Reasons to be cheerful in 2015!!

Dear friend, this is my last post of 2014 and I want to end the year on a positive note, so here are some of the reasons why 2015 is going to be a year full of hope….

aerspa025

Campaign of the year
Tameside 2…..Tameside against the Cuts…a small group of people from various backgrounds, including the Green Party, who meet every week to help the poor people who are faced with the tyrannical regime at Ashton Job Centre. TAC have little money and few resources but they do offer a welfare rights service sitting in the café at the local Ikea. They also stand outside the Jobcentre each week to show the management that they will not let them get away with making claimants destitute and leading them to contemplate suicide. It is a sad reflection that the local trade unions, including the PCS, are not supporting them. And shameful, but not surprising, that the local Labour Council together with the Job Centre are involved in the system of Universal Credit or rather universal cuts of benefits. Find out more see

Film of the year
manuscripts-dont-burn film…..Manuscripts don’t Burn…the title is taken from one of my favourite books, the Master and Margarita, written by Michael Bulgakov. He lived during Stalin’s era in the Soviet Union and he feared his novel would never be published so burnt it in 1930. Luckily he re-wrote it in 1931 but it was not published until 1967. The film is one of the most chilling and politically relevant that I have ever seen. Set in Iran it is a political thriller about an author who secretly writes his memoirs about his life as a writer, particularly as a political prisoner, and the killing of other intellectuals. The film is based on a real event in the 1990s when several writers were killed by the security services. The Iranian security service decide to let him leave the country but not before they  destroyed his manuscript. Mohammad Rasoulof’s film was smuggled out of the country in 2013 and the cast and crew refused to put their names on the credits, fearing retribution from the State. Worth tracking down on DVD.

Organisation of the year
Mary Quaile….the Mary Quaile Club…I have to confess I am one of the founders but it is crucial that working class history is told, that anyone can access it and that the link is made between our history and present day events. That is why we set up the group and over the last year we have tried to put this into practice. Next year we have big plans to celebrate the life of Mary Quaile and remind everyone that IWD was about socialist feminism and not about women being appointed heads of the TUC or chief executives of corporations. Further info see

Book of the year
RTurnbullLeft for the Rising Sun, Right for Swan Hunter by communist historian Rob Turnbull. The title refers to the struggle of working class people for more than just ending up working in the local shipyard (SH) or the pit. Rob explores the hopes and dreams of people who wanted a different kind of life; a life of education and class struggle. The book is brilliant in telling the story of the Plebs League and the Labour College Movement in the North East and their belief that education was the key to changing society for working class people. Buy it at

Venue of the year
3mt…at 3 Minute Theatre in Manchester. They get no funding and rely on generating income by selling stuff and getting punters across the door to their eclectic mix of performances. Always welcoming, and particularly supportive of young people, Gina and John give freely of their many years experience of being performers and teachers of drama. You don’t see Lyn Gardner of the Guardian at their performances but you do see a much broader mix of people than you would ever get at the Royal Exchange, Lowry or the more arty companies. More info see

See you in 2015!!xLS

Posted in book review, Communism, drama, education, feminism, films, human rights, labour history, Manchester, political women, Socialist Feminism, Uncategorized, women | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Migrant workers in 2014: truth and lies…

My parents are Irish and came to this country to find work. They did not want to stay here or rather my Dad did not. He always believed he would return to Ireland until he met my mother and had children.

My mother is quite different. She left Ireland to taste freedom. Her words. In 1947 she came to Manchester to find work, somewhere to live and escape a society in Ireland that had limited roles for women and with nothing but exploitative and poorly paid work.

Mum and her cousins in Manchester in 1947

Mum and her cousins in Manchester in 1947

As an elderly disabled woman living in east Manchester she is now being cared for by the latest flow of foreign workers: women from diverse places including Dutch Guiana, Jamaica and the Congo, as well as the local white working class women.

Care workers are some of the poorest paid people in the labour market. It is usually the minimum wage, being paid only for the hours worked, and working on zero hours contracts. It says so much about what is deemed as “women’s work” and nothing about the valuable job they do. But they are not alone as migrant workers make up a significant number of low paid workers.

Recent figures from the ONS/Migrants Advisory Committee July 2014 showed that 236,000 people were on low pay of which 11.3% were migrant workers.

UKIP are setting the agenda for the debate on migrant workers. Nigel Farrage believes that the ONS figures showing a rise in foreign workers by 292,000 in one year shows that the Con/Dem policy of immigration has been an “abject failure.”

Every party is having its say about migrant/foreign workers but what is their experience? And what do the people whom they work with and care for think?

I have proposed an article for the online monthly magazine Contributoria on these issues called “Migrant workers in Manchester: the truth behind the xenophobia”

In this article I will look at the reality behind those figures for an economy that needs foreign workers to provide some of our most essential services. I will be interviewing a care assistant from Dutch Guyana and a nurse from Spain. I will also be looking at the lives of present day Irish woman who like my mother came to this country for work.

What is the reality of their lives in an increasingly xenophobic Britain? Do the people they care for object to being cared for by a foreign migrant worker?

My intention is to show that the UK has always had a flow in and out of foreign workers and that there is nothing new about politicians using it to justify their political ends.

Please vote for my article at Contributoria, I need another 820 points
https://www.contributoria.com/issue/2015-02/54830a41b97f9fe47400003a/proposal

Posted in feminism, human rights, Ireland, Irish second generation, labour history, Manchester, political women, trade unions, Uncategorized, women | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Stop,Look,Listen…my weekly selection of favourite films, books and events to get you out of the house

Watch….
lightbulb

The Lightbulb Conspiracy Hacked off by the way that products never seem to last very long? Well this is why. This film tells you the story of companies who design their products to fail! The system is called “planned obsolescence” which is a central part of the consumer culture we now live in. Have your say after the screening at a post screening Skype with the filmmaker Cosima Dannoritzer. The screening is organised by Manchester Film Coop and you see it on 9 December at 7pm at the Yard Theatre in Hulme.

Find out about
save our nhs
…the further privatisation of the NHS and join Greater Manchester Keep our NHS Public to oppose it. GMKONP are showing “Sell-off”, film about privatisation of NHS, Thursday 11 December, 7pm atthe Methodist Central Hall (in “The Lounge” room). Further info see

Go to a meeting
podemos mcr
…about Podemos (it means “we can”) who are a social democratic political party in Spain started in 2014. Strangely founded by a writer and talk show host! Having said that they are now the second largest Spanish party in terms of membership (200,000) and received 8% of the vote in the European Parliament elections in 2014. There is, apparently, a Podemos Manchester, who seem to be a group of Spanish people living here who show Spanish films followed by a discussion. This meeting was organised by them in conjunction with Left Unity to talk about Podemos in Spain and how it is transforming society. Only worrying thing for me is that like the Peoples Assembly there is no mention of class see
Further info see

Look at
bolton museum

an exhibition about the men who chose not to fight in the First World War. Conscience And Conviction :Bolton men who chose not to fight in World War One at Bolton Museum. The exhibition looks at the role of the Quakers, who have an honourable tradition as pacifists, and their opposition to the war. The second part reminds us of the harsh consequences for those who held onto their principles and were conscientious objectors. See it at

Show solidarity
posada
…with the parents of the 43 missing students in the small Mexican town of Ayotzinapa at a fund-raising Mexican ‘posada’ on 13th December 2014 / 7pm to 10pm.. A ‘posada’ is part of a traditional nine-day celebration in Mexico before Christmas. In this posada you can have fun, dance and try some typical Mexican food and drinks. As in all traditional posadas, ‘piñatas’ will be beaten. The admission cost is £5 and it includes a drink. All profits after costs will be donated to missing students’ families . Further info see

Posted in anti-cuts, art exhibition, drama, education, feminism, films, human rights, labour history, Manchester, NHS, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Tameside Hospital; failed by hospital management and Labour politicians but needed by Tameside patients.

Tameside Hospital seems to be in the press every week for all the wrong reasons. in recent years there have been headlines about high death rates, poor staffing levels, and ever increasing levels of debt.
tameside hospitalThis month Monitor, the sector regulator for health services in England, announced that management consultants PWC would be brought in to help manage the hospital. Tameside Hospital management responded; “Health and social care delivered in its current form, not just in Tameside, but across England, is unsustainable. We are very pleased to be leading the way, along with our commissioners and our local authority, in developing a new type of hospital for the benefit of our local community”

People in Tameside need good health services as a recent report produced by Public Health England revealed. It said, “The health of people in Tameside is generally worse than the England average. Deprivation is higher than average and about 23.7% (10,300) children live in poverty. Life expectancy for both men and women is lower than the England average.”

Milton Pena, a recently retired consultant and whistleblower at Tameside Hospital, is not surprised at the latest turn of events. “It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Year after year there have been ‘efficiency savings’ which meant the constant closure of beds and the understaffing of the service.”

Pena worked at Tameside Hospital for 17 years and believes that it has never been properly financed as a hospital. Pena is sceptical about the role of PWC as he says they were called in in 2011. “PwC were paid £0.8m fees for their services. The “efficiency” savings they planned added up to some £11m as I recall. Divided in various “work streams” over one year. It was only because of the Keogh report that this did not happen.”

Local campaigners in Keep Our NHS Public have been frustrated by the lack of information and consultation that has come out of the Tameside Hospital, Tameside CCG, Tameside Council and the local MPs.

Over the last year the consultation process of the Healthier Together project has been rolling out across Greater Manchester. Healthier Together has been devised by the CCGs and NHS England to change the way health care is delivered locally. They say; “With many of our hospitals failing, the clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) across Greater Manchester came together three years ago ago deciding that no change is no longer an option. Healthier Together have spent the time between now and then putting together proposals for a sustainable NHS in Greater Manchester that can also become one of the best healthcare systems in the UK”.

Meetings were held across Greater Manchester but with record low attendance from users of the NHS. I attended one of the meetings in Tameside and, whilst the meeting was packed with GPs and health professionals, charities connected to the NHS and local councillors, there were precious few local people.

The “choice” presented at the meeting boiled down to whether there should be 5 or 4 specialist hospitals across the Greater Manchester area, with the other hospitals, such as Tameside, being classed as non-specialist and downgraded. No budgetary information was given at any of the meetings nor any real evidence that this model could resolve the real issues of providing services to meet the needs of the local population and meeting the increasing costs of the NHS.

Hugh Caffrey, secretary of Greater Manchester KONP, comments, “The so-called ‘consultation’ of Healthier Together is a discredited farce. KONP has warned all along that this was no consultation but merely window-dressing for financially-driven cuts. Healthier Together should be withdrawn along with all the associated threats to healthcare provision”.

At the meeting representatives from the Tameside CCG promoted the model of an integrated care system as the answer to the problems regarding Tameside Hospital. And at a recent meeting of Tameside KONP with one of the GPs on the CCG he reiterated the idea that Tameside Hospital represented an out of date model for the modern NHS. Instead they were proposing a new model called Care Together which would produce an integrated model of NHS services.

The response of KONP has been to challenge this model and indeed point to a failed project on the other side of Greater Manchester at Trafford General Hospital, the birthplace of the NHS in 1948. It was downgraded as a local hospital despite a big campaign led by local people, health workers and councillors. The A&E was closed, the promised local community services were not set up and, as local KONP member Pia Feig comments; “Patients fled from what they saw was a down-graded service in Trafford General”.

It is this model that is now being planned for Tameside Hospital. In a response to a question from Tameside KONP local MP and Shadow Health spokesperson Andrew Gwynne said; “Tameside Council and Tameside & Glossop CCG are both in the process of coming together to establish an integrated care organisation for the borough and it’s crucial, in my opinion, that the Hospital should have a key role in that process too, not least because that can guarantee a long-term future (and clinical purpose) for Tameside General Hospital”.

But the conclusions of a commission of inquiry on hospital care for frail older people, set up by the Health Service Journal, has questioned the premise of this integrationist strategy; “There is a myth that providing more and better care for frail older people in the community, increasing integration between health and social care services and pooling health and social care budgets will lead to significant, cashable financial savings in the acute hospital sector and across health economies. The commission found no evidence that these assumptions are true.”

Tameside KONP is the only organisation in the borough that has gone out and spoken to people about their concerns over local healthcare. We have organised street stalls, given out information about the changes since the Health & Social Care Act 2012, have met with the local CCG and MPs, but there is a reluctance by them to have an open and informative debate with patients and health workers about local health services.

Just this week we have found out through another KONP branch that Tameside is on a list of proposed NHS Trusts/Foundation Trusts selected for the ‘Mutuals in Health: Pathfinder Programme’ . Again no information has gone out to local people and no discussion has taken place.

Michael Herbert of Tameside KONP said; “Local people know what they want; they want to keep the hospital with all its services. This is a message the politicians, the CCG and the management of the hospital are failing to listen to.”

Posted in anti-cuts, human rights, Manchester, North of Ireland, Tameside, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stop,Look,Listen…my weekly selection of favourite films, books and events to get you out of the house

Watch
220px-PlaytimeoriginalposterPlaytime..at last a happy film but…it does have underlying themes about modern society…Frenchman Jacques Tati is one of my favourite actors although the word “actor” does not do justice to the man’s talents. Made in 1967 we follow Tati as Monsieur Hulot, around a modern Paris. Not the Eiffel Tower and Montemarte but buildings made of glass and concrete. There is hardly any script, just lots of visual jokes added to with a clever use of sound. Lots of jokes made at the expense of American tourists and their pursuit of what is the Parisian experience. There is a hilarious scene in a nightclub, an exclusive one at that, which slowly falls apart and I mean the building, as the put-upon staff try to feed the greedy rich guests.
.

Go to a play
shobna gulati..about Iran. Red Rabbit, White Rabbit starring local actress, Shobna Gulati. This is the story; Nassim Soleimanpour is 29 and forbidden to leave his country. He is a conscientious objector who has refused to take part in mandatory military service in his native Iran. Unable to travel, Soleimanpour has turned his isolation to his own advantage with a play that is written in English but which requires no director, no set and a different actor for each performance. Looks fascinating. See it at the Contact on 2/3 December. For further details see

Support..
safety4sisters..a demo against cuts to specialist “Violence Against Women” services. Manchester City Council is making another £60 million pounds worth of cuts and Safety4Sisters are calling on women and men to join their demo on 10 December 12-2pm in St. Peters Square. They say;10th December marks Human Rights Day. It is also the end of the 16 days of action associated with UN International Day to Eliminate Violence against Women. As Manchester City Council announces a further round of cuts to the tune of £60 million, Safety4Sisters calls all women and men to join our demo. For more information contact – Sandhya Sharma or Vicky Marsh safety4sisters@gmail.com

Sign a petition….
gtr mcr petitionagainst the Tory (and the Tory Labourites of the area) view of a Greater Manchester run by a would be Boris Johnson…and they wonder why people don’t vote…...see

 

Read….
red shoes

.about the opposition to the cuts in Wales. Loved their publication; Red Shoes; kicking ass for the working class Find our more  See

 

Listen to…a very funny skit on Bandaid called Blandaid see

Posted in anti-cuts, Communism, drama, education, feminism, films, human rights, labour history, Manchester, music, Uncategorized, women, young people | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

North West campaign launched to defend Mental Health Services

Why is it in 2014 that writers and celebrities are often the chosen speakers at many demos or public events about the austerity? Is it because the left is so disengaged from the people on the frontline of the cuts?

health service and cutsLast Saturday I was at an event where the people directly affected by the cuts took centre stage. Over 130 people crammed into the Cross Street Chapel in Manchester because they are concerned about the growing meltdown of the mental health services in our hospitals and in our community. At the meeting were users of the health service, their carers, trade unionists, health workers and others who were just concerned about what was happening from  across the Greater Manchester area.

Displayed on the walls of the room were banners from various users groups as well as the main trade union Unison. Speakers included a psychiatrist, a social work lecturer, a member of a user group, a campaigner and a nurse. All of them are involved in campaigning and all spoke about the need to get more people involved in challenging the cuts and privatisation of the service and that we can  make a difference.

The mental health services are in a crisis and yet more people need them as we face a meltdown in terms of jobs, benefits, services…. and hope.

The statistics are shocking. The Disability News Service showed, through Freedom of Information requests, that the Department of Work and Pensions has investigated decisions made about welfare payments following the deaths of 60 people since 2012. The Royal College of Nursing says there are now 3,300 fewer posts in mental health nursing and 1500 fewer beds than 2010. And yet  demand has increased by 30%!

What is outstanding is the way that broad alliances are  uniting  people in their opposition to the cuts. Stories were told of mental health users occupying centres to stop them closing, of social workers walking out on strike, of the campaign by Disability groups to oppose and get rid of Atos as a contractor,  of users groups challenging local councils, of lobbies of mental health trusts – and much more.

No-one at the meeting underestimated the tsunami of  privatisations that is unfolding on a daily basis. But people there were united in their determination to do something. It was recognised that there was a need for action across campaigns and  that campaigns need to bring together carers, workers and users to challenge the cuts. And most importantly not to allow anyone to try and scapegoat migrants as a group to blame.

People agreed to set up a broad anti-cuts campaign across the north west, bringing together all of the campaigns to ratchet up the pressure in the lead up to the general election. To do this there iwill be  an organising meeting on Monday 1 December at 7pm at the Town Hall Tavern in Manchester.

Join a campaign
Stockport at
Bolton see

Greater .Manchester KONP see

Posted in anti-cuts, disabled people's campaigns, human rights, Manchester, NHS, political women, Salford, trade unions, Uncategorized, women | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Stop,Look,Listen…my weekly selection of favourite films, books and events to get you out of the house

Watch
the lovers
…. Manchester in 1973 North West playwright Jack Rosenthal wrote a sweet drama about two young people called The Lovers which was filmed in Manchester in 1973. There really was a George Best boutique and many young women would hang out there. I love the clips of Belle Vue with its background of terrace houses and of a Manchester long gone. Paula Wilcox and Richard Beckinsale played the lovers, Beryl and Geoffrey, in one of Rosenthal’s most perceptive dramas.

Make some art.
lou beckett art
…….the Moston Miners are putting on Life Drawing and Still Life Drawing Art classes starting Thursday 27 November at 7-9pm. And it costs only £4 including materials.Further info see Owner Lou Beckett is a fine artist: see my article about him here

Read
boys from the blacklist
Boys on the Blacklist by Derek Pattison and Brian Bamford.It is a story that needs to be told that will give inspiration to all workers across the country. The pamphlet tells the story of how large building companies operated a blacklist against trade unionists. The blacklist was created and run by a secret organisation called the Consulting Organisation which held 3000 files on construction workers as well as academics, lawyers and enviromental activists. It wasn’t just the use of a blacklist but the complicity of the trade unions with the companies which is outrageous. What is inspiring is the campaign by the men to expose how this happened and their continuing fight for justice. Of course it is the men and their families who have paid a high price both in terms of not being able to get work for years and the consequent mental and physical ill health. Quite rightly the book asks the question; why do we have a inquiry into phone hacking at the News of the World which affects mainly well heeled celebs and no inquiry about the widespread blacklisting by some of the major building companies in this country who have benefitted from public sector contracts. See my interview with one of the blacklisted, Steve Acheson at
Buy the book Tameside TUC 46 Kingsland Road Rochdale OL11 3HQ

Go to a talk
propeace chesterfield
… about the men who refused to fight in the First World War and who became known as Conscientious Objectors. Courage Of Conscience on Saturday 29 November at 7pm at Chesterfield Labour Club, Saltergate, S40 1NF. Chesterfield was home to several of these men and had connections to many more. The motivations, experiences and opinions of Engineers from Calow, Coal Merchants from Newbold, Socialists, Quakers and even Chesterfield’s (other) famous Post-War MP make a fascinating collection of sometimes odd, often passionate and always interesting stories of resistance and dissent.
For more information contact Sue Owen at sue.owen37@gmail.com

Boycott Amazon at Xmas
boycott amazon

…it is a lucrative time for them but they still are not paying the Living Wage to their workers or paying their taxes. Sign this petition at There are alternatives including buying from left wing co-op News from Nowhere see and Five Leaves Bookshop see

Buy.
mod_badge_orange
..a Modernist badge from the Manchester Modernist Society. I love the design and it is a worthwhile organisation to support. They remind us of our local architectural treasures through their magazine, talks and website. They say: We dedicate ourselves to the bold, beautiful, brutal and sometimes beleaguered architecture of the 20th century. See

Posted in anti-cuts, art exhibition, Blacklisting campaign, book review, Communism, drama, feminism, films, human rights, labour history, Manchester, Socialism, TV drama, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment