Sunday, February 26, 2012

Priority For Easington Colliery

My blogging is thin at the moment as I am trying to write an article about Easington Colliery which is on the east coast of County Durham. It covers the period 1911 to 1924. It was a time during which the pit, the community and the local miners' lodge took off. It included the 1912 Minimum Wage Strike, 1913 Unofficial Strikes, 1920 Datum Line Strike and the 1921 Lock-Out. Then there was the impact of the First World War with 198 names on the War Memorial in the Easington Colliery cemetery for that conflict, plus the Influenza Epidemic of 1918-9. There was also political activity, first by the local Branch of the Independent Labour Party and then with Sidney Webb being elected as the local Labour MP in 1922, 1923 and 1924. He had his work on the Sankey Commission of 1919 to thank him for that.

If anyone thinks that I seem to be missing anything or they have their own nuggets of information, then please let me know via the comment box attached to this thread.

The photo shows my Dad and myself, with next door's dog looking over the wall. It was taken around 1959 in the backyard of our home at a colliery house in Baldwin Street - although in the period of the 1926 General Strike and the Miners' Lock-Out, Stanley Baldwin the Prime Minister was only popular amongst the coal owners and not the miners. My father was brought to Easington when he was two and lived there until he died 84 years later. My mother lived there for 70 years, from the age of 20 until her death in the Nursing Home which had been built as a home for the local pit Manager. For my tributes to my mother and father click here and here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


On the situation in Greece, don't miss Dr. Peter Morici on Radio 5 at the end of this item on Left Foot Forward.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Turn Up The Heat

Edited, this is the latest message from 38 Degrees.

This Wednesday, there's a crunch NHS vote in Parliament. MPs will vote on whether to demand the publication of a secret government report into the risks facing the NHS. That could be another nail in the coffin of Andrew Lansley's plans - so let's pile the pressure on our MPs to vote the right way.

Right now, Andrew Lansley is in a tricky position to defend. He wants MPs and Lords to back his plans for the NHS. But he's refusing to let them find out what the risks are. If we work together to put our MPs under pressure, there's a decent chance they'll refuse to do Lansley's dirty work for him.

This vote could go either way - send your MP an email asking them to back publishing the secret report - it takes two minutes: see here.

The vote will take place on Wednesday afternoon. That means we've got just over 48 hours to convince enough MPs to vote to publish the secret report. The more of us that email our MPs right now, the more likely we are to succeed.

38 Degrees members, doctors, nurses and academics have all been warning for ages that Lansley's plans put our health service at risk. We know there's a secret report that could prove that we're right - so let's work together to get this report published before it's too late.

Last week we managed to get e-petition past 100,000 signatures. Now there's a crunch vote on the risk report.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Karl Marx reviews "Downton Abbey"

 From "Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844"

"His family history, the history of his house etc - all this individualises the estate for him and makes it literally his house, personalises it. Similarly those working on the estate have not the position of day-labourers; but they are in part themselves his property, as are serfs; and in part they are bound to him by ties of respect, allegiance and duty....It is necessary that this appearance be abolished."

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Happy Birthday Dennis

Dennis Skinner is 80 today. Knowing all the tricks of the trade which he learnt over 40 years ago when he was a new MP, he is still as effective as ever in the Commons. Here are some recent snippets which prove the point. He is also worth listening to in describing his early experiences as a coal miner back in 1948 - see here. The area he represents was mainly covered by the Derbyshire Miners' Association, who have had representatives in the Commons for most of the years since 1906. It is a tradition which he thankfully still keeps alive.

When I was an MP, I represented a neighbouring constituency to the one Dennis represents. But I did not normally sit next to him in the Commons in case I looked as if I was trying to be his apprentice. I was, however, sat next to him on his 65th birthday when much to his embarrassment Betty Boothroyd as Speaker congratulated him. So I hope that I am not doing the same in a smaller way.

For a good number of years we both had offices off the same committee corridor. If I needed advice on how to tackle an issue, he was the best person to turn to. He is just the same today.

Happy birthday Dennis. I don't need to tell you to stick to your principles.

Clarification 12 February : My memory of what Betty said on 11 February 1997 is incorrect, although in response to a point of order related to Dennis being 65, she did briefly respond. It was, however, John Major as Prime Minister who took up the point. This is the Hansard record -

"The Prime Minister: I should like to wish the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) a very happy birthday. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] That is warmly echoed by my hon. Friends. Wrong though the hon. Gentleman has been on almost every issue during his long parliamentary career--in a minute, he is going to say that he is not 65 and I am fiddling the figures--I hope that he smiles before he is 66.

Mr. Skinner: Perhaps the Prime Minister would now deal with the real issues in Britain today. He has been in power since 1990. He has doubled the national debt, and the public sector borrowing requirement is now more than £25 billion. He is the Prime Minister who came from the belly of the banking establishment, even though he only swept the floors at Standard Chartered. He is the Prime Minister who, on Black Wednesday, 16 September 1992, along with his right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Thames (Mr. Lamont), who was the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time, lost this country £10 billion in an afternoon--and never went near a betting shop.

The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman is becoming quite curmudgeonly in his retirement. The fact is that we have the lowest debt ratio of any of the larger economies in Europe. It is far lower than in 1979. [Interruption.] "Doubled it," shout the Opposition. If we had continued their policy, it would have more than quadrupled."

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Refinding Labour

Since the election of Ed Miliband as leader, the Labour Party has been (and still is) messing around in a highly undemocratic fashion altering its structure and rules. The cover for this has been two disgraceful procedures under processes known as "Refounding Labour" and "Partnership Into Power". Policy formation has been on the back foot, although mainly non-party members were at one time supposed to be listened to under a sham consultation procedure called "New Politics, Fresh Ideas". But it now seems that policy-making in the Labour Party will at last get on the move from the time of the 2012 Party Conference. There is still time, however, for any Labour Party members who can follow what is going on to submit ideas to Shadow Cabinet Policy Review Groups. Although from past experience, we know that this will be like throwing paper darts. In fustration, instead of discussing policy democratically inside the Labour Party, would-be activists are driven into setting up pressure groups such as Blue, Purple, Red and Black Labour. Having not fallen for colour schemes there are other groups such as "Winning Labour".

The problems about pushing policy ideas via the procedures of the Labour Party are revealed in the following extract from Ann Black's unofficial report of what happened recently at a meeting of the National Executive Commitee of the Labour Party. Without Ann Black we would not even be able to look through a glass darkley.

Here is the opening of her report of the National Executive Committee meeting of 24 January 2012 -

"Peter Hain, Chair of the national policy forum, gave a report. He circulated a list of shadow cabinet review groups, though these had not been updated since the reshuffle and it was still not clear how to engage with them. A shining exception is international development, where Ivan Lewis has written:

“Following my appointment as shadow secretary of state I have been contacted by many grassroots Labour members across the country who passionately believe as we do that Labour should continue to vigorously fight for the rights of those living in poverty across the world.”

He invites people to sign up for their newsletter at http://fresh development or by emailing Hopefully others will follow his initiative.

The policy-making cycle would start in earnest after conference 2012, following the review of Partnership into Power. Several of us again pointed out that in two years the NPF has held only two rushed one-day meetings. Conference calls and e-mails are useful, but not a substitute for direct dialogue. No dates have yet been set for 2012, and I wondered if the party could afford the NPF in any meaningful form. The latest joint policy committee was again poorly attended. NEC members, particularly the new trade union contingent, suggested that consultation documents should be open to formal amendment, and asked where final authority lay: with the NPF, the JPC, the NEC, conference, or elsewhere?

In the meantime please keep writing to the policy commissions, and copy me in. Their addresses are:

Britain in the World:
Sustainable Communities (housing, environment, local government, transport, culture, media, sport):
Crime, Justice, Citizenship and Equalities: )
Education and Skills ( )
Health ( )
Prosperity and Work - economy, welfare, pensions, workers’ rights ( )

See Ann Black here