Saturday, April 29, 2006

Two days early, Mayday comes to Croydon

I joined the first mayday demonstration in Croydon for ten years today. Campaign for a New Workers' Party were by far the largest political group. Trade Unionists did not perceive us as outsiders or interlopers. The demonstration was for "Public Services NOT private profit." New Labour were conspicuous for their absence. It is not a slogan they endorse. The demonstration had banners from public sector trade unions. It is an irony that the leaders of UNISON support New Labour but Croydon Labour wont lift a finger to support UNISON.

Thirty years ago I took part in a Mayday march in Croydon. The Croydon Labour Party were the backbone of that march.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Mayday in Croydon

First mayday Demo in Croydon for over a decade, against the destruction of public services in Croydon. - 29th April, Thornton Heath Clock Tower, assemble 11 am.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Eileen and Natara Hunter

“An injury to one is an injury to all”

This is the text of the leaflet distributed at NUT Conference. The support for Eileen and Natara Hunter and their brand of fighting trade unionism is growing.

After yesterday’s debate on management bullying, many Conference delegates will have been left wondering why a Union President, so keen to tell us that women should assert themselves, should then so harshly silence Eileen Hunter, a delegate from Birmingham, when she tried to seek a reassurance that the Union would defend anyone disciplined for what they had said from the Conference rostrum.

Delegates are also asking what is being done to defend two active union members, mother and daughter, who have been dismissed from their posts.

Both Eileen and Natara are pursuing employment tribunals against their dismissals but, under our harsh employment law, even if their cases are “won”, this is by no means a guarantee that they will win their jobs back. They have felt that they have had to fight at every stage even to get the Union to support them this far.

It is not appropriate to go into the specific details of the cases in this leaflet but there is one thing that Eileen and Natara are quite clear about. They believe that Eileen was dismissed because she refused to be cowed by a bullying school management and continued to speak up and organise as a fighting school rep. In turn, they believe that management also did not want her daughter to remain on the staff either.

In seven years Eileen had built the NUT membership from five to forty three, as well as encouraging the support staff to become unionised and fight off the threat of job cuts.

For acting as a rep, and speaking out at both school union group meetings and at last year’s NUT Conference, Eileen was charged with jeopardising the future of her school and undermining its management. If this is grounds to lose your job, then this a threat that could be made by a hostile management to many active reps and Conference delegates.

One of the main pieces of evidence against Eileen was reports made in the national press last Easter quoting from a speech she made at the Gateshead NUT conference, daring to criticise the disciplinary system and high number of exclusions which had been implemented in her school federation. But what price freedom of speech if your opinions are then used to help sack you?

Small wonder Eileen sought to ask her question yesterday. Small wonder why Eileen and Natara want to be sure that if union reps put their heads above the parapet against a bullying management that the Union will use all its resources to defend them against victimisation. If not, then which teacher will want to become a rep? How will the Union be built and maintained in the divided and harshly managed school system which this Government seeks to impose?

Conference rightly voted for the Union to confront management bullying with a collective response. But that policy must be put into practice. When our union reps are – as too often – at the receiving end, then they must be confident that the NUT will stand firmly behind them, not just with advice and legal support but also by offering and encouraging strike action.

Eileen and Natara can be contacted on

07876 361128

NUT conference resolutions against bullying

The debate on bullying at NUT conference was very good, Annette Pryce made a brilliant speech moving the main motion and outlining (you only have four minutes for these speeches) the issue of bullying.

Everyone will also remember John Illingworth talking about the effects of stress and very bravely talking about his own mental illness. To confess weakness before a mass audience takes "a real man".

I was also privileged to meet Eileen and Natara Hunter. Eileen and her daughter Natara were both sacked for standing up to bullying but they have lost nothing of the fighting spirit. In seven years Eileen had built the NUT membership from five to forty three, as well as encouraging the support staff to become unionised.

For acting as a rep and speaking out at both school union group meetings and at last year's NUT conference, she was charged with jeopardising the future of her school and undermining its management. If this is grounds to lose your job then it is a threat which could be made to many active reps and conference delegates.

We need more reps like her, not fewer.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

"If Blair is a criminal he should be locked up."

"If Blair is a criminal he should be locked up."

This is just a statement of fact. However when Hank Roberts said it and was censured by the president at NUT conference it was Hank who received massive applause from delegates and that is significant.

Contrast the mood when new Labour came to power. Outside the ranks of the left there was widespread acceptance of the idea that "things can only get better." Now there is widespread distrust of new Labour.

General Secretary Sinott's speech at the end of conference was well-received when he was praising the achievements of the union but there was a certain muted response to his illusions in Brown which are not I suspect shared by many delegates. The most positive response to Brown which I heard was "wait and see" - there is not much enthusiasm for the line of the union leadership that the possible advent of Brown will signal an improvement in new Labour.

However the most memorable speech at conference was John Illingworth recounting his mental illness as a result of the stresses of the job and his perception that as a head he was being bullied by the government.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Bulletin for Conference

Yesterday I received the Socialist Party bulletin for NUT conference:
I have put a Word/Open Office and HTML version onto the internet
here
The following is a couple of paragraphs from Martin's article. I look forward to Martin and Jane Nellist speaking in the debate on faith schools.
THE FAITH SCHOOLS DEBATE Martin Powell-Davies (Lewisham NUT)

The fact that 2006 NUT Conference is debating a motion specifically on faith schools reflects the increasing concern of many teachers at the growing influence of religious views on both education and politics in general.

When a Prime Minister, happy to let God judge his support for war in Iraq, is also happy to let fundamentalist car dealers like Sir Peter Vardy run his Academy according to "Biblical teaching", there is plenty to be worried about.

The Education Bill will give business and religious sponsors the opportunity to instil their ideas on young people. As with existing faith schools, foundation schools will also be able to set separate admission criteria which allow selection, perhaps overtly on the grounds of faith but also, even if covertly, on academic and social grounds as well. A recent survey of Church primary schools in England confirmed that they were less likely to accept children from low-income families than council-run schools.

The Union must firmly state that all schools should belong to a democratically-elected Local Authority, operating the same comprehensive admissions arrangements.

(The bulletin also has an article by yours truly on the Campaign for a New Workers' Party)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Brokeback Mountain

Well I can see that it is a great film although it is slow-moving to start. If you watch it all the way through and you don't have tears in your eyes at any point, you are probably "a real man!"

"Tell the truth and shame the devil." is what my dear old mother used to say. I never had to tell her I was gay however. Back in the era of this film the very word scarcely existed. At the beginning Ennis and Jack have to hide their feelings from each other and most importantly from themselves. Traditional Westerns are about the theme "A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do." and curiously so is this. I will seek strenuously to avoid any spoilers. I think it is fair to say Ennis and Jack feel forced into roles, marriage and family, which really do not suit them.

Are they going to live how they want to live and face the (dire) consequences or are they going to settle for unhappiness?

We have all faced difficult situations though hopefully not usually as difficult as these two star-crossed lovers. And how many of us have settled for unhappiness because it seems easier?

What do you think? If you have seen the film what did you make of it?

Friday, April 07, 2006

"Political Correctness gone mad" rallying cry of the BNP

I have just listened to a daft interview on Radio 4's today program. A judge has criticised a case of a ten year old boy being prosecuted for persistent racial abuse as "political correctness gone mad." What was daft about the interview was that the NASUWT spokesperson was unable to talk about the school or the pupil because the details are confidential and it was clear the interviewer didn't know what she was talking about for the same reason.

I think that judges should show more judgement. Whatever he thought about a particular case he did not have to use the rallying cry of the BNP to make his point. I believe everyone who says "I oppose racism but this isn't the way to do it" has a duty to add "what I am doing to oppose racism is..."and complete the sentence with something concrete they are personally doing against racism so they don't sound like a hypocrite.

And what happens next? I am a teacher, next time I tell off a pupil for being rude or racist I will get back the judge's considered judgement "Oh sir, that's political correctness gone mad that is."

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Moodle

West Sussex is trying out a piece of open source software called Moodle. It seems (so far) to work well with programs like Hot Potatoes.

What I have done so far is on http://learning.sackville.w-sussex.sch.uk/

It is very rudimentary at the moment but we have to start somewhere.

Another interesting development is that the online test for KS3 ICT involves database and spreadsheets which are clearly not Microsoft. This suggests that the over dependence on Microsoft in education is misplaced. Pupils will need to adapt to different software. Downloading some free open source software would give them that choice.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

V for Vendetta

"V for Vendetta" is great fun. It is an adventure film with some serious messages included. It is usually possible to wade through the deepest ideas in an adventure film (for example, X men, Catwoman) without getting your ankles wet. This is a bit different.


John Hurt and Stephen Fry are always good value for money and Hugo Weaving in the title role was a revelation with his ability to create a role brilliantly while hiding behind a mask for the whole of the movie.

Terrorism, homophobia, racism and islamophobia are all dealt with in the film in different ways. There are chilling insights into the secret camps where alleged terrorists are tortured for the good of the state. And the media are not exonerated either.

Most crucially the plot shows the way the religious right can use terrorism as an excuse for repression. In the course of the narrative responsibility for a terrorist outrage is shifted to whoever is the current enemy of the state. It comes as no surprise to find out that the author of this "9/11" turns out to be the dictatorship itself.

John Hurt is very good as a dictator and he also plays a caricature of himself on a TV show hosted by Steven Fry's character, Deitrich. Deitrich falls foul of the secret police for his pains. He expected to get away with a grovelling public apology. Instead he is killed when a copy of the Koran, which he kept because of its poetry, is found in his house.

If you have ever had a sneaking suspicion that Guy Fawkes was the only man to enter Parliament with honest intentions, the sight of millions marching in Guy Fawkes masks to overthrow a corrupt government based on lies is inspiring.

And that is where the film falls short. What happens next? It is here that the emasculation of the original story is most keenly felt. The "politics" were not exciting and spectacular enough so they remained on the cutting room floor. The original story of V was not from a socialist but an anarchist perspective but at least didn't leave the basic questions unasked; the original message of the story has been toned down and given the Hollywood treatment.

I still think the film does fulfil in an attenuated form, the concept of the original writer, Alan Moore "../the central question is, is this guy right? Or is he mad? What do you, the reader, think about this? Which struck me as a properly anarchist solution. I didn't want to tell people what to think, I just wanted to tell people to think, and consider some of these admittedly extreme little elements, which nevertheless do recur fairly regularly throughout human history."/

You have to like action/adventure films to appreciate it but if you do, this film is for you.

"People should not fear their governments. Governments should fear their people!"

Saturday, April 01, 2006

"Only the Innocent Suffer"

In Canada, a US soldier who fled to avoid serving in Iraq is having his asylum case heard in front of an immigration board. Josh Key, who served in Iraq for eight months, said he decided to desert military service after witnessing several atrocities commited by the US military. In an interview with the BBC, Key said: "The only people that were getting hurt was the innocent; that was innocent Iraqi people, as well as innocent soldiers."

Meanwhile Condy Rice has been visiting the UK

She has an awful human rights record - with the massacre at Fallujah and torture at Abu Ghraib on her conscience.

If she were hanging around the school gates any self-respecting head would want her moved on rather than invited in.

And she masquerades as a Beatles fan? "All you need is love?" "Power to the people?" "Money can't buy me love" Not exactly her cup of tea I wouldn't have
thought.

Even Roger McGough has had his (extremely attenuated) conscience pricked by this and pulled out of a concert in her honour.