Thursday, 7 December 2017

Former General Secretary of Labour Party praises food and farming book

Press release - immediate 7-12-2017
Former General Secretary of Labour Party praises food and farming book

“This is a serious and convincing analysis - and prognosis - in these difficult post Brexit days.” Lord Larry Whitty, Labour Party general secretary 1985-1994

Launched on 16 October, Unite member Charlie Clutterbuck’s book BITTERSWEET BREXIT: the future of food, farming, land and labour has been widely welcomed.

With every part of the food chain set to be affected by the UK’s decision to exit the EU, BITTER- SWEET BREXIT seeks converts for a radical new vision for food and farming. This consists of switching the current £3billion in common agricultural policy subsidies away from large landown- ers into labour, thus creating highly skilled apprenticeship programmes in order to make agriculture and farming, which has an ageing workforce, attractive to young people.

At a time when the government has put forward a woefully misguided Post Brexit agricultural ex- port plan, BITTERSWEET BREXIT aims to transform farming by concentrating on producing more food at home and reducing the current $33 billion gap between exports and imports.

Clutterbuck has been speaking at a series of meetings in the last few weeks. His appearance this week at Bradford Trades Union Council (BTUC) attracted its largest attendance in recent times. The BTUC secretary Mike Quiggin said afterwards: “Charlie explained that Brexit would lead to a bigger change to agriculture than anything since the abolition of Corn Laws in the nineteenth century.....the media are obsessed with the detail of the EU negotiations but we wanted to give space to debate about the way we want to the country to change for the better. Charlie was ideal for this.”

Dan Crossley, the executive director of the Food Ethics Council, a charity that provides independent advice on the ethics of food and farming and aims to create a food system that is fair and healthy for people, animals and the environment also praised Clutterbuck’s book: “It is very well written, very accessible and covers lots of hugely important issues.”

Lord Larry Whitty was the Labour Party general secretary between 1985-1994. He is a member of the Lords EU Select Committee. He regards BITTERSWEET BREXIT as a “serious and convincing analysis and prognosis - in these difficult post Brexit days. It brings in the key issues that most commentators ignore – the impact on labour (in this case already exploited food sector workers); the distributional aspects; and the sustainability and nutritional dimensions.”

Chapter 1 of BITTERSWEET BREXIT can be downloaded at clutterbuck_issuu
A regularly updated website with new developments on the book is
For more details contact Mark Metcalf. 07392 852561 @markmetcalf07

To order copies of the book from Pluto Press go to:- 9780745337708/bittersweet-brexit/ 

Tuesday, 10 October 2017




BITTERSWEET BREXIT: the future of food, farming, land and labour 
by Charlie Clutterbuck 

Monday 16 October at 2.00pm prompt 

Mechanics Centre, 103 Princess Street, Manchester M1 6DD 

Unite Education and Pluto Press have combined to publish BITTERSWEET BREXIT: the future of food, farming, land and labour. Unite member Charlie Clutterbuck has written the book, which, with every part of the food chain set to be affected by the UK’s decision to exit the EU, seeks converts for a radical new vision for food and farming.

“Currently £3 billion in EU subsidies is gobbled up by the UK large landowners. They receive £100 for each acre they own even if they leave it unused. 

“This money needs switching to labour. Farmers, in combination with training agencies and agricultural workers, can then run highly skilled apprenticeship programmes in order to make farming and agriculture attractive to young people.

“We have an ageing farming workforce. Unless young people replace them then we face problems over food security as we import nearly half of our food. 

“The government has put forward a woefully misguided Post Brexit agricultural export drive plan. We should transform farming by concentrating on producing more food at home. Upping yields and product ranges will reduce the current $33 billion gap between exports and imports,” states Charlie, a soil scientist who has spent his whole working life in food and farming and who is an active member of Unite the union.  

Charlie will be joined at the book launch by Pam Warhurst, Co-Founder of the Incredible Network and Franny Joyce, Unite regional officer for food and farming in the NW. 

Refreshments available 

Free copies of BITTERSWEET BREXIT will be available for members of the press at the launch. If you’d appreciate an advance copy please get in touch. Chapter 1 can be downloaded at
Website to support book and which will be updated regularly from 16 October onwards.

For more details contact Mark Metcalf.  07392 852561 @markmetcalf07 @clutterbuckcha1

Friday, 1 September 2017

Joseph Rayner Stephens plaque and memorial, Stalybridge

Taken from the Unite Rebel Road project at:-

Joseph Rayner Stephens plaque and memorial, Stalybridge 

The Tameside Metropolitan Borough plaque to Stephens is sited on Stalybridge Town Hall frontage, Waterloo Road, Stalybridge.

Stephens was a radical reformer who lived between 1805 and 1879 and was involved in the Chartist movement and campaigned against the Poor Law and for factory reform. 

For more information go to:- 

Download for free: Life of Joseph Rayner Stephens, preacher and political orator, which was written by George Jacob Holyoake.

The memorial to Stephens is located in Stamford Park, Stalybridge. 

It was unveiled in 1888 and was commissioned by local factory workers to commemorate the work Stephens had done in promoting fair wages and better working conditions.

More details at:-

Many thanks to Tony Shaw, a Unite Community member from Mytholmroyd, for the photos that appear on this page 

The latest Fred Spiksley leaflet shows how good the book is rated

The plaque commemorating the Battle of Bexley Square, Salford in October 1931

Taken from the Unite Rebel Road project.

The Battle of Bexley Square, Salford in October 1931

This plaque is on a wall in Bexley Square in front of old Salford Town Hall. 

The 1920s and 30s was an era of mass unemployment. On 1 October 1931, 10,000 unemployed men and women marched to Salford Town Hall at Bexley Square. As campaigners tried to hand in a petition protesting against means-tested benefits and unemployment they were met with awful violence from the very men charged with protecting their liberty.


Take a look at the cinematic coverage at:- 

One of those arrested on the day was Eddie Frow, who later established with his wife Ruth, the Working Class Movement Library

Please credit this photograph to Tony Shaw, a Unite Community member from Mytholmroyd. 

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Plaque commemorates first TUC held in June 1868

There is a plaque on the outside of the Mechanics' Institute, Princess Street, Manchester where the first Trade Union Congress was held from 2-6 June, 1868. Built in 1854 as a centre for working class, adult education it offered a wide range of evening classes in English grammar, writing, reading, music, arithmetic, Latin and other languages. It was also the birthplace of the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) and the Cooperative Insurance Society. The building, which is Grade II listed now houses the Mechanics Institute Trust and is part of the Peoples History Museum.

Photo taken by Tony Shaw, a Unite Community member from Mytholmroyd.

Owls tamed 'team of all the talents' and went on to win cup

Credit Bunch

Unpublished Guardian letter regarding Rebel Road project

Mark Metcalf

The Guardian was recently good enough to carry a massive piece on my co-authored football book at

I hope you may include this in the letters page.

Regards the recent letters on the need to remember events at Peterloo in 1819,  Stoke in 1842 and Featherstone in 1893 then readers may be interested in the Unite Education Rebel Road website that contains a wealth of information on trade union and labour movement heroes and events that are publicly commemorated. The site has inspired a number of commemorative events including two extremely well attended occasions this year in Halifax to honour the six people killed by the military in the town in 1842 and for which plans to mount a plaque are advancing. 

The Olive Grove Years 1887-1899 event on 11 November

MPs have criticised a government plan to sell off buildings and land belonging to the NHS.

MPs have criticised a government plan to sell off buildings and land belonging to the NHS. 
The Naylor Report, published in March and endorsed by Theresa May Naylor proposes that in the run-up to the general election, sets out a strategy to “release £2 billion of assets for reinvestment and to deliver land for 26,000 new homes” by selling off NHS land and buildings. 
It says this figure could rise to more than £5 billion if “high value propositions in London” are sold off. 
But although the report says much of this figure could come from selling “inefficiently used land and property” critics have warned against a re sale of assets that would transfer wealth to the private sector, and say any money raised must go towards improving patient services.
Naylor proposes that NHS providers that fail to “maximise disposals... will not be eligible to access public capital funding” but says financial incentives should be given to trusts that do sell off land. 
‘Forcing’ savings 
Of 236 NHS trusts that have responded to a government survey of public sites – known as surplus land tables – 161 have identified plots of land for possible sale, including around 30 in the North West and Yorkshire and Humber. 
North Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust, which is £30 million in debt and is required to make £27 million in savings in this financial year, is proposing to sell off land around staff accommodation at Grimsby’s Diana, Princess of Wales Hospital. Provisional contracts have been exchanged with Riverhead Development, which is proposing a mixed development incorporating 125 houses. 
The local MP, Labour’s Melanie Onn, claims the sell-off is to help the government make the savings it is “forcing on our NHS”. 
Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, which owns Leeds General Infirmary, has identified 7.4 acres of the hospital’s 9.9 acres as developable. The trust says that could mean a sell-off would result in 100 new homes to be built. 
At St Mary’s Hospital, Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has identified 10.18 acres of the 13.51 acre site to be identifiable. It says that could mean 185 new housing units. 
The Naylor Report says: “Radical reconfigurations of services should not be undertaken simply to release additional land but will need to be based on a full clinical case for change, both improving services and delivering better value for money.” 
But the possible sales have been criticised by people working in the NHS. Terry Cunliffe, regional officer for the union Unite with responsibility for the NHS, said: “it is like selling off the family silver and based on past experiences I bet that the sold land is not even used to build affordable homes. 
“I feel the NHS should be investing in these buildings that are earmarked for disposal. Sales should be halted until there is a full inquiry into the impact on patients and how any generated income is going to be utilised.” 
Hilary Benn, MP for Leeds Central, where the two hospitals are located, said: “The NHS must make sure that it retains the land it needs for its future work. 
“If buildings are no longer fit for purpose — which must be clearly demonstrated — disposal must meet two conditions in that all money raised is invested back into the NHS in order that services to patients are improved as a result. There should be no general re-sale of NHS assets.” 
The Leeds and York Partnership Trust did not provide the plans on which the figures in the surplus
land tables are based but a spokesperson told Big Issue North it is “assessing our clinical service strategy and the associated estates impact”. 
The trust could not say how much of the proposed housing would be for social housing and said receipts from any sales would be retained to improve the remaining estate. 

The trust said that property and land sales were not necessary to make up for funding shortfalls, nor was the government forcing sales on it. Instead, land and property sales would be the result of “a requirement to operate from modern fit for purpose buildings”. 

Friday, 7 July 2017

PEACE IN COLUMBIA? ‘Grave situation’ for fragile peace

‘Grave situation’ for fragile peace

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail’s “great joy” at the January prison release of the Colombian trade union and peasant farmer leader Huber Ballesteros is being tempered by worrying levels of violence that may affect the Peace Agreement signed between the Colombian Government and the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) guerrillas last year. 

In 2013, Ballesteros, vice-president of  the 80,000 strong agricultural workers’ union FENSUAGRO, 1,500 of whom have been murdered, mainly by paramilitary groups, was arrested on trumped-up rebellion and financing terrorism charges. 

This was in a period when FENSUAGRO lead a mass strike that mobilised over a million people on street protests against the devastating impact of free-trade agreements, privatisation and inequality-driven poverty. Huber was just about to travel to speak at the 2013 TUC Conference. 

“Clearly arresting him — and many other activists before and since — was aimed at disrupting Huber’s work and intimidating others looking to get involved. 

“My impression following his rightful release is that Huber has not been deterred by going to prison and remains up for the struggle to make his country a peaceful, democratic one. 

“It is great news for him personally and everyone who cares about a better world,” said Gail, who saw for herself the extreme disparities in wealth between rich and poor in Colombia when she visited in 2009. 

The British trade union movement — and Unite in particular — played a prominent role in exerting pressure on the government here and in Colombia to secure Ballesteros’ release. 

Much of this was co-ordinated by Justice for Colombia (JFC), a British NGO established by the trade union movement here 15 years ago. “The support was brilliant,” states Hasan Dodwell of JFC.

JFC, which sought peace as part of a path towards social advance and greater equality, organised a letter that was signed by hundreds of politicians from Ireland, Britain and the USA backing the peace process. JFC also worked with Colombian civil society groups to ensure their voice was heard throughout the process. 

The Peace Agreement between the Juan Manuel Santos government and the FARC guerrillas was concluded in Cuba in August last year. It followed two years of preliminary negotiations and a further four years of talks in Havana.   Throughout the process, JFC organised delegations to Cuba from Northern Ireland that included unionist and nationalist participants from the 1998 Good Friday Peace Agreement. A delegation met Santos and they were the first international group to meet the FARC negotiating team. In Washington they outlined to senior politicians their impressions on the situation in Colombia. 

The agreement as opposed by many, including opposition leader Alvaro Uribe, the one time president for eight years, and it represented a necessary compromise that ended a deadly conflict that stretched back to the 1960s and in which 200,000 people were left dead. 

“There is no doubt that an essential role was played by JFC in getting both sides to make an agreement. Taking their lead from Colombian civil society organisations such as trade unions they were pushing for peace even when that was being portrayed as supporting terrorism,” states Gail Cartmail. 

The agreement was subsequently debated by Colombian Congress members, some of whom attempted to obstruct it and succeeded in March in making many changes to the original text aimed at setting an ‘Integral System for Truth, Justice, Reparation and non-Repetition.’ Two changes stood out. The newly formed peace courts will not now examine the financing of paramilitary groups whilst possible sanctions may limit the right of FARC members to take part in the political system.

The debates took place against a background of intensified murderous attacks on civil society leaders and FARC members. One hundred and seventeen social leaders and human rights defenders were killed in 2016.

“These are extremely worrying developments” states Hasan bluntly. “There appears to be an intensification of violence by paramilitary groups, some of whom are reported to be moving into rural communities where they have previously had no presence. 

“The Colombian government has been denying the political nature of the killings and this is casting doubt on their willingness under the Peace Agreement to protect community activists by tackling the paramilitaries. 

“This is a grave situation and protection has to be ensured by the Colombian government for all those that are politically active.”  

Ellen Strange Commemoration report for 2017

Linda Charnock - Sheila Coleman - Tracey Dewe

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

LAKELAND HIDDEN GEM: Museum of Lakeland Life and Industry, Kendal

Kendal’s hidden gem is the Museum of Lakeland Life & Industry (MOLLI), which recreates how rural people lived, worked and played in the past and by doing so challenges its visitors’ perceptions of what life was like in one of the most beautiful parts of the UK.

MOLLI is in Abbot Hall's eighteen century coach house and stables. Seven hundred years earlier, commercial sheep farming by local monks helped create  a thriving wool industry. This is reflected in Kendal's motto 'Pannus mihi panis' meaning 'cloth is my bread.' 

It was the Cumbrian climate that ensured that sheep — as well as cows — were locally more suited than the growing of arable crops. Meanwhile, with Cumbria being so remote from London, nobles were frequently absent from home and this encouraged them to sell their land. 

The result was it became easier for some local farmers to swap from being tenant to land owning 'Statesman' farmers. The nineteenth century bedroom of a statesman farmer is amongst one of the permanent period rooms at MOLLI. Others include a chemists and printers as well as a farmhouse kitchen from a typical Cumbrian eighteenth century farm. 

These are certainly worth viewing but what really brings the museum to life is its desire — which was so passionately expressed by Rachel Roberts, assistant curator on collections and access, during our visit — to preserve and tell the stories of the 99 per cent of ordinary working people who live and die without leaving anything behind. 

Display boards tell the history of how Cumbria's minerals — zinc, lead, copper included — were first plundered by the Romans. Then how later on local mines attracted workers from across Britain and Europe with the German mining engineer Daniel Hechstetter granted permission in 1565 by Elizabeth I to melt 'all manner of mines and ores of gold, silver and copper' around Keswick and Coniston. 

Another important local industry was shoemaking and the Kendal Cordwainer's Guild was established in the seventeenth century to 'protect mutual interests.' Leather sold in the town was officially marked and no one outside the guild was to sell similar products. This was an early form of trade unionism. 

The Lake District's woodlands have for many centuries been coppiced as a method of harvesting trees. Quick growing trees such as oak and ash can be cut down to their shoots and within 15-40 years they can be as tall as 6 metres high. Once harvested they were used in local industries and of which the most important was bobbin mills, totalling 64 in the mid nineteenth century. 

Bobbins were in massive demand during the industrial revolution and it is estimated that in Burnley alone there was as many as 20 million bobbins turning on the cotton-weaving machines at any one time. 

"Bobbin making was a huge employer of local labour," explains Rachel "but as people moved into the towns during the industrial revolution there was also chemical and paint making. 

“Because of Cumbria's remoteness there was additionally, until the railways really took off, a greater self reliance. This meant that virtually every product you can think of was manufactured, with small workshops servicing the larger ones. There was also domestic work in people's private homes and farms." 


John Ruskin's first publication was his originally entitled 1829 poem Lines written at the Lakes in Cumberland. In the mid-1850s he taught drawing classes at the Working Men's College in London and following which he was drawn towards social issues. Ruskin College in Oxford was established to provide educational opportunities for working-class men in 1899, a year before his death. 

Ruskin lived near Coniston from 1871 till 1890. During his time he inspired the founding of the Langdale Linen Industry and the Keswick School of Industrial Art, which was opened in 1884 to alleviate unemployment by teaching metalwork and wood carving. "The aim was improve people's skills such that they would enjoy making quality products, some of which we on display here, that everyone could buy. Sadly the production costs meant the goods were only affordable by well off people. This left Ruskin disappointed,” says Rachel. 

Arthur Ransome was first educated in Windermere. He is best known for writing the Swallows and Amazons children's book series that are centred around the Lake District and Norfolk Broads. Years previously, Ransome covered the Bolshevik Revolution for a radical newspaper, the Daily News. He became close to a number to a number of Soviet leaders including Lenin and Trotsky, whose personal secretary became Ransome's wife. There is a very interesting permanent display on Ransome within the museum.  

Over the winter, MOLLI, which attracts around a thousand visitors a month,  held an exhibition of Joseph Hardman’s photographs.

This has been followed by Fun on the Fells: Walking and Climbing in the Lake District. This will run till 28 October and features early climbing pioneers through to the politics of right to roam in which one of Unite’s great heroes Benny Rothman will feature. 

“We would be delighted to welcome trade unionists to the museum and would welcome the support of branches within Unite, particularly those in the North west,” said Rachel. 

Justice denied for shepherd Brenda Sutcliffe, a remarkable woman

This is an unpublished article that was due to appear in the Landworker magazine. Brenda really was a force for good.  

Campaigner Brenda Sutcliffe, the Littleborough shepherd who became the unofficial spokeswoman for thousands of farmers and agricultural labourers who were poisoned, often with fatal consequences, by organophosphate sheep dip, died on 18 January.

Although the government's chief scientist Professor Solly Zuckerman warned as long ago as 1951 that organophosphate pesticides (OP) were deadly poisons and could be absorbed through the skin or inhalation, their use in sheep dip became compulsory in the late 1970s. Zuckerman's report remained lay hidden in the House of Commons until Brenda discovered it in 2005

Sheep dip users were left uninformed about the dangers or the need to wear suitable protective clothing to prevent serious illness. Those that became unwell — symptoms included feeling acutely tired, weak and nauseous, memory loss and blurred vision — initially found it almost impossible to be diagnosed by their doctors. 

Brenda, who suffered, along with members of her family, when forced by government officials to use OP sheep dip in 1992, faced a wall of silence when she began researching OP hazards. She eventually used the US Freedom of Information Act to uncover evidence of just how dangerous and deadly OP's can be. 

When Brenda began to publicise her research and contact the press, chemical companies, politicians and farming organisations she was inundated by requests to help from the victims of OP sheep dip. Eventually clinical tests were developed that can provide objective evidence of OP poisoning and this has assisted doctors to make a diagnosis when they are visited by potential sufferers, including military personnel known to have been exposed to the neurotoxins during tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, plus airline staff exposed to toxic air. 

Brenda calculated that between 1995 and 2005 more than 1,000 shepherds ended their own lives because of OP sheep dip. Brenda fought tirelessly — and ultimately unsuccessfully — for the victims families to be compensated. Generally the victims were the main breadwinner. 

Brenda's specially produced booklet 'Cause and effect — the search for truth' was first published in 2005. It became widely read right across the globe. In 2011, Brenda, whose husband Harold was a Unite member, received an award from Greening the North, a UK network with links to the Centre for Holistic Studies in India. She was cited for 'your work for the OP-affected, including your letters to the press.'

Brenda and other campaigners forced the HSE to issue health warnings and instructions on the use of OPs and bring to an end the compulsory order on sheep dipping. But the products — used to tackle sheep scab — remain on the market with the added requirement that anyone purchasing the dip must attend a course — costing in total £150 — to achieve the necessary 'Safe Use of Sheep Dip' licence. Each applicant must demonstrate that they understand the regulations including the necessity to wear protective clothing during the dipping operation. 

Brenda, whose work was featured regularly in Landworker, was rightly proud of her considerable efforts and achievements but when we last spoke she was, as always, forthright in expressing her views. "Justice has been denied to the likes of myself whose health was badly affected by OPs. We, with the help of people like yourself and Landworker, showed these were dangerous — deadly — products and we never hesitated to criticise the chemical companies who manufactured them. We damaged their sales but they have never sued us because our research backed up what we said publicly.  

"The government, whether New Labour or Tory, public health bodies and solicitors who were supposed to help us ran away from the battle. People still need prosecuting for their roles in this whole affair. I think we have won a number of battles but OPs are still deadly, too widely used and many products containing them need banning.” 

Around 40 people attended Brenda's funeral at which her friend Dee Uttley gave a marvellous eulogy.