Sunday, 30 October 2011

Sunderland 2 Aston Villa 2

Sunderland 2

Aston Villa 2

Sunderland rescued a point in this match with a late deserved equaliser when Stephane Sessegnon headed Sebastian Larsson’s accurately delivered free kick beyond Shay Given.

The Irish keeper had only minutes earlier seen his international colleague Richard Dunne head home Stilyan Petrov’s free-kick to give Villa the lead for the second time.

Just prior to this came the moment all Wearside fans had craved when unmarked and just six yards out their former favourite Darren Bent failed to beat substitute keeper Keiren Westwood, thus further intensifying the raucous abuse the England international received all afternoon.

The away side were the better team in what was a poor first half and took the lead when midfielder David Vaughan mistimed his tackle to allow Petrov to advance to edge of the box and beat Simon Mignolet with a well-drilled shot.

The home side equalised when Connor Wickham belted a lovely cutback pass by Sessegnon home, the 18 year olds first Premiership goal following his £8 million move from Ipswich in the summer.

When the second half got underway Sunderland were the better side and both Michael Turner and Nicklas Bendtner were guilty of poor headed misses when left unmarked six yards out. Given then made a fine save from another fine Larsson free kick before the late goals ensured both sides got their just rewards.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Empty homes and housing waiting lists in Leeds

There's over 25,000 on the Leeds housing waiting list and yet thousands of 'yuppie'
flats remain empty years after they were first built. 

Why can't these be taken into public ownership and used to house
the homeless? 

Football's first great rivalry - Villa:Sunderland

This has been published on the Roker Report website, my thanks to them. 

It’s a fact that football’s first great rivalry was that involving Aston Villa and Sunderland, who in the nine seasons starting in 1891-92 won English Football’s top flight on eight occasions between them. [Sheffield United won the title in 1897-98]

In 1890, and having beaten local rivals Albion in the race to be the first side from outside the North West and Midlands to be allowed to join the Football League, Sunderland first tangled competitively with Villa at Wellington Road on Boxing Day and earned a creditable 0-0 draw.

Their opponents had finished second to Preston in the inaugural season, 1888-89 and two seasons earlier had thrilled their supporters by beating their own Albion, West Bromwich, at the 1887 FA Cup final with one of their finest ever players, Dennis Hodgetts getting one of the goals in a 2-0 success.

Sunderland had started their own inaugural League season slowly, but in a sign of things to come they thrashed Villa 5-1 at Newcastle Road on January 10th 1891, with Sunderland’s great goalscorer Johnny Campbell notching three, all from close range. The Wearsiders were to take 16 points from the final ten matches of the season to finish in seventh place, but disappointed their fans by losing after a replay to Notts County in the FA Cup semi-final.

The following season didn’t start well for Sunderland and Villa beat them 5-3 in the fourth game, making it just two points out of a first eight. Four straight victories, with back-to-back wins against West Brom in which Campbell became the first player to score a penalty kick for Sunderland, moved the club up the table.

On March 26th 1892 Villa travelled north with Sunderland breathing down the neck of leaders Preston North End, winners of the first two League titles. Four weeks earlier the West Midlands side had knocked out Tom Watson’s side by thrashing them 4-1 at Bramall Lane in the FA Cup semi-final. And although this time Villa were to be beaten 3-0 when they again played West Brom in the final it was of no consolation to Sunderland fans. They, like all fans of the day, wanted to see their side win what was at the time, and for many years afterwards [1], regarded as the biggest competition in the World, the FA Cup.

Revenge was in the air, but at 1-0 up Sunderland were pegged back to 1-1 when Jack Devey equalised. It seemed Sunderland might be denied top spot. However, three minutes later John Hannah struck a famous winner that had the ‘crowd going wild. When the final whistle blew Sunderland had snatched a famous victory and were sitting proudly at the top of the league.’ [Newcastle Chronicle]

It was a position they held to clinch a first ever League title, with Campbell also finishing as top scorer with 32 goals.

He got one less the following season, but that didn’t stop Sunderland claiming a then record points total of 48 and becoming the first side to score 100 League goals [from 30 matches]. [2]

In a season of many great performances arguably the finest was in the third match, away to Villa that was won 6-1. Campbell got two, his first on five minutes an absolute lethal strike that flashed past Bill Dunning, who later died of tuberculosis.

In the return match, played on January 2nd 1895, the sides drew 4-4 with Hannah getting three in a magnificent game that has been immortalised in the World famous Thomas Hemy painting that magnificently adorns the entrance to ground with the most passionate supporters in English football, the Stadium of Light.

The painting is probably the oldest of an Association Football match in the world. Hemy lived locally and was commissioned by the club to paint a picture of the team in action and quite naturally the game against reigning Champions Villa was the match chosen. Over the years the painting has had 2 titles; “A Corner Kick” and the less popular “The Last Minute - Now or Never”.

It was Aston Villa though who prevented Sunderland becoming the first club to win the title for three seasons running, pushing the Wearsiders into second place in 1893-94. To make matters worse Villa also beat Watson’s side in the FA Cup, doing so 3-1 in a midweek afternoon replay in which a special train was laid on to take fans to Birmingham at a cost of 6 shillings and 6 pennies. [32.5 pence]
Villa were subsequently put out of the FA Cup by the [Sheffield] Wednesday in round three. 

Sunderland responded in great fashion in the 1894-95 season, winning the League title for a third time. Early in the season they travelled down to the West Midlands to face the reigning Champions before a huge crowd of 20,000. Birmingham, ‘a City of a thousands trades’ with a population then of 470,000, has always had its share of football fanatics and the 1890s was no different.

One down Sunderland were brought back into the game when ‘Campbell caught Cowan and Elliott completely by surprise when he suddenly checked back and drove a magnificent low shot past Wilkes from 20 yards for an equaliser. ‘Although the goal was against the home side it was warmly applauded by the sporting home crowd.

It was enough to help Sunderland win the game 2-1, an important marker for the season to come. In the League that is, because in the FA Cup when the sides again met, in the semi-final, Villa won 2-1 at Ewood Park, Blackburn before marching on to win the Final by beating – yes, again, West Brom, 1-0 with a goal by Bob Chatt.

Yes Sunderland had won the League title, their third in four seasons, but Villa had won the FA Cup, entitling them, many felt, to claim the title of ‘Champions.’

That was harsh on a magnificent Sunderland side, but it was one that the West Midlanders were able to add to over the following season. They won the League in 1895-96, and Sunderland’s Johnny Campbell was replaced at the top of the scorers chart by Villa’s own Johnny Campbell, [3] a wonderfully gifted and clever inside or centre-forward. He was brave, aggressive when required, possessed plenty of tricks and above all had an instinctive knack of scoring goals. 

He showed it the following season, notching the first in the FA Cup final as by beating Everton 3-2 Villa completed the ‘double’ after earlier winning the League title. Sunderland had done badly and only just survived, winning through in the ‘test match’ series that, following the introduction of a second League in 1892-93, decided promotion and relegation.

Villa subsequently went on to make it four Division One championships in five seasons by finishing top in 1898-99 and 1899-1900. Sunderland responded with a second place finish and then in 1901-02 they moved within one of their great rivals by winning the League title for a fourth time, beating Villa 1-0 home and away in two tight matches.

And whilst Villa again stretched their lead at the top to two title wins by capturing the title in 1909-10 there was still enough in the rivalry to mean that when the sides met at the 1913 FA Cup final at the Crystal Palace a world record crowd of over 120,000 turned up to see which of England’s two most successful sides could strike a blow in their fight for both the Cup and League.
Sadly, it was Villa, whose side contained Harry Hampton who a few weeks earlier had partnered George Holley for England against Scotland and had scored the only goal.

Sunderland though were to get their revenge by pushing Villa into second place in the League. As such it meant that at the end of the season Sunderland had won the title five times, just one less than their great rivals, although in the FA Cup it was a no contest with Villa having won it five times.

Not until 1937 did Sunderland strike back, when a year after levelling up the title successes Johnny Cochrane’s side captured the FA Cup by beaten Preston 3-1 at Wembley. [4] Villa though remained five ahead in the FA Cup after winning the Trophy for a sixth time in 1920 – beating, guess who, en route? Yes Sunderland! Fuck Darren Bent, I’ve always hated them, even though I was at their most famous match, the 1982 European Cup Final in Rotterdam when they beat Bayern Munich 1-0.

Mark Metcalf 26th October 2011.

  1. See Captain of the North by Stan Anderson and Mark Metcalf for Stan’s comments on the 1954-55 season when Sunderland threw away the League title in the week’s leading up to the FA Cup semi-final that they subsequently lost to Manchester City in farcical conditions at Villa Park.
  2. James Crabtree was one of football’s first truly great reporters and during the first fifteen seasons of League football he rated the Sunderland forward line of this season as second only to Preston North End’s of 1888-89. Villa’s in 1896-97 he had down as third.

  1. For more on both Campbell’s and all the players who’ve finished as top scorer in Division 1 and the Premier League since 1888 there’s a new book, now out next year. GOLDEN BOOT by Mark Metcalf and Tony Matthews. Sunderland’s six in the book are Campbell, Holley, Buchan, Halliday, Davis and Phillips.
  2. See TOTAL FOOTBALL – Sunderland 1935-37 by Mark Metcalf and Paul Days.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Slavery is alive and well in Northern Ireland

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation [JRF] has recently released a report on forced labour in Northern Ireland.

This modern day form of slavery is estimated by the International Labour Organisation to affect at least twelve million people worldwide each year.

One year on from the introduction of new laws outlawing the practice JRF were keen to discover the scale of the problem in the six counties.  Doing so was difficult, migrant workers at the bottom of the working ladder being scared to speak out for fear of being forced back home to face even poorer working conditions. Workers in parts of the mushroom industry, mainly young women from Eastern Europe, were identified as being amongst the most vulnerable.

Six factors have been identified in forced labour:
  • Threats or physical harm
  • Restricting movement, including confinement to a workplace
  • Withholding wages
  • Retaining the worker’s passport
  • Debt bondage in which someone works to pay off a debt incurred securing work
  • Threatening to denounce a worker to the authorities

Anti-Slavery International believes the presence of two or more factors is evidence of forced labour. Employers engaging in such practices are committing a criminal act under Section 71 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 that came into force in Northern Ireland, England and Wales on April 6th 2010.
This makes it an offence to ‘hold another person in slavery or servitude, or require another person to perform forced or compulsory labour.'
“We found examples of threats and actual violence when workers stood up for themselves by complaining that the promises they had been made before leaving home to work in Northern Ireland were not being fulfilled. Rates of pay, employment and accommodation conditions were all much worse than had been promised and leaving to find work elsewhere was difficult as some had their passports taken away from them,” said one of the report’s authors Neil Jarman.

“There’s no holiday, sick, overtime, unsocial hours or maternity pay,” said one worker who wished to remain anonymous. Where women reported being pregnant they immediately discovered themselves without work. 

The JRF, which also found that in order to avoid the reaches of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority some gangmasters had abandoned their agriculture operations in favour of construction, is now hoping to use the report to get forced labour onto the policy agenda locally. Jarman believes that it’s only a matter of time before there’s a criminal prosecution and he’s further convinced that the situation in Northern Ireland will have parallels in other parts of the UK.

Nelson agricultural scientist links up with Chinese students to check multi-national companies environmental records

An agricultural scientist from Nelson will help spearhead a new project aimed at examining the environmental and industrial pollution record of multi-national companies operating in China.

Charlie Clutterbuck’s involvement comes after he was invited by the European Union to participate in a three-day conference in Guangzhou, China’s third largest city, aimed at fostering EU-China civil society dialogue.

Joining him from within the world’s fastest growing economy were Chinese government officials, scientists, University students and representatives from Non-governmental organisations, including Greenpeace.
Charlie Clutterbuck 
Clutterbuck is himself active in NGO’s in this country, being a trustee at the Food Ethics Council and the Pesticides Action Network. He has also in the past acted as an advisor to the government on pesticides. He detailed some of his experiences when he addressed the conference and at a workshop he co-organised, where he outlined plans to use web-based learning for environmental and health improvements.

“It’s quite straight-forward. Myself and other European colleagues will be making available on the web the environmental statements made by multi-national companies about their practices in China. NGO’s, students and scientists there can then choose to see if these live up to the reality on the ground. If they don’t then they can either lobby the companies to ensure they do or call on the government to force them to do so.”

Clutterbuck has already set up using Mandarin a site on the Co-op. He believes that as most of the companies - who’ve managed to negotiate with the Chinese government to open premises there - are well known such as BMW, Tesco, Walmart/Asda it will be relatively easy to create similar websites.

Discussions with Chinese NGO’s and Government officials also convinced him that, at the very least, there is an urgency to avoid mistakes made in earlier times in countries undergoing rapid economic development.

“On asbestos I was heartened by what I heard. Greenpeace also told me of legal action they’re planning against one major company over the use of pesticides that are banned in the UK.  On the plane home I also met by chance a representative of a large firm. He told me had been trying to secure a regular supply of the ‘rare earth’ minerals that are so essential for mobile phones and whose extraction procedures are now being significantly tightened up on,” says Clutterbuck.

He was however less impressed by what he perceived was an unwillingness of the Chinese to consider the role trade unions could play in shaping the future. Clutterbuck, an elected member on the executive committee of the agricultural workers sector of Unite, found with the “exception of one NGO rep working with Philippine plantation workers no-one interested in discussing how allowing workers to elect people to represent them could play a part in improving conditions in society.”

If this disturbed him then so too did a visit to the Tesco store in Guangzhou. There he found that in taking the escalators customers could use one hand to pick up chocolate bars and the other to collect crisps.  He warned the conference that obesity was likely to be a problem sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Ground report - Morecambe FC

Morecambe 3 Rotherham United 3
Good game, with Rotherham storming back to draw 3-3 after being 
behind 3-0 at one point. 

Morecambe FC have built a decent ground, with facilities for standing 
and sitting, although there appears to be few facilities
for disabled fans, with only a few viewing options, 
all pitch side

The Globe Arena opened last year 

Safe standing 

The small number of Rotherham travelling fans were delighted to see their team
recover for going three goals down to come back and draw 3-3.

Book review - HATE: my life in the British Far Right by Matthew Collins

HATE – my life in the British Far Right

Matthew Collins

In the late 80s and early 90s Matthew Collins was a young unreconstructed fascist with a liking for violence. Here he describes what led him to turning against his former friends and, despite the dangers, exposing their activities and becoming an anti-fascist. Collins now works for Hope Not Hate.

1.    Why did you write this book?

I had wanted to write it after I ‘ran away’ from England in the 90s. I wanted to explain my actions but I realised I did not know enough about myself, or what I had done. I also think it was necessary given what’s happening in society today and hope it can be used to help direct young people away from joining far right groups.

2.     Why do white working class lads join groups like the National Front or BNP?

Because it would appear to many such lads that nobody speaks for or to them. This is the main problem with the lack of class politics in this country. I used to be the exception but now sadly, I don’t think it is such an exceptional thing to do. Obviously there is racism and there is also still an enormous political vacuum in communities where progressive politics just do not have currency at the moment. For me, it filled a gap in my life for a while.

3.    Why is much of the book taken up with describing violent incidents?

Because that is what it was like! There was a street war, especially in London, in the late 80s between the left and the extreme right that went largely unnoticed by civil society. But it was bloody and violent. The far right lost that battle, but there is a lot more in the book [I hope!] than just violent confrontations.

4.    What made you decide to quit the far right?

To a large extent I grew up, looked around at the miserable and dangerous men around me and thought ‘fuck this.’ Racism and fascism do not address poverty and only create divisions and violence. I felt the fascists had lied to me and that to a large degree they were only actually interested in destroying this country. They really do not care for the people they tried to recruit. I’m a patriot now, but that is not because of my colour or religion. How dare the BNP etc, etc try to deny that right to people because they pray differently or do not have the same colour skin as them?

5.    You seem to feel it’s hypocritical of far right groups such as the BNP to stand in elections – why?

Because they do not believe in the political process, know they will never obtain power through it and their ideology means they would prevent any future elections if they became the majority party. I think it is therefore hypocritical of them to try and legitimise themselves by abusing the democratic process.

6.    Why did you move to Australia for over ten years?

Knowing I was disillusioned with the far right I was persuaded to work undercover for the magazine Searchlight [better known now as Hope Not Hate] for three years, passing them information. After a World in Action TV expose of the group Combat 18 in 1993 the police warned me that I was suspected of being a ‘mole’ and my life was in danger. I only intended being away for a year but life was good out there and I stayed for over a decade. 

7.    Why did one former National Front colleague accuse you of ‘ruining it?’
The truth hurts.  Telling it ruined everything for them and to some degree that person, at least, was only articulating what most members felt but couldn’t, or wouldn’t, admit. 

8.    Why are you concerned that the issues of identity and religion appear now to be more important than class?

Because I don’t believe the issues of class and poverty have been resolved. Why do we have to focus on religion – which can point to noticeable differences in communities – and not class? This is ostensibly a secular country of many cultures and languages and it works better when we focus on our commonality. Tony Blair is to blame for the focus on faith and not community. He though he was God himself, in fact.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Farmland birds face uncertain future

Europe’s largest wildlife conservation charity, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, is worried that proposals to reform the Common Agricultural Policy [CAP] will fail to reverse a downward trend in the farmland bird population.

The RSPB calculates that since the 1970s numbers have halved to reach an all-time low. Half of the most threatened birds across Europe are farmland ones, including the grey partridge and linnet that have respectively experienced a 90 and 57 percent fall in the UK.

Now with the European Parliament set to announce proposals for a 10% funding cut to the CAP budget the RSPB fears that agri-environment schemes will be hard hit in a move designed to protect food production subsidies. These have faced criticism in the past for encouraging surplus food to be grown that is later thrown away.

One scheme thought to be under particular danger is the Entry Level Stewardship programme that rewards farmers for, amongst other things, managing hedgerows.  A Higher Level Stewardship scheme that provides funding for more targeted environmentally friendly projects including restoring traditional farm buildings could also be cut. This would have the potential to put many smaller hill farms out of business.

Nik Shelton of the RSPB says, “that targeted agri environmental schemes have been very successful in saving threatened birds like stone curlews and cirl buntings from extinction. The decline in skylarks and lapwings, and other birds, could be reversed not by cutting the schemes but by ensuring farmers have access to information that helps them provide summer insect food, winter seed food and habitat to nest in whilst at the same time maintaining production levels.”

He claimed that on their Cambridgeshire Hope Farm the RSPB had proved this was possible.

Brian Simpson, a Labour MEP in the North West, supports the organisations’ views who says, “the schemes remain the best tool for delivery of environmental improvements. Everybody should be concerned about the falling number of birds and the Government should take a more active role in discussing a green reform of the CAP.” 

Sailing or sinking? Britain’s canals face an uncertain future.

The editor of a popular website for narrowboat enthusiasts believes Britain’s canals face a bleak future. British Waterways, established in 1963, is responsible for 2,000 miles of canals and rivers, their towpaths, buildings and landscapes. Currently publicly owned it’s set, in England and Wales, to become a charity next spring. 

Tom Crossley, a former newspaper editor, established over a decade ago. He believes the new body will struggle to find funds to replace Government grants that totalled in the two countries over £46 million last year. This will drop to £39 million in this financial year and will remain at that level for another nine years by which time it’s intended for British Waterways replacement to stand on its own feet.

Built at the start of Britain’s industrial revolution to transport raw materials and finished goods the canals were shunted aside by the railways. They were in a poor state of repair, with many unusable by the early 1960s, but following the passing of the 1968 Transport Act a move away from freight traffic towards leisure and tourism began a sustained period of recovery such that, at 30,000, there are now more canal boat users than ever. 

Public money has clearly played a major part in the revival, and including Scotland it accounted for close to a third of British Waterways £178 million income in 2010/11. This is though a significant % fall, as back in the 80s and 90s the organisation relied on the government for 70% of its income. Today British Waterways has a large canalside property portfolio and this, combined, with increased marina income for residential boats, has boosted revenue.

“We have moved from a 30:70 split to 70:30, which is why we put forward our case for Charitable Status in 2009” says Julie Sharman, Head of Enterprise for British Waterways in Northern England.

The move towards which was granted by the coalition government in October last year with Richard Benyon, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Natural Environment and Fisheries saying; “I am convinced by the compelling vision of a national trust for waterways.”

And whilst the name of the new charity has yet to be announced its proposed model is the National Trust, Britain’s biggest conservation charity established in 1895.

“The National Trust may be quite old but it did revise its structure a few years ago. It’s a good organisation and with our own national remit we believe there are similarities. Where we will differ is that we won’t be able to charge for access in the same way they can to sites of historic interest” says Sharman.

Instead of which it’s proposed to be more like the Woodland Trust with people asked to become supporters of the canal network and make a donation. It’s planned that the funds raised, allied to legacy donations, will make up some of the shortfall in government grants.

There are also plans to try and access grants from a variety of sources and establish partnership arrangements with voluntary, statutory and public bodies. And although Sharman stresses British Waterways has “no intention’ of giving away parts of the canal network it will be looking for local groups to take over the running and maintenance of strips of land close to canal banks.

Five-rise locks, Bingley

The organisation already has a large number of volunteers. According to the latest annual report the number of volunteer days rose from 8,000 in 2007 to 24,000 in 2010. There are plans for further increases, with five volunteer managers being hired earlier this year.

Sharman says she is aware that this has caused unease amongst staff, but says: “We have made a guarantee that no staff will be displaced by volunteers.”

Their union, Unite, Britain’s biggest, is not reassured and has also voiced concern that earlier this year directors voted to award themselves bonuses with British Waterways chief executive Robin Evans getting £15,000 on top of his £222,000 annual salary. In comparison staff were awarded a pay rise of between £100 and £200 each. “Unite does not believe transferring ownership of Britain’s waterways to a new charity is in the best interests of the nation as we fear there won’t be sufficient money to maintain the network” says national officer Julia Long.

Crossley agrees. After hiring narrowboats for many years he built his own in 1996. It took him a year. Today he enjoys two main cruises a year and weekly days out. The website was started as a hobby but with a team of columnists it now provides up to date information and comment on all aspects of canal life.

“The canals are very important. But I can’t see people paying to support boaters who are mainly middle class.
Also funds for maintenance was cut by 9% last year and 10% the previous year and I fear this is storing up problems for the future.

I do believe they are hoping to cut back on staff by using volunteers. The majority of voluntary organisations are hoping to do the same, so will there be enough? They also can’t hope to have the skills acquired by long serving trained staff and I have to ask:  If a volunteers has the choice of staying at home or turning out in the driving rain to work at locks, what will he do?

All of these things together make me conclude that the future for Britain’s canals is bleak.”

“That’s not the case” says Sharman “as by being free of the government we can make long term plans that will build on the improvements made over the last four decades.”

Young people given chance to celebrate Ken Loach's 75th birthday

Young people are to be given the chance to celebrate Ken Loach’s 75th birthday by submitting a film or written piece inspired by his work.

Prizes will be awarded for those judged to be the best in a competition organised by the British Film Institute, First Light, Film Club and Film Education. As a radical filmmaker Loach has directed a number of classics including Kes and Cathy Come Home as well as political dramas such as The Wind that Shakes the Barley and Land and Freedom.

Some of his works have also been banned. Last month his Save the Children Fund documentary, made in 1969, was only publicly shown for the first time after the charity, which funded the work, finally gave consent for people to see it. In 1979 Loach turned down an OBE and in December last year he was one of six people willing to offer surety for Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks editor accused of sexual assault by the Swedish authorities.

One of the competition judges, Paul Hewlett, operations director at First Light says he is “looking forward to judging the entries” for 16-25 year olds who submit films up to three minutes long and from 10-18 year olds who enter a piece of creative writing.

That would even be the case if a piece of work similar to Loach’s heavily criticised 2002 piece on reflections to September 11th 2001 was entered. “The events touched the entire world and I would gladly welcome admissions that reflect a young persons’ take on it. We are not here to censor people’s work,” says Hewlett.

His organisation, First Light, has just celebrated its tenth birthday. It aims to help young people develop skills in media production and works with around 5,000 five to 25 year olds each year. A small number have so far gone to work in the film industry at a junior level.

Hewlett admits that during his 4½ years there he’s yet to find any young person whose made what might be described as a ‘Ken Loach film’ and “therefore by organising the celebration competition we hope to widen his appeal amongst the next generation of film makers and writers” he says.

Entrants will therefore be expected to champion “alternative stories and characters that confront mainstream ideologies and kick at the heels of the establishment” says Hewlett.

Yet with most Multiplexes unlikely to show radical films wouldn’t guiding a young person into making radical films or documentaries be wasting their talents? Hewlett doesn’t feel that has to be the case saying ”that whilst cinema release is very important to the success of the film industry in the UK that’s not the only way people watch films. There’s television, Cathy Come Home never received theatrical release and yet is still known as a classic. We’re also very lucky in this country to have a network of art house cinemas screening an eclectic range of world cinema.

Brave, honest and exciting filmmakers who know how to entertain an audience and tell stories that need to be told will always have a future”

It’s not too late to submit entries to the Between the Lines film making challenge - see where there’s also information on the course’s First Light runs for young people.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Video - is Britain's future food supply in doubt? - is Britain's future food supply in doubt? Agricultural scientist Charlie Clutterbuck gives his views. - sustainable food, young workers in unite and new EU project - Charlie Clutterbuck on Unite's opposition to scraping the Agricultural Wages Board 

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Chancellor George Osborne decides to do the decent thing

As the economy moves into deep water the Chancellor George Osborne decides to do the decent thing

Tuesday, 4 October 2011



Cable Street, October 4' 1936 — an eye witness account told for the first time back in 2001 - by the late Reg Weston.

I was at the Battle of Cable Street. In my early twenties, I was then secretary of the recently formed Southgate branch of the Communist Party in North London.

On that warm October Sunday afternoon, October 4 1936, we had organised a party of (now over sixty years later, I put it at) about forty, (probably it was fewer) people. They were members and sympathisers who we had mobilised in the three or four days before.

We had set out by bus and tube to oppose the proposed march of Sir Oswald Mosley and his several thousand Blackshirts through the East End of London. Through we arrived at the tube station in Aldgate we had no idea of what had been happening in the surrounding streets during the hours before.

We came to the tube entrance, together with hundreds of people who had been on the same train. There we stopped.

The pavements were packed; the whole street — Aldgate High Street — was packed solid. Crowds were everywhere as far as we could see. It was impossible to make any progress. Parked in the middle of the street, towering over the crowds were a line of tramcars — marooned and empty. They could not have moved, even if anyone had wanted to move them.

The rumour went that the first tram in the line had been deliberately driven to the point by an anti-fascist tram driver, and then placed there to form a barricade against the fascists.

As we stood blocked from moving on there came the sound of shattering plate glass windows of the store at Gardiners Corner glass. Rumour said that a policeman had been thrown through it, through it was probably just a victim to the sheer pressure of the crowds. There was not a single policeman in sight. We did not see one for hours.

The thousands of police, 10,000 according to reports, were busy down the road where they had been battling to force a way through for the Mosleyites.

As I said, I was at the Battle of Cable Street. But that was not literally true. My comrades and I never had a chance to get within a mile of Cable Street on that afternoon. In between Cable Street and us was a solid mass of people. Estimates afterwards said there was anything up to half a million people out on the streets of the East End that day. But no one could possibly have counted them.

 So we stood there, packed like sardines, for an hour or so while all sorts of rumours and tales floated through the crowds. No one could say exactly what was happening. But we gathered that the first protesters had been up early in the day and had been preparing a reception for both the police and the fascists long before either had arrived.

The fascists were assembling by the Royal Mint and police started to make baton charges, both foot and mounted, to try to clear a way for them to escort a march. They did not succeed. A barricade started to go up. A lorry was overturned, furniture was piled up, paving stones and a builders yard helped to complete the barrier. The police managed to clear the first, but found a second behind it and then a third. Marbles were thrown under the hooves of the police horses; volleys of bricks met every baton charge.

At last the Metropolitan Police chief, who had been directing operations, told Sir Oswald it would be impossible for him to have his march through the East End to his proposed rally in Victoria Park. The uniformed Blackshirts formed up and marched. But they marched west not east. They went through the deserted City of London and ended up on the Embankment, where they just dispersed — defeated.

Back in Stepney and the East End there was almost unbelievable delight. We had won. The fascists had been defeated and humiliated. The police too and the authorities had been proved unable to protect them.

Hastily a victory march had been organised to follow the route from Cable Street to Victoria Park where Mosley had planned to address his army. Hundreds joined in. Thousands stood on the pavements and in the roads, clapping and cheering as we marched on. In those days we marched, often in cheering ranks of fours, under the leadership of the ex-servicemen of the not so far away World War I. We marched and we sang.

We sang the traditional working class marching, songs and anthems: the Internationale ("Arise ye starvelings from your slumbers"); the Italian revolutionary Bandar Rossa ("Avant] popoli, alla riscossa", "Forward ye workers, into the struggle”,  Fling to the breezes the scarlet banner"); the Berlin workers' song Rote Wedding, ("Left, left .. the workers are marching song marching again"); the Polish Varshavianka, and the old Wobbly song "Solidarity forever", with the appropriate words: "We'll hang Oswald Mosley on a sour apple tree ... when the red revolution comes".

Not all the bystanders clapped and cheered. At a few of the street corners in Bethnal Green and Hackney on the way — a very few — there were knots of those who jeered and spat and stretched out their right arms in salute to their leader. 

Mosley had his roots in the East End, not so much in the working class but in those intermediate groups, the lower, lower, middle class of groups - the  costermongers, street traders, market stallmen, small shopkeepers, bookies' runners and those living by their wits – the people one sees today pictured on EastEnders – those who Marx described as the lumpen proletariat. They jeered us and, strangely enough, no one retaliated – except with words.

Things moved too fast. We were marching to a victory assembly in –appropriately – Victoria Park. We listened to the speeches, listened to the stories of those who had been in the front line, at the barricades, and then went home.

I was at the Battle of Cable Street but not in the front line – that was to come later in North Africa and in Italy.

Two myths have grown up around the event, which of course was a milestone in the long history of working class struggle. One is that the opposition to the fascists was almost entirely Jewish. The other is that the "battle" was between the protesters and the Blackshirts. It was not – it was a battle with the police.

There was a quarter to half a million people in the East End streets that Sunday. Many of them were Jews because, as Mosley knew and had campaigned for some years and so designed his provocative action on anti-Semitic propaganda, Stepney and Whitechapel had at that time the largest Jewish community in Britain. But it was numbered in tens, not hundreds, of thousands. The packed crowds that day consisted of many thousands of non-Jewish Londoners.

As far as the religious leaders of the Jewish community were concerned, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, their top authority, made special calls the previous week opposing any physical confrontation with the Mosleyites, urging their congregation to stay indoors. They pursued the same fatal policy that the Jewish leaders in Germany had pursued only four or five years before when faced with the brownshirts of Hitler. We know where that led.

But their followers had more sense. They came out in there thousands. The opposition in the East End itself was organised largely by the grass roots Jewish organisations, the workers' circles, the furniture and garment workers' trades unions, by the shops and the workshops.

It was also organised, on almost a military scale, in the last few days by the Communists who had a great deal of influence and a vigorous membership in the area. At that time the Communist Party in Britain was a party with strong roots in the trade unions, in many workplaces and among the unemployed. A significant section of the cultural and intellectual classes also were members or sympathisers of the Party. Writers, artists, actors, musicians and scientists contributed.

Only a month before, the London District of the Party had organised a pageant march from the Embankment to Hyde Park in celebration of English radical English working class history. Leading actors and stage producers, with floats depicting the Peasants’ Revolt and on to the Chartists and the General Strike, choreographed it. At the rally in the park a thousand new members were recruited to the party.

The protest at Cable Street was not just an East End event. Anti-fascists came from all over London and nearby. It should be remembered this was a time when few people had cars, or the money to travel long distances by rail or by coach. Cable Street was an all-London event. No coach parties or hired trains came from Aberdeen, Plymouth, Manchester or Birmingham.

The Mosleyites had announced their provocative rally on the Saturday so that there was almost less than a week to mobilise. There had been no details of assembly times or routes. This was also a time when few people had telephones or access to them, except by public call boxes. There was no TV. Radio was still almost a novelty.

So our communications were through knocks on doors, notes through letterboxes, the post, and meetings in the street, or at work, and by word of mouth. That is what we did. That is what people did all over the capital. In those days our main source of information was the newspapers. There was not only the Daily Worker, with a circulation of some 40,000 and a readership of many more. There was also the Daily Herald, the organ of the TUC and the mouthpiece of the Labour Party, which went into a million homes, plus the radical Liberal News Chronicle with several hundreds of thousands. On Sunday there was the left wing, Reynold's News, run by the Co-operative Party.

In London itself there were three evening papers, each producing four or five editions a day from early morning on. The Evening News was the stablemate of the right-wing Daily Mail; the Evening Standard was linked with the chauvinist Tory Daily Express and there was also the radical Star. Each had circulations of hundreds of thousands.

The Daily Worker acted as the main organiser for the protests centrally. By midweek we were getting plenty of information and so were its thousands of readers, especially in the factories and workplaces such as the bus garages and the rail depots. This paper told us of the approaches to the Home Office by mayors of the East London boroughs, of petitions, one of around 100,000, for a ban on the march or a change of route.

It also told of the ostrich-like attitude of the Jewish authorities and the same stance of the Labour Party, locally and nationally. "Keep away" had been the theme of a leading article in the Daily Herald, echoing the words of Mr George Lansbury, recently leader of the Labour Party and himself an MP for an East End constituency. The Daily Worker printed a special supplement calling for "the biggest rally against fascism that has yet been seen in Britain".

On the Sunday morning we took this round the streets of the small, council estates in Southgate. We sold them at almost every other house. Whether we had leaflets I do not recall. I doubt it. The local branch would not have had enough cash to produce them. Our main propaganda medium then was by propaganda slogans on walls and in the roads. There was much less traffic in those days. I do remember we chalked thoroughly all the entrances to the great Standard Telephones cable factory in New Southgate where 10,000 went to work everyday.

Southgate, Palmers Green, Winchmore Hill was a very middle class suburb which its council aimed to rival Ealing as the "Queen of the London Suburbs". It even had its 'millionaires' row'. There were small areas of working class homes in Bowes Park and New Southgate but Toryism was dominant. For many years the borough  shared the distinction, with Canterbury, of being the only town in England without a single Labour councillor on their council. There was a Labour Party with a few left-wingers and a 50 strong Labour strong League of Youth which had its own premises and with which we in the Communist Party had good relations. A bunch of them came with us to Cable Street. So did busmen from the garages at Palmers Green, Muswell Hill and Potters Bar, where we had influence and small groups. In all we managed to mobilise a respectable contingent. That kind of mobilisation was going on all over London in the handful of days before the event.

1936 had already been a year of pregnant events. The possibility, the probability, of a Second World War was gathering momentum every day. Mussolini had conquered and occupied Abyssinia (Ethiopia). Hitler, with Germany firmly under his thumb, and socialists and communists and trade unionists executed or in concentration camps, had marched into the Rhineland (occupied by the British and French after the First World War) and was threatening Czechoslovakia and Poland.

General Franco had begun his rebellion against the Spanish republican government.. Japan was spreading its invasion and conquest of Manchuria into the rest of China. Almost the only bright spot on the horizon was, in our minds, the coming to power of the  Popular Front government of socialists and liberals, supported by communists, in France.

In Britain the working class movement was still convalescing from the effects of the General Strike of 1926, and of the great economic crisis of 1929 and the thirties, which had led to the split in the Labour Party and the 'treachery' of Ramsay Macdonald and the last Labour government.

Non-unionism was rife, government and the anti-working class actions of the National Tory government were vicious against the unemployed and their families. That was the world in which we lived, a very different one from that which faces us today. There was a feeling in the air that change was coming and some of us were arrogant enough, or na├»ve  enough, to believe we could influence that movement toward change.
So the victory at Cable Street was a great lift up. It was certainly an important signpost along the road of declining Mosleyite influence in the East End and in Britain.

The Jews in 1936 were one of the ethnic minorities in the country. Black or brown faces were hardly ever to be seen. Apart from the Irish, and the Greek Cypriots in North London, there were no large communities for the fascists to target to stir up racism.

We were given positive proof that it was possible to rouse the masses, despite the opposition and wet blanketing of the Labour Party, the 'respectable' `liberal', authorities and organisations. It showed what organisation could do even in the most difficult of circumstances. The do-nothings, the stay-at-homes, the heads-in-the sand were quite clearly shown up to be empty windbags.

`Twas a famous history."
Reg Weston – Higham resident and life-time NUJ member