Monday, 20 February 2017

Jenny Jones: May wrong to use Brexit to by-pass proper Parliamentary scrutiny

Green Party peer Jenny Jones has come out fighting today against claims that she is out to 'wereck' the Brexit Bill.

She said:
As someone who has advocated leaving the EU for over two decades, I resent people saying I am out to ‘wreck’ the Brexit bill by seeking to amend it Many of us have huge concerns that we will lose environmental and social protections because of the way the Prime Minister is approaching these negotiations.

I am concerned that the Cabinet will attempt to dump protections for everything from wildlife and countryside to workers rights and climate change, by using a combination of exit negotiations and secondary legislation. It is wrong to use the referendum result as cover for by-passing proper Parliamentary scrutiny and the Lords has the job of ensuring that a democratic process is followed throughout the different stages of the negotiations.
 As for abolishing the Lords and replacing it with a democratically elected second chamber, that would be a welcome bonus.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Valentines for the NHS and Charing Cross Hopsital

There were smiling faces on Valentine’s Day, as Save Our Hospitals campaigners presented a huge hand-made card with heart-shaped messages from enthusiastic members of the public to NHS staff at Charing Cross. Messages expressed ‘LOVE’ for Charing Cross Hospital and for the NHS.

Campaigners used the event to publicise the coming mass national demonstration for the NHS to be held in London on March 4th (see ).

Where was “The Beggars Roost”? – a Wembley mystery

Many thanks to Philip Grant for this fascinating guest blog. My late older brother, David, had a lifelong passion for motorbikes that probably started with the 'Wembley Lions.
You were probably living in Wembley during the Second World War, more than seventy years ago, or have talked to someone who was, if you can answer this question. But even if neither applies to you, you may still be interested to know why I am asking.

I deal with email local history enquiries on behalf of Wembley History Society, and they sometimes set some fascinating puzzles. One arrived recently from a lady in the United States. She was looking around a Goodwill store (charity shop), and saw a very attractive coat of arms, hand-painted on a wooden plaque. She bought it, took it home, and then began to wonder what it was, and the story behind it.

The name “Wembley” was almost certainly a place, and she found out that the letters “ARP” stood for Air Raid Precautions, in Britain during the Second World War. By searching online, she discovered that there was someone she could contact who might know more about the history of Wembley at that time, so she sent me a photo of her plaque.

A.R.P. Post 12 Plaque, from Cheryl Hutton
 I have no doubt that this home-made coat of arms came from “our” Wembley, as the lion in the top right quarter is copied from the badge of the “Wembley Lions” motorcycle speedway team. They were based at Wembley Stadium, and were hugely popular during the 1930’s, when they were national champions several times. 
The blue and yellow quarter below it shows an air raid warden’s helmet, gas mask and rattle, so there can be little doubt that the plaque was first made for, and probably displayed at, ARP Post 12, in Sector 8 / 9 of the Borough of Wembley. But where was this, and why did the wardens call their base ‘the Beggars Roost”? Is the chicken (or “rooster”) a clue, and who is the beggar above it on the plaque? I don’t know, and would certainly welcome any information that readers, or anyone they can forward this article to who might be able to help, could provide.

Eighty years ago the Borough of Wembley was a separate local government area, with a population of just over 100,000 people. Even before the war, the local Council was making A.R.P plans, and starting to build public air raid shelters, in response to the threat from Germany. After war broke out, a full-scale air raid wardens service was mobilised, which at its height had 2,500 wardens, 95% of them unpaid volunteers. 

I know, from an elderly neighbour (the son of a warden), that the A.R.P. post for our 1930's-built estate was in the requisitioned garage of a local bungalow. His father was one of the first on the scene when a German "parachute mine" hit a row of shops in Kingsbury Road one night in September 1940, killing two mothers, a baby boy and a seven year old girl, in the flats above. This is an official "war damage" photo of the scene, taken the following day, which shows the sort of event that the wardens had to deal with (thankfully, not too often!).

Bombed shops and flats in Kingsbury Road, 1940

As well as the A.R.P. wardens, first aid and rescue teams were also organised. After the bombing raids started in earnest, in August 1940, nearly all civilians had to undertake "fire watching" duties (around 7,500 of the c. 9,000 bombs which fell in the Wembley area between 1940 and 1945 were incendiaries), so around 25,000 Wembley people in total were engaged in some form of Civil Defence work during the war. The Borough lost 149 civilians killed in air raids, including several A.R.P. wardens, with over 400 more seriously injured.

The “Beggars Roost” plaque, which somehow found its way to the U.S.A. after the war, is a reminder that the bombing of civilians, horrible as it is, is not just something that happens in far-away places like Syria or Yemen. It happened in Wembley as well, and the volunteer men and women of A.R.P. Post 12, and others like it, did their best to protect their neighbours from such atrocities. I hope that, perhaps with your help, I can find out more about them.

Philip Grant.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Defend Sen Campaign - Public Meeting Friday 24th February

We would like to invite you all to public meeting organised by DEFENSENCAMPAIGN and against trade union victimisation of Sen, a life long committed maths teacher and a trade union activist. This is not the first time this has happened. The public meeting follows the second strike action taken by his branch in protest at his continued suspension. The platform also includes Grunwick40 and hopes to connect the past with the present. Sen led a number of campaigns and strikes in the College situated near what used to be the site of Grunwick.

Sen was suspended for representing two ex- colleague support staff members sacked by the College at an employment tribunal, who could not afford to hire costly barristers. The allegation is that he took unauthorised leave. His union believes that this was a pretext to get rid of him. One of the sacked member is of Afro Caribbean origin and the other member he was representing suffers from five set of disabilities. The College had never refused him unpaid leave before but did so this time.

Sen led a very suscessful campaign resulting in stopping a merger taking place between City of Westminster College and his College in 2013, the only College to have fought of a merger trough joint union action. Following his suspension on the 10 October 2016, the two College again took a decision to merge.  He remains suspended and decision with regards to his continued employment will come out on the 24 February or soon thereafter. Your intervention through appearance at the Public meeting or public support may have a significant impact on the decision.

Even whilst suspended, he has satisfactorily concluded a number of cases involving his members to their satisfaction.


Friday, 17 February 2017

Disabled people asked to contact Brent Advocacy Concerns over cuts in care packages

Brent Advocacy Concerns, one of several Brent voluntary organisations facing an uncertain future following the decision of NHS Estates to charge market rents to voluntary organisations at their Willesden Centre PFI property, are asking disabled people to get in touch over the impact of a review of care packages:

On January 16th, Brent Council made a decision that will mean that some disabled individuals living in the borough will be facing cuts to their social care packages.
The council has decided to reassess those people who were receiving the Independent Living Fund (ILF) from the Government before the scheme was closed. This is with the aim of reducing either care costs or the hours of support received for some of the disabled people in Brent who receive this support.   Brent Council have said:
“The Council is confident that the wellbeing of all 21 service users affected can and will be maintained, and that they will continue to be able to access the community as well as receive all of the personal care and support they require.”
Brent Advocacy Concerns is keen to know whether Brent Council have or is going to review people’s care package and what the actual or expected outcome will be and the impact it will have upon their wellbeing and engagement in the community as a result of any cuts to their care packages.    We would like to hear from disabled people with the goal of highlighting the impact that the social care cuts is having upon residents living in Brent.
Brent Advocacy Concerns is a member of Inclusion London and has supported their campaign work which led to the Government having to do a U-turn on ILF funding.   The Government has allocated four years of ILF funding (2016-2020) for Brent ILF recipients – we need to make sure the continued funding for ILF is used to maintain disabled individuals social care packages. 
We would like to hear from you.  Please contact us on 020 8459 1493 (voicemail messages will be responded to)
Email   or   
With regards
John Healy, Chair
Brent Advocacy Concerns. 
Brent Advocacy Concerns, Willesden Centre for Health and Care, Robson Avenue, London

Thursday, 16 February 2017

London AMs asked to rethink positions on anti-semitism motion

Brent Central Labour Party is holding a discussion on The Labour Party and Anti-Semitism tonight (7.30pm Christchurh Nursery, St Albans Road, Harlesden, NW10 8UG).

Richard Kuper (Free Speech on Israel) and Jeremy Newmark (Chair, Jewish Labour Movement)  will lead the discussion.

By coincidence the issue of criticism of Israeli government action being conflated with anti-semitism has produced intensive discussion  in both the Labour Party and the Greens.

It has arisen after the London Asembly unanimously approved a resolution on the issue:
This Assembly expresses alarm at the rise in anti-Semitism in recent years across the UK including London. This includes incidents when criticism of Israel has been expressed using anti-Semitic tropes.

We therefore welcome the UK Government’s announcement on December 11th 2016 that it will sign up to the internationally recognised International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) guidelines on anti-Semitism which define anti-Semitism thus:

“Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
Manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic. Anti-Semitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for “why things go wrong.” It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.

The guidelines highlight manifestations of anti-Semitism as including:
  • Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
  • Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
  • Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.
  • Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).
  • Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
  • Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour.
  • Applying double standards by requiring of it behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
  • Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
  • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

This Assembly hereby adopts the above definition of anti-Semitism as set out by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and pledges to combat this pernicious form of racism.

Free Speech on Israel, a Jewish ed organisation, committeed to open and transparent debate on Palestine-Israel issue the folowing ststaement:

Free Speech on Israel, a Jewish-led organisation, condemns the decision of the London Assembly on Feb 8 to adopt a position on antisemitism that is a charter for censors. It threatens to make effective campaigning for justice for Palestinians impossible.

Antisemitism is an age-old visceral hatred of Jews simply because they are Jews. It must be vigorously fought against, along with all forms of bigotry. To confuse it with opposition to a state which calls itself Jewish, or to the founding ideology of that state, Zionism, is to obscure the real meaning of the term antisemitism and make combatting it more difficult. This is exactly what the motion passed by the Assembly does.

Setting the limits of debate about “the Jewish state” is a key goal of pro-Israel lobbyists only recently unmasked as working hand in glove with the Israeli Embassy to brand any criticism as antisemitic. Labour Friends of Israel, to which the motion’s proposer Andrew Dismore belongs, were shown to be key players in this witch hunt, which has resulted in a wave of suspensions and interrogations of pro-Palestinian Labour Party members. The victims include Jews who, contrary to the claims of the pro-Israel lobby, do not have Zionism woven into their DNA. Jewish organisations have been among those calling for a full inquiry into the extent of Israeli interference in UK politics.

We defer to Avi Shlaim, professor emeritus of history at Oxford and an Israeli Jew, who writes: “Israeli propagandists deliberately, yes deliberately, conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism in order to discredit, bully, and muzzle critics of Israel.”

It is not necessary to agree with Palestinians and their supporters when they question the founding principles of the State of Israel, compare it to Apartheid South Africa or call it to account for its well-documented racism, in order to recognise their right to say such things. The London Assembly has taken a position which endangers that right.

At a time when minority ethnic communities, particularly Muslims, are under constant attack in our society, the London Assembly, on the pretext of defending Jews against racism, has placed itself in the invidious position of defending Israeli propagandists against Palestinians and their supporters. This can only have the unintended consequence of stoking new hostility to Jews who will be seen as attempting to determine what non-Jews may or may not say about a foreign state.

We urge members of the Assembly to reconsider this politically ill-advised move.

Celebrate the contribution of migrants to the UK - Feb 20th 'One day without us'

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Meeting tonight to plan campaign on Harrow voluntary sector cuts

From Harrow Association of Disabled People

Harrow Association  of Disabled People (HAD) are holding a public meeting this tonight  7pm after our Board meeting in the Red Brick Cafe, 38-40 High Street, Wealdstone. It is aimed at discussing the implications of Harrow Council’s changes to the way that it’s funding some of the work of local charities.

We also want to discuss campaigning together and more generally as a voluntary sector within Harrow.

HAD will lose nearly £100K in the move from grant and SLA funding (“Service Level Agreement” a form of direct funding from a particular Council department). Many other charities will also lose. Attached is a list, taken from recent cabinet papers, of what other charities received this financial year in the way of SLA and/or grant funding and assumedly, what they will lose next year. Apologies for any errors in the list, I tried to combine the total effects from several tables.

HAD are particularly concerned about the loss of direct funding for Gladys Janes and Fatima Walji our Welfare Benefit Advice workers. The SLA from Harrow Council that enables us to run the service has been cut over the years to the current level of £27K. Harrow’s direct funding for this service is to finish at the end of April 2017.  Gladys and Fatima see nearly 1,000 new clients each year and help them to gain over £1 million in disability welfare benefits that disabled people need to ensure that they can live independently and with dignity. The team help with the complex and long application forms, help with the appeals, and if necessary represent them at tribunals (where there are currently winning over 85% of cases). Many of their clients are referred from other local charities and If we lose their services it will be a great loss to the whole voluntary sector in Harrow.

The Council are proposing to move any money that they have for delivery of services through the local Voluntary Service into their "Commissioning" group. This will mean holding competitive bids through their “Commissioning Systems” that local Charities, and others, will have to bid for. Last week, HAD made representations to Harrow Council, who are themselves facing swingeing cuts from Central Government, to discuss this, and to present what HAD believes are better choices for achieving this. We have a meeting with Michael Lockwood scheduled for next week and this open meeting will help us to prepare for it.

Please come along, Nigel Long (HAD’s Chief executive) and I will outline the Council’s proposed changes, outline our alternatives and I’ll chair a discussion.  Nigel has around 30 years experience as a local Councillor in Milton Keynes, many of those years as a Cabinet Member. I have some years experience working on, and within, public procurement systems.

Bill Phillips