Monday, November 30, 2009

The ambiguity of "Don't go into a fight you can't win"

Martin Reed made a rather telling point at the WSTA meeting . His father was a miner and always used to say "don't go into a fight you can't win". This is the kind of argument the right wing always use when the union is faced with an attack like the one over pensions and actually we have no choice but to fight.

What Martin Reed's quote probably means is "if you don't go into a fight you can't win". You can certainly lose by not fighting the erosion of the public sector.

The WSTA meeting overwhelmingly supported Kevin Courtney.

Unity against Academy at Weston Favell School

Members at Weston Favell School in Northants are striking against the proposed academy. In this NASUWT and NUT are working together.
Messages of support would be very welcome.

The NUT rep is Paul Cutts

You can also copy to the NAS rep, Amanda Brett

If you want to support them there is a model letter:

I am writing in regard to the teacher’s strike at Weston Favell School. As a parent/member of staff/local resident/member of the public/local councillor I feel that the school is a brilliant and improving asset to young people in the local area.
I disagree with plans for Northamptonshire County Council to allow United Learning Trust to take over the school, and as a result take the funding, curriculum and working conditions into their control. Those changes lead to high staff turnover at the Academies.
I am proud that we have a community school here which focuses on the needs of all its students. Academies are at best an unproven system, which have not yielded the high results that have been suggested.
Indeed ULT has recently been told it can not open any more Academies anywhere else because its standards are not high enough. However it appears the Government thinks they are still good enough for Weston Favell.

I am concerned that Academies are not holistic or cooperative, and that they attempt to ‘cherry-pick’ students and leave disadvantaged children behind – despite selective entry being against the rules. I wholeheartedly support the strike of the NUT and NASUWT unions, and am pleased that UNISON has instructed its members not to cover the work of striking workers. While Roger Webb, the chair of governors, is correct that a strike is disruptive to the students, I believe that it is Northamptonshire County Council who is responsible for the much greater disruption in stretching this consultation and uncertainty over a year. The changes any transfer would bring would also disrupt our children’s education.
The teachers unions have made it clear that if these part-privatisation plans are withdrawn they will not strike. The teachers, after all, are striking to save fully accountable local education provision, and they should be supported by all in the community.

Yours Sincerely/Faithfully

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Spooks is described by the BBC as a “tense drama series about the different challenges faced by the British Security Service as they work against the clock to safeguard the nation.” It began life as a rather transparent attempt to rehabilitate the “spooks” after their role in compiling a pack of lies to justify the Iraq War.

It is a very well-written series of thrillers with a cast of interesting characters with rather more depth than you would expect in the oddly named “intelligence community.” Like its distant predecessor “The Professionals” it portrays them as human beings with a social conscience about the jobs they are asked to perform for the safety of the nation. And there you were thinking they were all old Etonians with a conscience bypass!

In a recent episode (Episode 3 of Series 8) the whole issue of hostage taking and negotiating with terrorists is explored in an exciting narrative in which a group of high-powered capitalists (a thinly disguised fictional version of the Bilderberg group) are kidnapped by terrorists who have no intention of getting a ransom but instead put the capitalists on trial for mass murder in the third world and video the evidence, while uploading incriminating documents on the internet. . The Spooks are powerless as tens of thousands vote “guilty” on the internet and the terrorists carry out the death penalty online.

This feeds the common fantasy that anti-capitalists are all potential terrorists and of course justifies the 'spooks' real life policy of monitoring everyone to the left of Peter Mandelson – about half the population,

The plot also showed that the anti-capitalists were actually naïve tools of a russian gangster-capitalist (definitely not called Abramovich , there are libel laws after all!) who wanted to eliminate his rivals.

The program definitely does not whitewash the dirty tricks the Spooks get up to but seeks to justify them. One scandal of the last decade has been the use of torture by the British secret service “by proxy”. They have been accused of using evidence provided by third parties such as the Americans at Guantanamo. In the show Lucas North (played by Richard Armitage) is shown torturing the Russian Mafioso in his own swimming pool in order to save the lives of the hostages. This is a far cry from the real life “Spooks” torturing Omar Deghayes for five years at various camps with no realistic prospect of getting any information or saving any lives. Nevertheless it is the justification of torture.

Spooks is an excellent program which maintains the tension and excitement all through. It does deal with the real life issues in the secret service. You might want to take its representation of the real life “Spooks” with a pinch of salt though!