The butcher’s apron and the bus pass

While reflecting upon the centenary of the old age pension, it was pointed out to me by a senior citizen of my acquaintance that citizens over the age of sixty can now travel for free on England’s buses.

The English National Concessionary Travel Scheme has been welcomed by millions of pensioners and is a rare progressive policy by New Labour administration – though since pensioners are most likely to vote, it’s likely to be a cynical move.

Note that the cards feature the St George’s Cross and the red rose symbol of England:

The Labour party would be advised to drop Brown’s Britishness agenda as well as Brown himself (because he’s a useless Tory, not because he’s Scottish) – if there’s one issue the Conservative and Unionist party are weak on, it’s the position of England in the UK.

The ENCTS is a modest social-democratic policy, but it’s exactly the kind of inclusive Englishness needed to fight the fascist BNP and embarrass Cameron’s New Tories.

Government ministers are considering a windfall tax on the energy giants, with the monies going to help people struggling to pay the soaring bills – which is a pretty radical policy for Thatcherite New Labour. While they’re feeling open-minded, let’s hope they consider giving us an English parliament to go with the bus passes…

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Why Labour won’t fight David Davis – their MPs support his stand

Not Andy Burnham, obviously. I’m talking about your average real Labour MP, not one of the New Labour Borg. Backbenchers Bob Marshall-Andrews and Ian Gibson have come out in favour of David Davis.

Labour won’t stand against him, Kelvin Mackenzie’s not been on the box spouting his mouth off for a few days, not since footage of him slagging off Hull surfaced (and someone might have told him his old pal Rupert Murdoch, Australia’s answer to Mr Burns, can’t fund his campaign because he’s an American citizen!).

The Liberals aren’t opposing Davis, as promised. Violinist Nigel Kennedy is backing Davis, and folk singer Billy Bragg is being sounded out (pardon the pun). Former British Army Colonel Tim Collins, who was one of those rumoured ‘independents’, has said he backs Davis. Even the fascist BNP aren’t standing against his Freedom campaign, which smacks of opportunism – they would probably introduce indefinite internment…

Can we conclude that the argument in favour of 42 day pre-charge dentention has been lost?

Who will come forward to defend the nascent police state before the voters? Not even the fascists will!

Brown’s defence of his police state measures was overshadowed by Hazel Blears losing her laptop and the sensitive data on it, but we can be certain he won’t be taking fight against David Davis.

Now, I recall watching David Davis being interviewed by Andrew Marr on the Sunday before the vote which led to his Howard Beale moment. My thoughts were: here’s a sincere guy, talking about an important policy – it’s just a shame he’s a Tory.

I don’t know where Davis is going with this – if it’s part of a scheme to win Tory leadership, to form a new party, or to actually reverse the many draconian laws passed in recent years. But I do know that, on the issues he’s dealing with at the moment – I’m on his side.

These are turbulent times, for sure. Seemingly strange things will happen – and Davis going out on a limb to fight terrorism by defending democratic rights, well, that’s just one of those things…

As The Socialist observes:

This incident shows the volatility of British politics at present; many people feel there is no alternative to the sleaze-ridden incompetence of the main political parties. But it also shows the possibility of a new right-wing populist party forming in future. The Tory Party’s fault lines run deep – patrician one-nation Tories rub shoulders with Thatcherites, right-wing libertarians, right-wing authoritarians, anti-EU nationalists etc – and the consensus behind Cameron is a fragile one.

But we can put no faith in capitalist politicians leading the fight against the dangerous 42-day law. It should be opposed by the workers’ movement as a danger to innocent Muslims and to all opposing unjust wars and other government policies, as the legislation can be potentially used against any worker.

Davis cannot speak for workers, he is a right-wing Tory. He supports the anti-gay section 28, the return of the death penalty, and has called for the Human Rights Act to be scrapped; yet his attacks on Britain’s ‘surveillance society’ struck a chord. It shows how far the Labour Party has moved to the right that such a politician may be seen as the only sane man in the asylum.

Brown buys votes to survive, but is given a let-off by David Davis

Timing is everything.

This should have taken place 24 hours later:

It would have made Davis seem less impulsive, for one, and would have allowed greater media attention to be focused on Brown buying votes to save his skin.

Rumours abound that Davis – who won’t be challenged by the Liberals – will face a victim or survivor of a terrorist attack, rather than an official Labour candidate, in the by-election.

The Sun, the only national newspaper that backed the police-state measure of increasing detention without charge, could field a candidate – or rather, The Sun‘s proprietor, the tax-dodging union-busting war-monger Rupert Murdoch could be financing an opponent of Davis.

So, this was not an opportunistic decision. Davis must know that the desire in ruling circles is for the further erosion of civil liberties, not the restoration and extension of democratic rights. I suspect he will struggle to get his message across as the Murdoch press will stop at nothing to portray him as an oddball.

Pressured MPs resist New Labour’s anti-democratic plans

The bye-bye-election has had an effect on Labour MPs it would seem…

Firstly, the planning bill:

A Labour revolt is growing over a bill to take away ministers’ and councils’ planning powers on major projects like airports and nuclear power stations.

Sixty-three of the party’s MPs have signed a Commons motion opposing plans to set up an independent commission to decide on major infrastructure.

Labour MP Clive Betts, who put forward the motion, said those involved would be “unelected” and “unaccountable”.

And from a few days ago, talk of a revolt over road tax hikes:

Backbenchers urged Chancellor Alistair Darling to re-think plans announced in the Budget for big increases in vehicle excise duty on “gas guzzling” cars.

Although vehicles bought before 2001 are exempt, MPs are concerned that the some owners who bought bigger cars in the past not realising the changes were on the way, could be faced with increases of up to £200.

More than 30 Labour backbenchers have now signed a Commons motion urging ministers to re-think the proposals before the new rates come into force.

Labour MP Ronnie Campbell, who tabled the motion, warned that the impact of the increases could be similar to scrapping the 10p tax rate, which led to Mr Darling’s £2.7 billion climbdown in an emergency “mini budget” earlier this month.

“It is unfair on people who bought their cars a few years ago not knowing that the Government were going to put this road tax on,” he told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One.

“When people get their road tax letter through the door next year and find they have got an extra £200 to pay – well, I don’t have to say any more, do I? The motorist is taking the brunt again.”

Mr Campbell, who is due to meet Mr Darling when MPs return to Westminster after this week’s Whitsun break, also called on Mr Darling to drop the planned 2p increase in fuel duty due in October.

He said that with rising world oil prices pushing up prices at the pumps, another increase would be too much for many families.

Not forgetting, of course, the proposal to increase the pre-charge detention period for those suspected of terrorism-related activities, which New Labour is struggling to introduce. There being no evidence forthcoming for the need to change this aspect of the law, the New Labour clique are using a mixture of fear and phony consensus building to win over Labour rebels:

Labour rebels threatening to defeat Gordon Brown’s counter-terrorism plans were offered a new concession yesterday.
The Home Office confirmed that ministers were ready to modify their move to extend to 42 days the period that police could hold terrorism suspects without charge.

The plan will be put to a Commons vote next month, where a significant Labour revolt and the opposition of the Tories and Lib Dems make a Government defeat a real possibility.

However, following recent failures at the polls, Mr Brown’s authority has been called into question and ministers fear he may not survive a third loss.

Tony McNulty, the minister in charge of counter-terrorism, signalled that the Government could amend its Counter Terrorism Bill to buy off Labour rebels.

Ministers will not compromise on the proposed detention increase from 28 days to 42, but they are prepared to give ground on the parliamentary oversight of long detention cases.

MPs had been promised a chance to vote on such cases, but possibly after the 42 days had expired. Mr McNulty said ministers were open to the possibility of such votes being held before the 42-day limit.

“We have said since the second reading and since the committee stage that if anyone had notions to improve the model then we would certainly listen and remain in consensus mode,” he said on BBC Radio 4.

In a further concession, the Government could slash the period the extra powers would last, the BBC reported. Ministers are understood to be discussing a possible compromise to reduce it from 60 to as little as 30 days.

NuLieBore comes out in support of police harassment & the bosses’ blacklist

NuLieBore. New Labour. Geddit?

Ahem. I’ll start again…

How low can you go?

Jacqui Smith gives us this act of desperation:

I now want the Action Squad to co-ordinate a new drive against the hard core of ‘hard nut’ cases.

That car of theirs – is the tax up to date? Is it insured? Let’s find out

And have they a TV licence for their plasma screen? As the advert says, “it’s all on the database.”

As for their council tax, it shouldn’t be difficult to see if that’s been paid

And what about benefit fraud? Can we run a check?

The police, she says, should harass young people who persistently offend. In tabloid-speak this is “get tough on young thugs” – but some of those young people may not have actually been convicted of anything.

Is it a productive use of police time to have officers partaking in… anti-social behaviour? And might such intrusive policing be met with a violent response, endangering police officers and members of the public?

It used to be that politicians would call for more police on the beat, which is fair enough, but Smith’s speech was spun almost as a call for police brutality – which tells you how bad things are for New Labour…

The blurring of boundaries between suspect and convict may continue in the workplace if the bosses (and the New Labour) are able to get away with this:

A government-backed database of ‘workplace offenders’ will be launched later this month to combat the annual loss of half a billion pounds through staff theft and fraud.

The National Staff Dismissal Register will allow employers to share and access details of staff that have been dismissed or have left employment while under investigation for dishonest actions.

Such actions include theft, fraud, forgery, falsification of documents and causing damage to company property. An employee need not have a criminal conviction for their details to be added to the database.

Ah, my emphasis there – and emphasis that’s needed. It continues…

The register is an initiative by Action Against Business Crime, a partnership between the Home Office and the British Retail Consortium, and is allowable under the regulation of the Data Protection Act 1998.

Funny how that Data Protection Act always fails to protect your data…

Big names to have thrown their weight behind the register, include retailers Harrods, HMV, Mothercare and Selfridges and outsourcing agency Reed Managed Services.

Yes, it’s a blacklist ladies and gentlemen. As Ian explains,

A shop worker can be dismissed if the employer reasonably believes that the employee has had his/her hand in the till or had pinched some stock. The give away in the article is that no criminal conviction is needed to be on the register just the fact that the employee has been dismissed.

Just think of it. A Trade Union/ Health and Safety rep can be alone in a warehouse. He/she is later invited to a meeting to account for missing stock. This quickly moves to a disciplinary and on the basis of reasonable belief the worker is sacked. The balance of proof needed is very low. The explanation the worker gives is inadequate. The TU activist is out the door and even though there is no criminal conviction the worker ends up on this register.

By the way, JimJay has an excellent post on this subject which links to the National Staff Dismissal Register. As he rightly says,

Employers can take against employees for a whole number of reasons. Whilst some are legitimate there are a whole raft of others that are not. An employer may dislike someone because they refuse to work unpaid overtime, for being an effective trade unionist or because they are gay. An employer may resent someone who objects to being bullied and knows their legal rights, who holds different political views to them or who is simply better at their job than they are. […]

If I’m caught stealing a tenner from the till I don’t deserve to keep my job, but I don’t deserve to be made permanently unemployed at the tax payers expense either. It isn’t helpful and there are few non-criminal charges where this would be anything like a fair and reasonable response.

All this scheme does is to give further leverage to employers to make unreasonable demands of their workforce. One ex-employer’s unsubstantiated whim should never be enough to blacken someone’s name or ruin their livelihood, yet this is precisely the aim of this site. This system isn’t simply open to abuse – it’s designed for it.

Some good news to finish. Karen’s struggle has reached parliament, where it seems there are Labour MPs supporting working people in their struggles:

More than 200 health workers, trade unionists, service users and MPs packed into a room in the House of Commons yesterday to show their support for Karen Reissmann, the Manchester psychiatric nurse and leading union member who was sacked for speaking out against cuts and privatisation.

The meeting, which was organised by Karen’s Unison union and chaired by her MP, Tony Lloyd, aimed to raise support for Early Day Motion 443, which calls for Karen’s reinstatement.

Addressing the meeting, Tony Lloyd praised Karen’s two decades of service to the NHS and said that trade unionists must be given greater protection. He said, “There is a real issue of principle at stake here. Health workers have a right and a duty to tell the truth about what happens at work.

“I have a long experience with the Manchester Mental Health Trust. If services there are not being provided properly, we need to know so that we can get improvements made.”

During the meeting health workers from Manchester and from across Britain spoke of their fear that Karen’s sacking is an attempt by management to silence trade unionists and opponents of cuts to services. Many of those attending were Karen’s workmates who had taken several weeks of strike action in an effort to see their colleague returned to work.

Parliamentarians – including Gerald Kaufman, Kelvin Hopkins, Katy Clark, John Leech, and Jeremy Corbyn – heard workers and carers describe the way mental health services are at breaking point in many parts of the country.

Unison vice-president Gerry Gallagher spoke of the tremendous wave of solidarity that the Manchester strikers had received and pledged the continuing support of the union, both for the continuing campaign and for Karen’s employment tribunal that is due to commence in the autumn.

“We must maintain the profile and the pressure in support of Karen,” he said.

From the floor John Mcloughlin from Tower Hamlets Unison talked about the way that emloyment law is stacked against trade unionists. To loud applause he pointed out that even when employment tribunals find against the employers, they cannot force them to reinstate staff who have been wrongly sacked.

Closing the speeches Karen Reissmann said, “This is not a dictatorship. This is Britain under a Labour government in 2008.

“Obviously I want my job back. But I also want protection for all trade unionists.”

The meeting urged everyone to contact their local MPs to ask them to sign the Early Day Motion, and continue to raise Karen’s case wherever possible.

Morrissey saves Love Music Hate Racism carnival

Here’s the good man performing “Irish Blood, English Heart”…

And here’s the story from the LMHR website:

Morrissey has personally stepped in with a significant financial contribution to the Love Music Hate Racism campaign in order to allow their 30th Anniversery Rock Against Racism concert to go ahead in Victoria Park, London this weekend without financial loss or burden to the campaign. In addition to his own contribution he has rallied his management, booking agency and promoters to make up the majority of the £75,000 deficit LMHR was faced with after a main sponsor pulled out.

Morrissey commented, “This is a historic event spreading an important, anti-racist, message so it must be allowed to go ahead. Love Music Hate Racism got in touch and explained that the NME had pulled support, possibly as a result of their association with me, and asked if I could help as they had not been able to replace them. This is something I am commited to and we appreciate everyone coming together so quickly to make it happen.”

K2 Agency, Live Nation, Pacifica Artists Group and SJM Concerts are all associated with Morrissey and have made donations to Love Music Hate Racism at his request.

LMHR’s Martin Smith & Lee Billingham said, “After an expected contribution to the Carnival from a major sponsor fell through, we contacted Morrissey – and other artists who support the cause – to ask for their help, and we’re extremely grateful for Morrissey’s generous financial contribution.”

LMHR Carnival ‘08 takes places on Sunday 27th April 2008 in Victoria Park, London E3, and is FREE. Headliners include The Good The Bad & The Queen, Jay Sean, Hard-Fi, The View, Roll Deep, Jerry Dammers RAR Allstars, Get Cape.Wear Cape.Fly, Natty, and Babyshambles’ Drew McConnell’s Helsinki project ft. John McClure, Fyfe Guillemot, Poly Styrene, Jimmy Pursey and many more. Full details at http://www.lmhrcarnival.com

Labour Party goes for Brown’s Balls

That’s a title I could not resist. Ostensibly I am blogging about Charles Clarke – uber-Blairite – and his attack on Yvette Cooper’s husband, the apple of Gordon’s eye, Ed Balls.

But actually this is about the more general discontent within the parliamentary Labour Party: no doubt fearful of losing their seats should the May 1st council elections boost the Tories, Labour MPs have been forced to act on the government’s doubling of taxes for low-income workers – and it seems that Brown has been forced to admit to being wrong as a result:

Gordon Brown has told Labour MPs he understands their concerns about the abolition of the 10p tax rate. […]

The PM told the Parliamentary Labour Party work would begin immediately to address concerns but warned: “We can’t have the Budget defeated.” […]

More than 70 Labour MPs have signed motions raising concerns but it is not known how many will vote against the measure next week.

Labour MP Frank Field, who has tabled an amendment calling for compensation for those who have lost out, urged the government “to bring forward specific proposals” to protect low-paid workers.

Brown needn’t play the lottery, but if he did, he would be anticipating another number coming up after 10, namely 42… (Now it seems councils have been using anti-terror laws to stop kids buying booze!)

As Adam Price notes:

In just under ten months, Gordon Brown has suffered 95 rebellions from his back benchers. The attacks are now coming from every direction. Who would have thought following all the joy surrounding his predecessors’ departure that Prime Minister Brown would be heckled with the exact same ghusto at the Labour Party’s Parliamentary meetings as Mr Blair?

Adam’s solution to compensating those affected by the new tax changes is to start taxing pornography. Not a bad idea – perhaps in future we’ll see the Chancellor putting up the duty on booze, fags and porn come Budget day…

As regards the Chancellor, Darling has a confession to make:

Chancellor Darling admitted yesterday that ‘of course’ he knew that abolishing the 10p tax rate would affect five million low-paid workers.

However, in an interview with BBC’s Andrew Marr he refused to pledge that he would reinstate the 10p tax for the lower paid. […]

Interviewer Marr pressed him: ‘so you knew that five point something million people were going to lose out from this and these are single low paid people. How does that make you feel? Did you come into politics to do this?’

Darling said: ‘I came into politics to encourage people to work hard to see the benefits of their work.’

Yeah, right…

Getting back to Gordon, he’s been telling the Scottish TUC to support the Union of England and Scotland – which as everyone knows is the only union that Brown has any interest in defending. Given that the STUC almost backed the Scottish nationalists in the 2007 elections it’s a wonder he’d raise the issue…