Friday, 15 April 2011


Half a million people took to the streets of the capital on Saturday 26th March and the red flag flew beneath Big Ben.
Although pleasing, a far better sight would have been to see the hammer and sickle flying above Big Ben!

Now the question must be "So, what's next?" Many of those attending the demonstration will now expect the TUC to lead further actions against the cuts but, if history is anything to go by, they are likely to be disappointed.

In Furness, the work of the Furness Against the Cuts steering group has begun and further attempts are being made to encourage people, either as individuals or as representatives of unions, community groups or voluntary organisations to join the campaign.  Indeed, any person or organisation that is without prejudice towards age, gender, sexual orientation, race, colour or religion and sharing the aim to resist government-imposed cuts will be made welcome.

In a previous posting it was noted leaders and members of local unions, community groups and voluntary organisations (with the exception of Barrow & Furness Pensioners' Association) had never in the past twelve months shown the slightest interest in mounting a campaign against the cuts.  However, once the local newspaper, the North West Evening Mail, began to feature the national demonstration the various 'leaders' crept out of the woodwork to mouth off and get their mugshots published.

Bob Pointer, 'secretary' of the defunct Barrow TUC wrote a letter describing how important it was for ordinary people to resist the cuts blah, blah, blah.  Alec Proffitt, Unison Barrow Branch official, Pauline Charnley (Four Groves Community Association), Anne Carruthers (Barrow Island Community 'Activist') and Margaret Burrows (Furness Disability Association) each stuck their oars in for a nice piece of personal publicity. The only person missing was Steven Forbes of the GMB who has been very quiet of late - well, quieter than usual: silent.

This blog has been described (by some) as being 'snarky' which I believe is street-speak for 'sneering and sarcastic'.  Surely, this is not the way a communist ought to behave if the aim is to encourage people to unite against their oppressors.  To a certain extent, they have a point. It would be a joy to report how local organisations - unions in particular - were leading the anti-cuts campaign with all-inclusive rallies and demonstrations in the town centre once a month and how they'd organised coaches to take local people to the 26th March TUC event but none of this happened.  Those who have access to campaign resources have sat on their hands and, until very recently, kept their mouths tightly shut.  So what would be the point in pretending in this blog that they are genuinely concerned about the people of this area and taking action against the cuts when they have done precisely nothing?  Don't they deserve criticism?

But Unison did organise a coach for the London demo!  True, this union which had done nothing all year did in fact organise a coach - for Unison members only.  So a non-campaigning union took non-campaigning members to a national campaign.  Bravo!  And a jolly time was had by all, no doubt.  It's reminiscent of a union day trip to Blackpool but without the buckets and spades. 

As shown above, trade union 'tribalism' is alive and well here in Furness.  The instruction was that the anti-cuts campaign should be union-led.  But what do people do if the unions are incapable of providing that leadership?  If I had waited for my union (NUT) to instigate anything at all in the last thirty years I'd be fossilised by now.  The teaching assistants who  recently held their rally and petition in the town centre were Unison members who had been promised pamphlets, posters, banners and flags - but received none of these things.  One of the organisers bitterly remarked that Unison would see a significant dip in union subscriptions next year!

So, the next few months might be interesting.....or not.  Whatever the situation, this blog will continue to report the situation as it really is and not as some would pretend it to be.  And useless hoosegow-head (nothing gets in and nothing comes out) hypocrites deserving of criticism will indeed receive it.    

Monday, 11 April 2011


The Teachers' Assistants certainly got their act together and held a very successful campaign and petition in Barrow's main shopping area.

The day began wet, draughty and chilly (nothing new in these parts) but at noon the clouds parted, the rain stopped, and the place was bathed in warm sunshine - just in time for the photo-shoot appearance of our local Labour Member of Parliament, John Woodcock.

I had met, some weeks previously, one of his assistants at the 'retirement do' of a mutual acquaintance and I remarked that I had imagined a conversation between our new MP and his predecessor, John Hutton - oops, sorry Sire, I mean Lord Hutton of Furness.  Anyway, the conversation went something like this:  "Well, Johnnie m'lad, you've landed on your feet.  And if you do like wot I did i.e. keep your nose clean, get lots of photos of you opening charity events and wandering around BAE in a yellow hardhat, say you're a socialist - but watch out for the commie git on the front row - kiss plenty of babies and keep away from Public Parks, then you'll end up just as rich as me and get to feel the irmine collar on your neck."
(The Public Park reference relates to an occasion when, soon after his election, our MP -JW- ventured into a park on Walney Island and was subjected to intimidating abusive language and behaviour by a bunch of young hooligan proletarian Island Aboriginals - a fitting introduction to the area, I thought at the time)  

The assistant was not amused nay, not one jot I kid you not. Now consider for a moment the scene of me standing next to that same assistant this fine sunny lunchtime and observing...  yes, you've guessed....John Woodcock with someone's child in his arms! The assistant, by the way, is the very same person to whom I gave a lift one evening (see Blog Archive  2010, September, 120 Years the Internationale Anthem - for a Socialist World! There Aren't Many Of You About, Are There? but only if you're interested!)

The TA cause is a just one.  Cumbria County Council has finally decided to introduce Single Status which lumps Teaching Assistants together with Dinner Ladies, Cleaners, Mid-Day Supervisors and Drivers yet, as campaigners respectfully point out, none of the latter would ever be called upon to obtain professional qualifications and to cover groups of children or supervise whole classes in the absence of a teacher. Some TAs stand to lose up to £3000 a year as a result of adjustment. These dedicated workers are merely asking for a wage that reflects their professional role in the education system and one which adequately recognises the value of their hard work. Sadly, the Steering Group of the Campaign Against the Cuts has not yet succeeded in obtaining recruits to support such local demonstrations.

MEANWHILE, the University of Lancaster has become the latest institution to charge students the maximum £9,000 in fees.  It seeks to justify this hike, to be introduced next year, by claiming the fee would reflect its teaching and research standing...................
Shopmobility in Kendal faces closure leaving hundreds of disbled people prisoners in their own homes.............
As price of metal increases so too does theft.  A floodwater pumping station in Barrow was disabled when copper wiring was stolen and there is a report of a break in at a scrap metal dealer in Kendal so wait for railway points and signalling systems to be rendered useless as scallies rip out miles of cabling and churches spring leaks as lead is repeatedly stripped from their roofs....
But things should get easier for our light-fingered acquisitive bretheren because Cumbria Constabulary must shed 80 officers and make plans about how an £18.7 million budget deficit is to be handled.  



The proposal for Barrow & Furness Pensioners' Association to call a meeting to which organisations and individuals would be invited to discuss what they wished to do about government cuts to public services was finally approved by a sizeable majority of members.

The original idea was to have a meeting in the last week of February but the secretary did nothing about booking a date and venue for three weeks.  Without a date and venue it was impossible to send out invitations to organisations, groups and individuals.  It turned out that the secretary, together with the chairman and deputy chairman, did not agree to holding a public meeting so decided to do nothing to make it happen.  The treasurer found a venue and established a date. Threatened with an unholy row about defying the decision of the members, the secretary reluctantly also began promoting the public meeting.  What a pathetic performance!

By Barrow standards, attendance at the meeting was 'good' i.e. twenty persons were present.  Five members of the Pensioners' Association attended and were joined by representatives of Kendal Against the Cuts, Greater Manchester Trades Union Council, the North East Shop Stewards' Network, and the Teachers' Assistants Pay Campaign.  A local Labour councillor gave his support and there were persons from disability and mental health groups.

The following were contacted but did not reply:
Barrow Trades Union Council, Ulverston Trades Union Council, Four Groves Community Association,  Barrow Island Community Association, MIND in Furness, Cumbria Disability Association, and the unions - Unison, GMB, Unite, Furness NUT, PCS, CWU, UCATT, and NAPO.

At the close of the meeting six persons signed up to found a Steering Group to establish a name and programme for a campaign against the cuts and a regular meeting place for discussion and planning.

Bearing in mind the TUC national anti-cuts march and rally was to be held in London on the 26th March it was most extraordinary that unions gave no input to the Barrow Public Meeting to enlist supporters for the rally and book coaches to allow Furness people to attend the event in the capital.