Tag Archives: Bristol

Starmer’s authority crumbles further as shadow minister’s CLP demands Corbyn’s reinstatement

“We are many, they are few”: they being, it seems, the pro-Starmer faction of the wider Labour Party membership. And the longer Jeremy Corbyn remains suspended as a party member, the fewer they will become.

Days after Keir Starmer’s Labour leadership repeated a demand for rank-and-file Labour members not to discuss Jeremy Corbyn’s suspension or demand its reversal, CLPs are using his own hypocrisy to attack him.

This Site pointed out the double-standard in an article two days ago.

The day after it appeared, Bristol West CLP supported a motion that highlighted the hypocritical demand. It said, in part:

A number of public figures, including but not limited to the leader of the party, the deputy leader of the party, and the Socialist Campaign Group have issued public statements on the suspension, and that the SCG has called for re-instatement, yet the general secretary has nevertheless ordered that CLPs cannot do the same.

The CLP, political home of shadow housing secretary Thangam Debbonaire, added:

This CLP resolves:

To condemn Jeremy Corbyn’s suspension and demand his reinstatement to the party.

To oppose any and all politically motivated disciplinary actions against the left by the leadership.

According to Skwawbox, right-wingers in the Bristol West Labour Party tried to pack the meeting in order to defeat the motion – or at least amend it – in what can clearly be interpreted as an attack on democracy by supporters of Keir Starmer.

It failed.

But Starmer – and his people – need to answer for their actions.

Source: Exclusive: full wording of motion passed on Monday by Shadow Cabinet minister’s CLP, condemning ‘political’ Corbyn suspension – SKWAWKBOX

Toppled Colston statue in Bristol replaced by resin sculpture of Black Lives Matter activist

It makes This Writer proud to be Bristolian.

After the statue of slaver Edward Colston was toppled by protesters last month, artist Marc Quinn replaced it with a resin sculpture of a Black Lives Matter protester in a pre-dawn operation that caught authorities by surprise.

Now calls have been made for the city to keep the new statue standing on the formerly-vacant plinth.

The artist said he had based the statue on the moment activist Jen Reid stood on top of the empty plinth on June 7, raising her fist to the skies.

Authorities in Bristol are receiving calls for the statue to be kept, even though it was raised without permission. Mayor Marvin Rees has previously said any replacement would be decided democratically through consultation.

This is a big step forward against the attitude that said slavers should be celebrated, and against the right-wing loons who tried to protect statues like this after Colston’s was pulled down and dumped in the River Avon.

Source: Edward Colston statue in Bristol replaced by resin sculpture of Black Lives Matter protester | The Independent

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Bristol ‘Black Lives Matter’ protesters tear down statue of slaver Colston – and about time, too!

Over it goes: could there be any more clear ‘down with racism’ demand than the toppling of the statue to slaver Edward Colston in Bristol?

Having been born in Bristol, This Writer is aware of the unsavoury slaver history of Edward Colston, and the reverence in which he has been held has confused me for years.

But, being part of a Bristol family, it was hard to criticise him directly. Many of us have historical links with slavery and until earlier this week, I had believed that my family had such links.

Apparently I was mistaken. A BBC documentary about former Mayor John Kerle Haberfield (a great-(many times)-uncle revealed that he had not been involved with the slave trade and nor were any other of my family on that side. It’s possible that other ancestors were, although I have no evidence to suspect it.

I attended St Mary Redcliffe & Temple School, where around a fifth of the pupils were members of Colston House, named after the slaver. The school changed the house name last year (2019) in favour of African-American female mathematician Katherine Johnson. I was a member of Francombe House, which was less controversially named after a former head teacher of the school.

Campaigners have been working to end the veneration of the slave trader Colston, who ran the Royal Africa Company that enslaved around 12,000 children, for many decades. My understanding is that calls to tear down the statue of Colston were taking place 40 years ago, at least.

Read more about him here:

(Historians may also find this interesting:)

Well, yesterday it finally happened.

Public feeling against racism boiled over during a “Black Lives Matter” demonstration prompted by the death of George Floyd in the United States, and after years of campaigning to get rid of the Grade II listed (why was it Grade II listed?) statue, people decided to tear it down themselves and throw it into the River Avon – in a manner reminiscent of the way Colston himself would throw unruly slaves – weighed down with chains – into the sea during slaving voyages.

Satirically, Google Maps sprang into action, providing at least one element of humour:

Police have said they are treating the incident as an act of criminal damage, which they are investigating. This has given some people another opportunity for satire:

How will the people of Bristol replace the statue? It seems some have ideas already:

Personally, I don’t think a statue to a Sheffield group, in Bristol, would particularly please the people of either city.

I really don’t think this would be appropriate, either:

Maybe in Islington.

Perhaps most revealing has been the reaction of different public figures to what is a clear act of vandalism, even if the reasoning behind it is supportable.

Priti Patel’s response should be shocking, considering her own racial background:

As should Sajid Javid’s:

And, indeed, some members of the Labour Party have questions to answer:

Others take a different view:

If you’re confused about “structural” racism:

Of course, it’s not unknown for statues to be torn down if people and/or their deeds fall out of favour with the public.

You won’t see a statue glorifying Nazism or anybody who supported that movement in Germany!

And in Russia and Iraq, statues of Communist leaders and Saddam Hussein (respectively) were torn down after those regimes were toppled.

Even yesterday, the toppling-in-effigy of Colston wasn’t unique:

And back in the UK, people are eyeing possible future candidates for the Colston treatment:

https://twitter.com/niall_nowhin/status/1269725946778714112

https://twitter.com/JordanGSmith25/status/1269664099652308997

And of course the situation has provided more opportunities for right-wing idiots to make fools of themselves:

We are left with the overwhelming impression that the removal of the Colston statue was right, no matter how it was achieved.

But we live in a country where somebody may go to prison for making it happen. If you don’t think that’s right, you need to be thinking about what you are going to do about it.

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Legal challenge to stop nuclear waste dumping near Cardiff

Don’t drink the tap water if you live anywhere near Somerset, Bath, Bristol or southern Wales – especially Newport and Cardiff.

That was the advice of net-based activist Tracy Kelly, in response to the announcement that 300,000 tonnes of nuclear waste is to be dredged from the seabed near Hinkley Point and dumped a mile off the Cardiff shoreline.

But a legal battle has been launched to stop this environmental disaster from being inflicted on the people of south Wales and the West Country.

Here’s the situation, courtesy of Ms Kelly: “Millions of cubic metres of radioactive sludge is being dumped in the Bristol Channel, contaminating inland waters, fisheries, oysters, seals, and will stay radioactive for the next – wait for it – 12,000 years!

“The sludge will create a whole new toxic sandbank which will be so big it’ll be picked-up on marine Radar and will be viewable by space satellites… George Osborne, the former chancellor who couldn’t answer a kid what six times seven was, made the cheap decision to just dump the toxic mud one mile offshore from Cardiff.

“The toxic sludge comes from the Hinkley A nuclear reactor. This is one of several dangerous old reactors in the west of England and western Scotland which have created no less than 19 million tonnes of toxic waste.

“About four million tonnes of that waste is dumped into the Irish Sea from outflow pipes near Windscale where there are high numbers of children with blood diseases and cancer.

“The French company building Hinkley C in North Somerset are the same people building a mega-reactor in Normandy which had to be stopped because the concrete dome cracked.

“Theresa May gave the French EDF company a ‘marine licence’ to dump radioactive waste in Cardiff Bay. Nice. Protestors in their thousands have written letters, staged demonstrations and also submitted petitions – however, BBC current affairs has refused to broadcast a single second of a single protestor’s views on national prime-time news – even though there have been concerned resident meetings happening since the year 2000.”

A barge made its first trip to dump radioactive mud off the coast near Cardiff yesterday evening (September 10).

That is the situation.

Here‘s what’s being done about it:

Opponents to a controversial scheme to dump mud from a nuclear plant off the coast of Cardiff have launched a last-minute legal challenge.

The Campaign Against Hinkley Mud Dumping submitted an application to the High Court in Cardiff on Monday seeking an interim injunction.

Campaigners have argued Natural Resources Wales (NRW) failed to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment and said core samples were insufficient under international rules and did not cover all significant radioactive substances from the Hinkley plant.

Here‘s some evidence in support of that statement:

Independent Assembly Member Neil McEvoy said… only 5 samples of mud had been taken from a level lower than 5 centimeters for analysis. The Welsh Assembly petitions committee had asked Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to require the French energy company  EDF (who are building the new nuclear power station) to carry out additional analysis, but this had been refused.

I imagine the petitions committee had made its request after receiving the petition publicised by This Site, here.

The Labour-run Welsh Government said NRW made its decision based on “expert advice”. It also concluded the material was within “safe limits” and posed no “radiological risk” to human health or the environment.

But it seems the tests on which this “expert advice” was given did not assess whether uranium, plutonium and other alpha-emitting elements were present in minute “particulate” form. As such, they can be more easily inhaled into the deep lung and the lymphatic system, and will emit more radiation.

The injunction is an interim measure – if the mud dump is to be stopped for good, protestors will have to fund a costly judicial review.

If you care about your environment, your health and that of your children enough to do something about it, you can add to the crowdfunding scheme that is financing the legal battle.

Please visit the website here to make your contribution.

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Rip-off parasites urge Bristol GPs to push patients towards paid operations – accelerating plunge to privatisation

Emerson’s Green Treatment Centre is run by UKSH, owned by Care UK.

It’s bad enough that NHS patients across the UK are being told they can jump the queue for GP appointments by paying to see a private doctor instead.

But now the company running an NHS treatment centre in Bristol has decided to use it for profit as well as service, and is asking GPs in the city to push the service onto their patients.

This betrayal is exactly what we knew was coming; in line with ‘nudge’ theory, the profit-grubbers are nudging us into paying for private health care.

This would not be possible if the Conservative government had not spent the last seven years de-funding the NHS in order to worsen the service and push desperate patients into the arms of the rip-off merchants.

Yes – rip-off merchants. We are already paying for our health care. If the government is pushing us into paying for a profit-making company to provide a service we have already funded, that is a rip-off.

The sooner Labour gets back into office and strips out the parasites, the better.

GPs in Bristol have been given a shopping list of self-paid operations to offer their patients so they can avoid NHS waiting lists.

The operations, while freely available on the NHS, are also being offered by company Care UK for up to £9,000 at their Emersons Green treatment centre.

Care UK, owned by private equity firm Bridgepoint, are one of the largest care companies in the country. They already provide these services for free to patients on the NHS at Emersons Green but they say their new self-pay scheme will let those who can afford it get around “the pressure of growing waiting lists” and gives GPs “greater options to discuss with patients”.

But campaign groups and Bristol GPs have expressed their anger at being asked to recommend the paid procedures – one doctor called it “part of the dismantling of healthcare”.

Source: GPs in Bristol urged to encourage patients to pay to beat NHS waiting lists for routine operations – Bristol Post


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Bristolians rise against austerity with ‘Fund our city!’ call

On the march: The Rally for Bristol.

As I write this, the people of Bristol are staging a rally against austerity-driven Tory cuts to funding and services for their city.

The event was called by city mayor Marvin Rees – and This Writer (a former Bristolian) agrees with his reasons.

Only today, I had to write about funding cuts to another local authority that have endangered Women’s Aid services there – putting lives at risk.

Tories don’t care. They think money is more important than human lives.

The event’s Facebook page states:

“Mayor Marvin Rees has called a march and rally on Saturday September 9th … to demand the Conservative government gives Bristol and other cities the funding we need for our public services and stops the cuts that are damaging the lives of so many.

“The general election and polls since have shown that austerity is now opposed by the great majority of the public. But despite its weak position this government is handing £70 billion to the wealthy in tax breaks over five years, even as it burdens Bristol City Council with cuts to bare-bones essential services totalling £104 million (10% cut each year).

“On September 9th, three days before the Mayor is set to lobby ministers at Westminster, let’s send a powerful message by marching in our thousands in Bristol and other cities: we won’t take any more cuts – not to our social care and NHS, our children’s services, our housing, our libraries, our arts, our community centres, our parks, our schools, our children’s crossing patrols…

“We’ve had enough of closures, privatisation and job losses, and we’re uniting – as workers, service users and citizens – to fight all the way for the investment we need in the public services and the living standards of our communities!”


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The ‘Daily Mail’ Wales – about as real as Brigadoon

Daily Fail Logo

A tweet from a local (Conservative) Assembly member and county councillor has set me off to read a Daily Mail hack-job on the Welsh government and its policies. It makes for bleak reading but I have yet to find any resemblance to the Wales I know.

Has the author, Robert Hardman, ventured any further than the M4 corridor in his researches? It seems doubtful.

The first section attacks the Welsh Government’s purchase of Cardiff Airport for more than the expected value, plus extra millions for investment, saying Bristol Airport attracts six times the custom and the subsidised bus service from Cardiff is going empty.

Perhaps we should not be surprised by this attack. The Mail is a Tory-supporting rag and Tories no longer believe in investment (look at the way George Osborne cut capital projects to shreds, after he became Chancellor) – except when they do (HS2 is costing increasing millions every day, Who benefits, I wonder).

If Cardiff Airport was making losses, then it seems perfectly sensible for the administration to take it over and turn it around. But that won’t happen in a day, or even in a year (nationalisation happened at the end of March 2013) and it is unrealistic of Mr Hardman to pretend that it should.

I live in Mid Wales, where the only airport is fictional (Llandegley International) and the buses are full. We could do with a few more, in fact. Perhaps Mr Hardman could exert some influence on the Westminster government to provide a little more Aggregate External Grant (AEG – the way central government funds local government and regional assemblies) funding to help with that?

Next, Mr Hardman wheels out a few hard-done-by Welsh people, starting with an NHS nurse from Pembrokeshire who has had to pay for a hip operation because of an 18-month waiting list.

It is hard to combat that kind of criticism without knowing all the details. However, my own experience of the Welsh NHS is of being seen promptly for the pre-op and being able to choose the date and time of the operation. Perhaps Mr Hardman is cherry-picking special cases in order to make his point?

Next up: A group of West Wales parents who want their children taught in English as opposed to Welsh. They live in Cardigan, where education is run by Ceredigion County Council, whose main political groups are Plaid Cymru, the Independents, and the Liberal Democrats. Why is Mr Hardman blaming Labour, then?

He wants us to believe the problems are nothing to do with funding: “Wales gets the same subsidies as other parts of the UK which are worse off but receive a better service,” writes Mr Hardman.

He’s wrong, of course.

Take the NHS. Wales has had billions clawed back from its health service by greedy Tories in Westminster, in a transparent attempt to force standards down and direct blame at innocent parties. Mr Hardman’s article buys into that deceit.

When I discussed this with a Welsh NHS surgeon less than two weeks ago, he said there was a huge difference between the service being delivered and the way it is described by politicians, who he described as “snakes”. I cannot help but sympathise with the people who provide the service; their work is what I see.

That is not to say that there are no problems in the Welsh NHS! If I suggested that, I would be guilty of exactly the same kind of blanket behaviour as Mr Hardman. Of course there are problems.

But his use of the Mid-Staffs scandal to bolster his argument gives him away. Mid Staffs did not have a hugely inflated mortality rate; the statistics were manipulated to provide the Tory Health Secretary with the headline he wanted.

Moving on again, we come to a person with what seems to be a genuine grievance about mistreatment of his mother by Welsh hospital staff. Again, I cannot comment on the individual case because I don’t have the details.

All I can do is reiterate that it is wrong to claim that a service covering an entire country of the UK must be entirely abominable, on the basis of one case.

… and I see that Mr Hardman concedes this point, admitting that most NHS professionals are dedicated and conscientious. He blames the Labour-run Assembly Government.

But I have to come back to my main problem with this article: Mr Hardman has not described the Wales in which I live. Why, then, should I believe his criticism of the Labour administration?

The article concludes with a bizarre story about Year Six school pupils being indoctrinated with anti-English propaganda using two dolls. “What, I wonder, is the Welsh word for ‘Orwellian’?” carps Mr Hardman.

It’s the same as the English word, but Mr Hardman needs to revise his definitions. If he wants ‘Orwellian’, he need look no further than the English Tory Party’s ‘bingo and beer’ budget advert.

“The people of Wales deserve better,” Mr Hardman concludes. Yes they do.

Better than his article.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Battle is joined – for the future of your NHS

n4s_nhs1

This week the Labour Party will be launching its formal defence of the National Health Service, after the Coalition government stealthily slipped a “negative resolution” to enforce privatisation onto the books before the Parliamentary recess.

The resolution, as mentioned in a previous Vox article, will force clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in England to introduce competition to provide all services for which it is practical (in other words, almost everything), whether or not they believe it to be in the best interests of all concerned.

Its arrival means either the government lied when it gave the promise that neither the Health Secretary nor Monitor would be allowed to force health commissioners to put services out to competition, or it has decided to break firm, formal promises, written by Andrew Lansley in a letter and spoken on the record in Parliament.

Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, has announced that the party will ‘lay prayers’ against the resolution in both Houses of Parliament, and will fight “tooth and nail” to defeat it.   He has repeated his firm, unambiguous commitment to repeal the 2012 Health and Social Care Act as a priority once Labour is back in government, and to restore the lead on the commissioning of health services to local government.

If Labour win the next General Election, he will reintroduce a preferred provider policy that will allow genuine NHS organisations to be named as the providers of choice, thus ensuring that the NHS remains, at its core, a public institution. This will restore the NHS to leadership of health service provision, alongside local government as the commissioning lead.

But by that time much irrevocable damage will have been done, so concerted interim action is needed – and it is heartening that CCGs in Haringey and Bristol are already leading the way.

In Haringey, the CCG has been persuaded by campaigning organisation 38 Degrees to adopt amendments to its constitution, ensuring that they will only invite competition to buy services where “necessary or appropriate”. Contractors/providers must be “good employers” – be reputable, meet tax and NI obligations and keep to EO legislation. Other amendments exclude companies convicted of offences, and   prohibit companies that use improper tax avoidance and off shore schemes.

That is just the start of the battle for the NHS – but it’s a good one, and an example that can be taken forward.

Haringey has accepted that there is a case for arguing that awarding tenders to private providers will cause genuinely public structures to atrophy as funds are taken out of the public health economy and turned into private profits. This would be to the long-term detriment of the NHS, meaning an award to a private bidder is worse value, even if the headline price is lower.

If you are in England and concerned about the decline that the government’s negative resolution will instigate, why not get in touch with your own local CCG, ask them to examine the actions of their colleagues in Haringey, and politely request that they go and do likewise?

Expect much more on this issue in the future. It will be published here as it becomes available.

I told you it would come: Borishambles!

He just couldn’t keep his mouth shut, could he?

A couple of days ago, at the end of my article ‘Omnishambles, omnishambles, omnishambles’, I wrote ‘Coming soon: Borishambles!’. It wasn’t meant to be taken seriously; I was just acknowledging the Blond Buffoon’s popularity with Tory diehards.

But in a week when Tory backbench rebels handed the government a major Commons defeat over the EU budget, Boris gave me an early Christmas present. Watch this:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBmaCF3q7IM]

I know he was being followed by hecklers who were provoking him by calling him ‘Tory scum’ – but, while it’s impossible to say I approve of such language, considering the Conservative Party’s record since it came into government with the Liberal Democrats, that probably counts as merely mild criticism.

Boris didn’t see it that way. He snapped. The only remaining – even remotely – acceptable face of the Nasty Party showed its fangs. There’s no going back from that.

If you don’t like what the Coalition is doing in government, and you want to exercise your right to free speech about it, then in Boris Johnson’s mind you are a “Lefty tosser”.

Nice one, Boris. It’ll take a few more like that to completely ruin your chances of taking the Tory leadership, but there’s plenty of time.

We’ll keep an eye – and an ear – out for you.