BLAIRITES TARGET WOLVERHAMPTON
We are very pleased to announce that more than one Labour councillor is opposed to the continuation of the war against Iraq. How many we do not yet know and we will find out. We are also pleased to announce that our relations with both Roger Lawrence, the Labour leader of Wâ€™ton Council and also the present Mayor, Phil Bateman are much improved. We apologise for any misunderstandings. This is more than the Blairites or closers of Bilston Community College are ever likely to do. I never apologise, as Blunkett once famously said.
POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE
Councillor Peter Oâ€™Neill raised the question of banning the so-called Land of Hope and Glory because it had racist connotations. He was later informed that this was political correctness gone mad and withdrew his objections.
The fact is that words were put to the music of one of our greatest composers, Sir Edward Elgar against his bitter protests. â€˜Wider still and wider shall they bounds be setâ€™ is clearly jingoistic and as Sir Winston Churchill observed, patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. Elgar was always a peace loving person, indeed he was a conscientious objector during World War 2. At present the far right BNP and local racists such as John Mellor wrap themselves round the union jack making it difficult for real patriots to find a suitable national anthem.
FREEDOM OF THE PRESS
We have had a least a couple of forays recently into the vexed question of freedom for journalists and newscasters to control the material they work with. The present position for newscasters is that the news we watch is Blair-speak. The real terrorists are Bush and Blair and what is needed is an agreed standard of objectivity world wide.
We taunted Jeremy Paxman with being an April fool for devoting a whole programme of Newsnight to an entirely imaginary terrorist attack on Britain complete with lurid details of non-existent ricin poisoning which enabled Blunkett to come out of his hidey hole and recommend further limits to our civil rights when were it not for the real terrorists, Blair and Blunkett, we would be much less troubled with terrorists.
Our second document addressed four newscasters Andrew Marr, Jon Snow, Jeremy Paxman and Jonathon Dimbleby who we know to be principled opponents of the war in Iraq to consider a united front of both left and right to oppose the war. Those on the right include the Daily Mail, our important local paper the Express and Star, Max Hastings the distinguished right leaning military historian, Will Hutton, the critic of the US financial system and many other organisations and individuals. In fact, if the Tory Party is ever to present effective opposition to Blair it will have to repudiate its present policy of support for the war in Iraq. I have watched newscaster such as Martha Kearney virtually squirm at the material they are given to read, but their only alternative is to resign, which is no solution at all.
We suggested that an existing form of objective reporting might be the Arabic news agency Al Jazeera which had newly opened an office in London.
Here are some latest developments. Aljazzera.net English is now on the internet. Its proclaimed aim is to bring peoples and continents together with news which is objective and accurate. The ultimate aim is to establish a proactive relationship with its audience who will communicate with it, criticising and adding to its content.
The most important development has been that Telesur, the creation of Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, is contemplating a link up with Aljazeera as an alternative to the existing links with the US media, such as CNN. This would give an alternative news service to every country and every person who speaks English. The question for us is what view English journalists and trade unionists will take of these developments towards a genuinely free and objective press.
However, the main problem is to have a newspaper which can be read at breakfast, taken to work and used all day. After much public dissatisfaction with newspapers and journalists, circulation is again rising. A solution of sorts is offered by Richard Hill whose aim is to create a new national daily newspaper with left/green ethics run by no single party or movement but that gives a legitimate and ultimately respectable voice to all across this spectrum. Who is Richard Hill? Well, he is like thousands of
us, an active but disillusioned left wing campaigner anxious to move things forward. Currently the left has only one daily newspaper, the Morning Star, and weekly papers such as (Iâ€™m extending Richardâ€™s list) Socialist Worker/Review, New Statesman, Tribune, and the black newspaper, The Voice. There are also the magazines, mostly monthly such as Red Pepper, Searchlight etc., and quarterlys such as New Left Review, Race and Class and Soundings to quote only favourites of mine. Then on the World Wide Web there is Indymedia giving a world wide left persective. Taking all these and the more progressive newspapers, such as the Guardian, Observer, Independent there is sufficient financial resources and technical know how to establish and maintain an alternative mass newspaper. Richard Hill offers a website, firstname.lastname@example.org and a promise to continue to contact all who are willing to give his project their support. The difficulties are enormous, but the potential results are incalculable. National newspapers have been founded in the fairly recent past, the Daily Herald by George Lansbury and trade unions, Reynolds News by the Co-operative Movement. It can be done, and now is the time to do it.
MEETING STAN NEWENS
Stan Newens the ex Essex MP for Epping and former MEP for Central London has, ever since World War 2 been considered by me to be an honorary Black Country man. This arises from his having been a Bevin boy working in pits around Stoke and co-operating with the Wolverhampton twins Ray and Alan Garner in building up Labour Party youth organisation. Stan has also been a committee member and chairman of the Movement for Colonial Freedom which later became Liberty and last year wrote a history of the movement. Although Stan has been in contact with me as a historian of the labour movement in the Black Country and Birmingham from the 1960s we had not previously met face to face, so it was with great mutual pleasure that Stan last week drove from Bridgnorth where he was visiting friends to Wolverhampton to discuss old times. Both Ray and Alan Garner became Wolverhampton councillors after the war. Ray suffered long term kidney failure and died in 1997, his younger brother Alan died a year earlier from cancer.
A final connection of Stan Newens and myself is that he has recently become Vice-Chairman of the Socialist History Society and he has become a main contact in a controversy regarding Claudia Jones the black Communist activist. In 1955 Claudia became a victim of the McCarthy terror and was exiled to Britain, a country she had never known. Despite being in bad health and friendless Claudia became the founder of the Notting Hill Carnival which was and remains the great statement of African-Caribbean culture in Britain.
At a later stage, Claudia accused the British Communist Party of not having the same understanding of black politics as the USA Communist Party and specifically that all papers of Claudia were not deposited in the British CP archives in Manchester. The story of the life of Claudia in Britain has been written by Marika Sherwood, a founder member of the Black and Asian Studies Association and a prolific writer on race relations. She details the charges of papers not deposited. This has been denied by Francis King and other historians involved in sending material to the CP archives. But I tend to agree with Marika that the CP has not given proper priority to the question of the â€˜color-lineâ€™ which our famous Communist colleague WEB du Bois said was the most important issue of the twentieth century and is even more important in the twenty first century.
BILSTON COMMUNITY COLLEGE
This is the first Multicultural College in Britain that was closed, but refuses to go away. The present position is that anyone who studies the matter knows that BCC should not have been closed nor should the Wolverhampton City College have been opened and the Express & Star which paradoxically was in large part to blame for its closure is now busy opposing those who closed it.
This is not the place to rehearse the whole sorry story, this has been made clear in both our web sites Friends of Bilston Community College (BCC) and also www.gbpeopleslibrary.co.uk. Present intention is to marvel at the effrontery and impropriety, if not actual illegality of those who closed the college. For instance the Further Education Funding Council (FEFC) had to close the college in great haste before ethnic minority people realised what was happening and objected! Local collaborators with the closure of BCC, particularly the Wolverhampton University Vice-Chancellor John Brookes achieved a near miraculous feat in putting together an alternative board of BCC governors after FEFC had dismissed the original board, whose sole duty was to vote themselves out of existence to make way for the new improperly set up Wolverhampton College!
Further developments were that the Friends charged the Learning and Skills Council with racism in supporting the closure of BCC in September 2004 to which the LSC had not replied by December and it was clear that they did not intend to reply. The LSC had joined the ranks of those whose constitutions lauded openness and attention to complaints but practise which entirely ignore criticism unwelcome to it. In August 2005 it is once again time to make the charge of racism against the LSC. In addition the West Midlands Police were asked questions regarding the enquiry it had conducted on BCC which eventually concluded that no illegalities had occurred. Such questions were asked as the number of officers involved, the cost of the enquiry, whether any government department had contacted the police with regard to the enquiry etc. No satisfactory reply was received and with the passing of the Freedom of Information 2005 Act we are now seeking this missing information. There is now also the fact that no one at BCC was charged with any offence and the LSC took the foolish step of charging the auditors with wrongly authorising work at the college. The LSC and the auditors then settled out of court coming to a mutual agreement which they had no intention of sharing with the public until an outcry from the Express and Star and the FE Focus of the Times Educational Supplement and a number of MPs demanded the terms of the agreement be disclosed. This has still not been done. But the auditors, the great monopoly firm of Deloitte and Touche, requested from both the ex- principal of BCC and its principal finance officer information to help them rebut the charges of the LSC. These were mainly charges that so-called authorisation of illegal work were charges made retrospectively and were legal at the time. The fact that the LSC has remained silent is no surprise, but we have been slow to realise that Deloitte has acted in at least an unethical way in seeking information from BCC officers and then leaving them in the lurch by coming to terms with the LSC. So this omission we are on the verge of correcting.
It is clear from the above that Bilston Community College should not have been closed. No charges against the College have ever been laid. But there remains the question of human rights for those who have been unjustly accused and whose careers have been terminated or blighted. These matters remain to be settled.
Cherieâ€™s defence of the traditional judicial system, independent judges and juries is to be much welcomed. It was written under her maiden name of Cherie Booth. This was surely meant to put forward views different from those of her husband. Tony Blair denies this but he cannot deny that Cherie also disassociates herself from other fundamental aspects of Blairism and that on a recent visit to the US she criticised Bushâ€™s policy on terrorism and also on gay rights. All this leads me to brings up the question of the role of Blairâ€™s women and the experience of them regarding Bilston Community College. All of them, of course are Blairites otherwise they would not have been appointed. The first was Lady Blackstone. She was Education Secretary at the time when Margaret Thatcherâ€™s education policy came to grief. Thatcher policy was to turn further education colleges from education institutations into business corporations by allowing colleges to compete with each other charging firms for their services with the aim of eventually removing FE from public sector finances altogether and turning them into public corporations. The policy collapsed when the Further Education Funding Council had to issue virtually hundreds of regulations to so-called â€˜failedâ€™ colleges such as Bilston and Halton which had expanded enormously under this system.
Lady Blackstone received very short shrift from Parliament for allowing so many millions to be allegedly owed to the government and from that time on she showed no mercy to BCC. The other two Blairite women were Margaret Hodge and Estelle Morris both of whom took shelter in refusing to answer Friends enquiries after BCC had been cleared by the Fraud Squad of charges of illegal practices.
PROGRESS OF THE GB BLOG
So, another BLOG comes to an end with much business still to be dealt with. The original intention is being fulfilled. That is for me to record all matters of interest to me and these matters should then be taken up, or not taken up by other people. At present I seem able to produce about two paper editions per month of fairly comprehensive analysis. But I know I am living on borrowed time, as exemplified by the sad death of our good comrade Robin Cook. Perhaps I shall be able to open up the BLOG for other people to participate in. We shall see.