Tuesday, 27 November 2012


Pouring rain did not hinder leaflet distribution at Barrow railway station on the morning of 1st November.  Photos were taken during all too brief gaps in the heavy showers and members of the public willingly accepted the leaflets that were offered to them.  Some, having read the leaflet, actually thanked the assembled trade unionists for the work of trying to save the rail service before rushing off to board their train taking them to their place of employment.

The dozen or so campaigners who began at 5.45am were joined by others as the morning brightened and the rain eased until, at 8.30 (just thirty minutes before the end of the campaign) a reporter and photographer from the local press arrived and 'interviews' were earnestly conducted.  Three activists of Barrow Trades Union Council (RMT and NUT delegates plus GMB member and Unite Against Fascism organiser) attended throughout but the secretary and chairman were absent.

In an earlier posting I mentioned the failure of the secretary of Barrow Trades Union Council to attend a public meeting to promote the work of the organisation and the refusal of the chairman to speak at the event.  Frankly, I cannot understand this attitude yet it is one that seems to be common to most organisations here in south Cumbria - persons get themselves elected (or appointed) to positions of responsibility and then utterly fail to honour that responsibility.

Take, for example, the secretary of Cumbria Unison, Deborah Hamilton, - responsible, since 2009 for co-ordinating the anti-austerity campaign in the area from Barrow to Kendal - who, except for a very brief appearance at Barrow market entrance one very wet Saturday - has never ever played any part in the campaign.....a campaign organised and sustained for three years by just three pensioners without any assistance from any other organisation.  Churches did not wish to know.  Charities would not assist for fear of being considered 'political' which could threaten their funding status. The Trades Union Council was not interested and the local Labour Party could not support an anti-austerity campaign because, if elected, it would impose an austerity programme of its own!

Appeals to the secretary of Barrow TU Council to promote support for the anti-cuts campaign were steadfastly ignored but, some eighteen months later, following two articles in the local paper in which the secretary appealed for TU delegates to support the local TUC or risk him having to 'wrap it up', the pensioners (each a member of a trade union) decided to assist the Trades Council.  More delegates responded and it seemed that Barrow TUC had been saved from extinction.  There were, however, ominous warning signs.....nobody would accept the position of treasurer.  The chairman elected at that very first meeting never ever made another appearance!  And so the local TUC limped through that year with the secretary doubling up as treasurer also.

The following year (current) saw the election of a chairman, George Appleton (former secretary of the now defunct Ulverston TUC) but still no treasurer - thus the unsatisfactory arrangement of a joint secretary/treasurer is set to continue.

In a previous posting I described the farcical pantomimes of  two Barrow TUC meetings
and do not need to repeat these here.  They arose because of illiteracy and lack of firm leadership and this situation prevails.  As both the chairman and secretary are now both in their 60s it is doubtful that even an intensive remedial course in English would improve their comprehension but they may still have the capacity to understand that they must contribute more if the council is to be saved for the future.

Currently, the secretary and chairman appear to believe that the secretary is merely a clerk and the chairman a conductor - the first handles correspondence and literature once a month and the second manages the agenda much the same way as a conductor manages an orchestra (except the orchestra here is comprised of musicians each playing from a different music sheet with the result that we end up with a discordant racket that nobody wants to listen to!)

Some local people get elected onto the local borough council and then do nothing except attend the occasional borough council meeting.  Fulltime, paid, TU officials rarely leave their offices and will not support local initiatives.  Elected officers of voluntary organisations do not wish to campaign on local issues.  Local politicians remain silent  as people's living standards plummet.  Yes, the message is clear - those who bask in their 'status', who like to mouth off for the local press and maybe get their mugshot published for all to see could not really give a toss about those they claim to represent.  And, of course, it will continue like this until those who put these people into these positions of responsibility decide to bring them to account.   

Friday, 16 November 2012


Cde Greenshields, Chairman CPB
and RMT leaflets at Barrow station.
When it was proposed that an executive member of the Communist Party of Britain could attend a public meeting at Barrow on 31st October I confess I was dubious about the outcome.  

Firstly, it was Hallowe'en and a night when locals would either be escorting their children around the streets begging for sugar-laden confections or attending a fancydress party and 'getting blathered'.  Secondly, the population is - well - disinclined to attend Public Meetings (For example: a recent Police Federation meeting held at Barrow, called to discuss the impact of a much reduced constabulary, attracted just FOUR members of the public....an Ulverston town councillor, the (then) secretary of Ulverston Trades Union Council who was accompanied by his wife, - and me.  

But then I considered it would be an opportunity - not just for a leading Party member to address a local audience - but for local Trade Unionist officials to put the case for two TUC initiatives: promoting activity as a follow-up to the 20th October 'A Future that Works' and generating campaigns supporting the People's Charter.

So, a list of willing TU speakers was drawn up - Craig Johnston, Cumbria relief officer of the RMT (Rail, Maritime and Transport union); Ryan Shaw, secretary of Cumbria PCS (Public and Commercial Services union); John Holden, national executive member of the UCU (University and College Union), and Robert Pointer, secretary of B&FTUC (Barrow and Furness Trades Union Council).  Leaflets were distributed around the town, an advertisement was placed in the local paper which resulted in the event appearing in a single columnX3cm 'news snippet'.  The 'Bay' radio station did not respond.  The 'political reporter' for the local paper, was invited to attend.  The Studio Theatre at the local Forum was booked.  Everything was ready, so what could possibly go wrong?

As the evening darkened, the wind increased and we were subjected to a massive and prolonged torrential rain-storm.  News was received that Bill Greenshields, travelling from Derby, was stuck in a traffic jam some forty miles away on the M6 motorway.  The train from Lancaster was running 30 minutes late.  Ryan Shaw (PCS) would be 'late' and there was no communication from Robert Pointer (B&FTUC) explaining why he hadn't shown up.  And twenty people were patiently waiting for the meeting to commence.  After twenty minutes had elapsed I really began to wish I could sing and/or play a musical instrument....or had prepared a 'stand up' comedy routine I could perform...just to fill in the time until our speakers were in place.  Alas, I possess no such skill.  And throughout this, neither Craig Johnston (RMT) nor John Holden (UCU) offered not a single word of complaint.  

At last, running some forty minutes late, the meeting got under way and each speaker delivered much food for thought.  No member of the public attending the event would have been left in any doubt about the seriousness of the political assault that was being mounted against the wellbeing and standard of living of Britain's working class and lower middleclass population and of the pressing need to mount a most determined opposition in political parties, trade unions, and 'pressure groups' such as peace organisations  and social and charity associations.

Was it a successful event?  Knowing my home town as well as I do I can say that, despite the initial setback and wimpish behaviour of the BFTUC secretary (still don't know why he failed to attend) and Stephen Forbes local GMB officer - who said he would attend (and didn't) but would 'leave the speaking to Bob' (Pointer) - then, yes, it was.  And the reporter from the local press failed to materialise.  Maybe there are some fully grown adults in this town who still cling to the belief that if they go out in the rain they will dissolve.  I'm tempted to remark that they are wet enough already........

Craig Johnston (RMT) explained the likely consequences for public rail travellers should the recommendations of the MacNulty report be adopted and announced that the following morning a leaflet campaign would be held outside Barrow's railway station from 5.45 until 9.00am.

Finally, financial contributions by the public almost completely covered the full cost of the room hire.

Now it remains to be seen what results, if any, arise from the meeting.  I won't be holding my breath filled with anticipation. 

Saturday, 10 November 2012


Maybe things are beginning to look up at Barrow TUC thanks to the initiative of Mandy (far right) who organised the minibus to take eleven local people to the TUC demonstration in London on 20th October.

Northern TUC provided £500 towards the £750 cost of bus hire and Barrow TUC coughed up the £250 difference to enable Barrow people to attend the demo free of charge - very helpful for any who were unemployed or on low wages.  This was, for Barrow, a good turnout - and exceeded my expectation by seven.  Even more encouraging was the sight of Barrow TUC secretary, Bob Pointer,(third from right) boarding the bus and giving his most sincere assurance that he would be a speaker at a Public Meeting to be held in Barrow on 31st October:  maybe he was finally becoming vertebral, growing intestines and developing a set of testicles - maybe he was now going to be fit to lead Barrow TUC in the struggles ahead!  And, on top of this, Barrow Association of the NUT (National Union of Teachers) had not only paid the Trades Council delegate fee for the past year but also the fee for the next twelve months!!  Clearly, I had to quickly revise my previous decision to wash my hands of the lot of them (but maintain a healthy scepticism, of course).

Two events are to follow: a Public Meeting, entitled 'Bring Down the Con-Dems: Britain Needs Socialism' and held at the Forum, Barrow on 31st October - this to back up the 20th Oct TUC demo 'A Future that Works' -  followed the next morning by an RMT (Rail, Maritime and Transport union) leaflet distribution to passengers at Barrow rail station from 5.45am until 9am.  Well, you know the common saying..."You wait for ages for a bus and then..."

The next meeting of Barrow Trades Union Council will be held on Tuesday 6th Nov so there will be plenty to report upon.

And the struggle continues.

Friday, 2 November 2012


Early 21st Century
Late 19th Century