Monday, June 30, 2014

Government misleads pensioners

Minister admits simple flat-rate state pension is neither simple nor flat-rate
Pensions minister,
Steve Webb has
revealed that he
had been “guilty of over-
simplifying” the new
single-tier state pension in order to emphasise its appeal.

In an interview with
the Daily Telegraph, Mr Webb explained that this autumn, more than a million people in their late fifties and early sixties will receive a
letter telling them they will receive less than the full £155 a week promised under the flat-rate state pension.An estimated 1.94m

people are expected to retire in the first five years of the new pension scheme; set to be introduced in April 2016, but at least one million will have their pensions reduced.
Anyone who contracted
out of the state second pension/SERPS
and into a company
scheme will be affected. Whilst it has always been the case that those contracting out of
the state scheme would get less from it when
they retired, many believed that after 2016, everyone would get the

new state pension of
£155 a week.
Under the old scheme, everyone received the
basic state pension
providing they had paid national insurance for
the required number of years, but now it seems each individual’s state
pension could be different -
depending on how
generous their occupational scheme might be.

Mr Webb admitted
that had this explana-
tion of how the scheme would work been made clear at the time people might have switched off”

He went onto say
Some people will get
more (than £155 a
week) and others less.”
Ron Douglas, NPC
president said: “It is
clear that the new so-
called simple, flat rate state pension is neither simple, nor flat-rate.”

The only thing we can be sure of is that the government has misled millions of future pensioners by suggesting that everyone would get
a state pension of at
least £155 a week.”
Figures suggest 80%
of future retirees won’t get the full amount

From the Campaign bulletin of the National Pensioners Convention

Cameron trying to count

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Britishness and slavery

Surely the slave trade should be celebrated as an example of the fair
play and tolerance at the heart of Gove's Britishness. I am sure Iain
Duncan Smith would agree: just call it workfare.

(The statue of Edward Colston celebrates slavery in Bristol)

Sent from my iPhone

Monday, June 16, 2014

Mass-murdering war criminal Tony Blair

The headline in the "i" today is "Labour backs away from Blair as Iraq war wounds reopen."  Better late than never perhaps. Better never late! They have fallen far short of the demand that Blair should be arraigned for war crimes. It is a bit late for Labour - which under Blair adopted a policy of war as a first resort rather than a last resort - to try to disown the bastard child now.

The Labour Party in the 1960s was presented as a party of peace, social justice and public ownership. Say what you like about Wilson - and we did - he refused to send British troops into Vietnam. Under Blair all that changed. Labour became the war party, the party of inequality and of privatisation. And blaming Blair is not enough. THEY LET HIM DO IT. ALL OF THEM.

There is a reason why they are commonly referred to as "Labour Traitors". Even now when Labour makes vague noises about opposing Free Schools (a bit) and supporting the NHS (sort of), they have Ed Balls reassuring the rich that the Tory cuts will continue. It will be business as usual.

Yet another imperial adventure in Iraq or Syria would do as much good as their previous attempts. And as much harm.

We need a clean break.  People may vote Labour out of desperation in the next election. They cannot do so with any expectation that things will alter.

We need a party of the working class.

Stories from the Mirror of Eternity update.
(Note - the words "Stories", "Mirror" and "Eternity" are lexical words in the title. The words "from", "the" and "of" are always structural words. That explains the capitalisation of the title. "The best short stories in eternity" could be regarded as hyperbole.) 

The Stories from The Mirror of Eternity and from The SS Dagger have been brought together in one volume. This is better value for money for the best short stories in eternity :)

The other two books have therefore been "unpublished" to use the strange jargon of Amazon. I do not want someone buying both The SS Dagger and Stories from the Mirror of Eternity and then complaining,"Hang on I've already read some of these!"

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Review of "A theology of liberation" by Gustavo Gutierrez

Review of "A theology of liberation" by Gustavo Gutierrez
ISBN 088344478X

Gutierrez believed that one act of love was worth a dozen books of
theology. What this book does is to locate the teachings of the gospel
in the context of the modern world and the struggle of the oppressed for
liberation. It expounds an evangelisation of the deed.

People have been horrified to see the Church ostensibly siding with the
rich against the poor. Calling the police to evict anti-capitalist
protesters from St Paul's in London is an act which will live in infamy
because of the message that it sent to the bankers "we are on your side"
and to the poor "we are not on yours."

At the same time, thousands have taken the message of the gospel as
Gutierrez intended. Some, like Oscar Romero, have paid with their lives
for siding with the poor and for refusing to be silenced. These are not
people who necessarily endorse every dot and comma of "A theology of
liberation" but they have had the courage to make the acts of love which
are so much more important.

The reason they have had to take on this role lies in the failure of the
political system. Politicians are too busy lining their own pockets in
most cases to take a leading role in the liberation of the oppressed.
Gutierrez had the courage to point out that trying to reform capitalism
would only lead to disappointment further down the line. In fact the
reformist parties have dropped the whole idea of reforming capitalism in
favour of a program of war, privatisation and acting as the best
servants of the corporations.

This is not a book to just read and put back on the shelf. It is a call
to action.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Britishness, Britishness.

In the wake of the fiasco in Birmingham which led to a very public "I am more anti-terrorist than you" spat between May and Gove, Gove has hit back with a proposal that all teachers will be assessed on their Britishness. Here is an example of the BNP demonstrating their Britishness for Mr Gove to ponder.

Mr "I'm not a racist" Gove has defined British values as "tolerance and fair play." Oddly there was a little massacre at Amritsar which perfectly exemplifies these values as Mr Gove will be aware. In this event, Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer demonstrated his tolerance and fair play by ordering the army to fire  on an unarmed crowd. This went on for for ten tolerant minutes. They directed their bullets largely towards the few open gates through which people were trying to run out - that is an example of fair play, you see. The dead numbered between 370 and 1,000, or possibly more. 

The people of Iraq have received a fair dose of the tolerance and fair play and they have probably had enough of it by now.

The Tolpuddle Martyrs were British. The magistrates who condemned them were also British. The victims of the Peterloo massacre were British. So were the magistrates who ordered the troops to open fire on unarmed civilians. As abstract concepts go, "Britishness" could be a little difficult to teach.

And one final thing, OFSTED have complained about a culture of bullying in Birmingham. So if you thought it was British to understand irony - apparently not so. Teach tolerance and fair play or we will have you sacked!
Try before you buy

Monday, June 09, 2014

Why I voted for Martin

 "It is better to vote for what you want, and maybe not get it, than to vote for what you don't want....and get it!" (Eugene Debs)

What follows is from Martin's blog.

NUT General Secretary Election – My Pledges to You

If elected NUT General Secretary, I pledge to:
  • Encourage professional unity and united trade union action
  • Strengthen workplace organisation across all sectors
  • Build vibrant Local Associations
  • Publicise campaign successes
  • Sharpen our media messages
  • Work to reclaim education from damaging ‘reforms’
  • Give members confidence to take the action needed
  • Remain on a classroom teacher’s salary

The election to decide on the next General Secretary of the NUT opens today. NUT members have until June 25 to choose between the two candidates – Christine Blower and myself – and to return their voting papers.

In my election statement, sent out with the voting papers, I have set out both the challenges facing teachers and my action strategy to defend education. I have also listed eight commitments that I pledge to keep if elected NUT General Secretary for 2014-2019:

1. Encourage professional unity and united trade union action

It’s obvious that when trade unionists take action together, they will have a bigger impact. That’s why, if elected NUT GS, I pledge to work to build united action across teaching unions – and across the public sector as a whole. The proposed joint strike action on July 10 can help build that unity.

The joint public sector action in November 2011 helped force the Government to make at least some limited concessions over pensions. However, they still managed to impose their unacceptable ‘pay more, get less, retire older’ scheme. Since then, unions have failed to organise the serious calendar of ongoing action action needed to win serious concessions over pay, pensions and workload.

Regrettably, as I warned, the NASUWT leadership have not proved reliable partners. The lesson we need to learn is that real unity has to be built from below, in joint meetings at school level, so that teachers work together locally – and demand united action nationally from all of their unions.

2. Strengthen workplace organisation across all sectors

Well-organised trade unions have the potential strength to stand up to the attacks on education. That’s one reason why politicians want to break-up our national conditions and undermine trade union organisation through academisation and attacks on facility time.

The growth of individual academy chains and the increasing powers given to individual schools to make decisions, especially over pay, mean that building strength and unity at school level is going to be vital if we are to successfully defend teachers – in all sectors, academies and maintained.

The pressures on individual teachers are enormous but, out of those pressures, new reps are coming forward determined to try and organise the union in their workplace. If elected GS, I will prioritise making sure that those reps are trained and supported so that we build a strong and successful National Union.

3. Build vibrant Local Associations 

Government attempts to break-up Local Authority schooling means that we are having to change some of the ways we organise across academy chains – but there is still no substitute to having a lively, well-organised, Local NUT Association bringing together teachers in a local area from across different schools.

The pressure of excessive teacher workload is a significant factor in preventing teachers attending local meetings. Some Associations are finding it hard to attract new officers and build their meeting attendance. However, others are succeeding, such as my own Lewisham Association which, while always aiming to improve, holds regular quorate meetings with new faces and new reps recruited.

If elected GS, I pledge to make sure the Union is sharing successful approaches across different Associations and helping to support those who need assistance. I will make it a priority to speak to reps meetings and at Associations and Divisions across England and Wales and to encourage local organisation. Tackling excessive workload would also be one of my key priorities.

4. Publicise campaign successes 

Nothing succeeds like success. Across the Union, battles are being fought by school groups and Local Associations on a whole range of issues. When members do stand firm, victories can often be won. That’s certainly been the case over pay policies, including in my Lewisham Association where the threat of a co-ordinated strike across seven different schools helped win an improved policy.

As a Union, we need to make more of those successful battles, making sure that we publicise our achievements so that others can be encouraged to take the same route. We can also learn from the struggles being fought by teacher unions internationally as well.

If elected GS, I pledge to make sure that those struggles and successes are much better publicised in our materials and, particularly, in the pages of ‘The Teacher’ magazine. I believe that The Teacher needs a major overhaul so that it better reflects the harsh reality of teachers’ lives than it does at present and is better used as a campaigning tool that can reach every member of the Union.

5. Sharpen our media messages 

Trade unions can’t rely on the corporate press and media to support us – but we can make better use of the opportunities that we have to get our message across. I have long experience of speaking up for teachers on radio and television – as my YouTube channel shows. I have also spoken up about the attacks on public services in Britain on international television, in Belgium and Norway.

If elected GS, I pledge to take every opportunity to explain our case to parents and the public and to explain why we seek their support for our action to defend education. Just as people have been rallying to defend their local NHS services, we have to explain how education is at risk from cuts and privatisation and how the pressures on teachers are driving colleagues out of the job, damaging education.

Our messages need to be sharper and clearer, to both parents and to our own members. The information sent out after the last National Executive was one example of how NOT to do things. It was misinterpreted by some colleagues and newspapers as the NUT ‘calling off’ action. Instead, we should have been – and need to be – clear that we are building for even stronger action on July 10.

6. Work to reclaim education from damaging ‘reforms’

If elected GS, I pledge to make sure that teachers and parents alike appreciate that our struggles to defend teachers’ pay, pensions and conditions are part of a far bigger struggle to defend education.

Successive governments have abandoned the post-war consensus in favour of widening educational opportunities for all and for increasing funding on public services. Instead, the neo-liberal “Global Education Reform Movement” has spread internationally, especially in Britain, seeking to impose ‘competition’ between schools, judged by tests and league tables, damaging education and opening up education and other services to profiteering businesses who put their own interests first.

The NUT must play a leading role in opposing these supposed ‘reforms’ and winning support across the trade union movement for action to defend public services. In doing so, we must recognise that, despite the views of individual NUT members and others in those parties, the national leaderships of all the main political parties share essentially the same educational agenda. That’s why I also support efforts, such as TUSC, to encourage trade unions to rebuild a real political voice for trade unionists.

7. Give members confidence to take the action needed 

Nobody takes strike action lightly. Firstly, teachers want to avoid having too great an impact on children’s education if possible. Secondly, teachers don’t want to lose money through strike action without good reason. However, most NUT members have supported their Union when it has come to strike action because they know that we cannot allow the increasingly unbearable conditions in schools to continue.

What teachers need is confidence. Firstly, confidence that they can take action in their school and bring other colleagues on strike with them. Secondly, confidence that the Union has a serious plan to win our dispute, rather than just taking occasional ‘protest’ action just to show our discontent.

If elected GS, I would argue for the NUT to announce a clear plan of ongoing action aimed at achieving clear campaign objectives. I would use my position to convince colleagues and mobilise the membership to build that action, visiting schools and Local Associations, using sharp and clear communications – to give confidence to teachers that we have a strategy that can win. I would also make sure that we take a much more serious approach to preparing financially for ongoing action, especially appealing for hardship funds.

8. Remain on a classroom teacher’s salary 

A Union leadership needs to show its members that it is in touch with the problems they face. If elected NUT GS, I would want to be seen as a teacher who is speaking up for classroom teachers.

Following the example of the new leadership elected to the Chicago Teachers’ Union, I believe that the salaries of Union officials should be linked to the salaries of the members they represent. There is increasing distrust of politicians, and some senior managers, who seem happy to award themselves large salaries and expenses while others are finding it hard to pay their bills. That’s also one way that officials can get out of touch with their membership. Any such suspicion can undermine union strength, particularly when politicians are trying to find ways to divide opposition.

I pledge that, if elected NUT GS, I would continue to take only my existing classroom teacher's salary, with any additional essential expense claims fully open to members’ scrutiny. I would donate the considerable additional salary that the General Secretary is entitled to under current NUT rules towards trade union and solidarity campaigns and to assist the work of the Union.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Obama has a billion to waste

Obama has announced that he will be spending a billion dollars of taxpayers' money on increasing military commitment in Eastern Europe. People living on what passes for welfare in the US will be amazed to see that there is a spare billion dollars to squander on military sabre-rattling in Eastern Europe.
The ostensible cause of this is the vote of the Crimea to join Russia and the continued civil war in the Ukraine. Regardless of the validity of US indignation it seems an absurdity for the US to protest Russian interference in another country after Iraq and Afghanistan. That set an example of imperialism which the Russians might just be imitating. As far as I know the people of Iraq and Afghanistan did not vote to invite the American bombers in.

According to Stanford University “The current poverty rates for the full population of America and for children rank among the very worst over the 13 years since 2000 (i.e., both are ranked 11th).”The full report is available online at
A sane person would be committing the maximum resources to deal with this “real and present danger to the people of the United States” to use the jargon.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Feed the birds and go to jail

"Go the jail. Move directly to jail." That is the verdict of Lancaster
magistrates on a man whose terrible crime was feeding the birds in his

This dangerous bird-feeding criminal is 65-year-old John Wilkinson who
spent most of his pension on buying food for the birds because it was
his mother's dying wish that he should look after them. The birds
admittedly caused a nuisance to his neighbours. However his behaviour
suggests he needs help and support not a term in prison.

"Tough on crime. Tough on the causes of crime" would seem to be the
Lancaster magistrates watchword.

Their address is

George Street

Or drop them a line on their email address