Monthly Archives: April 2007

Violence in the park

The Vaisakhi Festivities are celebrated annually in Handsworth Park. This year was no exception when many hundreds turned up to enjoy good food, the fun fair and gather socially. Unfortunately one or two others had different ideas coming into the park brandishing a range of potentially lethal weapons including an unsheathed three foot sword. It’s generally held that the Sikhs are peace loving upholders of peace and justice following the teachings of their founder Guru Nanak.
A few years ago I and a Sikh friend went to the aid of two prominent Sikhs who were beaten in a local Gurdwara in Handsworth. I heard that some unsavoury characters were terrorising people here and in a Smethwick Gurdwara. We called a meeting with the police and asked them to follow the assaults up. My friend knew a lot more about the individuals concerned and said they were running their campaign across the country. It was said that drugs were involved. The police I have to say were very hesitant to take action.
On Sunday the man who entered the park openly brandishing the sword was arrested, bu amazingly was soon released!. The original incident sparked a number of others which continued on the streets after the park was closed early.
I was looking forward to attending a celebration of Anglo-Sikh relations this Saturday but due to the tensions which have arisen within the Sikh Community this has been put off following advice from the police. The organisers, who have put in much hard work for this, have readily acceded in the circumstances.

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Iraq. The unreported deaths

After this weeks carnage in Baghdad I wonder why I was stopped short by an artickes in Al Jazeera (20/4/2007). It reports that capital punishment in the new Iraq is nearly as high as in China, Iran and Pakistan. Of course we new about Saddam and the botched execution of one of his colleagues. Amnesty International cannot compare it with Saddam’s regime since the figure for capital punishment are obscure. What I’m wondering is how much state violence aggravates the worsening situation.
Bush’s belief that a final push in Iraq could work things out is being proved as useless as critics told him it would. The British folly of joining in unapologetically isn’t improving things at home or abroad either. In Britain the continued attacks on anything Islamic, compounded time and again by a succession of uncomprehending ministers, is downright sinister.

Portrait of our prisons

The Guardian reports the state of one of our privatised prisons in Warwickshire (16/4/2007) where an undercover reporter catalogues a series of scandals. The list of concerns extends from bribery from inmates to get drugs and mobile phones to self harm and suicide. A murder was committed at this institution.
The picture is of a society which throws people away. They include the most vulnerable: those with mental health problems, victims of drug pushers, young people who have depended on the “care” system and so on. Although government legislation is shown to be flawed, the climate of fear engendered by political debate on crime and terrorism has led to a society tolerant of injustice and inhumanity.

Mental Health Bill

The Independent (15/4/2007) is pleading with MPs and others to look at the case of a 16 year old who needed treatment for mental illness before the Mental Health Bill is debated tomorrow.
The inhumanity exhibited by New Labour is a major factor in my decision to get out. Time after time draconian measures are put into force which rather than remedying a bad situation frequently make it worse. Reactions to “terrorism”, drugs, asylum seekers criminalises the vulnerable, likely to be victims themselves of criminal gangs. The Observer leads with the futile attempts to stem an endemic drug taking culture. This is the subject of a report due out this week.
We know that prisons are overcrowded, filled with people who self-harm and are suicidal. The Unicef report tells us that the young are failed badly in the U.K., more than any industrialised country.
While all this is happening the Observer is reporting on Tesco’s £5,000 a minute profits about to break all records. I noted earlier that Philip Gould, one time ally of Blair, together with others close to government, had decamped to advise Tesco on their voracious appetite for land – either to use themselves or prevent competitors moving in. Generally speaking those at the top are looking after themselves and their friends very nicely.

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More rainforest devastation in the Congo

You and I might be worrying about global warming expecting a lead from our elected representatives. Worry we might but as long as international capitalism rules the roost there are no holds barred in continuing the rape of our precious planet and its resources for material gain. International companies are about to plunder large swathes of forest in the Congo.There is no concern about the effects on all of us (including the plunders themselves of course). In exchange for bags of salt and other commodities land the size of the UK has been acquired for logging by U.S. and European concerns. No one is telling the local chiefs of the value of the wood they are taking, or the effects on the environment.
It looks as if the World Bank is supporting the venture. It is African teak in the rain forest second only to Brazil which is of value. It is widely used for flooring. The link here is two years old but inspite of deep concerns expressed work has begun clearing the land.

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Support for Palestine from Britain

It was reported in the Palestinian News Network (6/4/2007) that my friend Kamal Hawwash is in Ramallah attempting to further the plan to twin Ramallah with a British City.
“Project Chairperson on the British side, Kamal Hawwash, spoke on behalf of his colleagues coming to Ramallah, saying that the current conference aims to ‘activate the popular ‘twinning’ relationship between Palestinian cities and villages, and their British counterparts.’
He told attendees, ‘ We come here today to share our experiences with our counterparts in the municipalities of Ramallah in the West Bank. These relations are maintained with some 22 Palestinian villages. The latest British fund-raising event was able to establish a children’s library in the village of Deir Ammer in the Ramallah District.’
Hawwash explained, ‘Social responsibility in helping the Palestinian people in their fight for justice and freedom, who are oppressed under Israeli occupation’ drives the movement. Fact-finding to combat a complicit media is also a motivator, he said. ‘We see the way information is falsified.’ ”

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Confiscated bananas

Jericho is a very old city and fits its description of “a land flowing with milk and honey”, that is until now. It is Palestinian land under occupation. Bananas and dates continue to be grown there, but the label “Palestinian Produce” has been replaced with “Israeli Produce”.
Nancy Pelosi, against the best advice of George W. Bush, has held talks with the Syrian leader. This he says has undermined his policy of isolating member countries defined as the “axis of evil”. She brought a message from Israel’s President Olmert saying that they wanted peace talks. However while the talks about talks points to something a long way off the above example illustrates how Palestinian land confiscation continues apace across the West Bank. Both Democrats and Republicans deal with Israel without mentioning Palestine, yet it is this question which is at the heart of the Middle East crisis. Where does the Palestinian President Abbas come into the picture?

Bye bye New Labour

I’ve decided. I’m leaving New Labour. No longer will I have to worry about the paid officers who now dominate the party, paid they think to keep the lowly members in order. I’ve been a member of a vibrant branch of good comrades with progressive views. Ward boundary changes put paid to all that and I still believe that it was politically motivated. There can be no other explanation for the boundary being driven right through the heart of the ward, Rookery Road. Rick Hatcher was a member who left some time ago now. Rick is well respected for his writings on education with trenchant criticism of New Labour and elitist academies arguing that all schools should be good.. Simon Warren is another well know name who has gone. He research and co-authored a well-respected report on black children’s education. Then there was Raghib Ahsan who fought a heroic battle against racism in the Labour Party. This has still to run its course since Raghib came out on top, but it is being challenged and with end up in the House of Lords. Raghib is a candidate in the local election standing for Respect which now has two councillors in Birmingham. I wish him well. There were many other notable people, some who had been members for half a century. They left without comment. Not a care in the world. New Labour you can’t touch it, yet again and again there are disastrous consequences for the arrogance of those holding power in its name.
I’m not advocating a return to the past, but I first became involved in Labour Party politics in the 1960’s and worked in Cheltenham. In one area I knocked on the door answered by a lady who left the politics to her husband. “I don’t believe in those suffragettes” she says. That was 1964. I went to a meeting in Bristol where Harold Wilson was speaking. None of the stage managed presentations there. Wilson was heckled and expected to be. Walter Wolfgang wouldn’t have had any trouble here. Anyway I’ve left – and I feel an enormous weight lifted off my shoulders.
Here’s my letter of resignation:

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Letters to the W.M. Labour Party – ignored

These letters were sent as e-mails to the Regional Office of the West Midlands Labour Party. Like others commenting on their strange behaviour they were ignored!
Keith, You’ll find the majority of members very unhappy with the imposition of a
candidate. There is no need, so why do outsiders want to interfere with the
ward? A pro forma. Yes. The Regional Office should have put out a simple yes/no
reply slip. You didn’t so we did. Paulette is a good candidate, but she will not
gain support by acting this way. I am aware there is one person who felt misled
by being approached, but I’m not aware of any others. Most people want to see
democracy at work within the Labour Party.
I understand that it was decided to count all members of the Ward not just those
eligible to vote. That’s a nonsense. I think there are things here which can be
No meeting in January. Not only do we have an imposition, we are not even told
what is happening. We don’t get a chance to choose delegates for the Birmingham
Labour Party which some of us campaigned for. Maybe it’s time to go back to the
press! Tariq told me he cancelled because he wasn’t getting support to deliver
agendas. I was told I was to blame for not supplying the minutes, which is
untrue. They went to the secretary, who never turns up at meetings.
I understand under current legislation I can ask for a membership list. If that
is so I’d like it.
Sincerely, John
I don’t know if you have got the message yet that members of this ward are
extremely angry at the discourteous way they are treated. A decision was taken
but no notification, or even ratification requested. Members are beneath
contempt in the view of the Regional Office. I was unable to attend this
evenings meeting since I was working. I now hear that it was an “informal
meeting”. The calling notice said nothing about that. At an earlier meeting it
was announced by the MP that it was the first proper meeting after being set up
buy the Constituency. I took minutes in the absence (again) of the secretary.
I think people made it abundantly clear that an imposed candidate will not get
support in a campaign. The view is “let the Birmingham Labour Party fight the
campaign” if they wish to decide who represents the ward.
The Region decided 20% of the membership could call for a selection. Again a
decision was made that a proportion wasn’t eligible even though vaild signatures
were presented. This would not stand up in a court of law.
If you don’t do something about the matter now there will be significant action.
Members are furious: many more than those who showed their feelings at tonight’s
meeting. I think our MP got the message at least.