Saturday, December 31, 2022

The sad loss of Alice Mahon

Alice Mahon

It is deeply sad for me to learn of the death of Alice Mahon. We were both Labour MPs for exactly the same period from 1987 to 2005 and shared in many similar political and social activities at Westminister. She died on Xmas Day.

We were both members of the Socialist Campaign Group and often participated in identical Commons activities due to our shared political interests. We also met up in similar social circles, drawn together with others due to our common political concerns.

Prior to being MPs we had both obtained University Degrees as adults and went on to teach Trade Unionists. 

Unlike myself, she resigned from the Labour Party in April 2009; although I shared many of her concerns about its problematic development. 

Details of her telling life can be found here -



Wednesday, November 02, 2022

Edith's Story


Edith Jacques lived from 1909 until 2012. Her twin sons Terrance and Ernie were born in 1938 and at their current age of 84 have written the above fine biography about their mother. The book is very impressive, even more so as it is the only book they have ever written.

     "Edith's Story" is particulary telling and hopefully it will help to start a new trend in the writing of biographies. For the bulk of biographies we normally turn to are about people we have already heard about. From prominent heroes such as Nelson Mandela to villians such as Adolf Hitler. Few working class people get the biographical coverage which tells us about the social and personal problems they were obliged to tackle. Edith handled these in an impressive way. Being faced with especially harsh conditions from the time of her birth, until improvements which she made effective use of with the establishment of the Welfare State from 1945.

    Edith came from a long line of families where the men were agricultural labourers, including her father who died when she was only 10. Then the following year her mother broke her back and was bed ridden for the rest of her life. Edith was obliged to pack in schooling to look after her invalid mother and her younger brother. For by then her four elder sisters had all left home to become domestic servants, the main form of employment that was then open to females. Her four older brothers being agricultural labourers.

    Beyond nursing her mother and doing the housework, Edith grew vegitables for consumption and sale. Then even when she married an agricultural labourer at 18 she continued to help her mother and also her mother-in-law who soon became ill and was eventually taken into a workhouse at York in the area where Edith lived.

    With the subsequent deaths of her mother and mother-in-law, Edith settled for a while into the more normal life of the wife of an agricultural labourer, starting her own family with a son. Then in 1938 she gave birth to the twins who wrote this biography. But disaster struck. As her husband cycled to record their births he was hit by a torrential rain storm. It led to his death only a fortnight later.

   Pursuing her struggle to survive, Edith gained employment at RAF Clinton nearbye. She worked a nine hour shift and a six day week. Looking after her young twins became a massive problem. In 1941 she sort to square the circle by placing them locally at York in Dr. Barnardos home. She expected this would give her a regular opportunity to see them. But matters soon changed. For the twins (who wrote this biography) were quickly shunted distantly from place to place, almost ending up in Australia. They experienced 13 distant moves as far apart as Dumfries and Essex. She faced great difficulties in tracing them, sending letters and attempting to visit her sons. Only in 1943 did she finally managed to visit them in Scotland and then two years later in Sussex.

    In 1947 Edith gained fresh employment in York at Rowntrees, eventually becoming a trade union representative and also took in a lodger. She had moved into a Council House and was finally in a position to reclaim her twins from Barnados. Edith's help and influence over them being shown by their moving on to qualify via the Open University and now producing this telling biography.

   My great hope is that amongst those who decide to read this fine book, will be numbers who then decide to turn their own hands to writing about their own equivalent working class parents. Even if like me (being two years older than the Jacques twins) all they come up are blog items about their working class mother and/or father. Such works can tell us much that we need to know about the shaping of our society, even more than works about the high and mighty.

Although the book is some 400 pages long and is littered with many relevant photographs and key references, I found to be a compelling work explaining Edith's extremely tough but compelling life. It is a long time since I have been consumed a biography so quickly.

(For my own modest blog efforts on my own parents see and )

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

The Fracking Minister Resigns.

 Great news - Jacob Rees Mogg the MP in charge of Fracking has resigned as Business Secretary. Hopefully this indicates that fracking will bite the dust.

 28 October sees the return of controls on fracking. See -

For more nonsense from Rees Mogg on facking see -

3:4 portrait of Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg

Monday, October 10, 2022

Commons Library on Fracking Dangers

 See this House of Commons Library Briefing Paper published on 31 March 2020. It reveals the serious dangers fracking can lead to especially in former built upon Coal Mining Areas such as the one in the item below this one. Link into

Sunday, October 02, 2022

Dronfield's Coal Mining Heritage and its Fracking Dangers

Dronfield Eye published the following article from me in March 2019, issue 161. You will need to click onto it to enlarge it, so that you can read it. Although it makes no mention of fracking dangers in the Dronfield area, the information it provides shows just how serious fracking operations would be in the territory it covers. For Dronfield and its surrounding area is pock-marked with several hundred former coal mining operations, many of which now have houses, gardens, roads, shops and public buildings  built on top of them. As mining operations in the area took place between the 16th Century and the 20th Century, there will be additional areas where coal mining took place yet they have not yet been indentified. Fracking such territory would create major safety problems. There can hardly be an area where fracking operations would be more harmful.

The Coal Authority holds a similar map for the whole of North East Derbyshire showing an overall spread of past coal mining operations. I do not, however, hold their permission to publish it.


Wednesday, September 07, 2022

The Minister for Fracking

 The new and highly dangerious Minister with responsibilities for Fracking - 

Lee Rowley our local Tory MP supported the election of Liz Truss as Prime Minister. How does he now feel about her appointment of Jacob Rees-Mogg to the key fracking role of Business Secretary? We can only hope that Rees-Mogg falls asleep on his new job. 

8th September. Watch out -

Added 23 September. See what we are now up against from Jacob Rees-Mogg and the Govenment on Fracking -

Monday, September 05, 2022

Was Liz Truss elected as Prime Minister on a Minority Vote ?

 It is claimed here that the Conservative Party had a total membership of between 180,000 and 200,000 on 1st July 2019 -

If this estimate has held up since then, it means that Liz Truss has just been elected as leader of Conservative Party and thus Prime Minister on the votes of a minority of its party's membership.  She obtained 81,326 votes to Sunacks 60,399, making it a total of 141,725 legitimate votes being cast. This is well below the membership estimate for 2019.

This time 624 members submitted invalid voting papers, but what number of others could not be bothered to vote given the nature of the choices ?

3:4 portrait of Elizabeth Truss

P.S. This claims that Truss received only 47% of the eligable votes -

Added 28 September - What vote would she have got now ?


Saturday, September 03, 2022

The Day War Broke Out.

83 years ago today the then Prime Minister (Neville Chamberlain) announced that Britain was at war with Germany.  I was three years old at the time. See -


The photo is taken from his radio announcement.

 Primary History KS2: WW2 Clips. The declaration of war - BBC ...

 For the full 13 minute announcement with additions to Chamberlain's statement, see-

Monday, August 01, 2022

This is whom I supported for the present leadership of the Labour Party

At our constituency meeting, this was whom I supported for nomination as leader of the Labour Party. Although the majority vote went for Starmer. 

Lisa Nandy - latest news, breaking stories and comment - The Independent

 See -

And -

Also see -   8 August

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Death of David Trimble

David Trimble – Facts -                                                 Over time when I was an MP from 1987 to 2005 I came to develope a key interest in moves towards peace and reconcilation in Northern Ireland.  I became a regular participant in debates in the Commons on Northern Ireland matters. And became a member of the Northern Ireland Select Committee and the British Irish Parliamentary Body. I was also a regular visitor to the island of Ireland - the north and the republic. These activities mainly took place during the period when David Trimble played a key role in developments in the Province.

 David Trimple was leader of the Ulster Unionist Party from 1995 to 2005 and first Northern Ireland Minister from 1998 to 2002. During these times we occupied London flats which were opposite each other on dfferent sides of the road, a couple of miles south-west of the Commons. It meant that on occassions we bumped into each other when either waiting for a bus to the Commons or more likely walking the distance together.  Such informalities can be very helpful.

It is sad to hear of his death. For he made significant advances towards peace processes in the Province.

1st August see -

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Tory Positive Abstentions

 In the election for the leader of the Conservative Party, what happens if the voters send in more positive abstentions than votes for either of the two candidates ? Would we then hang on to Boris ?

Thursday, July 07, 2022

Boris Johnson's Relationships - 7 children with three of his four wives and another woman.

 The following is an extract from his Wickipedia entry. Covering another side of Boris's character.



Johnson with his then-fiancée Carrie Symonds at the 2020 Commonwealth Day service

In 1987, Johnson married Allegra Mostyn-Owen, daughter of the art historian William Mostyn-Owen and Italian writer Gaia Servadio.[825] The couple's marriage ended in divorce or annulment in 1993[f] and 12 days later Johnson married Marina Wheeler, a barrister, daughter of journalist and broadcaster Charles Wheeler.[829] Five weeks later, Wheeler and Johnson's first child was born.[830][831] The Wheeler and Johnson families have known each other for decades,[832] and Marina Wheeler was at the European School, Brussels, at the same time as her future husband. They have four children: Lara Lettice, Milo Arthur, Cassia Peaches, and Theodore Apollo.[833]

Between 2000 and 2004, Johnson had an affair with Spectator columnist Petronella Wyatt when he was its editor, resulting in a terminated pregnancy and a miscarriage.[183] In April 2006, the News of the World alleged that Johnson was having an affair with Guardian journalist Anna Fazackerley. The pair did not comment and shortly afterwards Johnson employed Fazackerley.[194][195]

In 2009, Johnson fathered a daughter with Helen Macintyre, an arts consultant. In 2013, the Court of Appeal discharged an injunction banning reporting of his daughter's existence. The judge ruled the public had a right to know about Johnson's "reckless" behaviour.[232][834][835] There had been speculation that he may have had another child from an extramarital affair due to an appeal court judge stating in 2013, "the father's infidelities resulted in the conception of children on two occasions".[836] In September 2021, after years of obfuscation, Johnson stated that he had six children, thereby denying the existence of any further illegitimate children.[837]

In September 2018, Johnson and Wheeler issued a statement confirming that after 25 years of marriage they had separated "several months ago", and had begun divorce proceedings.[838] They reached a financial settlement in February 2020,[839] and the divorce was finalised by November 2020.[840]

In October 2020, Jennifer Arcuri, asked whether her 'friendship' with Johnson was in fact an affair, said "I think that goes without saying ... But I'm not going to talk about it."[841] In March 2021, she went into more detail about the alleged affair in an interview with the Sunday Mirror, saying it lasted from 2012 to 2016.[842][843]

In 2019, Johnson was living with Carrie Symonds, the daughter of Matthew Symonds, co-founder of The Independent newspaper. Symonds had worked for the Conservative party since 2009 and worked on Johnson's 2012 campaign to be re-elected as mayor.[844] On 29 February 2020, Johnson and Symonds announced they had become engaged in late 2019, and that Symonds was expecting a baby in early summer.[845] Their son, Wilfred Lawrie Nicholas Johnson,[846] was born on 29 April 2020 at University College Hospital in London.[847][848]

On 29 May 2021, Johnson married Symonds in a secret ceremony at Westminster Cathedral attended by 30 guests,[815][849] becoming the first prime minister to marry in office since Lord Liverpool married Mary Chester in 1822.[850] On 31 July 2021, it was announced that they were expecting their second child together after Carrie suffered a miscarriage earlier that year.[851] Their daughter, Romy Iris Charlotte Johnson,[852] was born on 9 December 2021 at an NHS London hospital.[853]


Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Manny Shinwell, Ruskin College and Me

 The current Summer 2022 edition of "Order! Order!" which is the official Journal of the Association of Former Members of Parliament carries on article from myself on pages 4 and 5 entitled "Manny Shinwell, Ruskin College and Me". Manny was the MP at Easington when I first joined the Labour Party in 1956, gave me a reference to attend Ruskin College and officially opened the Dronfield Contact Club when it moved to its current site and I first became a member. 

See pages 4 and 5 here -


Wednesday, June 08, 2022

Australian Parliament 8 March 2005 - covering my support for the Iraqi Trade Union Movement

 Alexander Downer as Liberal Foreign Affairs Minister in Australia made the following reply to a parliamentry question on 8 March 2005. The UK parliament packed in a shortly afterwards for electoral ppurposes on 11 April 2005 and I then stood down as an MP.

Dr WASHER (2:31 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Would the minister inform the House of progress being made to establish a transitional government in Iraq? Are there any alternative policies.

Mr DOWNER (Minister for Foreign Affairs)       ALEXANDER DOWNER, Geo-Blogger at Global Brief Magazine  Let me thank the honourable member for Moore for his question and his interest. The process now is that the transitional assembly is to meet and a transitional government is to be formed by that transitional assembly. Interim Deputy Prime Minister Salih said the Transitional National Assembly would meet on 16 March. The reason 16 March was chosen is that it is the anniversary of the chemical weapons attack against Halabja by Saddam Hussein. So it is a very symbolic day. It is a very important day for the Iraqis and it is a symbol of reconciliation in that country. A two-thirds majority will be required in the National Assembly to elect a president and two vice presidents, who will in turn appoint a prime minister. That process is, of course, under way already and it is very encouraging to see this democracy at work.

What is also encouraging is that there is now international consensus. President Bush’s visit to Europe illustrated that point only too clearly. The international community is getting right behind the Iraqis in trying to ensure that the new democratic Iraq works. I was quite interested to see that amongst those who were virulently opposed to the original overthrow of Saddam Hussein was a British Labour MP called Harry Barnes. Some members opposite may know Harry Barnes. Having been a very passionate anti-war MP, he has now done the honourable thing. He has set up a group called Labour Friends of Iraq. I would like to feel that our own Labor Party could think about Labor friends of Iraq as well, and take a leaf out of Harry Barnes’s book. Harry Barnes said:

I thought it was right to oppose the war. But history moves on and the Iraqi people now have a golden opportunity to take back their country and build a decent non-sectarian democracy ...

Here you have the British Labour Party, even the anti-war dissidents within the government majority there, getting behind the people of Iraq. Just about the only people left who are continually harping on in a negative way about Iraq are the Australian Labor Party led by the current Leader of the Opposition. Yesterday the Leader of the Opposition made an 18-minute speech. It was another simple illustration of his capacity to walk both sides of the street. It was a speech where he said nothing positive about the Iraqi election. I think the only thing he said about the election was that he thought it was flawed.

The European Union, the NATO leaders and the international community all know that the Sunnis were intimidated in order to keep the turnout low, but we are being positive and constructive about the future of democracy in Iraq. The Leader of the Opposition apparently thinks that the real issue here is that the country is about to descend into a civil war. So let’s talk up that issue. He walks both sides of the street. He said, in terms of Australia’s contribution, that he thinks the maintenance of a strong position in the Persian Gulf is not an unreasonable thing on a more long-term basis. So we should have people—the Navy, I suppose—in the Persian Gulf in the long term.

But the Leader of the Opposition also said in the same speech that we should not commit ourselves permanently outside of the Asia-Pacific region. We should have the Navy there but we should not have the Army there! We should be there; we should not be there! He had a new criticism which was that when the al-Sadr forces were in revolt there was a need to increase our deployment in Iraq. But with Iraq so much quieter now he thinks that we should have increased our troop numbers earlier. And maybe having increased them earlier we should reduce them. He makes the argument that we do not have enough troops there—450 is not enough! We need more troops there but we should not have troops there at all! I think the Labor Party in Australia should follow the lead of Harry Barnes. They should get behind the Iraqi people, set up a new group called ‘Labor friends for Iraq’—not ‘Gough Whitlam in Blues Point Tower friends for Iraq’—and get behind the Iraqi people and support democracy. On this side of the House that is what we do.

Sunday, May 08, 2022

How well did Labour perform ?

 Although one result in England is still awaited, the local election results are much more pro-labour than most commentators claim. When added together they show that Labour took easily more votes than most other political parties, groupings and independents. Easily outmatching many contestants.

These are the total percentages -

Labour                 44.9%

Conservatives      20.2%

Liberals                12.8%

Independents         9.4%                   The Labour percentage is equal to the total for all other

SNP                       6.7%                   groups, excluding only those for the Independents and the

Plaid Cymru          3.0%                   Residents Association,

Greens                   2.2%

Residents Ass.       0.8% 

There are , however, some qualifications which need to be made to these results. 

First of all, the seats contested were not even roughly of equal sizes. Those in rural areas tending to have more seats per head of their electorates. Whilst the areas which had no contests may have differing political commitments to those which were contested. But for Labour to equal the turnout of so many political groupings is surely a matter of some significance.



Saturday, April 30, 2022

Ban Mobiles and the like for MPs when in the Commons.


Neil Parish is resigning as an MP after being discovered to have viewed pornography on a mobile devise in the Commons Chamber.

Yet all uses of such technology needs to be banned in such circumstances. For MPs are supposed to be there to follow and potentially participate in debates and to pursue procedural avenues.

 If an MP on the floor of the Commons needs to be contacted urgently, then Commons Officials can always contact them in the Chamber and the MPs concerned can leave and then use a phone or a mobile. They are supposed to be present to listen to debates and follow procedural developments.

Mobiles and the like often kill off such possibiities, with MPs following non-relevant issues.


Wednesday, April 13, 2022

The Blunders of Boris

Boris Johnson appeared with medical experts time after time on television explaining what the rules for avoiding Covid were - at different times and replying in detail to questions. He must have said many things that were inconsistent with the matters he has now been found quilty over. I have searched for these interviews on the internet, but have so far been unsuccessful. But surely the Parliamentary Labour Party can come up with these. They need re-showing on TV and will further his departure as Prime Minister or lead to his massive unpopularity.

22 April - At last I have found this key source which spells out the failures of Boris. How and when he spelt out the rules to the pubic, then broke them on specific occasions in 10 Downing Street - . On top of which there is also this matter -


Friday, March 25, 2022

Key Material on Easington Colliery by Mary N Bell

See -

Also these 10 poems by Easington women concerning the local pit. Including four by Mary N Bell.

There is also her book of poems (including the above)"Where the Pits Were". See -

And there is her book "A Cronicle of Easington Colliery" which contains a Foreword from myself . See -

Sunday, February 13, 2022

333 Year's Ago Today

The Bill of Rights of 1689 (which significantly established the Rights of Parliament and placed limits on the Crown) became law exactly 333 years ago today.  Some of it appears below.

This is how it is described on the Parliamentary web site - "The Bill of Rights 1689 is an iron gall ink manuscript on parchment. It is an original Act of the English Parliament and has been in the custody of Parliament since its creation. The Bill firmly established the principles of frequent parliaments, free elections and freedom of speech within Parliament – known today as Parliamentary Privilege. It also includes no right of taxation without Parliament's agreement, freedom from government interference, the right of petition and just treatment of people by courts. The main principles of the Bill of Rights are still in force today - particularly being cited in legal cases – and was used as a model for the US Bill of Rights 1789. Its influence can also be seen in other documents establishing the rights of humans, such as the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights." FROM

It is a pity that we have to celebrate this anniversary under Boris.

 English Bill of Rights of 1689.jpg





Thursday, February 03, 2022

The Shadow Of Easington's Pit.

The Shadow of the Mine by Ray Hudson and Huw Beynon

The Shadow of the Mine by Huw Beynon and Ray Hudson tells the story of the British Coal Industry in its development and heyday, plus what then happened to mining communities when the last pits were closed under the impact of Thatcherism. Whilst the book covers the general pattern of major events across the country, it pays particular attention to developments in the key mining areas of South Wales and County Durham. Their coal in the past having been especially important to the British Economy in powering its factories and railways.

  As I originate from Easington Colliery which was the last pit to close in the Durham Coalfield, I found this work to be of particular interest. Especially as Easington's pit and community are refered to more than any others. It makes six of the book's photos, maps and tables. Then its pit is also refered to more than any others - according to the index 19 times.  The neigbouring Horden Colliery coming next, with references on 9 pages. Yet out of the 67 such mines referred to, 29 only reeeive a single mention.

   When account is also taken of Easington as a community, it is mentioned on no less than 30 pages. Then it is additionally covered via references to Easington in its wider capacity as a District Council area and eventually as a Parliamentary Constituency. Below I give what I see as the main reasons why Easington itself was likely to be given so much attention by Beynon and Hudson.

   (1) Easington Colliery's slow creation and eventual growth rested fully on coal mining. For before coal mining back in the 1891 Census what is now its current area was then populated by only 61 people. These included farmers, a single agricultural labourer, brickyard workers, coast guards, quarrymen, children and housewives. And even some of these then travelled in to work from what became known as nearbye Easington Village. It was to be the pit alone that created a full Easington Colliery community; essentially for its workers, their families and those who provided them with services. Only as time went on did limited numbers of the miners children and wives find work nearbye in places such as Sunderland, Hartlepool and finally the later establised Peterlee.

   (2)  The Easington Colliery Pit Disaster of 1951 (according to the official report) "arose from an explosion in a specific seam when a coal cutting machine operating on a retreating longwall face struck pyrites. The explosion spread through 16,000 yards and caused the deaths of 81 persons. Two persons died in the ensuing rescue operations." My own father was in the pit at the time, but was working in a different seam from the explosion. He later helped with salvage work.

  (3)  During the miners strike of 1984-85 the depth of the struggle at Easington Colliery gained a great deal of attention, including mass turn outs against a single miner who sort to return to work. Local activists and their supporters were also often highly articulate about what was takng place.

  (4)  Easington was the final pit to be closed in County Durham, so it marked the end of a massively significant era.

  (5) Easington later attracted attention when the popular fictional film "Billy Elliot" was made there in 2002, involving locals in the background.

  Readers of Benyon and Hudson's book who have Easington connections may be find it odd to have its authors calling it "Easington Colliery village." For Easington Village which is next to Easington Colliery has a much longer non-mining history than the Colliery. Although it eventually came to have a Council Housing Estate which accomodated numbers of local miners and their families, plus retirement homes for ex-miners. But the authors are merely following a pattern where communites dominated by coal mining are often termed by them as being "mining villages".

  Many people with connections to Easington will also find this books wider coverage of "Coal And The End Of Industrial Britain" to be of interest.  For it deals with many similar backgrounds and events which first developed and then uncoupled key aspects of a wide range of coal mining communities.