Wednesday, 24 August 2011


Billboard boy in Barrow earning a crust.
Italy has never seen anything similar to the type of planning exhibited by the Government of Soviet Russia.

When an important branch of the banking system, or a large-scale industry which could be confused with the "higher interests of the nation" has threatened to collapse, the Government has stepped into the breach and prevented the breakdown by emergency measures. If there is a field in which planning is necessary and can be done without notable obstacles, it is that of public works; but even a Fascist expert is obliged to recognise that "they are begun as required without a general plan in the region where the depression is most severe."  

The policy of the Italian dictatorship during these years of world crisis has been no different in its aims, methods, and results from the policy of all the Governments of the capitalistic countries.

The Charter of Labour says that private enterprise is responsible to the State.  In actual fact, it is the State, i.e. the taxpayer, who has become responsible to private enterprise.  In Fascist Italy the State pays for the blunders of private enterprise.  As long as business was good, profit remained to private initiative. When the depression came, the Government added the loss to the taxpayers' burden.  Profit is private and individual.  Loss is public and social.
Under the Axe of Fascism, Gaetano Salvemini, LBC, 1936, page 416

In Britain today, taxpayers bailed out failed banks to the tune of £1.3 trillion and workers are paying the price of this in job losses, benefit cuts, erosion of health care, wage freezes, and rising energy and food costs whilst the bankers and financiers are able to return to awarding themselves millions in annual bonuses.  And this has been achieved without the usual Fascist coercion techniques of blackjacks, torture or concentration camps.  How much longer will it be before the unemployed will be housed in 'hostels'  and engaged in 'work details' for the good of society - and will they be obliged to wear striped pyjamas, perhaps?

In the meantime, three men (one, in his twenties here in Furness) have died in eight days as a result of police using a combination of immobilizing tasers and pepper sprays.  There has been a significant increase in cases of police intimidation and brutality against young, elderly, and even disabled civilian demonstrators in recent years and courts are dismissive of any attempts to bring thuggish police to account.  The future use of water cannon and plastic bullets must surely now be on the agenda as protests against government-imposed poverty increase in size and frequency.

Monday, 15 August 2011


'Workers' sculpture, shopping centre, Barrow in Furness
Whilst fully aware of events that are happening in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lybia and in some towns and cities here in England (but not Scotland or Wales, please note!) this blog is chiefly concerned with events and reactions here in Furness.  On the riots, let it be sufficient to quote from a recent Morning Star editorial: 'Someone who has a job, a home and a future does not riot.'

The general public here does not really seem to be aware of any particular crisis unless it is the one regarding seagulls.  Yes, that is correct - seagulls.  Some are working themselves up into quite a lather about seagulls 'pooing' on their cars parked in the street and on washing hung out to dry and are calling for these birds to be culled i.e. killed.  (Heaven help the bankers if this lot wake up and realise how they've been swindled!)  Fortunately, seagulls - and, unfortunately, bankers - are a protected species so any local councillor hoping to gain popularity by reducing the seagull population will have to think again.  Surprisingly, these gulls live by the sea - which is why they are called seagulls.  If some people don't like seagulls they should move away from the coast. Sorted.

On a more serious note - in just one edition of the Evening Mail it was reported that FOUR Barrow businesses are in trouble.  The Appliance Services Centre in Dalton Road has gone into liquidation (that's yet another shop front to be decorated with a giant photograph of a shop interior), Cumbria Commercials, a car repair workshop on Walney Road, has also gone into liquidation together with The Fire Place, a heating company based in Holker Street, and an engieering firm is currently under investigation by Her Majesty's Inland Revenue for alleged tax irregularities.  These losses will add to the 1,810 people already on Job Seekers' Allowance chasing just 128 vacancies (figures for June 2011). The breakdown is as follows:
Barrow Island  151
Central              299
Hawcoat             33
Hindpool          212
Newbarns        106
Ormsgill            219
Parkside           100
Risedale           166
Roosecoat        104
Walney Nth       104
Walney Sth       104
Dalton Nth         102
Dalton Sth         110

And the tide comes in and the tide goes out - twice a day.

Sunday, 14 August 2011


Westmorland & Lonsdale Constituency
Labour Party called a public meeting to address government proposals to sell off the most highly profitable parts of the National Health Service to private companies.  The meeting was held at the Shakespeare Centre, Kendal, on Thursday 14th July and was attended by about 45 persons.

The panel (left to right) consisted of  Paul Gardner (Royal College of Nursing), Tim Ellis (Unison), Paul Braithwaite (W&L CLP) and Doctor David Wrigley, GP (Keep Our NHS Public campaign).

Dr Wrigley, a member of the British Medical Association Council, described the remarkable step forward when, 64 years ago, the National Health Service was introduced.  Minister Bevan described this as a Milestone in History and a Civilized Step for it provided health care for all that was free at the point of need. Gone was the great fear of falling ill and having to meet a doctor's bill for treatment and medication.  No health and social care for vulnerable people should rely upon service provided by some business that could, like some retail company, fail and be bankrupted. (Liquidation of Southern Cross care homes is a good example here - Muddz)  Dr Wrigley explained how the Private and Public Finance Initiative (PPFI), introduced by the previous Labour government, has cost £65 billion for a value of just £25 billion.

Tim Ellis stated the NHS needed to be fully resourced and trusted.  He stated contributions to the public purse would be much greater if the 49 richest people and 220 companies that PAY NO TAX were to pay the estimated £120 billion lost through their tax evasion.  The current White Paper is about introducing competition into the NHS and should not be amended but killed off.  Public pressure could sink this bill just as it did Thatcher's bid to introduce the Poll Tax in the 1980's. (Top Tories noted public opposition, feared this would have electoral consequences and so pressed Thatcher to drop it - Muddz)

Paul Gardner reported 98% of delegates attending the RCN conference in Liverpool gave a vote of 'No Confidence' on the current Secretary of State.  The RCN severely critical of commissioning by GP fund-holders and strongly suggests there be a nurse on every commissioning body.  Essentially, priorities are quality of care, safety, assessment of level of safety and of risks during and following hospital treatment and that the experience of the patient must be positive.  Minister Lansley's agenda undermined these.

There followed some good contributions by members of the audience with, of course, one by the token defeatist "These cuts will go through so what we've got to do is see how we can reduce their impact on people."  (It was noted that not a single person under the age of fifty years was in attendance - Muddz)

The meeting ended with an overwhelming vote to ask our local Members of Parliament to oppose the Health and Social Care Bill.

As the cuts begin to bite it is being reported that some (nonNHS) dentists are refusing to treat gum disease in children "because it is too time-consuming and thus not profitable." This on Dispatches: 'The Truth about your Dentist' ,Channel 4, 8pm, Monday 23 May 2011. Untreated gum disease, apart from being extremely painful, can lead to tooth loss and serious illness.

Some NHS Trusts are refusing to fund operations to remove infected tonsils as a cost reduction measure.  If untreated, diseased tonsils can be extremely painful, give rise to quinsy and blood poisoning with possible fatal consequences.

And yet other Trusts are now charging for cataract and hip replacement operations, and have privatised their ambulance service.

But campaigning against the cuts is being sustained by very few.  It was sad to note that Kendal Against the Cuts has folded owing to lack of consistent support but encouraging that Furness Against the Cuts remains active - street stall to be held from 10am until noon on Saturday  27 August and a Public Meeting already booked for The Forum, Barrow, from 7.30 until 9.30pm on Wednesday 14 September.

The struggle continues!


Assembling in Blackpool for the march to the Parliament
Unlike the pouring rain of last year, this year's march to the Winter Gardens for the 2011 Pensioners' Parliament was bathed in glorious sunshine.

Many had expressed the hope that, this year, the parliament would not just be yet another 'talking shop' and that a definite plan of campaign against the cuts would be formulated.  It was also anticipated that the government minister for pensions, Webb, would be given a 'rough ride' when he addressed the parliament as promised.  Neither of these things happened.

Delegates heard some rousing speeches from the platform and, in the various workshops, considered specific issues (e.g. failures of the Care Quality Commission).  However, apart from affirming support for the Pensioners' Manifesto (given below) there were no anti-cuts resolutions or even statements of intent to mount protest action against the government's proposed austerity measures and its plans for privatisation of the National Health Service and dismantling of the Welfare State. 

As for the government LibDem minister for pensions, he got off very lightly indeed by employing a well tried and tested political trick - whenever a delegate complained against a certain government decision he simply agreed with them (because it is impossible to argue with someone who keeps agreeing with every criticism)  A few delegates attempted to challenge the minister from the floor but, lacking access to a microphone, could not be heard by most people in the auditorium. Furthermore, the chairman conducting the meeting (who did have access to a microphone) chastised them rather than inviting at least one of them onto the stage to make their point.  Thus it was all kept under control, very civilised and polite, and the minister, acknowledging the applause of the majority of delegates, left the stage wearing a satisfied grin.  So much for a 'rough ride'!   What will such pensioners do if they get really angry - remove their teeth and give somebody a sound 'gumming'?

All men and women shall be entitled to dignity, security and fulfilment in retirement that includes:
1 A basic state pension set above the official poverty level (estimated at £165 a week in 2009)  which is linked to the higher of earnings or prices, and paid alongside other existing concessions, to provide some financial security for all.
2 Free long-term medical and social care funded from general taxation and provided to the highest standards in order to maintain dignity and without the need for means-testing, rationing or postcode lottery.
3 Good quality local services funded through national income tax rather than council tax.
4 Free UK wide travel on all forms of public transport (buses, trams and rail) to encourage independence and greater mobility, as well as helping the environment and reducing demand on care services.
5 An end to discrimination where it adversely affects the opportunities, goods and services available to older people.
6 A winter fuel allowance of £500 per pensioner household to help maintain a warm and comfortable home.

Wouldn't some of the above be unnecessary if British pensioners received a pension that allowed them to 'pay their way' thus avoiding the need for special 'benefits', 'concessions', 'cut-price offers', 'hand-outs', and other charitable offerings?  Surely, pensioners want dignity and respect - not charity and sympathy, don't they?

Friday, 12 August 2011


Furness Against the Cuts at the 'Poverty Summit', 22nd June
A 'Poverty Summit' was organised by Barrow Churches Together and held at the Trinity Centre, Barrow, on Wednesday 22nd June.

The object of the exercise was 'to address poverty and financial exclusion' but what it boiled down to was the setting up of a Barrow Credit Union supported by Cumbria County Council.

Furness Against the Cuts attended with the message that the policies of the present government were creating poverty for many people throughout the country by job losses and cuts to benefits of the vulnerable.  Many other organisations were also present such as Shelter (homeless charity), Citizens' Advice Bureau (charity providing information on a range of issues), Christians Against Poverty, Furness Multicultural Forum and two Credit Union organisations.  

The difference between Furness Against the Cuts and the other organisations was that FAC urged the eradication of debt whereas the rest just gave advice on how to manage it.  The FAC approach was "Never mind showing people how to bail out faster, show them how to plug the holes in the boat!"

Yes, the idea behind a Credit Union is philanthropic but in reality smacks of 'we middleclass people must show these feckless working class chappies discipline, how to budget, and the benefits of deferred gratification.'  It is true that some people have no access to a bank account but in many cases this is simply because they pay out all that comes in and are often left wondering how they will manage for the last couple of days before payday or the arrival of their next benefit payment.  

Credit Unions are able to offer small loans at a very low rate of interest (eg 1%) and anything that helps to prevent desperate people falling into the hands of loan sharks is to be welcomed. However, to become entitled to a loan through a Credit Union, a person must first make regular savings for eight weeks to qualify.  Generally, poor people are poor because their level of income means they have no spare cash that they can save each week.  The only people that really benefit from a Credit Union are those who are 'not too badly off'.


PCS members picket Barrow Job Centre 30th June
First, absence of posts here was caused by a need for eye surgery.  This didn't prevent me from being 'active' however.  

The 30th June was an official national day of action by the Public & Commercial Services union (PCS), National Union of Teachers (NUT), and the Association of Teachers & Lecturers (ATL).  

PCS members had a picket at the local Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) and also at the local Job Centre.  The picket was well received and respected and only non-union employees crossed the picket line.

The majority of schools in the borough were closed for the day so it would be incorrect to state the action was ineffectual.  A cynic might suggest school staff simply welcomed the opportunity for a day's holiday without fully appreciating the significance of the action.

There are two branches of the NUT in this region: Barrow NUT covers schools in the borough of Barrow in Furness (this includes Dalton, Askam and villages), and Furness NUT which extends from Ulverston to Broughton (which includes Grange, Cark, Cartmel, Levens Valley and other villages)  Barrow NUT was to have a branch meeting at the Custom House, Barrow, at 4.30pm at the end of the Day of Action but cancelled this at the eleventh hour (so nothing's changed here in 30 years - at least they are consistent!) 

There has been no further action by these unions since June.  Is it too much to hope that they are preparing for campaigns in the autumn following the annual conference of the Trade Union Congress in September?