PE teacher sacked for wearing track suit & trainers!

Adrian Swain has for the last 35 years worn a track suit and trainers. As George Galloway has noted “Of all the difficulties facing children in Tower Hamlets – poverty, overcrowding, lack of resources, and an education system geared to testing not teaching – it is truly astonishing that a well liked and experienced teacher has been sacked for what he was wearing on his feet.”

And what makes it amazing is that “he is, amongst other things, a PE teacher”.

Workers take action to defend Adrian Swain

Staff at St Paul’s Way School in Tower Hamlets, East London, will demonstrate outside the town hall at 3.30pm on Friday 16 January to protest against the sacking of Adrian Swain – the socialist, Permanent Revolution member and NUT activist sacked for failing to comply with a new dress code by wearing trainers and tracksuit bottoms.

Adrian was sacked on the last day of term in December. Since then, the story has received huge media attention, getting picked up in turn by the East London Advertiser, the Evening Standard, Associated Press, the Metro, the Daily Mail, the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph. It was one of the BBC News website’s top 10 stories over the Christmas, and Adrian has been interviewed on ITV, BBC regional news, Radio Five Live, Radio 4 and BBC Radio London’s Vanessa Feltz programme.

In all the coverage, Adrian stresses the same point again and again: that his “offence” was wearing trainers and tracksuit bottoms, as he has done for 35 years! These items of clothing are now proscribed under the code, which is operated under the catch all command to “dress professionally”, a fashion sense entirely at the discretion of the head.

Management’s treatment of Adrian was, of course, motivated not by his fashion sense, but by their desire to attack a longstanding union and socialist militant in a school group that has stood up to them for years.

The failure of the East London Teachers’ Association to support the campaign, due to the SWP and others in the Socialist Teachers’ Alliance including national executive member and Association secretary Alex Kenny, is one the reasons why Adrian has not already been reinstated. On the second day back after Christmas, the St Paul’s Way NUT school group passed a resolution stating:

“SPW NUT group reaffirms its urgent request for a ballot for discontinuous strike action. The objective of this strike action is to secure Adrian’s unconditional reinstatement. By unconditional we mean that his reinstatement is not dependent on his adherence to the imposed dress code. We would expect this strike action to be sustained, as is almost always the case with disputes involving individual school groups. After an initial day of strike action, we would expect the action to escalate rapidly (i.e. by the next week) if Adrian is not reinstated. We are committed to taking as much action as is necessary to achieve our objective. We ask the ELTA Secretary to inform us of the Action Committee meeting that will discuss our request and to arrange for a delegation from the SPW NUT group to attend the meeting.”

The NUT Action Committee has now agreed to the request to a ballot. More soon, it seems.

Demonstrate 3.30pm, Friday 16 January, @ Tower Hamlets Town Hall, Mulberry Place, Clove Crescent, London E14 2BG (East India or Blackwall DLR)
For the Facebook group “Friends of Adrian Swain”, see here.

Vote, vote, vote for Neil Clark!

In the battle of UK blogs, instead of pro-war Tories like Melanie Philips and Iain Dale, I’m backing the journalist and writer Neil Clark who is for peace and social justice.

I urge you to cast a vote for his excellent blog.

What have the Palestinians got to complain about?

In contrast to Israel’s 2006 aggression against Lebanon, the British Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary are competing to see who can most stridently condemn the Gaza attacks.

Calling for a ceasefire is no problem this time round. After all, Brown used the conflict in Lebanon as a way of ousting Blair.

Now David MiniBliar is trying the same trick. He’s even talking about that article he published. You know, the one that talked about Labour’s woes without mentioning Brown? Not that wee David would have linked the two, of course…

Now, it’s rare that comedy is linked with the plight of the Palestinians, both in beseiged Gaza and the occupied West Bank, but Mark Steel manages to get a few laughs out of the hypocrisy surrounding the insistance upon moral equivalence between the mass produced WMDs of the IDF and the home-made rockets of Hamas.

Mark Steel: So what have the Palestinians got to complain about?

To portray this as a conflict between equals requires some imagination

Wednesday, 31 December 2008

When you read the statements from Israeli and US politicians, and try to match them with the pictures of devastation, there seems to be only one explanation. They must have one of those conditions, called something like “Visual-Carnage-Responsibility-Back-To-Front-Upside-Down-Massacre-Disorder”.

For example, Condoleezza Rice, having observed that more than 300 Gazans were dead, said: “We are deeply concerned about the escalating violence. We strongly condemn the attacks on Israel and hold Hamas responsible.”

Someone should ask her to comment on teenage knife-crime, to see if she’d say: “I strongly condemn the people who’ve been stabbed, and until they abandon their practice of wandering around clutching their sides and bleeding, there is no hope for peace.”

The Israeli government suffers terribly from this confusion. They probably have adverts on Israeli television in which a man falls off a ladder and screams, “Eeeeugh”, then a voice says, “Have you caused an accident at work in the last 12 months?” and the bloke who pushed him gets £3,000.

The gap between the might of Israel’s F-16 bombers and Apache helicopters, and the Palestinians’ catapulty thing is so ridiculous that to try and portray the situation as between two equal sides requires the imagination of a children’s story writer.

The reporter on News at Ten said the rockets “may be ineffective, but they ARE symbolic.” So they might not have weapons but they have got symbolism, the canny brutes.

It’s no wonder the Israeli Air Force had to demolish a few housing estates, otherwise Hamas might have tried to mock Israel through a performance of expressive dance.

The rockets may be unable to to kill on the scale of the Israeli Air Force, said one spokesman, but they are “intended to kill”.

Maybe he went on: “And we have evidence that Hamas supporters have dreams, and that in these dreams bad things happen to Israeli citizens, they burst, or turn into cactus, or run through Woolworths naked, so it’s not important whether it can happen, what matters is that they WANT it to happen, so we blew up their university.”

Or there’s the outrage that Hamas has been supported by Iran. Well that’s just breaking the rules. Because say what you will about the Israelis, they get no arms supplies or funding or political support from a country that’s more powerful than them, they just go their own way and make all their weapons in an arts and crafts workshop in Jerusalem.

But mostly the Israelis justify themselves with a disappointing lack of imagination, such as the line that they had to destroy an ambulance because Hamas cynically put their weapons inside ambulances.

They should be more creative, and say Hamas were planning to aim the flashing blue light at Israeli epileptics in an attempt to make them go into a fit, get dizzy and wander off into Syria where they would be captured.

But they prefer a direct approach, such as the statement from Ofer Schmerling, an Israeli Civil Defence official who said on al-Jazeera, “I shall play music and celebrate what the Israeli Air Force is doing.”

Maybe they could turn it into a huge nationalfestival, with decorations and mince pies and shops playing “I Wish We Could Bomb Gaza Every Day”.

In a similar tone Dov Weisglas, Ariel Sharon’s chief of staff, referred to the siege of Gaza that preceded this bombing, a siege in which the Israelis prevented the population from receiving essential supplies of food, medicine, electricity and water, by saying, “We put them on a diet.”

It’s the arrogance of the East End gangster, so it wouldn’t be out of character if the Israeli Prime Minister’s press conference began: “Oh dear or dear. It looks like those Palestinians have had a little, er, accident. All their buildings have been knocked down – they want to be more careful, hee hee.”

And almost certainly one of the reasons this is happening now is because the government wants to appear hard as it wants to win an election. Maybe with typical Israeli frankness they’ll show a party political broadcast in which Ehud Olmert says, “This is why I think you should vote for me”, then shows film of Gaza and yells: “Wa-hey, that bloke in the corner is on FIRE.”

And Condoleezza Rice and her colleagues, and the specially appointed Middle East Peace Envoy, could then all shake their heads and say: “Disgraceful. The way he’s flapping around like that could cause someone to have a nasty accident.”

Harold Pinter… may he rest in peace

A giant in his field – both as an actor and a dramatist – Harold Pinter was a man who was moved to speak out for peace and social justice, he unleashed the raw emotion he felt, even as he battled cancer. And while his engagement in progressive struggles drew criticism from those cynics who believe artists should be engaged only in passive commodity production, we shall remember him for his words, his deeds, and… also… his pauses.

Royal Mail privatisation – Mandelson’s gift to media baron Rupert Murdoch?

In 2005 it was reported by the Sydney Morning Herald that:

Rupert Murdoch has linked up with another giant of Australian business, TNT, in its bid to compete with Britain’s state-owned postal service Royal Mail.

Transport and delivery company TNT has entered Britain’s letter market with its TNT Premier service which guarantees delivery in 48 hours and handles one million items a week.

As its service expands and the market opens up, however, TNT and other private mail providers have complained about Royal Mail’s “dirty tricks” and uncompetitive behaviour.

Murdoch’s pay TV network BSkyB is the latest of five major customers to defect from Royal Mail to TNT […]

BSkyB’s link with TNT strengthens Murdoch’s ties with the company.

TNT trucks are used by Murdoch’s News Limited newspapers in Britain and drove through the picket lines of striking printers in London during industrial disputes in the early 1990s. [Emphasis added]

Today it was announced by Lord Mandelson that the plans set forward in the “independent” Hooper report would be implemented, despite Labour’s manifesto commitment to retain public ownership of postal services.

The only company showing any interest in a possible 25-50% stake in Royal Mail is TNT, a Dutch rival to the publicly-owned postal service.

TNT was the postal company involved in last year’s data loss scandal, in which discs containing the private details of all families claiming child benefits.

Talk about rewarding failure.

RickB points out that Adam Crozier, Royal Mail’s chief executive was given a 26% pay rise last year – which means he’s paid £1.25 million to run postal services into the ground, cut provision, lay off workers, and close sorting and post offices.

But why is an established public service like Royal Mail being forced to “compete” with foreign companies anyway? Whose idea was this?

Well, the EU has issued directives ordering the “liberalisation” of postal services and the UK government was so keen went ahead a year early.

I imagine if Royal Mail is butchered for the benefit of TNT that Rupert Murdoch will be changing his mind about the EU. Not such a threat to him after all, and his papers might become pro-EU and pro-Euro in particular. Just as it’s argued Royal Mail must be destroyed because of economics, Murdoch’s papers might trumpet we must join the Euro?

The FT reports that there will be turmoil in the Labour party as a result of Mandelson’s decision:

the announcement provoked an immediate backlash from the unions and Labour MPs, who saw it as a betrayal of the party’s manifesto commitment to keep Royal Mail publicly owned. The Communication Workers Union, which is already threatening a strike later this week, stressed its “dismay” at the prospect of a move that would “open the floodgates for full-blown, damaging privatisation”.

A string of Labour MPs in the debate on the Commons statement made by Pat McFadden, the business minister, echoed this concern, in a clear signal the prime minister will run into a rebellion over the legislation to allow the partial sale. Gordon Prentice typified the anger, warning he would vote against the measure and attacking the “scandalous” way Royal Mail had been undermined by competition from rivals.

The Conservatives, who stopped short of privatising Royal Mail when they were in power, broadly welcomed the proposals. Edward Leigh, the rightwing Conservative MP, mischievously gave a “welcome [for] new Labour to the Thatcherite wing of the Conservative party”.

The decision by both main opposition parties to back the plans will allow the prime minister to drive the part-privatisation through parliament, in the teeth of opposition from his own party. But the political sensitivities are likely to delay any bill until after a potential spring general election. Mr McFadden told MPs: “We’ll be working up proposals to do this in the weeks and months ahead.” He dismissed backbenchers’ concerns that the move marked a “slippery slope” to full privatisation, saying the party would honour its manifesto commitment. [Emphasis added.]

Note the reference to a general election. Is this a way of buying the support of the Murdoch press for Labour in a snap election next year?

If so, New Labour have possibly lost the votes of thousands of postal workers. Millions of traditional Labour voters who have abandonded the party won’t be tempted to turn out for Brown if he plans to destroy a cherished public institution – and sell it to foreigners.

So much for British jobs for British workers! “British institutions for Australian capitalists” doesn’t have the same ring to it…

The Communications Workers’ Union has responded to the Lord of Darkness:

Billy Hayes, general secretary, said: “It is incredible that the British Government which has lead the world in overhauling banks need another European postal service to rescue the Royal Mail. Especially one which has already been disgraced by losing sensitive data disks in the mail.

“This was meant to be a report about competition but Mandelson has ignored the damage done through irresponsible liberalisation and advocates more involvement by private companies.

“We welcome the move to Ofcom which recognises both changes in the communications sector and the failings of Postcomm to manage the mail market effectively, however we look forward to receiving more information on future regulation.”

Dave Ward, deputy general secretary, said: “There is no need to seek private funding from outside companies in a joint venture. This would open the floodgates for full-blown, damaging privatisation. Post is a key public and business service which must retain the protection and guidance of Government for sustainable success.

“We welcome the fact that our campaign to get the Government to secure Royal Mail workers’ pensions has been successful. The news that the USO has been safeguarded is also very welcome.

“We will be studying the detail of the report closely over the coming weeks and will respond fully in the New Year.”

Tribune survives

Good news for Tribune:

THE owners of Tribune this week agreed to a sale of the magazine in order to safeguard its future and open the way for increased investment and development. The decision was taken at a meeting of the Board following three months of negotiations with a prospective purchaser, a Labour Party activist. It will entail the transfer of a 51 per cent stake in Tribune Publications Ltd, currently owned by a consortium of trade unions represented by Unison, T&G (Unite), Amicus (Unite), Community, ASLEF and the Communication Workers’ Union.

The unions came to the rescue of Tribune five years ago when the consortium was created and sustained the title through a reverse in circulation decline and a dramatic reduction in its losses. But in order to survive investment was required to shed historical debt and finance a marketing strategy to increase sales. Under the terms of sale, the unions agreed on Tuesday at a meeting in the House of Commons, to pay off existing liabilities before sale.

The purchaser is offering to buy the 51 per cent stake for £1 and is offering to underwrite the magazine’s losses with an annual £40,000 “cohesive, properly resourced, ring-fence-funded marketing strategy to underpin a three-year drive to move Tribune into a break-even position”.

Any surpluses after that will be ploughed back into the magazine, which will be run as a not-for-profit venture with existing staff.

The board received a written commitment to “keep Tribune as a left-of-centre publication, retaining its roots in the labour movement but broadening the readership to include non-union and Labour Party members as well as non-members who sympathise or vote with the Labour cause”. The magazine will also expand to cover the legislative importance of the European Union, especially in the area of employment law, in conjunction with a marketing push into European institutions, politicians and activists. The unions have agreed that historical levels of advertising and current levels of subscriptions will be maintained “provided that the editorial integrity and political orientation of Tribune as a labour movement journal is maintained”.

The unions are holding urgent talks on the discharge of liabilities as Tribune went to press. Lawyers representing the two sides are expected to take several weeks to seal the deal which, it is hoped, will come into effect at the start of the new year. The prospective purchaser, who praised the unions for their “critical role” in keeping Tribune alive and providing it with a chance to begin a fresh phase in its 70-year history, has requested no publicity until the sale is completed.

Editor Chris McLaughlin said: “This is an exciting prospect for Tribune. The lawyers have a few wrinkles to sort out, but if this deal is successful the magazine promises to be bigger, better and more influential than ever.”

Bloggers come under legal attack from litigious Tory

Using the law! (Apologies for the title of this post.)

Johanna Kaschke was a member of the Labour party and in the running to be the party’s candidate to run against George Galloway at the next election.

But, she jumped ship to join Respect, Galloway’s party.

Hence much comment by Labour bloggers – and then, legal action by Ms Kaschke.

Johanna Kaschke is now a true-blue Tory, convinced that the Brown administration is ushering a new Communist era for Britain. I’m not kidding.

Blogger Alex Hilton is now facing legal action by Ms Kaschke, he writes:

Comrades,As you may know, I sold Labourhome in July, though I still run it and with no interference from the new owner.

However, last year, someone started a defamation action against me over a Labourhome article and the expenses are bourne by me, they were not transferred to Progressive Media, the new owner.

So far this legal case has cost me £4,022 and it is still on-going. This is my plea to Labourhome readers for contributions towards my legal costs.


I can’t tell you too much about the case because I don’t want to annoy the court. But this is what I am comfortable telling you. 

  1. An active Labourhome user wrote a piece about the past of a Labour member who had defected to Respect. That person has since joined the Conservative Party.
  2. The Labourhome user is also being sued by this particular Tory, who is a litigant in person and has no lawyer.
  3. The offended person contact me about the piece, which I immediately deleted. I offered the front and centre spot on Labourhome to the offended person for their right of reply or to write something else of their own choice. My offer was declined.
  4. Because of my actions, my lawyer says I have an absolute defence under Section One of the Defamation Act. I also have other defence strategies available, one of which is the possibility that the article was not defamatory, thought this is still being explored.
  5. Because the complainant is a litigant in person, this case has been more complicated than normal and I have actually received a total of four writs before it got tidied up into one action. This is partly why this defence is so expensive.
  6. Despite the likelihood that I will probably win this case, I do not have a strong prospect of recouping my costs, at least in a reasonable timescale. I don’t have the five-figure sum the complainant wants as a settlement. 

I would be very very grateful if readers would consider donating any sum towards my legal costs. I built Labourhome two and a half years ago as an open forum for Labour supporters because I believed it was needed. I’m in court because of the freedom of this forum and I can tell you the whole situation is pretty depressing.Any contribution will be gratefully received. If you don’t have any money but would like to help, please email a link to this plea for help to others who might be able to help.

Thank you so much,

Alex Hilton
07985 384 859

Though I don’t agree with Alex all that much (certainly not when he’s calling Jon Cruddas “the Labour politician most reminiscent of Oswald Mosley” – obviously he’s mistaken him with Phil Woolas!) but he needs to be defended from this vexatious legal action. Another Labour blogger, David Osler, is also facing legal action from Ms Kaschke.

I’m saying nothing – and that’s a bad thing.