Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Thousands march for Johnnie Walker jobs

by Richie Venton - 27th July 2009

They poured into Howard Park, Kilmarnock, in their thousands on Sunday, despite the monsoon rain and lashing wind that poured down on Ayrshire for hours before.
20,000 of them according to most press reports.
This was the biggest event in Kilmarnock's modern history, certainly since the town's team won the cup in 1997. But rather than being a carnival of celebration it was a display of gritty determination to save the Johnnie Walker's plant from closure.
This is a town of about 50,000 people. The loss of 700 jobs - plus hundreds of others in the knock-on effect - would wipe out any real future for the town, which is already festooned by 'To Let' and 'For Sale' signs outside shops and small businesses. No wonder such an outpouring of working class solidarity was on display on Sunday.
The entire Kilmarnock FC team and manager Jim Jeffries marched with trade unionists, their families, whole communities, with Johnnie Walker workers present and past to the fore.
As well as bands, poets and comedians, the rally platform included First Minister Alex Salmond, local SNP and Labour politicians, and trade union speakers from UNITE, GMB and two local Johnnie Walker shop stewards Janette Dunbar and Jim McGhee.
Diageo bosses took a pasting from many of the speakers for their disloyalty to a loyal workforce and loyal community, who have given Johnnie Walker's whisky its international fame, status and sales.
Alex Salmond and others emphasised the alternative business plan which Diageo bosses have promised to look at and discuss, but worryingly Salmond finished his fiery rhetoric with a lame "we will make sure we get something for the workforce" - which begs the question whether the business plan includes big chunks of redundancies rather than saving every job.
By far the most hard-hitting speech came from UNITE assistant general secretary Len McLuskey. And significantly, it was also the best received by the crowd in Kay Park - a clue to the fighting spirits that need to be harnessed into action if the closures are to be halted.
Lennie declared:
“These are job cuts driven by one thing only: greed. This is a company drunk on greed. It is making mega-profits - more than £2billion last year - and wants still more. It is the greed of a chief executive paid f£5m last year and looking to fund next year’s bonus out of the hides of working men and women here in Scotland.
“Well, we have news for Diageo and its boardroom. The days of ‘greed is good’ are over. Unite is not going to accept that these jobs are going and the communities depending on them will be destroyed.
“And we know, Mr Walsh, that you and your managers have been plotting this betrayal for months now. While these workers have been delivering for you day in, day out, you've been scheming how to axe them.
“But if this company thinks they can throw hundreds of decent working men and women on the dole without a fight to the end, then they have been partaking of too much of their merchandise.”
"We will discuss the alternative business plan with Diageo, and hope to persuade them to reverse their decision. But be warned: if they don't, they will face the fight of their life.
"Our union is already in touch with every Diageo plant in the UK and Ireland and we are in touch with the unions in the USA, where Johnnie Walker's is so widely sold. Jimmy Hoffa of the Teamsters Union has written to Diageo. If Diageo fail to listen, we will hit them hard not just in this proud nation, but throughout the UK, Ireland, the USA, where their sales and their plants operate."The warm applause for this fighting talk was consistent with the very warm reception to the leaflet from the Scottish Socialist Party, where we declared 'Save Workers' Jobs - not Billionaires' Profits'. We repeated the same stark, simple message on the hundreds of SSP placards grabbed by marchers: 'Save Jobs - not Profits'.
And speaking to a large number of Johnnie Walker workers, I found they hold the same basic views of the situation as the SSP.
"Profits, greed, making even more money for themselves" were the replies I got from every single worker when I asked them what they thought was behind the closures.
They also agreed with the SSP's blunt message that the government should not give a penny in subsidies to bribe this mulit-billioned multi-national into saving the jobs. As one woman put it to me: "I would be livid if that government [pointing towards Alex Salmond} gave a cent to these people. They don't need it or deserve it. Small businesses need help, but not Diageo."
Our call for the government to seize Diageo's assets and bring them into public ownership to save every job - instead of subsidising Diageo's super-profits from public funds - was well received in conversations with the workers who face a life of misery on £65 a week if this fight isn't won.
And Johnnie Walker workers I spoke to also endorsed our message that a plan of decisive action will now need to be considered if the monumental public support is not to be ignored by Diageo.
UNITE's Len McLuskey pointed in the right direction with his speech. If Diageo dig in, buttressed by their billions of profit, industrial action is the most powerful weapon workers have, which could be powerfully aided by a call for a consumer boycott until they cave in.
Sunday's march through Kilmarnock was a magnificent event, one of the biggest demos of workers in any part of Scotland for years. It will have boosted the morale of Johnnie Walker's workers, who even on Sunday were getting the kind of treatment from Diageo that has become common as they plot closures. Workers on the Sunday shift were warned against coming out to the demo as it marched past the plant, and they told us their lunchtime was changed to 11.30am to try and prevent them seeing the mass movement behind their fight! To no avail; a crowd of them came out and cheered the marchers on at the gate of the factory, celebrating the strength of unity and working class solidarity.
The roaring success of Sunday now needs to be built on with a plan of action to save every job from the butchers in the boardroom.
Copyright Scottish Socialist Party 2009


Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Wyndford school sit-in ends - but the battle continues

Wyndford school sit-in ends - but the battle continues

by Richie Venton, Save Our Schools organiser - 13thJuly 2009

The group of courageous parents who have occupied Wyndford primary school since Friday 26th June have decided to end their sit-in, but to fight on against the injustices and education cuts by the Glasgow Labour council, more angry and determined than ever.
They left the building in tears – sad to have to leave the building to the tender mercies of the Labour council vandals, angry at what the council is inflicting on their kids and community.
The decision by these fearless fighters to leave Wyndford primary came about because the Judicial Review which they had hoped for, on the flaws in the council’s sham consultation, has fallen through – despite the obscene injustices involved.
They occupied the building to retain it as a school building, to stop the council stripping and demolishing it, whilst lawyers pursued the case of a nursery child’s mother who was never consulted over the closure of Wyndford primary, which her child was meant to go to.
The legal challenge collapsed on the outrageous grounds that because the city council placed an advert announcing the closure in the Evening Times, that that constituted consultation. This outrage becomes even more obnoxious when it is known that the parent involved has reading difficulties!
So much for the impartiality of the law; so much for justice for working class people, including those in most need of protection!
The fearless fighters who staged this sit-in to defend a school from the Labour council vandals deserve the highest public praise and applause.
And it is even more to their credit that they have pledged to fight on regardless of having to physically withdraw from the school, by helping build support for the Glasgow Save Our Schools Campaign petition to the Scottish parliament on school closures and class sizes, and to continue our battle for classes of 20 or less for all kids.
One chapter of the struggle has closed; the next one is merely opening!”
Three of those at the heart of the sit-in by a much larger group – Donna, Alison and Nikki - have this to say:
”The reason for us occupying the building has gone, so we are coming out.
“We were proven right to fear that the city council would try to strip the place and put it in the hands of a demolition firm once the school term finished. Within a day of the school year ending they sent 30 vans to uplift equipment and furniture, and the building has been handed over for demolition.
“We occupied it to stop this happening, while we tried to get the legal challenge, the Judicial Review. That has fallen through, so we are ending the sit-in.
“But the fight goes on. It is too late now for our schools, but we will go on to fight for the future.
“We know how scary it is to put our kids into bigger classes. It is ridiculous that classes are getting bigger. It is as if they have decided kids are getting a bit too well educated, so they want to take them down a peg or two.
“The education received by our kids is brilliant compared to when we, the parents, were at school. But now we are going backwards again, with bigger classes, when the government should be taking us forwards, not backwards.
“We have still got the anger – especially towards Steven Purcell and the Labour council. We hate them. We’ll be there to oppose them at every opportunity.
“And we want to thank all the people who have supported us in our fight

Monday, 13 July 2009

Sheridan perjuy case: full indictment

From the Herald. Tommy and Gail Sheridan entered not guilty pleas today and trial has been set for January 2010, with another court date in October.

I make no comment as legal proceedings are live. However I have highlighted the two most crucial points:

Sheridan Perjury Case: Full Indictment.

Thomas Sheridan, born 7 March 1964, whose domicile of citation has been specified as Paisley Road West, Glasgow, and Gail Sheridan, born 4 January 1964, whose domicile of citation has been specified as Paisley Road West, Glasgow, you are indicted at the instance of The Right Honourable Elish Angiolini, Queen's Counsel, Her Majesty's Advocate, and the charges against you are that (1) you THOMAS SHERIDAN having raised an action of defamation in the Court of Session, Parliament House, Parliament Square, Edinburgh against News Group Newpapers Limited, 124 Portman Street, Kinning Park, Glasgow, a company incorporated under the Companies Acts, being the publisher of the News of the World newspaper, in which you alleged that on 21 November 2004 the said newspaper had published an article communicating the false idea that you had visited a "swingers club" with Anvar Begum Khan, c/o Lothian and Borders Police, Police Headquarters, Fettes Avenue, Edinburgh, and knowing that a civil jury trial had been fixed for the hearing of said action on 4 July 2006 and having on 9 November 2004 at a meeting of the Executive Committee of the Scottish Socialist Party held at 70 Stanley Street, Glasgow, attended by, among others, Colin Fox, c/o Lothian and Borders Police, Police Headquarters, Fettes Avenue, Edinburgh, admitted attending such a club and in particular Cupid's Healthclub, 13-17 Sutherland Street, Swinton, Manchester on two occasions in 1996 and 2002 and knowing that accurate minutes of the said meeting existed and had been lodged on 16 June 2006 at the said Court on behalf of the said defender and that said Colin Fox was to be called as a witness at said trial did on 18 June 2006 at the premises known as The Beanscene, 67 Holyrood Road, Edinburgh attempt to suborn said Colin Fox, to falsely depone as a witness that the minutes of said meeting were not accurate and you did thus attempt to suborn said Colin Fox to commit perjury;
Friday (2) on 21 July 2006 at the Court of Session, Parliament House, Parliament Square, Edinburgh you THOMAS SHERIDAN being affirmed as a witness in a civil jury trial of an action for defamation then proceeding there at your instance against the News Group Newspapers Limited, 124 Portman Street, Kinning Park, Glasgow as publishers of the News of the World newspaper did falsely depone: -
a) that at a meeting of the Executive Committee of the Scottish Socialist Party held on 9 November 2004 at 70 Stanley Street, Glasgow you had not admitted you had attended Cupid's Healthclub, 13-17 Sutherland Street, Swinton, Manchester known as Cupid's on two occasions in 1996 and 2002 and that you had not admitted that you attended there with Anvar Begum Khan c/o Lothian and Borders Police, Police Headquarters, Fettes Avenue, Edinburgh;
b) that at said meeting on 9 November 2004 Alan William McCombes and Keith Robert Baldassara, both c/o Lothian and Borders Police, Police Headquarters, Fettes Avenue, Edinburgh did not state that they had previously raised the issue with you of your visits to a sex club in Manchester and that you had admitted to them that it was true;
c) that at said meeting you denied having visited a swingers' club in Manchester;
d) that Allison Kane, Keith Robert Baldassara, Alan William McCombes, Allan Green, Colin Anthony Fox, Barbara Jane Scott, Carolyn Leckie, Catriona Mary Grant, Joanna Harvie, and Rosemary Kane all c/o Lothian and Borders Police, Police Headquarters, Fettes Avenue, Edinburgh had lied in evidence during said civil jury trial when each gave evidence that: -
they had heard you admit at said meeting on 9 November 2004 that you had visited said Cupid's in Manchester; and
they heard it being stated at said meeting on 9 November 2004 that Alan William McCombes and Keith Robert Baldassara had previously raised the issue with you of your visits to a sex club in Manchester and that you had admitted to them that it was true;
e) that you had not admitted in 2002 to said Alan William McCombes and Keith Robert Baldassara that you had attended a sex club in Manchester;
f) that you did not say at the said meeting held on 9 November 2004 that you were not prepared to resign as convener of the Scottish Socialist Party unless there was proof that you had attended a sex club in Manchester and that you did not believe that there was any evidence to prove that you were lying about not attending said club;
g) that in a pub known as the Golden Pheasant,2 Stepps Road, Kirkintilloch on or around Friday 12 May 2006 you were not given the minutes of the said meeting of 9 November 2004 to read;
h) that said Alan Green lied during his evidence in said civil jury trial that in said pub known as the Golden Pheasant on or around 12 May 2006 he had shown you the minutes of the said meeting of 9 November 2004;
i) that there was not an event on 14 June 2002 or at any other time at the Moathouse Hotel, Congress Road, Glasgow organised by Matthew McColl, c/o Lothian and Borders Police, Police Headquarters, Fettes Avenue, Edinburgh which you attended along with Andrew McFarlane, c/o Lothian and Borders Police, Police Headquarters, Fettes Avenue, Edinburgh at which you and said Andrew McFarlane went into a bedroom with a girl and had sexual relations with said girl;
j) that Helen Todd Allison and Lily Anne Colvin both c/o Lothian and Borders Police, Police Headquarters, Fettes Road, Edinburgh lied in their evidence during said civil jury trial when each gave evidence that you were at the Moathouse hotel with said Andrew McFarlane;
k) that a conversation between you and said Keith Robert Baldassara had not taken place when said Keith Robert Baldassara had asked you about "madness" somewhere in a hotel in Glasgow and that you said to him that you did not participate, but were present at the event when a lady from Birmingham was brought in;
l) that said Keith Robert Baldassara lied in his evidence during said civil jury trial that he had asked you about "madness" somewhere in a hotel in Glasgow and that you said to him that you did not participate, but were present at the event when a lady from Birmingham was brought in;
m) that you had not attended said Cupid's in Manchester along with Andrew McFarlane, Gary Clark, Anvar Begum Khan and Katrine Trolle all c/o Lothian and Borders Police, Police Headquarters, Fettes Avenue, Edinburgh towards the end of 2001, or had ever visited a swingers' club;
n) that you had an affair with said Anvar Begum Khan in late 1992 for six months only and that you did not have a sexual relationship with her from 1994 to 2002; and
o) you never had a sexual relationship with said Katrine Trolle and had never been with her in the house occupied by you at Paisley Road West, Cardonald, Glasgow or with her at Kingennie Court, Dundee;
the truth being as you well knew, that on 9 November 2004 at the Executive Committee meeting of the Scottish Socialist Party held at 70 Stanley Street, Glasgow, you did admit to attending said Cupid's in Manchester on two occasions in 1996 and 2002 and that you had visited said club with said Anvar Begum Khan;
that at said meeting it was stated by said Alan William McCombes and Keith Robert Baldassara that they had previously raised the issue of you attending a sex club in Manchester and that you had admitted to them that it was true;
that at said meeting you did not deny having visited a swingers' club in Manchester;
that said Allison Kane, Keith Robert Baldassara, Alan William McCombes, Allan Green, Colin Anthony Fox, Barbara Jane Scott, Carolyn Leckie, Catriona Mary Grant, Joanna Harvie and Rosemary Kane had not lied in evidence during the said trial when they each gave evidence that: -
i) they had heard you admit at said meeting on 9 November 2004 that you had visited the said Cupid's in Manchester on two occasions and
ii) they had heard it being stated that said Alan William McCombes and Keith Robert Baldassara had previously raised the issue with you of your visits to a sex club in Manchester and that you had admitted to them that it was true;
that: -
i) on 3 November 2002 in the course of a journey between Glasgow and Edinburgh you did admit to said Keith Robert Baldassara that you had attended a sex club in Manchester;
ii) on an occasion between 4 November 2002 and 31 December 2002, at the City Chambers, George Square, Glasgow, you did admit to said Alan William McCombes that you had visited a club for swingers in Manchester and
iii) on 1 November 2004 at the City Chambers, George Square, Glasgow, you did admit to said Alan William McCombes and Keith Robert Baldassara that you were the MSP referred to in the News of the World article published on 31 October 2004 and that you had attended said Cupid's in Manchester with said Anvar Begum Khan;
that you did state at the said meeting held on the 9 November 2004 that you were not prepared to resign as convener of the Scottish Socialist Party unless there was proof that you had attended the said Cupid's in Manchester and that you did not believe that there was any evidence to prove that you were lying about not attending said club;
that on 12 May 2006 at the premises known asThe Golden Pheasant, 2 Stepps Road, Kirkintilloch said Allan Green did show you the minutes of the said meeting of the 9 November 2004;
that said Allan Green had not lied during his evidence during said civil jury trial that on 12 May 2006 he had shown you the minutes from the said meeting on 9 November 2004 at said premises known as The Golden Pheasant, 2 Stepps Road, Kirkintilloch;
that you did attend the said Moathouse Hotel on 14 June 2002 at an event organised by said Matthew McColl along with said Andrew McFarlane at which you and said Andrew McFarlane went into a bedroom with Beverly Anthea Dixon, c/o Lothian and Borders Police, Police Headquarters, Fettes Avenue, Edinburgh and you did have sexual intercourse with said Beverly Anthea Dixon;
that said Helen Todd Allison and Lily Anne Colvin had not lied during their evidence during said civil jury trial when they said that they had seen you at the said Moathouse Hotel with said Andrew McFarlane;
that between 15 June and 15 July 2002, both dates inclusive, at the City Chambers, George Square, Glasgow, said Keith Robert Baldassara did ask you about "madness" somewhere in a hotel in Glasgow and you stated to said Keith Robert Baldassara that you had been present at said Moathouse Hotel when a lady from Birmingham had been present and that this event had been organised by said Matthew McColl for said Andrew McFarlane;
that said Keith Robert Baldassara did not lie in evidence during said civil jury trial that between 15 June and 15 July 2002, both dates inclusive, at the said City Chambers, George Square, Glasgow, that he had asked you about "madness" in a hotel in Glasgow and that you had said to him that you had been present at the Moathouse Hotel when a lady from Birmingham had been present and that this event had been organised by said Matthew McColl for said Andrew McFarlane;
that on 27 September 2002 you did attend said Cupid's in Manchester with said Andrew McFarlane, Gary Clark, Anvar Begum Khan and Katrine Trolle and that you had visited a club for swingers;
that between 1 January 1994 and 28 September 2002 you did have a sexual relationship with said Anvar Begum Khan; and
that between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2005, both dates inclusive, you did have a sexual relationship with Katrine Trolle, that she had been in the house occupied by you at Paisley Road West, Cardonald, Glasgow with you and that you had stayed overnight with her at 16 Kingennie Court, Dundee;
Monday (3) on 31 July 2006 at the Court of Session, Parliament House, Parliament Square, Edinburgh, you GAIL SHERIDAN being sworn as a witness in a civil jury trial of an action for defamation then proceeding there at the instance of Thomas Sheridan, MSP, your husband, residing at Paisley Road West, Cardonald, Glasgow against News Group Newspapers Limited, 124 Portman Street, Kinning Park, Glasgow as publishers of the News of the World newspaper did falsely depone: -
that you saw and spoke to Katrine Trolle, c/o Lothian and Borders Police, Police Headquarters, Fettes Avenue, Edinburgh, at the Scottish Socialist Party Conference held in Perth in 2005, and that said Katrine Trolle told you there that the News of the World had been at her door, asking her if she had had an affair with Tommy Sheridan and had offered her money and that she hugged and kissed you and touched your "tummy";
that you had checked your diaries and the diaries of said Thomas Sheridan for November 2001 and November 2002 and that the entries confirmed that you had been at home overnight during every weekend in November 2001 and November 2002;
that you could recall that you spent every weekend in November 2001 and November 2002 with said Thomas Sheridan;
that you were present and witnessed said Thomas Sheridan on an occasion telephoning Directory Enquiries and asking for the telephone number of Cupid's Health Club, 13-17 Sutherland Street, Swinton, Manchester known as Cupid's and said Thomas Sheridan telephoning the said Cupid's;
that your aunt, Annie Healy c/o Lothian and Borders Police, Police Headquarters, Fettes Avenue, Edinburgh arrived into Scotland from the United States of America on 14 June 2002;
that said Thomas Sheridan was in your company during the whole of the evening of the 14 June 2002 and returned home with you after midnight on 15 June 2002; and
that you and said Thomas Sheridan visited Andrew McFarlane c/o Lothian and Borders Police, Police Headquarters, Fettes Avenue, Edinburgh, at his home at 216 Tweedmuir Road, Glasgow after 10pm on the 14 June 2002 when said Andrew McFarlane and James McManus c/o Lothian and Borders Police, Police Headquarters, Fettes Avenue, Edinburgh were present there between that time and when you left with said Thomas Sheridan after midnight on the 15 June 2002;
the truth being as you well knew,
that you did not see or speak to said Katrine Trolle at the Scottish Socialist Party Conference held in Perth between 11 and 13 February 2005 and that the said Katrine Trolle did not tell you that the News of the World had been at her door asking her if she had an affair with Tommy Sheridan and had offered her money and said Katrine Trolle did not hug and kiss you and touch your "tummy";
that you had recorded in your diary that you had travelled to Miami on Tuesday 20 November 2001 and you were in Miami on the weekend of 24 and 25 November 2001 and that said Thomas Sheridan had recorded in his diary that you were away between 21 and 28 November 2001;
that you were in Miami on 24 and 25 November 2001 and you did thus not spend every weekend in November 2001 with said Thomas Sheridan;
that on 23 November 2001 you were not present on the occasion when said Thomas Sheridan phoned directory enquiries and said Cupid's in Manchester;
that your aunt, said Annie Healy arrived in Scotland from the United States of America on 12 June 2002;
that you were not with said Thomas Sheridan during the whole of the evening of 14 June 2002; and
that you were not in the company of said Thomas Sheridan, Andrew McFarlane and James McManus within 216 Tweedmuir Road, Glasgow continuously between 10pm on 14 June and 1am on 15 June 2002.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Footloose Capitalism

(An article by Ian Bell in the Sunday Herald. )

Capitalism? I can’t drink to that
If the board of Diageo knows much about Kilmarnock, Glasgow, or Leven, it would come as a surprise. Names and numbers on a spreadsheet reveal little. Real lives and real history have no existence on the bottom line. They bear no weight when your business has neither roots you wish to acknowledge, nor loyalties you care to name.
If costs are to be rationalised - because a trans-national is ever rational - you cannot afford distractions. If those famously tough decisions are to be made, it is your job - because you have such a thing - to make them. So you think: 900 workers or £120 million in "savings"? What contest?
Walker's Kilmarnock, the Johnnie Walker brand, has been striding out of Ayrshire for the best part of two centuries. These days they distil the whisky at Port Dundas, in Glasgow, and it is known the world over as one of the quintessential products of the home of "Scotch". Diageo would probably call that a heritage thing. Employees have reason to regard their jobs and families in much the same way.
No-one says that they are bad workers. No-one calls them disloyal, disruptive, or overly demanding. It is not even the case that their efforts fail to turn a profit, supposedly the point of the exercise. After two centuries, it is safe to say that they have shown a certain commitment. So what do they get in return, when times are hard?
Seven hundred lives in Kilmarnock, with 200 more in Glasgow, are crammed into a box to be ticked: savings. Gusting hot air sweeps away quaint notions of social contracts and corporate responsibility. No politician mounts a serious argument when capitalism elects to be footloose, when it dives to the bottom, bullies elected politicians, and exercises naked power. The argument that the right of ownership carries any sort of duty is discarded or derided. And we can all, in a free market, drink to that.
Kilmarnock and Glasgow are not unique. They are unusual, perhaps, only in the number of industrial injuries they have suffered in the post-war years, and in the number of "cyclical recessions" they have endured. How often can you kick a city or a town or a class? We are finding out, all over again. Recession is providing an excuse for abuses that are not, in any serious democratic fashion, being challenged.
You will have noticed the banks. There is, reportedly, a new cliche being brayed in the grog shops and designer canteens of the City: BAB; "Bonuses are Back". We can all do the outrage, we civilians. How can the taxpayer own 70% of Royal Bank of Scotland, we ask one another, gobs well smacked, while an arm of government accedes to a £9.7m "package" for a chief executive whose only task is to make a bank fit for market consumption?
Stephen Hester, the lucky banker in question, will achieve singular personal wealth only if he sacks a great number of people. Lloyds TSB will absorb the defecated mess of HBOS by the same means. Northern Rock is also returning to health and happiness having made lots of blameless individuals miserable. The strain imposed on taxpayers by a preposterous financial crisis is one thing. Ordinary bank employees - hard-working, loyal, underpaid and innocent - are the ones who have been left hanging on the wire.
BT too has its share of those. Because the suits screwed up their global corporate IT ambitions , foot soldiers are being asked to pay the price. British Airways, stuck with a £400m loss, has been quick to follow. Themes are emerging: short pay, short hours, or "holidays" in exchange for a job of any description. Recession is becoming a scam by which the corporates roll back employment rights while chopping "labour costs". The profits earned by cheap and loyal workers in better times - Yes, Karl, I heard you - are forgotten. We could mention ironies. Desperation has become an excuse for exploitation.
All the while those same ordinary workers are invited to contribute to the rescue of the banks, £125 billion in "quantitive easing", and the rising cost of a Jobseekers' Allowance that would not, skull for skull, pay for lunch in one of those City restaurants. Then they are told, by all political parties, to live in terror of inevitable spending cuts because people who will never be poor have managed to excrete all the money. Your turn now, I think, Herr Marx.
Diageo says that it might have to quit Scotland entirely if the home of whisky ceases to be competitive in the whisky-flogging business. Quite how we managed to lose the industry to such people is another dismal story. What matters is the absence, here and around the globalised planet, of any legal, political, social or intellectual deterrent to assumed power. The company says that 900 jobs in Kilmarnock and Glasgow might be offset by 400 posts at a "packaging" plant intended for Leven. So where does that leave Ayrshire?
The myth runs that a profitable company self-evidently benefits all, and that the pain of a downturn must be absorbed by all. In the great scheme of economic voodoo, in the version Adam Smith would never have countenanced, this is held to be the only plausible route to the good society. The fact that no-one ever got rich on a whisky bottling line is ignored. The fact that downturns are not acts of God, or that wealth is never distributed as freely as joblessness, tends not to be discussed.
Society depends on the idea of social obligations. Laws exist to stress the point. We impose sanctions, to put it crudely, on the minority who elect to screw things up for the majority. Yet economics and the behaviour that flows from this week's hot theory are regarded as exempt from that version of morality. Even the bravest of politicians has hesitated to say that Diageo has a duty, like it or not, to Kilmarnock and Port Dundas. The rush to "understand" the plight of a poor, suffering multinational has taken precedence.
The company might go elsewhere, it is said. So it might. But wouldn't that be good news for some Third World elsewhere? Alternatively, wouldn't we take their jobs if given half a chance, without a second thought? And doesn't Diageo, doubtless open to "incentives", understand the point perfectly well? The people elsewhere are people too. You can't blame them, or they us, each encouraged to destroy the other, to devastate a Kilmarnock, while a multinational treats lives, communities and two centuries of work as mere poker chips. Spotted a culprit yet?
I don't understand economics, of course. The spotty acolytes of free market ideologues, the think-tankers, researchers and prospective candidates, have been telling me as much for a third of a century. I did, and still attempt to do, a bit of philosophy instead: ethics and such. I am sceptical of what is meant by wealth, and more sceptical still of how it is created or acquired. It seems to me that if social relations are to count for anything there needs to be certain universal obligations. The alternative is a pack, a marked deck, of lies.
If Diageo can walk away from Kilmarnock without a backward glance after two centuries, Diageo will have no moral standing. I doubt, of course, that the company's executives will lose much sleep over that. Those who advertise the virtues of hard-headed capitalism ought to think twice, however. When an economic system becomes entirely detached from the society it occupies the system, I suggest, is in trouble. And the crisis, in the proper sense, will not be resolved by conning the suckers into providing another few billions for another bail-out.
Loss of faith; loss of trust; loss of belief: that's not how you keep the customer satisfied. A global economic calamity leads to questions, some shallow, some deep. How is Diageo regarded in Kilmarnock this morning? With gratitude, with respect? Or has anyone really stopped to wonder why footloose capitalism is held in growing contempt in every corner of the planet?
I leave the predictions to Herr Marx. I can sense an impending irony, however. Imagine if a glorious free-market revolution succeeded only in radicalising a new, angry generation?

Friday, 10 July 2009

Argentinian Nurses Protest Against Swine Flu Deaths!

It's good to see some working class people fight back against the accepted spin that it doesn't matter too much if ordinary people die of swine flu, because they probably had underlying conditions. Where are the masks, aprons and gloves? Why was holding an election more important than protecting people's health?

Maybe the courageous actions of these nurses in organising a protest will cause people to reflect on gendered assumptions about "women's" work. Being a nurse is every bit as dangerous as being a policeman or a fireman. There are a lot of dangerous infectious diseases out there, even if the shift work doesn't kill you. Nurses need higher educational and professional qualifications to practice, than police officers or the fire service. But it is MUCH worse paid.

Nursing prof. fatalities: protest march planned
Source: http://www.kaosenlared.net/noticia/9...rmeras-victimaGoolge translation:Argentina: March to the Ministry of Health for the death of nurses who are victims of influenza A2 reported the death of health professionals by the pandemic and the spread of at least 50% of total trabajadorxs area. In the Posadas Hospital, they say, there are 100 with the H1N1 virusWalsh Agency For the Kaos Network Today 18:38 [Buenos Aires July 10, 2009PRESS RELEASEThe Association of Nursing convenes November 21:On Wednesday, July 15, at 16 hours, to act on the doors of the Ministry of Health and Welfare's Office to deliver a note to express our Minister Juan Manzur grief and outrage at the death of fellow nurses as a result of infection of Influenza A while working ... and claim:Safe working conditionsAppointments and re-payART coverage by health workers and patients who died of influenza ALetter to Minister of HealthDr. Juan ManzurWe are writing to you in our capacity as Maker of Health fighters in the trenches that the community is against the current trenches Pandemia.Esas care centers are hospitals, clinics and other health effectors.Developments in recent days, we say that there has been no approach to the workers or the Ministry in charge of the national government nor the nurses organized in different unions, associations and groups.As it has recognized the President, Nursing is a critical resource within the health system.It is true that over the past year, bringing a project to train new nurses, we can say that so far more in these days of a pandemic, since government policies, whether by action or omission was leaving the nurses to their fate.We're already counting deceased colleagues, working in various hospitals and nursing colleagues placed in intensive care with serious prognosis.We know that at least 100 Alejandro Posadas Hospital nurses are sick of the Influenza A, many of them complicated by pneumonia.For studies by the CDC in the U.S., we know that 50% of health workers in this country who treated patients were infected with Influenza A and the highest percentage corresponds to nurses, but there has not reported any health worker died from the pandemic.We believe that since you directed the Ministry, should take urgent measures to prevent a tragedy among health workers and especially among nurses.Labor laws are clear regarding the protection of workers and for the employer's obligation on the health workforce.What is contradictory and even immoral, is that these laws are not met in health centers and leave the nurses and other health workers to their fate.The death of two of our colleagues: Paula Ayala Hospital Evita Pueblo de Berazategui Baldaño Patricia and Maria Ferrer Hospital in the city of Buenos Aires reveals that the risk to undergo nurses every day. We affirm that in this crisis also persist poor working conditions of nurses.We urge health authorities to put an emphasis on personal care as stressed by the ILO Convention 149, and the recommendations of the International Council of Nursing, so male and female nurses should be considered high risk population in the pandemic.Nursing is a profession that cares irreplaceable human beings at all stages in all biological and social and personal situations. Intervention in the hospital to verify the health care work environment, and control of bio-elements, will not only improve their quality of life but that of the inhabitants.The signatories of this document, we urge you and through you to assume that:1. Declare the health emergency throughout the national territory.2. Funds are available to address the appointment of nurses throughout the country regardless of their jurisdiction and taking into account the historical personnel shortage and the exponential growth in demand that had originated in the social crisis deepened in recent years with the emergence of this new epidemic. Another factor that may increase the deficit and therefore must be seen in the incorporation of staff is given to those health workers who may be affected directly with positive cases. The nursing staff should be moved to permanent staff, no precarious contracts with limited time and scholarship system in the country.3. Be paid on an exceptional basis and for the duration of the Emergency Health, the highest percentage insalubrity additional 40% of basic pay for all nurses who are in the direct care of patients affected by the Influenza A H1N1. Given the inevitability of risk by working with a disease with high virulence and characterized as infectious.4. Create Crisis Committee of Workers, including nurses in them.5. Is recognized as an occupational disease to the Influenza A H1N1 among workers nurses and other workers who care for patients in all jurisdictions in the country, adding to the Influenza A H1N1 to the list of occupational diseases.6. Assume that the ART treatment of fellow nurses sick, completely taking charge of them.7. Regulating the supply of workers from nurses working clothes within institutions. Be given a "both" for each nurse to take a watch and leave it in the institution to withdraw the same as in the operating room. This measure prevents the staff do not carry H1N1 to your home. It is noteworthy, for example, that the Hospital Posadas, which is a national reference point in addressing this condition, the nursing staff is both the contaminated you.8. Regulating the immediate construction of changing rooms in hospitals with showers with hot water for staff to sanitize before putting the "clothes" to go to their home. It should be noted, for example, that the Hospital Posadas no showers or changing facilities for staff.We believe that these proposals must be implemented by the Argentine courts in all its national, provincial and municipal, as well as employers of private and Social Security is the responsibility of the National Government is responsible for meeting these objectives.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Exploitation and the Extension of Men-Only Space

See this excellent article on lap dancing from Rachel Cooke in the Observer. She absolutely nails the nature of the exploitation and how these clubs created men-only space in our towns and cities, as if there wasn't enough of that already.


With a new venue opening every week, lap dancing has spread into British culture. Rachel Cooke talks to the men behind the boom, the women lured by the promise of easy money, and the campaigners battling to stop the clubs opening on your doorstep

Rachel Cooke
The Observer, Sunday 8 March 2009

The lap-dancing industry will tell you that its 10,000 (their estimate) female employees are all as happy as Larry: that its "performers" are decently paid and well looked after, and enjoy some of the most flexible working in Britain.
But I am not so sure. The first time I call Lucy, an ex-lap dancer, she says: "I think you must have the wrong number" and hangs up, fast. The second time - by now she has remembered who I am and why I want to talk to her - she tells me: "I'd rather not say what I am doing these days, for the same reason that I won't tell you my real name. These are people [the club owners] you don't want to mess with. I am genuinely afraid of them. Who knows exactly what goes on behind the scenes, but I'd still rather not mess with it."
Lucy began lap dancing when she lost her job as an office temp. It was quite simple: she needed to pay her rent. "It felt like a desperate decision," she says. "It was a case of: I can't do anything else. But also I'd fallen for the myth that lap dancing is a good way of making a lot of money very quickly." She applied for, and got, a job as a dancer in a supposedly upmarket club. At the end of her first night's work, however, she went home having earned nothing at all. More alarmingly, she now owed the club some £80. Like the vast majority of lap dancers in the UK, Lucy was self-employed. Not only was she required to pay the club a dance fee every time she wanted to work, a sum that could vary from £10 to £80 (Friday nights were most expensive, because they were most popular with customers), but she also had to give the club commission on every dance performed (nude dances cost punters £20, of which she kept £17.50; on slow nights, she might perform only once or twice, or not at all). And then there were the fines. "You got fined for everything, at £20 a time: if you were late, if you were wearing the wrong shoes or dress, if you failed to dance on the pole twice an hour. There was also a fine if you were caught breaking the 3ft rule [licensing laws require dancers to stay 3ft away from customers] - though strangely, that one they never seemed to enforce."
Lucy lasted for six months. "It was very hard to make money: it was like having a very competitive sales job. They'd filled the shop with loads of the same thing - us, the dancers - and then there'd be only five customers. It wasn't just that we cost them nothing; the more of us there were, the more they made, even if the place was empty. At the end of the night - 2am or whatever - you'd need to take a taxi home, of course. But you'd have to pay for that, too, so I often ended up walking. No one is looking out for you, whatever the clubs say. You're on your own."
Did any of the women enjoy the work?
"A small number were there because they wanted to move into glamour modelling, and they thought this might be a way in. But for most it was about trying to make enough money to pay their bills. There were problems with drink and drugs; people were using coke and drink, especially drink, quite blatantly, to get hammered." Partly, she says, this was the only way some women could pluck up enough courage to undress. "But it was also extremely boring, and drink made it less so."
Lap dancers need to tout for business, which means, in effect, chatting men up, flirting. "You had to have the same tedious conversations over and over and over." Did she drink? "Yes. For me, it was for Dutch courage."
The only way to survive as a dancer, she believes, is to pull a psychological trick on yourself. All lap dancers use a "dance name" in the clubs. It lends them anonymity, of sorts. But it also gives them a persona to hide behind. "Brook", "Jordan" or "Sasha" is a much more fun, outgoing girl than the woman who plays her, and she favours more outrageous clothes and make-up. Thus, for a time, it is possible to convince yourself that everything is OK. "No one in the club would express any uncertainty about what they are doing - they're too busy competing for work - so even if you do feel bad about it, you wonder if you are the only one. You convince yourself that your perception of what the job would be like is the same as what the job is, even though there is a quite weird gap between the two. It's only when you have made the decision to leave that you realise how insane it all was."
And even once you are on the outside, it is not always easy to leave the clubs behind. "You have to start lying straightaway - as soon as you apply for your next job. There's going to be a gap on your CV. You probably also lie to your family, and your boyfriend, and it affects your relationships. If I had a pretty low opinion of men before I became a lap dancer, it only got worse afterwards. Because you see the worst of men in there."
What about the club owners' insistence that lap dancing has nothing whatsoever to do with the sex industry? That it is merely part of the entertainment industry? For Lucy, this is laughable. "Anyone who works in lap dancing and who deludes themselves that they are not a sex worker is in for a shock. No one respects lap dancing. The rest of the world thinks you're a slag." This would, she thinks, be the case even if all the rules were observed. But, unfortunately, they rarely are. "Customers might not come in for sex, but it is about sexual stimulation, whatever the clubs say - and it is physical. It shouldn't even be called dancing. It's not a show. The 3ft rule is a joke. You pay someone to get naked and then grind away on your crotch."
The pressure to shift boundaries like this is a direct result of the clubs' business model: as freelances, the women who "do" more earn more. "In theory, you could decide only to dance on the pole all night, or to dance topless rather than nude (a topless dance is £10, half the price of a "fully nude" dance). But if you're surrounded by 29 women who will take their pants off, how on earth are you going to make money?"
Since 2003, when the Licensing Act came in, the number of lap-dancing clubs in Britain has almost doubled. There are now some 310 such establishments in the UK, though this figure may not take into account struggling pubs which, their profits battered on one side by the smoking ban and cheap supermarket booze, and on the other by the financial downturn, are now turning to strip nights to keep their businesses alive. In 2008 a lap-dancing club opened in Britain almost every week - last May, five opened for business - and not only in big cities and dreary out-of-town business parks. There are now venues in places such as Worthing and Sidcup, Henley and Stratford-Upon-Avon: small, genteel towns to which people move for the good schools. Residents usually oppose the licensing of such venues, but only rarely do their efforts to persuade the local council to turn down such applications come off. In 2008 only two campaigns were successful: in Durham and West Kensington. In Durham a lap-dancing club, to be operated by Vimac Leisure bang in the middle of the cathedral city, was initially granted a licence by the local council, a shock decision that was only overturned at an appeal for which residents bravely hired their own barrister.
The simple fact is that, tomorrow, you or I or anyone could wake up to find that the licensed premises at the end of our street had turned into, or was shortly about to turn into, a strip venue. Its windows would be blacked out, and that would be it. Or we could discover that one of the big owners - For Your Eyes Only, perhaps, or Spearmint Rhino - had applied to open a club on our local high street, and that we were almost entirely powerless to stop them. Thanks to a loophole in the law (one so large you wonder about the ability of politicians to read through the most simple of documents), lap-dancing clubs are licensed in exactly the same way as any pub or cafe. As a result, objections to licence applications can only be raised by a tiny section of the local community - those who live within 200m of the venue - and on only four grounds, as set out in the Licensing Act 2003 (these grounds are: public disorder, public nuisance, crime and disorder, and protection of children). As you will know if you have ever tried to object to, say, a pub's late licence, protesting on these grounds is difficult. How to prove that crime is up as a direct result of one nightspot? In the case of the lap-dancing clubs, moreover, they are rich enough - and smart enough - to ensure that they have sufficiently effective security to keep the street outside their venue quiet. All of which leaves residents who are uncomfortable with the club's main trade - the purchasing of a lap dance, performed by a naked woman - with no recourse. By law they cannot object on moral grounds, nor can they bring up the issue of gender equality and argue that such venues objectify women - in spite of the fact that this ruling puts local councils in breach of Gender Equality Duty 2007, which requires them to consider gender in all decision-making.
All this, however, is set to change, and in just a few weeks' time. Or that's the theory. In November 2007, a group called Object, which aims to challenge the objectification of women, launched a campaign called Stripping the Illusion. Supported by the Fawcett Society and others - the group quickly built an effective coalition of MPs, councillors and academics - Object began campaigning for a change in the law. It wanted lap-dancing clubs to be classed as sex-encounter establishments, as a Soho peep show might be; they would, in other words, need a new (and more expensive) licence to operate - one that would better take into account the feelings of local communities (because councils would at last be able to consider the impact of such clubs on, say, nearby schools; these licences would also need to be renewed every year). Amazingly, just nine months later, the government announced that it would indeed draw up proposals on these lines. The Policing and Crime Bill, which includes this legislation, has now reached the committee stage in the Commons. It is expected to pass through the Lords and become law next month.
Only there is a catch. Or two. For one thing, the proposed legislation is not mandatory; it will be up to local authorities to decide whether they adopt it. Result: a postcode lottery that the lap-dancing industry will do its best to exploit. Campaigners point out that while many councils - perhaps the majority - will welcome the new legislation, some will resist. It is not only that councils are already under-resourced when it comes to licensing inspectors; in some smaller towns - Newquay, which has four clubs, would be a good example of this - councillors are convinced that lap dancing is beneficial to what they call the "night-time economy". The second flaw in the bill is that venues that host lap-dancing events less than once a month will be exempt. "The government is under a lot of pressure from working men's clubs, which have occasional strip nights, to weaken the reforms," says Sandrine Levêque of Object. "But the conditions in those places, and especially in pubs that turn to irregular lap dancing as a way of improving revenues, is much worse than in the bigger venues. If anything, they need monitoring more, not less."
Levêque and her colleagues are now working to put pressure on the government to amend the legislation, and two Labour MPs, Lynda Waltho and Roberta Blackman-Woods, have tabled amendments. However, time is running out. "The government is not very responsive at the moment," says Levêque. "I am not hugely optimistic."
Is all this a fuss about nothing? After all, 300 (the number of clubs in the UK) is not that many, is it? And what harm, really, do lap-dancing clubs do? From the outside, with their inevitable strip of red carpet and their velvet cordons, they look a good deal more upmarket than most nightclubs. Girls like Lucy, surely, are in the minority. To the first three questions, the lap-dancing industry would answer: yes, no, and none, respectively. Its people would then tell you that the clubs' smart exteriors reflect what goes on inside - that they are, in fact, "gentlemen's clubs" - and that this is why Lucy's testament is not to be trusted: a culture of "respect" prevails in their professionally run establishments and, as a result, its employees tend to be extremely happy in their work. "I've worked in regular bars," says Del Dhillon, the manager of Bandit Queen, a lap-dancing club in Dudley. "Girls get molested in those places. This is a nicer environment. Here, you can leave your girlfriend at the bar, and no other gentleman is going to chat her up. That's why 15% of our customers are women. Me and my partner, we like a club like this, for a drink."
Since Object came on the scene, the club owners have mobilised, aware that if the mood is turning against them in government, good public relations could be important. They established the Lap Dancing Association, a body that claims to represent a third of the industry, or 60 clubs, to "improve industry standards"; its secretary is a woman, and when you call the PR company that acts on its behalf, you also deal with a young woman. Its president is Simon Warr, owner of the British end of the Spearmint Rhino chain. In 2002 undercover police officers found that dancers in Spearmint Rhino in Tottenham Court Road were making offers to customers with the "intonation" of sex, and of cocaine; the club came close to losing its licence. At the magistrates court hearing, counsel for the Metropolitan Police described Warr as "not fit and proper" to hold the licence. Unbowed, he is now high profile. It was Warr who last December gave evidence to a Culture, Media and Sport select committee in defence of lap dancing, though his arguments proved to be anything but convincing. To the amazement of both MPs and Peter Stringfellow, another witness, he insisted that lap dancing has nothing to do with sexual stimulation. (Stringfellow, whose own club only offered topless dancers before the arrival of Spearmint Rhino in the UK, rubbished this argument: "Of course it's sexually stimulating," he said.)
I meet Warr, a Kiwi who used to work in the motor industry, at Spearmint Rhino in Bournemouth. But before he and I talk, I speak to three of his dancers. These women, as you would expect, are keen to defend the work they do and furious that what they regard as patronising feminists seem bent on turning them into sex workers. However, their pride in their work does not extend to allowing me to use their real names. All three insist that I use their dance names. Two of them tell me that this is to avoid upsetting their parents. The family of the third knows full well what she does, but still: she would rather not tell me her real name.
So, about these new licences. They are not happy. "People are going to start asking what extras we offer," says Layla, 23. "It will make the public think we're a brothel. It's irritating enough when customers ask that now. How dare these women fight a battle on our behalf without even talking to us first?" Her colleague, Jayda, agrees. "We don't sell sex. It's a show. It's the same as acting. You're more protected in here than you are in a nightclub on a Saturday night. The security is amazing. No one misses a trick. You only have to say the word and they are gone, escorted out politely." The third woman, Becky, 24, says: "Customers are respectful. Some are scared of girls, so they find it so lovely that we'll sit down and talk to them. We're in control. There's rarely any drooling. They admire what we do. They feel it takes courage."
Jayda, 35, is a single mother of two. She also happens to be a Muslim. She is beautiful, and extremely soignée: crisp white shirt, dark jeans, soft sweater in Kelly green slung lightly about her shoulders. This job, she tells me, means that she can be with her children during the day, and work while they are asleep. She has been here four months. Given her background, would she ever have believed that she would one day end up working in a place like this? She smiles. "No, it would have seemed preposterous. But you have an alter ego. It's quite hard to get your head around. As people, all of us are quite shy, retiring, insecure. My first night, I was on stage within 10 minutes. You switch off. You think: OK, I'm auditioning for a Broadway show. You don't see anything. You only see the lights." Is the money good? Like her colleagues, she is infuriatingly vague about this. "It's hard to say how much we take home. It's not a guaranteed income. You set targets for yourself. You think: tonight, I'm going to do 10 dances. I'm not going to the loo, or for a cigarette. Otherwise you might just sit and chat to someone fun all night."
The women go off to eat the sandwiches that Warr has laid on for them, and he and I go into another corner to talk, on a black leather banquette that has been torn and then badly mended with what looks like duct tape. Lined up on either side of him are various beefy, dark-suited and apparently adoring male employees. Warr insists, first of all, that lap dancing is not a growth industry, in spite of the openings last year.
"Look at Bournemouth," he says. "No new clubs in the last five years." But Bournemouth already has four such clubs: there is no room for more. "Well, we need to make a distinction between clubs and premises that offer striptease." Are the latter proliferating? "Yes. They are exploiting a licensing loophole." So he disapproves of those venues? "Yes, because they have no proper safety facilities." He does not, though, disapprove of striptease per se. So how does he feel about the change in the law? If his clubs are as suitably located and superbly run as he suggests, surely it won't be a problem for him, applying for the new licences? His only real worry is likely to be the increased financial costs. "I'm shocked by it," he says. "And we are going to take this to court. We will push for a judicial review." On what grounds? "There has been no consultation, and the government pledged not to increase the bureaucratic burdens on business."
If necessary, he says, the LDA will go the European Court of Human Rights (I've since spoken to a licensing barrister about this point and it is bluster; he has no grounds). The LDA's current plan of attack, however, is to demand grandfather rights for existing clubs, which would mean that they would be automatically granted the new licence, and on extended terms. But still: "It's arse against the wall time for us. It's bloody unfair."
There follows one of the strangest conversations I have ever had. Does he, I ask, regret telling the select committee that lap dancing has nothing to do with sex? Did he feel silly when they were scornful? "No. Do you think people come in here to be sexually stimulated? Guys are sexually stimulated when they walk through the lingerie department of M&S, but the purpose of that shop is not to sell sex." So if it has nothing to do with sex, why is the cost of a nude dance greater than that of a topless one? "Purely, it's an intrinsic value. We build value into the dance." But why is the value greater if the woman is naked? He can't answer this. "We are able to charge more, that's all. Look, sex screws our business model. Here's a thing: the average spend here is £200. You can get a prostitute for £20 to £60. If a guy truly wanted a sexual experience, he'd spend £40. So why spend £200? We're not selling sex. I'm sorry people don't get that. It frustrates me." He sighs, angrily. "Look, if we gave a blow job with every dance, we would be packed, but they'd have one dance, then they'd leave. That's why we don't provide sex." So, let me get this straight: the only reason that he doesn't provide sex is that it wouldn't make him as much money? "No, I'm not saying that. I am saying it would screw the business plan."
Does he feel that groups like Object have any case at all? "I can't answer that in a yes or no way. This is a popular, regulated form of entertainment." I mention the City, where women have recently won large sums in the courts in discrimination cases, one element of which was they were forced to entertain clients in lap-dancing clubs. "I'm familiar with those cases. If it is part of the corporate veil, it is wrong. This isn't the meeting room. But this isn't a battle about gender. We've been unwittingly drawn into that battle, and we don't want it." Warr is married. How would he feel if his wife worked as a lap dancer? "It's her choice." So he would be supportive of that choice? "It's an unfair question. That would be a conflict of interest." What if his daughter decided to become a lap dancer? He sighs. "I wouldn't like it." Why? "Because it's your flesh and blood. You don't like to think that there are people... looking at your daughter." This is a surprise. All the other club owners I've spoken to have been consistent enough to say they would support a wife or daughter who wanted to lap dance - even if I got the sense that, sometimes, they were lying. Then again, now I think about it, Del Dhillon, of Bandit Queen, Dudley, who is a Sikh, told me that he believes in arranged marriages, even as he boasted that his girlfriend used to be a dancer. Perhaps consistency is not these guys' strong suit.
Lap dancing is now considered a part of normal British life to a quite amazing degree. To take just one example: last September, delegates to the Conservative party conference were sent vouchers offering £10 off entry to the Rocket Club, Birmingham, with their official conference literature (nothing to do with us, said the Tories later; it was all down to the city's marketing people). The list of those in public life who have visited such establishments includes even royalty (Prince Harry has patronised the Slough branch of Spearmint Rhino). As a result, those who raise objections to it are often seen as prudish and are apt to be the butt of its supporters' jokes. At the Culture, Media and Sport select committee an ex-dancer, Nadine Stravonia de Montagnac, argued forcefully, and from first-hand experience, that lap-dancing clubs needed to be better regulated. Cue Peter Stringfellow, who remarked: "If she was a lap dancer, it must have been a long time ago." When this was reported by the parliamentary sketch writers (men, mostly), good old "Stringy" was merely a card, whereas de Montagnac was a "squawker" in "candy pink". One writer could hardly contain his excitement at having been given a card - "not unlike the cards one finds in London telephone boxes" - by an "inky-maned, 34D" woman called Solitaire.
All of which is infuriating for those who have experience of lap-dancing clubs, or who have fought to keep them from opening near their homes. It is not only that they have their dark side: that there is evidence to suggest that three out of every 10 men who pay for sex indoors find it at a lap-dancing venue, and the industry has also been linked to human trafficking (and, for the record, one club owner telephoned me after our meeting and made what I took to be a veiled threat). What of their effect on the wider culture? At For Your Eyes Only in the City of London, a manager shows me a special "meeting room" in the centre of the club, soundproofed so that clients can work undisturbed by music and yet glass-walled so that they can still see the proceedings outside. Is it normal to "work" in a place like this? Apparently so. "Officially, entertaining clients [at lap-dancing clubs] is not approved of," says Kate Smurthwaite, a former City analyst who is now a stand-up comic. "But the client is always right. You don't say to them: stick your multimillion-pound deal. It's worth your while to accommodate their tastes even if, strictly speaking, you can't expense them." Clients, however, are only half the problem. Her male colleagues often used to disappear to such clubs at lunch and in the evenings. "They would use euphemisms. They'd say: 'We're all going home now' or 'We're off to the dark side.'" Did she complain to her superiors about this culture? "I did mention it to someone in human resources. I was told to 'manage my own exit'. In other words, go home and don't make a fuss." Unsurprisingly, she did not feel as though her company - a major bank - cared about equality in the workplace. "There were lots of remarks on the trading floor, and it was obvious to me that the lap-dancing culture contributed to that. When we had equality training, their concern wasn't improving the situation for women. It was more a case of: how far can we go before we will get sued?"
It is extremely hard to prove the existence of a link between the clubs and sexual violence in the world outside, though a report by the Lilith Project, run by the charity Eaves Housing, which looked at lap dancing in Camden Town, north London, found that in the three years after the opening of four large lap-dancing clubs in the area, incidents of rape in Camden rose by 50% and of sexual assault by 57%. However, there is little doubt that women find the existence of such clubs intimidating. In its good practice guide, the Royal Institute of Town Planners suggests that lap-dancing clubs in city centres are to be avoided on the grounds that they make women feel "threatened or uncomfortable". Tracy Earnshaw, who has campaigned against the proliferation of clubs in Newquay, Cornwall, and who also works for Rape Crisis, says that the town has become a magnet for men seeking sexual services, with predictable consequences. "The atmosphere has changed. There is an air of menace. The men come out of these clubs, and shout things like: 'Why should I pay some slapper in there when I could have sex with you?' A lot of women take the long way home now. Because the centre of town is a no-go zone." (Incidentally, last month, Earnshaw's home was attacked by a group of men in the early hours of the morning; her front door was kicked in. Police say there is no evidence to link this incident with her campaign against lap-dancing clubs; she, however, would like them to prove that this is so.)
Local campaigners will tell you how difficult and traumatic it is, legally speaking, to keep the clubs at bay. But they also point to other difficulties. In Durham, Ann and Desmond Evans, who hired their own barrister to appeal a licence, found themselves asking how much training the councillors on the licensing committee had received. They also wonder how impartial councillors can be when they are dependent for political support on local businessmen. Tracy Earnshaw, meanwhile, is concerned that police seem reluctant to act on tips received from the public about the breaking of licensing conditions. Last year, a Dispatches documentary for Channel 4 filmed serious breaches of such conditions in a club called Halo's; the women were touching their customers. Yet last month the police wrote to Earnshaw saying that no further action would be taken. Is this a matter of resources? Are the police simply content that the clubs keep rowdiness on the street to a minimum, and to hell with what goes on inside? Or is it something else? Though no one is suggesting anything corrupt, several people mentioned to me the cosy relationship that can sometimes exist between the police and the club owners. Del Dhillon told me that his customers include off-duty police officers. I approached both the Metropolitan police and the Association of Chief Police Officers about this issue. The former would not comment. It is, I was briefed, "neutral" so far as any change in the law goes. The latter issued a statement which said that, under current licensing laws, lap-dancing clubs are monitored in the same way as pubs by police, that their clientele generally does not cause "public disorder" but that the service would "vigorously pursue" any allegations of the sexual exploitation of vulnerable women and of illegal activity.
It is clear that the government must amend the legislation, or waste yet another opportunity. The big clubs can well afford the new licences, whatever they say, and they will be granted them if their businesses are as squeaky clean as they suggest. But perhaps they will also find that they are not able to move into new towns so easily in the future. This can only be a good thing. As for the women who work as dancers in these places, I don't for a moment believe that new licences will change how their clients think of them. But then perhaps this is because I don't think that they have a high opinion of them in the first place. They know what these women are "for". Or they imagine they do. In a supposedly smart City club, one where you can buy a bottle of Cristal champagne at £600 a pop, I sit in a corner, sipping a Coke. It is early; the place is half empty. Still, there are men here whose mothers and wives and girlfriends would be appalled to see what they are up to: the grabbing, the yelling, the proprietorial charm that masks an altogether less pleasant kind of entitlement. I cannot bear even to take off my coat.
And perhaps the dancers know this, too, deep down. I am not going to accuse anyone of false consciousness. But it is not a happy business, even for its happiest exponents. In Dudley a young woman called Stephanie, with a sweet smile and a lovely Black Country accent, tells me that she loves her evening job; she is an apprentice hairdresser, and lap dancing helps to fund that. Then she starts to describe a night's work. "I wasn't always confident," she says. "But once you've done your first couple of dances, and someone has gone: 'You've got great tits', you feel better, and it's dark and for three minutes' work, well, £20 isn't bad. The first minute you've got your clothes on, remember. You only take your bra off after a minute, and you only take your knickers off 30 seconds before the end. I don't think about the customers. I probably couldn't recognise them if I saw them in the street the next day. It's like being someone else."
She looks over to the bar, where her fiance is waiting to take her home. How does he feel about her job? "He doesn't mind, so long as I am going home with good money. It makes him feel good. Other men want what he has got." She zips up her hoodie and, snug inside it, heads towards him, very young and very businesslike.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Scottish Socialist Party Selects Candidate for Glasgow North East By-Election

Kevin McVey stands for socialism in Glasgow North East - 2nd July 2009

The Scottish Socialist Party has selected Kevin McVey as candidate for the Glasgow North East by-election.A civil service trade union representative for 20 years, Kevin was brought up in the constituency, in Ruchazie.Kevin joined the Labour Party Young Socialists in 1984 and was expelled from the Labour party 5 years later for being a socialist.Kevin has a long track record of fighting the poll tax, against school closures, and for taxation of the rich to improve public services.
Kevin McVey said this evening:“At a time of daily news bulletins on the stench of corruption arising from Westminster, I am proud to publicly pledge that I will reject the £64,000 MP’s salary and live instead on the average skilled worker’s wage – not a penny more. “After the mainstream parties have been caught fiddling expenses for food, furniture, second homes, and Michael Martin was booted out for trying to cover up these crimes against people struggling to pay the bills, Labour now wants him promoted to the unelected, undemocratic House of Lords. “That’s an insult to ordinary hardworking people. Where I have worked you would be sacked for doctoring expenses or for failing to act against fiddles if you were in a manager’s post! “The people of Glasgow North East deserve a socialist MP who will fight for them, not another chancer who pockets the obscene salary and then grabs even more in expenses.”
SSP Glasgow Regional Secretary Richie Venton said today:“We are proud to put up a candidate with such a long and principled history of fighting for the working class. “The SSP has been at the heart of fighting to save several local schools and nurseries from Labour’s butchery. We have helped stop the ambitious councillor Gordon Matheson becoming the Labour candidate, because even the out-of-touch Labour hierarchy knew he would be a complete liability in an area blitzed by school closures, which he was at the heart of. The SSP will make Save Our Schools a major issue in the by-election, demanding class sizes of 20 or less for all kids, to give them a decent start in life and to hire more teachers and nursery staff.”

Copyright Scottish Socialist Party 2009
Comment: I am delighted Kevin has been selected as the candidate. He is the complete opposite of the expenses-fiddling, cynical, devoid-of-principles politicians from the mainstream political parties. He has worked tirelessly for socialism for his entire adult life. Yet he is totally unassuming and modest.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Amnesty accuses Israel of using human shields in Gaza

Disgusting stuff! It speaks for itself. My only comment is that there is no equivalence between this and the use of a few rockets to protest the blockade of Gaza.

Amnesty accuses Israel of using human shields in Gaza
By Leigh Baldwin – 35 minutes ago
JERUSALEM (AFP) — Amnesty International on Thursday accused Israeli forces of war crimes, saying they used children as human shields and conducted wanton attacks on civilians during their offensive in the Gaza Strip.
The London-based human rights group also accused Hamas of war crimes, but said it found no evidence that the Islamist rulers of Gaza used civilians as human shields during the 22-day offensive Israel launched on December 28.
It also reiterated its call for an international arms embargo against Israel.
"Much of the destruction was wanton and resulted from direct attacks on civilian objects," Amnesty said in a study.
Israeli troops forced Palestinians to stay in one room of their home while turning the rest of the house into a base and sniper position, "effectively using the families, both adults and children, as human shields and putting them at risk," the group said.
"Intentionally using civilians to shield a military objective, often referred to as using 'human shields' is a war crime," Amnesty said.
It could not support Israeli claims that Hamas used human shields. It said it found no evidence Palestinian fighters directed civilians to shield military objectives from attacks, forced them to stay in buildings used by militants, or prevented them from leaving commandeered buildings.
However, the report did point out that Hamas and other armed groups fired hundreds of rockets into southern Israel. "Such unlawful attacks constitute war crimes and are unacceptable," said Donatella Rovera, who led an Amnesty mission to Gaza and southern Israel.
More than 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis died during the offensive Israel launched in response to rocket fire from Palestinian militants.
Amnesty said 300 children were among those killed.
"Hundreds of civilians were killed in attacks carried out using high-precision weapons, air-delivered bombs and missiles, and tank shells.
"Others, including women and children, were shot at short range when posing no threat to the lives of the Israeli soldiers," it said.
"Most of the cases investigated by Amnesty International of close-range shootings involve individuals, including children and women, who were shot at as they were fleeing their homes in search of shelter.
"Others were going about their daily activities. The evidence indicates that none could have reasonably been perceived as a threat to the soldiers who shot them and that there was no fighting going on in their vicinity when they were shot," the report said, adding that "wilful killings of unarmed civilians are war crimes."
It said Israel's use of white phosphorus shells was also a clear breach of international law.
White phosphorus is not illegal if used as a smokescreen in open areas "but it should not be used in a densely populated area as it was used here," Rovera told AFP, adding that her team saw Palestinians with "hideous burns" from white phosphorus shells.
Amnesty also said Israel's initial denial it used phosphorus caused further deaths.
"People could have been saved if the army had admitted using white phosphorus, rather than continuing to deny it," Rovera said. "Then they could have received the care that was necessary.
The rights group was also critical of Israel's use of flechette rounds -- artillery shells which explode to emit hundreds of steel darts.
These are designed for use in open battle but were employed by Israel in built-up areas, a clear breach of the international rules of war, said Chris Cobb-Smith, an artillery expert engaged by Amnesty.
With its dazzling array of high-tech weaponry, Israel was perfectly capable of distinguishing between civilian and military targets, he told AFP.
Asked if Israel had deliberately targetted unarmed civilians, he said it was "very difficult to come to any other conclusion".
The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Medieval robber-baron, Steven Purcell cuts off water supply to Wyndford School!

This is the limit! Glasgow City Council have cut off the water supply to the school where parents are staging a sit-in, while they await a judicial review on the decision to close the Glasgow schools.

Steven Purcell, you obviously have no shame. Your dirty tactics are reminiscent of sieges in Medieval times. Why don't you talk to the people in communities, and actually listen, instead of ramming your fake consultation results down their throats?

Water is a basic human right.

Get there if you can, with water and supplies for the parents.


Monday, 29 June 2009



From Richie Venton, Glasgow Save our Schools Campaign organiser
Please take 2 minutes to sign the e-petition for the Scottish Parliament; help fight for smaller class sizes and greater democracy in decision-making.
Dear friends and fighters,
We have been fighting the Glasgow Labour council’s closure of 25 primaries and nurseries since January. We have built a mass movement, using every conceivable method of struggle.
Now we have taken the battle to the Scottish parliament and the Scottish government, demanding they take a clear stance in opposition to the closures and their consequences – especially the regressive increase in class sizes.
Our massive efforts saved 3 of the 25, but the rest are now closed, with horrendous consequences for kids, families and communities.
The Labour Council cynically calculated that since there will be no Council elections until 2012, they would ride the storm, hope people forget, and save themselves £3.7m a year at terrible cost to communities in working class areas of the city. We are determined to make them pay for these crimes – and in the process, stop the threat of 34 further potential closures!
If you want more background information, just click on the Glasgow Save Our Schools website at Glasgow Save Our Schools Campaign

At the heart of our battle now is that for smaller class sizes. Our Campaign has persistently demanded cuts to class sizes of 20 maximum for all ages. That would improve education and protect and create teachers’ jobs.
That is also the official policy of the teachers’ unions. And the Scottish government claims to aim at 18 maximum in Primary1-3.
As one important strand of our ongoing campaign, we have lodged this petition in the Scottish parliament Public Petitions system.
In case you are not aware, the Scottish parliament allows the public to submit petitions to a committee of MSPs to consider, with the option of inviting representatives to address this Public Petitions Committee to justify the case, and the power to then lodge the issue as a matter for debate in the full parliament and its sub-committees.

So we need vast numbers to add their names to this petition online, to add pressure to the MSPs in favour of inviting us to address them when they meet again in September. We have a limited few weeks to maximise the numbers signing the petition online.
It is straightforward - just click here to sign the e-petition for the Scottish Parliament.
And you have the OPTION of adding a comment on the discussion board to help add weight to the debate; but at least please add your name to the list of signatures TODAY.
And when you’ve done that, get others in your family to do it; and others in your trade union or community group. Then forward this email to everyone on your list of email addresses, to encourage them to sign up as well.

Thanks for your help – sign up and spread the word!
Yours in struggle and unity,
Richie Venton

Sunday, 28 June 2009


I have so much respect for these courageous parents, who are standing up for the rights of their children.

The birth rate in Glasgow is rising, so there is no justification for school closures. Why would you close schools just at the point when nursery and school rolls are rising?

Why should children in the most deprived areas have to pay for the recession? Tax the rich and leave these people and their scarce resources alone.

From watching the video, you can feel the people's increased awareness of their own power. That's very healthy and the council should be doing everything they can to encourage these people, not belittling their interests.


Also, see this press release from Friday. If you can, pop up to the schools with supplies and words of encouragement for the parents.


Latest - Council plan to stop people geting in or out of Wyndford from 8pm! Urgently need supplies before then, and anyöne who can join the sit-in...

PRESS RELEASE … for immediate use (26th JUNE)-

Latest-Glasgow Save Our Schools Campaign


Parents at Wyndford primary school have this afternoon occupied the school in fury at its closure by Glasgow labour council.Glasgow Save Our Schools Campaign organiser, Richie Venton, today said:“Parents sacrificed their Easter holidays, occupying the buildings of schools facing closure. The Labour council ignored this community uprising and the mass opposition across the city to their butchery of primaries and nurseries.“Parents who have re-occupied Wyndford primary as the council slammed the doors shut today are expressing the fury of a community at the damage done to their kids’ education – but also at the Council’s planned demolition of one of the few remaining community facilities in Wyndford.“This school won numerous awards for high achievement, partly based on smaller class sizes. Now kids are being scattered to the four winds by the heartless Labour axe-wielders, who also hope to bulldoze the building. The parents staging the sit-in against Labour’s vandalism deserve massive public support.”

For more info contact Richie Venton on 07828 278 093 or at richieventon@hotmail.comOr Nikki Rathmill 07894123721END

Sunday, 21 June 2009


This truly lays bare the myth that we live in "civilised" Western "democracies." In the UK, three million people demonstrated against this war, but the decision to use our taxes to commit mass murder without any justification had already been taken by just two men, representing the interests of the narrowest, wealthiest section of society. Instead of holding them to account or challenging them, our elected representatives were presumably prioritising padding their expenses claims.

There wasn't even any point to it. All they achieved were thousands if not millions of unnecessary deaths and political instability. And at the same time, they have led us to the brink of economic and environmental catastrophe.

The ruling class and their representatives in ALL the mainstream parties are not fit to lead. None of this will be solved by voting for another mainstream party, or even by having a no-holds-barred public enquiry. It's the rotten capitalist system that has got to go.


Jamie Doward, Gaby Hinsliff and Mark Townsend
The Observer, Sunday 21 June 2009
A confidential record of a meeting between President Bush and Tony Blair before the invasion of Iraq, outlining their intention to go to war without a second United Nations resolution, will be an explosive issue for the official inquiry into the UK's role in toppling Saddam Hussein.
The memo, written on 31 January 2003, almost two months before the invasion and seen by the Observer, confirms that as the two men became increasingly aware UN inspectors would fail to find weapons of mass destruction (WMD) they had to contemplate alternative scenarios that might trigger a second resolution legitimising military action.
Bush told Blair the US had drawn up a provocative plan "to fly U2 reconnaissance aircraft painted in UN colours over Iraq with fighter cover". Bush said that if Saddam fired at the planes this would put the Iraqi leader in breach of UN resolutions.
The president expressed hopes that an Iraqi defector would be "brought out" to give a public presentation on Saddam's WMD or that someone might assassinate the Iraqi leader. However, Bush confirmed even without a second resolution, the US was prepared for military action. The memo said Blair told Bush he was "solidly with the president".
The five-page document, written by Blair's foreign policy adviser, Sir David Manning, and copied to Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the UK ambassador to the UN, Jonathan Powell, Blair's chief of staff, the chief of the defence staff, Admiral Lord Boyce, and the UK's ambassador to Washington, Sir Christopher Meyer, outlines how Bush told Blair he had decided on a start date for the war.
Paraphrasing Bush's comments at the meeting, Manning, noted: "The start date for the military campaign was now pencilled in for 10 March. This was when the bombing would begin."
Last night an expert on international law who is familar with the memo's contents said it provided vital evidence into the two men's frames of mind as they considered the invasion and its aftermath and must be presented to the Chilcott inquiry established by Gordon Brown to examine the causes, conduct and consequences of the Iraq war.
Philippe Sands, QC, a professor of law at University College London who is expected to give evidence to the inquiry, said confidential material such as the memo was of national importance, making it vital that the inquiry is not held in private, as Brown originally envisioned.
In today's Observer, Sands writes: "Documents like this raise issues of national embarrassment, not national security. The restoration of public confidence requires this new inquiry to be transparent. Contentious matters should not be kept out of the public domain, even in the run-up to an election."
The memo notes there had been a shift in the two men's thinking on Iraq by late January 2003 and that preparing for war was now their priority. "Our diplomatic strategy had to be arranged around the military planning," Manning writes. This was despite the fact Blair that had yet to receive advice on the legality of the war from the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, which did not arrive until 7 March 2003 - 13 days before the bombing campaign started.
In his article today, Sands says the memo raises questions about the selection of the chair of the inquiry. Sir John Chilcott sat on the 2004 Butler inquiry, which examined the reliability of intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war, and would have been privy to the document's contents - and the doubts about WMD running to the highest levels of the US and UK governments.
Many senior legal experts have expressed dismay that Chilcott has been selected to chair the inquiry as he is considered to be close to the security services after his time spent as a civil servant in Northern Ireland.
Brown had believed that allowing the Chilcott inquiry to hold private hearings would allow witnesses to be candid. But after bereaved families and antiwar campaigners expressed outrage, the prime minister wrote to Chilcott to say that if the panel can show witnesses and national security issues will not be compromised by public hearings, he will change his stance.
Lord Guthrie, a former chief of the defence staff under Blair, described the memo as "quite shocking". He said that it underscored why the Chilcott inquiry must be seen to be a robust investigation: "It's important that the inquiry is not a whitewash as these inquiries often are."
This year, the Dutch government launched its own inquiry into its support for the war. Significantly, the inquiry will see all the intelligence shared with the Dutch intelligence services by MI5 and MI6. The inquiry intends to publish its report in November - suggesting that confidential information about the role played by the UK and the US could become public before Chilcott's inquiry reports next year.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Saturday, 18 April 2009


Finally the mainstream media show a little of the violent police attack on peaceful demonstrators at the Climate Camp during the G2o. It's only taken them two and a half weeks.

Maybe our society can now focus on the fact that this was organised police violence, not a few bad apples. In all of the incidents we have seen, no officer was prevented from being violent or chastised by their colleagues. They clearly thought they were acting with impunity and obviously believed they were following orders. Thank goodness there were no other deaths.


Also see this story about indiscriminate violent attacks on the media. This particular journalist thinks the purpose of the attacks on demonstrators is to discourage them from protesting:


Here is a wonderful clip of the courageous and dignified parents who staged a sit-in leaving the schools at Wyndford. The fight is not over:


And here is a lovely account of the sit-in from last week's Sunday Herald.


Wednesday, 15 April 2009

The Fight Goes On!

See this article headlined "Disbelief as schools fight ends in defeat": http://www.eveningtimes.co.uk/news/display.var.2502124.0.0.php

But in this report earlier in the Herald, the parents and communities are determined to fight on: http://tinyurl.com/cgsnw6

Labour should hang their heads in shame, for taking resources away from deprived communities. The birth rate has gone up, so we need to keep schools open, not close them. These children have done nothing wrong, but they are being made to pay for the excesses of obscenely wealthy high financiers - the sort of people New Labour throw billions and billlions of pounds of our money at.

You can protest tomorrow at the SECC in Glasgow at 11am. Gordon Brown will be there.

Saturday, 11 April 2009


Below is some of the most breathtakingly sick media coverage I have seen in a long time.

It seeks to stigmatise the ordinary people working hard in the campaign to keep Glasgow schools open, by making them out to be dupes who are being used by drug dealers. And to not so subtly brand and stigmatise the campaigners by associating them and their communities with the scourge of drugs.

It is heartbreaking that people and communities who have had it drummed into them for decades that they don't matter, have finally got up off their knees to fight for something they care about and this is how they are branded. Labour who have betrayed the poor in Glasgow for generations are the ones who have to answer for the widespread drug problems. The fact that drug addiction is such a big problem in Glasgow makes it all the more despicable that New Labour plans to close schools that are a resource for the communities.

But let's not get it out of perspective - drug problems still cost only a fraction of what perfectly legal alcohol use costs us. The harm from all substances is concentrated in the poorest areas, where the people need extra resources, not robbed of their schools by New Labour who are giving public money away to property developers in Gasgow.

I wasn't planning to buy the Daily Record just now anyway, because of the despicable treatment of workers who are currently in dispute and who are being threatened and thrown on the scrap heap by a profitable company. But I don't know when I will feel like buying the Daily Record again, after this.

The Save our Schools campaigners might want to consider a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission, on the grounds that there was insufficient balance in the story and it stigmatised a whole community. This story was clearly politically motivated, as the Daily Record is a New Labour paper and the powerful New Labour administration in Glasgow are currently being kicked up and down the park by this popular campaign.

How difficult would it have been to get a quote from a parent (perhaps anonymously) saying something along the lines of: "We completely condemn drug dealing that blights the lives of so many young people. We want a decent future for our kids and that is why we are fighting these school closures which we are opposed to because of x, y, z....."

I have total respect for the Save our Schools campaigners. The video of these couragous women (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhGGqgGE3R0 ) reminded me of learning about the Glasgow women who organised Rent Strikes in the early 20th century. I hope they take some comfort from the fact that when the media come after you like this, it usually means your actions are having an impact. All that good coverage the campaigners have achieved elsewhere in the media obviously has New Labour rattled.

Exclusive: Anger as notorious crime family hijack school closure campaign as cover to sell heroin
Apr 10 2009 Chris Musson
A CRIME clan have hijacked a campaign against school closures as cover to sell heroin.
The notorious Fox family have put up a poster outside their drug-den home saying: "Save Our School".
They have even started a petition protesting against planned primary and nursery closures in Glasgow.
But their interest in the campaign is simply an excuse for the stream of addicts turning up at their door.
A neighbour said: "It's an absolute joke. They are putting word about to go to the house and ask to sign the petition.
"It's so obvious what's happening but they seem to be getting away with it.
"They think the poster and petition gives them the perfect excuse for people coming and going all the time.
"But the idea that these rats care enough about their community to campaign against school closures is actually offensive.
"They have caused misery on this scheme for years and it beggars belief this latest trick is allowed to go on."
The Fox family have been dealing drugs in Calton, in Glasgow's east end, since the 1980s. They were unmasked by a Record investigation.
Yesterday, we watched addicts come and go while the Foxes flew the flag for the school closure protest.
The clan have a fearsome reputation for violence and are known for blatant drugdealing and threats to locals.
Their house on Millroad Street is home to Billy Fox, 32, and his brother John, 42.
John and brother Andrew, 39 - known as Sanny - were freed from prison on March 12 after serving three months each for dealing cocaine.
They have launched themselves straight back into the family business and backed Billy's plot to use the school closures campaign as cover.
The poster on the house gates says: "Save our School" and "20's plenty in a class".
It refers to Calton's St James's primary and nearby Queen Mary Street nursery.
Glasgow City Council plan to shut the schools and send pupils elsewhere.
Law-abiding locals are protesting against the closures and they say the small class sizes - currently 18 at St James's - benefit pupils.
Campaigners say as a last resort, the schools could be housed in the same building - the "Let 2 Become 1" reference in the Foxes' poster.
Another local said: "They think this campaign gives the house some sort of immunity.
"They're actually laughing about it, thinking how clever they've been.
"Parents at the school are disgusted and are ashamed that they've got a poster up. It doesn't help the cause." Billy and John took over the house after crime family head Ronnie, 72, died in 2007.


Get them out
Apr 10 2009
The notorious Fox clan have been exposed numerous times by this newspaper for their drug-dealing and criminal lifestyles.
They are scum of the lowest order.
But even they have surpassed themselves with their latest scam to drum up customers for their dope pushing operation.
They're pretending to front a campaign to save their local school and have put up a poster calling on residents to sign a petition.
The reality is this lot don't care a jot about the school. It's just a front to cover the fact that the steady flow of punters to the house are there to buy tenner bags of heroin and the other drugs that the Foxes sell to hopeless addicts.
This violent crime clan have brought nothing but misery and degradation to the Calton area of Glasgow, where they rule by fear.
Locals are terrified and generations have been lured into drugs by their presence.
They've been kicked out the area before, thanks to ASBOs. But they've continued to control the area through their extended family and associates.
It's long overdue the police got a special hit squad together, battered down their doors, rounded up the lot of them and cleared them and their allies from the area once and for all.