the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age, have a profound influence on health inequalities in childhood, working age and older age. Karen James, the CEO of Tameside Hospital, believes "We are all living longer." Yet we know, that annual rises in life expectancy, have begun to stall in England and we also know that the regional death gap has widened since 2008. In 2015, the number of premature deaths of people aged 35 to 44 was 50% higher in the north of England than in the South of England. Today, suicide is now the biggest cause of death of people under 50 in Britain and poverty, precarious work and cuts in public spending are all known to have increased the death toll and to have diminished the quality of life for many people.

Tameside Hospital became the first NHS hospital in the UK to set up a permanent food bank collection centre on site, after medical staff reported a significant increase in the number of 'malnourished patients' turning up for treatment and care. This sort of thing is a sad indictment of the type of society Britain has become. We live in the fifth richest country on earth and yet, some of our citizens cannot afford to feed themselves properly. As Michael Marmot says - "health is far too important to be left solely to doctors."