Revealing the depth of the Labour candidates’ poverty

The appearance together at a gathering focussing on Israel is revealing the depth of the Labour candidates’ poverty. This is with the honourable exception of the previously discounted candidacy of Jeremy Corbyn. The other three vied with each other in their sycophancy saying that support for that state was eternal and unconditional. Trashing Gaza, seizing Palestinian land in the West Bank and holding prisoners, including many children, in abject conditions is not on their radar. Neither is the continuing trauma of so many children, both Palestinian and Israeli, not there for consideration. Of course we’ve seen this all before with Middle East Peace Envoy Blair. They’ll all say that they need to uphold such unspeakably inhumane ideals as necessary to get them and Labour elected. Support for Corbyn in anti-austerity suggests that his contrary stance is appreciated by rather more than elitist Britain’s corporate power admit.

If nothing else Jeremy Corbyn’s entry into the debate has opened crucial areas of debate that wouldn’t have been had if confined to the dire poverty of the rest. Not that any areas of the establishment believe in making it easy with interviewers lowering the pitch by asking him and others if they believed that his inclusion would make Labour unelectable. Well it most certainly will be if it doesn’t involve itself in such a serious debate and then translate this into serious politics. The people of Scotland told Labour clearly what they thought, regrettably by voting in a nationalist party. (Others using such a term are considered taboo – as in BNP, NF and National Socialists in Germany.) Corbyn has proved himself well able to deal by contesting those who have tried to draw him into their vacuous debate by referring to the pressing issues needing their, and our, attention.

Blair talks about Corbyn’s supporters requiring “a heart transplant”. Judging by this display of hard heartedness by the other contenders, like their spokesman, hearts would be replaced by stones!

Looking at an outside,informed view from an economist, Joseph Stiglitz, indicates how such central issues as austerity are sidelined by those inside the “Westminster bubble” but, as in the US, the feelings of the majority who have watched wealth increase exponentially in the hands of an elite. It is just this elite which is misusing the power that this wealth and influence give. Vested interests incorporations dealing with our essentials like food and drink and inessentials like increasingly sophisticated war materials dominate them. The revolving door in our parliament ensures that those we elect are seduced by their power far than by the vote we gave them. It’s easy to see why the Israeli lobby (not supported by many Jewish people) became a place where candidates fell over each other to please. Another US commentator, journalist Eileen Fleming, makes a comment on the issue. (See comments).

Cameron takes over as recruiting agent for extremists

David Blair (aka Cameron) came to Birmingham today and lectured us all on tackling extremism, taking over as recruiting agent for extremists. I think that’s been done before, not least by one Tony Blair. Since then the world has erupted with bigger and better wars being fought. At the same time while we were distracted, banksters and company have increased their stranglehold on resources. It’s not unrelated – the arms industry is a nice little earner. So let’s blame extremists and everyone else for encouraging them. Problem they observe the speck in their eyes while ignoring the plank blinding them.

Cameron is hell bent on chasing extremists in Syria just as Blair insisted on going into Iraq. Then came Afghanistan, Libya etc. all erupting in flames. Britain had a taste at home 10 years back, probably due to the target Blair painted saying “shoot here”. They did exactly that, but Cameron can’t, won’t learn.

Since then of course the world had had its attention drawn to Gaza in particular and Palestine as a whole. Not a hint that this could be part, if not the root, of the problem. To celebrate Eid the Israeli Occupation Force is planning to demolish yet another Palestinian village. The world’s media appears to have walked away since the Gaza attack ended, leaving living conditions unbearable, but no one notices. If anything’s said then we’re all the extremist.

IPCC’s refusal to investigate Orgreave once again questions its independence

What happened at Orgreave is felt to prefigure Hillsborough. That enquiry has thrown up many deeply uncomfortable facts, some in common with Orgreave. The depth of violence, the testimony of police officers require investigation and accountability. The IPCC’s decision not to investigate Orgreave calls its independence into question once again. The time lapse between now and then is no excuse.

It is the deeply political nature of Orgreave which sets it apart from Hillsborough. The Thatcher-led government was determined that what happened following the Battle of Saltley Gate in Birmingham in 1972 should not be repeated. To Thatcher this reached epic proportions with references to “the enemy within” comparing trades unionists as comparable with Argentina’s attempts to claim the Falkland Islands as theirs.

For a change the Labour Party, or some of its leadership, has exercised an independence by supporting an enquiry. While the Home Secretary has said that she would take requests into consideration it is hardly likely that the Conservative Government would want these events put under a microscope and invite extended media coverage, although they could rely on a right wing supine press to give them the kind of support they have enjoyed for foisting austerity on the people and recreating the deeply divided nation Thatcher presided over. The lesson of Saltley Gate showed that power need not necessarily be one-sided but the miners’ strike more than a decade later did not learn from this>. A divided Trades Union movement and Labour Party failed to give the support that had been witnessed in Birmingham in 1972.

Capita marches on as banking and finance control all

In Birmingham banking and finance are well-oiled as Capita marches on. Essential services have been slashed to the bone in the face of “Austerity”. Win or lose Capita and the like gain as if there is no tomorrow. The way they are going there will be no tomorrow as among their ranks the global warming flat earthers ensure that the priorities are with money, loads and loads of it. To the rest governments deliver “shock and awe” to the working people. “We are the Party for working people” intones Cameron as more is taken out of their mouths and delivered into the hands of C(r)apita and the like.

But you’ve seen nothing yet. What was once Blackwater in the USA won major contracts in areas which once the state firmly controlled. In Iraq their personnel became involved in the conduct of war. This was convenient to the state since they weren’t covered by the rules of war and Geneva convention. If their staff were killed or injured their families received no recognition or compensation. The Chief Executive of Blackwater was noted for is hatred of Islam and Muslims. Individuals like Dick Cheney held their shares. Naturally bigger and better wars were voted for by the wealth driven politicians. And so Capita. Now they are reaching further and further, higher and higher.

While some of Capita’s mates like G4S and Serco for fraud outsourcing marches on, and it is the giants who are going for the cream. They cherry pick the profitable services while the bits that are doubtful and unreliable sources of dosh – like A & E hospital services – are marginalise, even closed.

Is Capita efficient? The health service and local government haven’t found it so. It’s expensive and in Birmingham failed to deliver on taking over the call centre and IT systems.

Is Capita ethical? Small businesses who have worked with Capita haven’t found so according The Independent They are advisers to businesses to work off shore. Presumably they do so – so do they pay their taxes in a way that reflects their colossal hold on public and private services? Irrespective, Capita marches on a giant predator devouring local government as it cuts “essential services” to the bone making huge profits out of taxes. The Government has arranged it so that taxes we pay together with assets owned by us through our local council are handed over to the private sector. Groups like Capita can’t lose.

Muslim children targeted in primary school survey

The bigots’ charter is being introduced as a primary school is given a questionnaire – apparently without being asked – with Muslim children targeted in the primary school survey.

You’d think the best way to upset people and drive them into radicalism would be to continually harass a particular group of people in this way. Ever since the US under George W. Bush invented the “Terrorist” idea extreme groups have burgeoned. Al Quaeda now looks a quite moderate outfit to the post Iraq, post Libya groups that emerged intent on making more outrageous acts and statements to upset western sensibilities. They are working as bigger wedges are hammered home with the effect of dividing communities where no such division existed before. Long standing Moslem friends who assumed that they were a settled part of British society now feel that they too are under attack. The result is that the anti-terror brigades are increasingly counter-productive. They appear to want to create a division from an early age. This is deeply worrying.

These are questions asked. What would anyone make of these let alone young children? Could they incriminate themselves? How will the fools who thought them up interpret them? Will they consult Muslim advisers?

Given the predominant tendency to, at best, ignore and forget what happened to Gaza – Christians as well as Muslims were targets – interpretations of responses could be – are likely to be – highly biased.

I’m going to vote today

I have a choice of candidates here in the Perry Barr constituency of Birmingham. Khalid Mahmood is the sitting Labour MP and no one is questioning that he will continue. At the last General election I was a candidate myself, but not for the Labour Party. This time there is no candidate for the Socialist Labour Party for parliament, although there is one for the City Council Election. Paulette Hamilton is the candidate, nearly deselected by efforts of her two comrades, and she again is expected to hold onto her seat.

My first thought is for the great need for a fairer system than first past the post which reproduces the same old same old so Austerity is going to continue in one form or another. Austerity is a measure determined by a Westminster elite controlled by big business and huge unaccountable corporations who have been successful in maintaining their power through the status quo. Politicians from all parties in Westminster become part of the revolving door culture very quickly. A few individuals hold out. Dave Nellist, standing on the left in a Coventry constituency and winning his parliamentary seat, would only take a working person’s salary. He mentions how on the first day in parliament he was offered directorships from lobbyists. That’s the culture and that’s how it works. Today’s poll won’t alter that. Unless.

The Socialist Labour Party is fielding 8 candidates in Wales. That means it achieved a party political broadcast. Ken Capstick speaks about the dire situation many families and individuals find themselves in exacerbated by 5 years of Tory/LibDem rule. Arthur Scargill presents the SLP manifesto.

Clearly the Socialist Labour Party hasn’t the support or the money to challenge the status quo. However many detected a breath of fresh air when three other parties were introduced into the televised election debate. I exclude UKIP and Farrage because the air around that party in not only stale, it is poisonous in the way that surrounded the growth of the Nationals Socialists in Germany in the thirties. Scottish and Welsh Nationalists and the Green Parties, all with women leaders, articulated sentiments which more than a few people understood. Nicola Sturgeon’s assertion that many of the things the Scottish people want – freedom from the Westminster system currently in place – is shared wider. In the she’s right. The problem is that as Socialists we want to see a cohesive force across the currently United Kingdom which does away with austerity, privatisation and run down of what we used to call “essential services”. If Sturgeon is still heading for a separate Scotland but still wedded to other bastions of elitism like Europe, no I don’t want to go there.

Today I know I have a choice between Labour, Conservative, LibDem, and then Green Party, UKIP and TUSC. While UKIP supports withdrawal from Europe as does the SLP the reasoning is fundamentally different. Placing the blame on and fanning hatred of migrants is not the reason for the plight of the most vulnerable. It is a Capitalist system of greed that needs to be displaced. There is no cosy, cuddly form, wished for by many of the other parties. It is vicious and exploitative as has been shown in the 5 years of Austerity we have just lived with. Its press has shown just how it is with the Sun, Mail, Telegraph screaming at people to ensure their Capitalist paymasters maintain their power and influence. It is clear at the moment that with the prospect of a hung parliament that public opinion doesn’t continue to follow to the degree it once did when Neil Kinnock was denied victory.

Britten and Tippett encounters

During the nineteen sixties particularly I spent my time at concerts and was always keen to hear composers perform their own works, or failing that performers closely connected with them who probably knew them or worked under their direction. Stravinsky, Hindemith and Copland figured largely and I often found their performances of other composers revealing. I think, however that Benjamin Britten and Michael Tippett were those I encountered most frequently. The latter had a habit of attending performances of his work, and it was later in his career that I think he became more involved himself. I was at a performance when he conducted his Vision of St Augustine at the Bath Festival, The two of them came together at a tribute to Tippett on his 60th birthday at Morley College when Britten with Peter Pears performed Tippett songs. Britten at the piano was astounding.

Brittens own performances of much of his own work is preserved on record of course and the 100th anniversary of his birth on 22nd November (coinciding with my own 72nd birthday) has been a pretext to make earlier recordings widely available as well as stimulating interest from younger artists who have given remarkable performances both live and on record. For a time it seemed as if Britten’s recordings actually inhibited others, and indeed it was difficult to listen to others. A performance of the Britten Cello Symphony at Birmingham Town Hall suffered from some very uninspired and flabby conducting from Hugo Rignold, brought to life only by Rostropovich whose passionate gestures from the cello galvanised the proceedings.

Britten was a regular visitor to the Henry Wood Proms in London where he conducted a range of his work together with another composer connected with Saint Cecilia, Henry Purcell. This included the Spring Symphony, Cantata Misericordium, the Sinfonia da Requiem and the Purcell Chaconne in his edition. I also heard him in performances of the War Requiem as conductor in partnership with Meredith Davies, who gave the first performance at Coventry Cathedral in 1963. I attended the second performance at Westminster Abbey, when Britten processed out after the performance in the company of Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, and the next year at the Albert Hall during the Prom season.

Alton Burnett


Our Comrade, Friend and Brother Alton Burnett finally succumbed to his battle with cancer and passed away on Friday, 7th March at 7.20 pm. Phillip Murphy, Maxie Hayles and I had visited a week or so earlier but found him in a deep sleep. We understood he was suffering considerable pain in his waking moments. Alton was a larger than life character committed to serve the community, which he did as a Councillor for Erdington and as Secretary to the Afro-Caribbean Millennium Centre on Dudley Road, Birmingham.

In 1985 Alton led a group along Lozells to pay tribute to the post masters, the Moledena brothers, who lost their lives in a fire at the post office.


More than 20 years later he repeated this act of reconciliation when some young men were tragically run down along the Dudley Road, yards from the Afro-Caribbean Millennium Centre. At the time there was considerable tension with a feeling that what had happened was due to friction in the community. It fell to Alton once again to dispel the idea as he carried a tribute to Tariq Jahan, father of one of the boys killed. Tariq himself rose above the rumours flying round and was given great credit for his generosity of spirit at such a time of personal loss. (He went to give aid to the injured only to find it was his own dying son he was trying to help.)

Alton Burnett pays tribute to the young men who were killed along the Dudley Road speaking to Tariq Jahan, bereaved father of one of them.
Rather than a flashpoint, the makeshift shrine appears to have evolved into a focal point for the community to bond. It was there that Alton Burnett of the Afro Caribbean Millennium community center presented Mr. Jahan with flowers and a message of condolence on Thursday evening.
“We are one,” Mr. Burnett said. “We feel your pain and we feel your sorrow. We will not let this divide us.” The two men hugged, a symbolic moment recognized with applause from those watching.
New York Times 11/8/2011



Behind the Secrecy. Yarl’s Wood.

If there’s official secrecy, smell a rat. The usual answer is “security”, but in reality you’ll find a story of human misery, abuse, torture, rape. Yarl’s Wood is a name added to the long list of locations under the control of the very Western Governments bemoaning untold horrors committed by human beings on others. Sadism is supposed to be an act of barbarism which “civilised”, “democratic” states abhor.

Where did all this start? In recent history Chicago is seen as a contender, but a look at what was trended following experiments in human endurance to sensory deprivation. Go back a few decades and practices in Northern Ireland‘s detention centres look familiar.

Other familiar names include Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib where these techniques were practiced and refined. They continued even as they were getting press coverage, although the detail and horrors have only emerged when those who endured them have spoken about their sufferings.

The proliferation of these torture sites is not accidental, a product of rogue personnel. It is a result of deliberate acts around what Naomi Klein writes about in “Shock Doctrine”. I is practiced not only against what are regarded as problematic states, but is used against people internally. The withdrawal of benefits to many needy people is such an example.

That such doctrines are counter productive is amply demonstrated by groups who are now practicing their own forms of “shock doctrine”. Everyone has been sickened by the ever more outrageous practices of groups acting in the name of Islam. Their ideas are not new or confined to them: rather they have learned from a world that has practiced colonialism with no holds barred on the treatment of those colonised. Our leaders continually say they espouse humanity and justice. It might just work if they set an example using those humanitarian values rather than what they themselves describe as the law of the jungle.

Devolution means “you take the decision”, not me

I’ve been a bit slow to understand but now I realise what you mean, Sir Albert, by devolution. Birmingham is considered a bit big for an authority and could be split into smaller units. We’ve trying that for some years to work in districts, although the even more local ward committees have been criticised as “not being fit for purpose”.

Albert Bore has been around a long time now. Earlier he was seen as “bag carrier” for Sir Richard (Dick) Knowles. He was always democratic mostly when it was forced on him. So I wrote and told him how much I was pleased with his wish to devolve power to local areas based on constituencies and wards. The problem I told him was that we were given responsibility, but there were no resources to do anything. Yes we could take decisions, but the only decision to be made was to make cuts by closing or transferring assets, for example. Now my area of Handsworth Wood is virtually an asset-free area. What is left to govern?

A local family bought Hawthorn House, formerly housing a local library, community facilities and council offices. A children’s play area has been reinstated after the family objected to it, having acquired the house fully knowing it was planned to do this.

Laurel Road Sports Centre, rebuilt after a fire had gutted the former wooden structure, was put up for tender to transfer the assets to a new owner. The site had been much improved after the involvement of Sports England, but it never regained the feeling of local ownership it previously enjoyed. The popular protest failed after assets were passed to a local church group. In other words its long term future is far from guaranteed.

Camp Lane held a training centre, graced with a picture of Prince Charles in honour of a visit, and, yes, a plaque with the name of Sir Albert Bore from when it was opened, or re-opened after a period of closure. Considerable sums of Council (our) money was pumped in to improve social facilities. It could prove a major asset and funding source to a private owner for functions. Local power devolved. We weren’t asked or involved in deciding its future.

Local schools have become academies, another term for asset transfer. Again public money used to enhance our schools with considerable building schemes for sports centres etc. has been handed over for private gain.

Albert Bore has declared that it is the end of local government as we know it. It is essentially a loss of voice of people who formerly controlled local government. Evidently one or two councillors are voicing their concerns but it is muted by their temerity and dissuasion by those in Labour who still won’t rock the boat.

Contrast Birmingham in 1972 when Labour Party leaders like Moira Symons led in supporting miners’ industrial action with 30,000 Birmingham Trades Unionists marching on Saltley Gate. Their actions led to the end of a former corrupt Tory administration under Heath.