Thursday, 30 April 2015

Tribune Heroes: A lifetime’s fight on the left - Tom Jones

THE PEOPLE The Rise and Fall of the Working Class reviewed

The Rise and Fall of the Working Class
Selina Todd

£10.99 - John Murray 

The author attended a socially mixed comprehensive school in north east England. Yet when she went to University to read history she searched in vain for her family’s story before realising that she would have to write it herself if she wanted to ensure that the history of working class people in Britain from the start of the 20th century was properly recorded. 

Selina Todd can therefore be very proud of her efforts. Because the result is an easy to read book packed full of personal testimonies, myth busting information, basic facts, official statistics and a very strong conclusion demonstrating that greater social inequality is not only unnecessary but it means working class voices are – still – rarely heard in public spaces. 

Rightly, Todd also does not fall into thinking the working class are exclusively male, white and unionised. Which is why she starts her book in 1910 with a chapter titled ‘Defiance Below Stairs.’ This features the millions of, largely young, domestic servants who when given the chance to enter the munitions factories in World War One did so with relish in order to enjoy better pay and work less hours. 

Little wonder most never returned to being a maid and resisted pressure from employers, the government and some men to be coerced back beneath the stairs. Some then took part in the fight for improvements in health care for expectant mothers and young children as well as better housing that pushed Stanley Baldwin’s government into introducing the 1936 Housing Act. Local authorities were charged with providing homes for ‘the working classes.’ 

Council house building was significantly expanded. When the Second World War ended one of the key moments in many working class people’s lives was when they were handed a key to a council house and they could move out of a slum dwelling. 

“The People’s War’ of 1939-45 led to a significant redistribution of power in favour of the working class but did not make Britain classless. Most politicians had no interest in making things more equal and only when it became absolutely necessary did they oblige middle and upper class people to share in the sacrifices being made by workers and ordinary troops. 

Today it is generally accepted that the British people were as one in wanting to defeat fascism. Yet Mass Observation, a progressive social research organisation dedicated to exploring how ordinary people lived, found that many were unsure that Nazi tyranny would be worse than the poverty they’d endured under ‘democracy.’ 

A desperate ruling class was forced to ensure Prime Minister Winston Churchill brought several Labour members into his War Cabinet including Ernest Bevin, the former general secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union. (One of Unite’s predecessor unions) 

The greater state intervention that followed proved highly popular. In 1942, when the war was little more than halfway through, Sir William Beveridge was being tasked with drawing up a programme of comprehensive welfare provision that included the creation of the NHS, which duly arrived on 5 July 1948 under a first ever Labour majority government. 

The return of the Tories in 1951 was, in part, the result of a promise to build more council houses than Labour and a continuing pledge to maintain full employment. 

With employers in desperate need of workers, Commonwealth migrants began arriving in search of a better life after 1948 and thousands of married women took up the chance to work part-time to buy extras for their children and an increasing range of domestic appliances. 

Many people became better off, inequality levels fell but Britain remained a society in which class still mattered. That became even more the case in the 1960s when despite material improvements in many people’s lives there was the realisation that these were the result of having two full-time wage earners in the house rather than one. Some couples hardly saw each other if they had children to bring up.

When workers demanded greater pay and control over the organisation of their lives there were numerous strikes throughout the 60s and 70s. Under pressure from employers, governments sought to undermine the trade unions and the collective economic and political strength of ordinary workers. 

Lurking in the background was a New Right that under Margaret Thatcher successfully persuaded many working class people that economic growth was being held back by commitments to welfare spending and full employment. Further, that the growth of the public sector restricted the private sector and that local authorities and trade unions obstructed ‘ordinary people’s’ freedom. People were encouraged to build their own independence and to ‘help’ they were cajoled into use credit and debt, including mortgages. 

Unemployment leapt – a “price worth paying” said Thatcher as during the 1980s new divisions amongst the working class were encouraged and exploited especially between those in work and those on the dole. Racist rhetoric against immigrants encouraged further division. New laws severely restricted trade unions of much of their economic and political power. Employers exploited the weaknesses by forcing many workers on to less secure contracts. As pay levels dropped, inequality rose considerably. 

The arrival of New Labour under Tony Blair resulted in much of the same, with working class people increasingly relying on debt as a means to get by. 

In the opening to her book, Todd informs the reader that she sought to write ‘a hopeful history.’ Yet at the end, Todd rightly identifies Britain remains ‘a society divided by class…….and the gap between the richest and poorest is wider than it has been at any time since  the early 20th century.’ She thus uses her afterword to put forward a credible alternative to the current situation. 

This involves seeking to demolish five myths:-
  • The economic crisis was caused by the welfare state.
  • We can only solve the economic crisis by all working very hard.
  • Women and immigrants block working class people’s opportunities. 
  • Social mobility, promoted by selective and private education, can solve inequality.
  • People’s greed and selfishness prevent us from creating a different sort of society. 

She makes some important points in her attempt to reveal ‘an alternative way to live better than neo-liberalism’, which as a system is continuing to impoverish more and more working class people. 

Remembering those we have lost

Remembering those we have lost

NE Lincs remember colleagues 
Mark Metcalf, Tuesday, April 28th, 2015 

Unite members in North East Lincolnshire have played a major role in today’s International Workers Memorial Day (WMD April 28) events in their area.

This is the 13th year in which services have been held. They began when Unite member Herbert ‘Nobby’ Styles spotted an advert in the Hazards magazine urging trade unionists to Remember the Dead and Fight for the Living.

Nobby worked for Blue Star Fibres in Grimsby for 37 years until he was made redundant in 2013 and during which time he performed many union roles.

Working with local trade unionists, Nobby raised funds to get memorial stones laid and trees planted in Immingham, Grimsby and Cleethorpes and the first WMD services were held at each on 28 April 2003.

Today, Nobby warmly welcomed all those who attended at the three locations.

Numerous wreaths were laid by, among others, families who have lost loved ones, representatives of many local union branches, companies and the Labour Party.

A minutes’ silence was held, the names of 35 local people killed at work were read out and speakers highlighted the continuing unacceptable loss of life.

Each year, over 1,400 people are killed at work in the UK and another 50,000 die of workplace related cancer, heart and lung disease. Worldwide, 2.3m people are annually killed by work, a figure that exceeds those killed by war.

At Immingham, Steve Elliott, a retired Unite member who worked in the chemical industry for many years laid a wreath on behalf of the NE Lincs TUC, which he is secretary of.

He told the crowd that he was “increasingly seeing former work colleagues of mine dying far too early of asbestos related diseases.” He stressed the need for workers to collectively organise within unions to push management into taking health and safety seriously.

Peter Barrass (pictured), chair of the Unite branch at Lindsey Oil Refinery, made the same points when he laid a wreath. “Having a strong trade union is important because by working with management and the HSE we can make workplaces safer.”

The day though belonged to the families of those workers who have lost their lives such as Paul Doyley, a Unite safety representative at Millennium Chemicals, now known as Cristal Global. He died five years ago when a valve at work exploded. The company were heavily fined after they were found culpable.

Paul’s father, mother and his sister, Jill attended the WMD event next to the War Memorial in Grimsby. An emotional Jill said, “We are remembering my lovely brother and paying tribute to all those other people who have lost their lives through work.”

Jill added, “I would like to thank those Unite members, especially at Paul’s workplace, and officers who were so supportive to our family when he was killed.”

Special award for safety campaigner

We will remember them

Campaigner Hilda Palmer wins award for safety work 
Mark Metcalf, Tuesday, April 28th, 2015 

A Unite member who won an International Women’s Day award from Manchester City Council for campaigning for safer workplaces wants her fellow union members to participate in today’s International Workers Memorial (WMD) Day nationwide events (April 28).

Hilda Palmer is the co-ordinator for the independent Greater Manchester Hazards Centre that provides advice on health, safety, welfare and hazards at work.

Hilda is also acting chair of the National Hazards Campaign. This is a UK wide network established in 1988 and which brings together Hazards Centres, trade unions, health and safety groups and specific campaigns that include Families Against Corporate Killers (FACK).

This was started in 2006 by families left angry and frustrated at knowing their relatives had been unlawfully killed at work with their killers mostly escaping significant punishment. Hilda is the FACK facilitator and works tirelessly to support families who have lost loved ones.

Around 1,400 people are annually killed in work-related incidents and up to 50,000 die as a result of a work-related illness. The Health and Safety Executive says that 70 per cent of these deaths are due to management failure.

Inspections cut
Yet proactive inspections are being cut and even banned by the coalition government in most workplaces. Meanwhile, the blacklisting of building worker trade unionists who have raised health and safety concerns has been allowed to flourish with the coalition refusing to order a public inquiry.

FACK wants ‘urgent government action to halt the complacency about deaths at work and decent laws which will bring dangerously negligent bosses to justice.’ It wants safety reps given more rights. Organisation members participate in nationwide WMD events on 28 April that were first organised by the Hazards Campaign in 1992.

It was Hilda’s work with FACK and WMD that led to her winning the special IWD recognition award named in memory of Margaret Ashton from Manchester City Council. This was presented at a packed awards ceremony at Manchester Town Hall.

Ashton, a suffragette, was in 1908 the first elected woman to sit on the council and helped found the local Women’s Trade Union council to set up a babies hospital. She later fell from favour by opposing Britain’s participation in the First World War. Hilda has followed in Ashton’s footsteps by opposing Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war.

“I was naturally delighted to find myself presented with the award as clearly Margaret Ashton is someone to admire,” she said.

“I accepted it not for myself but for all the greats in the Hazards movement, the FACK founders and the families of relatives killed in entirely preventable incidents at work. I especially dedicate the award to Joanne Hill, mother of Cameron Minshull, and her family.” Cameron was a 16-year old apprentice when he was killed at work in January 2013.

“We will remember all those killed at work on WMD on 28 April. There are events right across the country. I’d urge Unite members to go to one of them. We will remember the dead whilst fighting for the living,” said Hilda.

Mick Whitley, the Unite NW regional secretary, was “delighted to see that Hilda’s hard work with FACK, Hazards and on WMD has been recognised. Rightly so as she has done some remarkable work.”

Monday, 27 April 2015

Fighting to keep NHS in public hands

Go to:-

Police watchdog accused of gagging order

From Big Issue in the North magazine. Please buy a copy if you see a seller.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission should publish its completed report into the policing of events at Orgreave during the Miners’ Strike in 1984, says South Yorkshire’s police and crime commissioner. 
Alan Billings’ call for publication comes after the IPCC offered interested parties the chance to examine the report but only if they were bound by strict terms of confidentiality. 
The Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OTJC) and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) are campaigning for a public inquiry into Orgreave, which occurred in the middle of the year-long national strike by over 100,000 miners. 
Losing control 
Ninety-five miners were charged with riot and assembly when 4,500 police, many in riot gear, clashed with 8,000 striking miners at the Orgreave coking works. All charges
were dropped in 1985 due to the unreliability of police evidence. Compensation was paid to some pickets in out-of- court settlements. But no police officers were disciplined or charged for their actions, which left many miners injured. 
The events of Orgreave came under the spotlight once more after Liverpool football fans established in 2012 that the deaths of 96 supporters at Hillsborough in April 1989 were caused by the police losing control of events. In the aftermath, South Yorkshire Police (SYP) referred itself to the IPCC. 
When the press pointed out the same force had been in charge of operations at Orgreave SYP referred itself once more to the IPCC over events there. The police watchdog’s report contains its decision on whether or not to conduct a full investigation. 
Campaigners expected a decision earlier this year but the IPCC said it was “awaiting the result of our consultation with our Hillsborough investigation team and legal advice from our barrister before we can proceed further”. 
Billings, South Yorkshire’s police and crime commissioner, said he was concerned about the delay. “The IPCC should publish. The former miners have been waiting too long. South Yorkshire needs closure,” he said. 
Chris Kitchen, NUM general secretary, said: “The IPCC took over two years to investigate and having finally made a decision it can’t say what it is or even when it will publicly announce what it is. That’s wrong.” 
The IPCC has offered to allow the OTJC and NUM to read the decision. The latter has sent
its legal representative to do so but Kitchen, who has not been informed of the decision, is “unhappy that it can’t be shared with all those that are concerned about justice”. 
The OTJC has refused the IPCC’s offer. In a statement it said the conditions are “effectively a gagging order where a small number of our members would obtain information they cannot discuss with other members and more widely with the many other people who support our work”. 

It added: “OTJC strongly condemns this situation and reiterates its demand for a full public inquiry into police actions at Orgreave in June 1984.” 

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

The story of a Sunderland trialist in the 1920's

This was originally printed some years ago but remains a good story 

Remembering Benny Rothman on Kinder Scout trespass weekend

 Benny Rothman - working class hero.

Trade unionist Benny Rothman, the man who led the Mass Trespass on Kinder Scout, Derbyshire, in April 1932, is commemorated with a blue plaque at his former Timperley home, seven miles south of Manchester. 

Born in 1911 it wasn’t until Benny acquired a bike in his teens that he discovered life outside the overcrowded environment of working class Cheetham in north Manchester. He soon became a keen rambler and spent his 16th birthday climbing to the summit of Snowdon.

All photographs copyright Harry Rothman 

At the end of World War 1 in 1918 returning British soldiers had been promised by prime minister Lloyd George a “land fit for heroes.” Landowners, represented in Parliament and the Lords by the Tories, were intent on ensuring that didn’t include the right for those soldiers and others to roam Britain’s mountains and moorlands. 

Since 1884 there had been numerous unsuccessful attempts made for an Access to Mountains Bill to be presented in Parliament and with each passing year the chances of an Act being passed seemed to recede.

In this situation the British Workers’ Sports Federation (BWSF) that started in 1928 as a working-class movement to organise sport for workers decided to trespass on Kinder Scout. It was not a universally popular move amongst ramblers. 

On a sunny Sunday April 24, 1932, Benny, an active BWSF member, found himself thrust forward as the leader of 400 ‘kinder scout mass trespassers’. 

Together in opposition to a line of gamekeepers, the trespassers successfully crossed the Derbyshire Peak District’s ‘forbidden mountain.’ Stung by this deliberate defiance of the law the police arrested six of them.

If the authorities felt this would be the end of the matter they miscalculated by sending Benny Rothman, listed in court as a storekeeper, and four (John Anderson, Julius Clyne, Anthony Gillett and David Nussbaum) others to prison - where Benny used his time productively to learn shorthand - for up to six months. The public outrage that followed helped bring the issue of the countryside to the fore.

More importantly it emboldened many access campaigners who in subsequent negotiations with landowners over obtaining access for walks could point to the trespass when their requests were refused. 

A radical post-war Labour government responded by introducing the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act in 1949. Lewis Silkin, the then Labour minster for town and country planning described it as, “a people’s charter for the open air, for the hikers and ramblers, for everyone who loves to get out into the open air and enjoy the countryside.” 

The Peak District became the first designated national park and today there are fifteen. The passing of the Act also means there are over 50 designated areas of outstanding natural beauty and over 200 natural nature reserves that are there to protect what are seen as the most important areas of wildlife habitat and geological formations and as places of scientific information. 

Th right to roam took much longer to obtain. Again, Benny played an important part. In 1982, with access still restricted on many hills, 2000 ramblers celebrated the 50th anniversary of the mass trespass by following the same path.

According to Terry Howard, Sheffield Ramblers chairman, “Benny Rothman addressed us in the quarry where the original trespass had started. He helped inspire a whole new generation like myself to finish what earlier campaigns had started.” 

In 2000, under another Labour government, the Countryside Rights of Way Act established the right to roam on certain upland and uncultivated areas of England and Wales. Many new paths allowing open access have been created. 

Benny died aged 90 in 2002. According to his son Harry, “he rarely spoke about Kinder Scout as he had far too much going on in his life as he was engaged in things that were immediately important such as trade union and Communist Party work.” His passion for a better world was shared by his wife, Lilian, a mill worker from Rochdale.

In the 1930s Benny played an active role in physically opposing Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts and over forty years later he helped to inspire a new generation of anti-fascists by speaking to them about the dangers of the National Front. 

Benny worked as a fitter for most his life. He was regularly elected to represent his fellow members in the Amalgamated Engineering Union. (one of the forerunners to Unite)

At Metro-Vicks in the 1950s his reputation for winning the best piecework rates led to him being sacked and, sadly, his workmates did not support him. He was later victimised by his employers when the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 took place. He nevertheless continued to be an active trade unionist.

“There were always visitors to our home in Timperley such as guys who had been unfairly sacked.

“Dad was a clever bloke and had a good memory. He used his shorthand to keep good notes and so when it came to negotiations with management I understand he would constantly refer back to them when someone might like to say something different.”  Professor Harry Rothman. 

Benny training an apprentice at Kearns 

Lilian and Benny celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary in 1987 

Throughout the 1984-85 miners’ strike, Benny was tireless in organising support for strikers. In 1990, Benny Rothman, who was a great friend of Hugh Scanlon, was given the Amalgamated Engineering Union’s highest award, the special award of merit. Six years later he was made honorary life member of the Ramblers Association.

* A booklet on Benny's life is currently being written by myself for the Unite Education department. All being well it will be out in 2016. 

Asbestos: a dangerous legacy for nation’s schools

The lack of a strategy to eradicate asbestos from schools has been criticised by two people with experience of the dangers it poses.   (A Big Issue in the North magazine article. )
A headteacher from York and the widower of a teacher who died from an asbestos- related disease, mesothelioma, were commenting following the publication last month of a government review of schools asbestos policy. 
The National Union of Teachers (NUT) estimates 90 per cent of schools contain asbestos and that at least 253 teachers died between 1980 and 2013 from mesothelioma – a disease with no known cure and which can take between 25 and 50 years to develop. 
Prior to 1985, when it was banned, asbestos was widely used in buildings to insulate pipes and electrical appliances and on floor coverings. Annual deaths from asbestos are expected to peak at over 4,000 in 2020. 
Although the government published its review last month, a more extensive Education Funding Agency survey in 2012-14 of 19,000 schools excluded asbestos. The NUT contends the government is therefore “unaware” of the extent, type and conditions of asbestos in schools and “has made no attempt to remedy the situation”. 
Full survey 
Tony Gavin, head of Laurence Jackson Secondary (LJS) School, Guisborough, near York, said the decision to exclude asbestos from the survey, which will be used to decide funding allocations to schools, was a mistake. 
“Everything in the 1950s was built with asbestos. With death totals still rising a full survey should be prioritised,” he said. 
In 2010 Gavin worked with Redcar and Cleveland Education Authority to implement an asbestos plan for the school and identify areas of concern such as windows that should not be tampered with. “We then tackled two areas where immediate work was required,” he said. “Now that our school is being rebuilt under the Priority School Building Programme, one building had its asbestos removed before demolition in December.” 
Gavin said whoever is elected at the general election should adopt an asbestos removal strategy. “I think this would be a very good idea, especially as many school buildings are gradually being replaced or demolished anyway,” he said. 
Michael Lees’ wife Gina died from mesothelioma in 2000. She had enjoyed a 30-year teaching career until being diagnosed just three months before she died. Lees has since formed the campaign group Asbestos in Schools. “I welcome the release of the review of schools asbestos policy as at one point it did look like it was going to be held back until after the election,” said Lees. “And it does acknowledge teachers, support staff and former pupils are dying for asbestos exposure. 
‘Lacks vision’ 
“But it lacks vision and proposed no long term strategy to eventually eradicate asbestos from our schools.” 
A Department for Education spokesperson could not comment in detail because it is a pre-election period but said: “Nothing is more important than the health and safety of children and staff in our schools. 

“Schools have information to ensure those responsible for managing asbestos are equipped to do so effectively.” 

Monday, 13 April 2015

Get involved in Workers Memorial Day on 28 April if you live in NE Lincs

Workers Memorial Day on 28 April is an opportunity to Remember the Dead and Fight for the Living. Events are held nationally and regionally with North East Lincolnshire amongst the best organised and attended. Much of that is due to the hard work of Unite member Herbert ‘Nobby’ Styles, who until he was made redundant in December 2013 worked for Blue Star Fibres (formerly Courtaulds) in Grimsby as a process operator for 37 years and during which time he performed many union roles. 

In 2002 he was inspired when he spotted an article in Hazards Magazine urging trade unionists to organise a Workers Memorial Day (WMD) event. Funds were raised to get memorial stones laid and trees planted in Immingham, Grimsby and Cleethorpes and the first services were held at each on 28 April 2003. 

On 28 April 2014 the twelfth NE Lincolnshire WMD saw services again held at each of the three locations. Wreaths were laid by, amongst others, families who have lost loved ones, a minutes’ silence was held and speakers highlighted the continuing unacceptable loss of life. Each year, over 1,400 people are killed at work in the UK and another 50,000 die of workplace related cancer, heart and lung disease. Worldwide, 2.3 million people are annually killed by work, a figure that exceeds those killed by war. 

“We remember those killed at work and those who die from industrial diseases and illnesses. There is an ongoing legacy with asbestos and some chemicals that continue to kill workers. MPs, MEPs and local councillors are involved along with families and campaigners like myself,” said Nobby. The events are well reported in the local press. 

“We cannot lose sight of the fact that it is trade unions that have done the most to improve health and safety at work. By being union organised then its possible to work together with companies to ensure workplaces are safe,” said Nobby, who has rightly won a number of awards for his considerable efforts in ensuring North East Lincolnshire is at the forefront of the growing number of WMD events being held annually across the UK. 

To get involved this year go to: -

Tax land not cut inheritance tax say Labour Land Campaign - good for them.

I was pleased to receive the following press release from the Labour Land Campaign this morning. 

The Tory’s proposal to cut inheritance tax on homes valued at £1 million 
means even more subsidies for the rich

The Labour Land Campaign says the Conservative party’s latest policy 
announcement to remove inheritance tax on homes worth up to £1 million 
is outrageous.  With Council Tax bills for mansions in Mayfair at no 
more than £2,124.66 per annum, home owners are already extremely 
privileged with regard to taxation and have been since the demise of the 
Domestic Rating System. This is part of the cause of house price 

House prices have, once again, reached an unsustainable level but the 
owners have done nothing to earn this increase in their wealth. As well 
as a crisis for those unfortunates who are not on the ‘housing ladder’, 
do we not have a major problem of wealth inequality in the UK? And is 
not inheritance of houses one of the main drivers of this trend?

It should be realised that a good part of the value of any property – 
and all of the increase in value over the last period - is land value 
that has been created by the whole of society from public and private 
investments that we fund as taxpayers, consumers and investors.
Heather Wetzel, Vice Chair of the Labour Land Campaign says “the land 
under our homes was provided by nature and the value of that land has 
been generated from continual public and private investment in our 
public transport networks, roads, schools, health care, parks, commerce 
etc. The Tories’ latest policy is giving another subsidy – up to 
£400,000 - to the richest in the UK at the expense of our NHS and other 
vital public services.“

“We need to shift taxes off incomes and on to the unearned incomes land 
owners receive by taxing the value of all land in the UK.  Then, instead 
of the richest land owners taking the unearned income they receive from 
‘owning’ this natural resource, land speculation would stop and empty 
buildings and idle development sites would be brought into full use.  
Most politicians and economists ignore the fact that homes actually have 
two values - the value of the building and the value of the land it is 
located on.  Location value differs according to the level of investment 
in local infrastructure, public services and business.  For example 
taxpayers from all over the UK have contributed to the building of 
Crossrail that is seeing the value of the land under homes in its 
catchment area rise enormously.  This land value should be returned to 
the public purse to replace those taxes that penalise work and good 
investments and certainly not go to those inheriting the property.  This 
latest Tory policy is bad, unjust and is yet another policy that 
benefits the richest in the UK at the expense of the poorest.”

The Labour Land Campaign campaigns for a tax system that is fair, 
unavoidable and redistributive and one that collects natural resource 
wealth including land wealth which the whole of society creates, to use 
to maintain and develop our public services. We advocate the reduction 
or abolition of those negative taxes that discriminate against poorer 
people and regions of low investment and replace them with an annual 
Land Value Tax that will capture land value that results from public and 
private investments which goes as unearned income to land owners.  We 
say the current tax system is skewed in favour of the rich, 
multinationals and London and the South East of England at the expense 
of people on low incomes, small and medium sized businesses and regions 
of low investment.

Media reform slips from agenda now Leveson has slipped away

Taken from Big Issue in the North magazine
A Conservative MP and former news presenter has welcomed a manifesto calling on politicians to commit to media reform during the general election campaign. 
The Campaign for Broadcasting and Media Reform and the Media Reform Coalition recently launched their manifesto calling for: controls on media ownership; well- funded, independent public service media; protection for communication rights; action on lobbying and transparency; and independent, trusted and effective press regulation. 
The groups argue that media reform has slipped from the political agenda since the Leveson Inquiry into phone hacking put the behaviour of the media into the spotlight. 
The manifesto calls for a cap on any one company’s market share in providing national and regional news. It wants better press regulation than the new Independent Press Standards Organisation provides. 
It says journalists must be given greater protection from state surveillance. And it argues that action must be taken to ensure the political agenda is no longer set by the unregulated £2 billion lobbying industry established by powerful interests and corporations. 
‘Too much power’ 
“Leveson appeared to be the moment when we were going to get changes in media ownership and press regulation,” said Granville Williams of the CPBF. “Because that has not happened we are hoping to make this an important issue with the electors, while also targeting prospective MPs with the aim of winning commitments for change during the next Parliament from 2015 onwards. 
“Far too much power is concentrated in a few hands with 70 per cent of UK newspaper circulation controlled by three wealthy families who thus have enormous political power. Four nationwide chains now command three-quarters of the local newspaper market, down from around 20 in the mid-1990s. Thousands of journalists have lost their jobs and yet profits have remained impressively high.” 
Colne Valley MP Jason McCartney, who was a reporter for BBC Radio Leeds and a presenter on ITV’s Calendar News, said: “The manifesto is worthwhile but so far it is not an issue that has been raised among my constituents, who are more concerned about jobs, affordable housing and the European Union,” said McCartney. 
“Leveson arose because of the appalling hacking situation around Milly Dowler. The Mirror Group has just been exposed as a serious hacker and yet it has not attracted too much attention. I really hope it does not take another major scandal to force these issues back up a fast-moving political agenda. 
“I believe we have about the right media ownership balance and would not want more concentration. Plurality is vital but we must also ensure the news sources are accurate, as many people believe if they see something on YouTube or Twitter that it is factually correct. That is not always so. We are lucky we have Ofcom, the communications regulator. 
“It’s great to see ITV doing well again. This means money can be invested in good regional news that produces friendly, healthy rivalry with the BBC, a public broadcasting service we can be proud of and must retain. 

“I want to see what sanctions the new regulators can exert on the newspaper industry. Where people are wrongly accused in the press of an offence they should get a similar-sized article that corrects the original inaccuracies.” 

Pentrich - site of England's last revolution

Taken from Rebel Road project of Unite Education.

Longstanding union member Ken Bond is proud to live in Pentrich, Derbyshire, which is the site of England’s last revolution. When the badly organised affair in 1817 was defeated it led to execution for some of the rebels and deportation or jail for others. 

Following the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, the high price of food and falling living standards, brought on by a rise in unemployment, led to nationwide countryside unrest. 

The iron and textile industries around the small Amber Valley village of Pentrich, where a church was built in the 12th century and where evidence exists that it was already settled in 200AD, were badly hit. Those who could find work had their wages cut and found it difficult to make ends meet.

St Matthews Church, Pentrich

Matters became even worse when in 1816 bad weather resulted in a poor harvest that with food scarce pushed prices up to unaffordable levels. With Parliament unrepresentative of ordinary people there was a major riot on 2 December 1816 at Spa Field, London after Henry Hunt had previously advised his followers to sign a petition demanding universal male suffrage, annual general elections and secret ballots. 

Meanwhile, the monarchy was also angering its subjects. Especially George, the Prince Regent, who was self-indulgent when ordinary people were close to starvation. Driving to Westminster on 22 January 1817, the Prince Regent had his carriage either stoned or a bullet fired on it. 

In reaction to these events, the government passed the ‘Gag Acts’ in February and March 1817. Habeas Corpus was suspended. Gatherings of groups of 50 or more people were outlawed. The French Revolution that lasted from 1789 to 1799 had led to the abolition of the French monarchy and inspired liberal and radical ideas internationally. The ruling class did not want anything similar here. 

Thomas Bacon was a framework knitter in Pentrich, which today lies just off the A36 between Alfreton and Ripley. He went to various political meetings around his area and brought back stories to his local meetings about plans to organise a march from the North and Midlands to London, where, with support from Londoners, the government would be overthrown. For this to have any small hope of success then thousands of people would be needed. 

What Bacon and his fellow conspirators did not know was that present at their meetings was that Oliver, a newcomer to the area, was a government spy. Oliver even encouraged people to take part in the march. Planning meetings were broken up after he relayed information back to the government. Ringleaders were arrested and with a warrant out for his arrest, Bacon went into hiding and when the ill-fated march was held he did not participate. This possibly saved his life.

Leadership of the group passed to Jeremiah Brandreth, an unemployed frame knitter who came to Pentrich on 5 June 1817. At Asherfields Barn and the White Horse Public House meetings he told those present that the march was planned for four days later and would set off from Nottingham at 10pm. Others would join en route and there would be arms collected as pikes, scythes and a few guns had been assembled.

When local men assembled at Hunts Barn in South Wingfield and began marching their attempts to persuade others to join them were met with indifference and in, some cases, hostility, when they knocked on local doors. 

When widow Hepworth refused to hand over any weapons a scuffle broke out during which her servant Robert Walters was shot and killed. This was the only fatality that night but it emphasised now how serious a situation the marchers were in. Attempts by Brandreth to get arms and cannons from Butterly Ironworks, whose later contracts included the structure of London’s St Pancras Station, though were also unsuccessful. The less optimistic now began to drift away and so when the King’s Hussars met the marchers at the Nottinghamshire border they were easily overwhelmed. Arrests were made whilst others disappeared into the nearby fields and buildings until it was clear. 

Although many rebels remained in hiding they were subsequently caught and arrested over the following weeks. 

Following a brief trial, Brandreth and two other ringleaders, both from South Wingfield, Isaac Ludlam, a stone-getter, and stonemason William Turner were hanged and also beheaded. 14 other men, including Bacon, were transported to Australia on the Tottenham and the Isabella. All later received an absolute pardon but none are believed to have ever returned to Pentrich. 

A further six others were jailed before a debate in the press halted the planned repression against another twelve men with the poet Shelley writing a famous lament after the hangings. This included the line “We pity the plumage but forget the dying bird” and was a reference to the much greater sympathetic coverage of the death during childbirth of the Prince Regent’s daughter than the hanged men. 

Pentrich suffered after its failed revolution as plans were laid to ensure few traces or evidence remained of the revolution. The Duke of Devonshire’s agents thus demolished  the White Horse pub and the houses were the guilty men had lived. Wives and children were evicted and forced to leave. Some in the village who had not participated were hostile towards those that had and those that had given evidence at the trial against the participants were rewarded when the guilty men’s land was redistributed to them. A new chapel was built at a cost of £1,600 at Ripley and following which the small village began its growth to become the busy town it is today, while Pentrich gradually became less important. As a result, the latter has retained a largely rural character. 

The harsh repression of those involved at Pentrich did its business. Demands for reform were stilled until the development of the Chartist movement in the 1830s.  

Thankfully, the Pentrich Historical Society has acted to keep alive the memory of the brave men who suffered badly for fighting for their rights. Over a decade ago, with help from the Awards from All Lottery Fund and Amber Valley Borough Council, they had 11 plaques placed to mark the revolution trail, Important places and buildings are highlighted. All can be visited in little more than an hour. Plans are already underway for a special event on the bicentenary in June 2017.

Ken Bond 
Ken Bond will be one of those participating. Born in Dagenham, Ken trained as an electrical engineer and became a member of the EETPU. He moved with his wife, Sue, to Derbyshire 35 years ago and settled in Pentrich 15 years back. He intends staying permanently as he even has his burial plot picked out at the church! 

Ken currently works part-time as a mobile caretaker for Derbyshire County Council and after becoming a TGWU member many years ago he is now a Unite member. He admits he did not know about Pentrich’s history before he moved there “But the big signs in both directions coming into the village are a bit of a give away! You can’t also help but pick things up and I am quite proud of where I live and its history.

“Brandreth was the last man in England to be beheaded and I visited the Derby jail where the gruesome event took place. You have to admire the courage of those who took part in 1817 and what they aimed to achieve was worth fighting for.

“Fairness and justice is important to me. They are attitudes that were instilled in me by my parents. I don’t trust wealthy employers and you need an organisation that supports workers and that’s why I’ve always been a trade union member.”


Jeremiah Brandreth, 31, Frame work knitter from Sutton-in-Ashfield
Isaac Ludlam, 52,Stone-getter from South Wingfield
William Turner, 46, Stonemason from South Wingfield


Thomas Bacon, 64, Frame work knitter from Pentrich
John Bacon, 54, Frame work knitter from Pentrich
George Brassington, 33, Miner from Pentrich
German Buxton, 31, Miner from Alfreton
John Hill, 29, Frame work knitter from South Wingfield
Samuel Hunt, 24, Farmer from South Winfield
John McKesswick, 38, Frame work knitter from Heanor
John Onion, 49, Iron worker from Pentrich
Edward Turner, 34, Stone mason from South Wingfield
Joseph Turner, 18, Clerk from South Wingfield
George Weightman, 26, Sawyer from Pentrich
Thomas Bettison, 33, Miner from Alfreton
Josiah Godber, 54, Labourer from Pentrich
Joseph Rawson, 31, Frame work knitter from Alfreton


John Moore, 49, Frame work knitter from Pentrich
Edward Moore, 27, Shoemaker from Pentrich
William Weightman, 27, Labourer from Pentrich
William Hardwick, 24, Collier from Pentrich
Alexander Johnson, 24. Labourer from Pentrich

Charles Swaine, 33, Frame work knitter from South Wingfield 

Rebel Road would like to extend its thanks to Ken Bond for his help on this article and also to David Condliffe, Unite Community Organiser for the East Midlands.