Friday, 18 April 2008

Alec Douglas-Who?

I found this piece in my draft items which for some reason had not been published


I was amused by a piece in last nights Cambridge Evening News regarding a 1964 student plot to kidnap then Prime Minister Alec Douglas-Home.

The plot was uncovered with the release of the diaries of former Lord Chancellor, Lord Hailsham which have been donated to the Churchill Archives Centre at Cambridge University.

It describes how the students managed to enter the home in Aberdeen that Douglas-Home was staying in, which was unguarded as there was no room for is bodyguard. It was there that the PM entertained them with beer and sandwiched before the students left.

It drew a hysterical response from Chris Collins of the Margaret Thatcher Foundation who seems to have a limited recollection of other security breaches when he says

It was one of the worst breaches of a Prime Minister’s personal security in the 20th Century…… If Home’s assailants had been darker in purpose he could have died that night.’

Obviously this ranks as worse than the phone tapping and planned military coup against Prime Minister Harold Wilson who was to beat Home in the 1964 General Election.

Anyway, if the students had been successful in their kidnap plot, would anyone have noticed?

Monday, 14 April 2008

UCU and NUT to Strike on 24th April

Further Education College lecturers vote to strike on pay

College lecturers in England have voted to strike on Thursday 24 April in support of a demand to bring their pay up to that of schoolteachers.

Lecturers in over 250 colleges were balloted by the University and College Union (UCU). The result shows solid support for industrial action: 65.5% of those voting supported strike action and 86.2% also supported other forms of industrial action short of a strike.

UCU, with other FE unions, submitted a joint pay claim for a 6% increase or £1500, whichever is the greater, for 2008-9. FE unions will meet employers on 1 May.

Thousands of FE lecturers, including large numbers who are part-time and hourly paid, can't reach the higher pay levels enjoyed by schoolteachers. And no FE lecturers get the allowances enjoyed by 50% of schoolteachers worth between £2,364 to £11,557 p.a. on top of the pay scales.
Growing workload are also a major concern. As well as teaching, lecturers carry out course development, lesson preparation, marking, professional development and administration. A quarter of lecturers already teach more than 850 hours a year, jeopardising quality in UCU’s view. The lecturers want negotiations on common conditions of service across all colleges.

A major independent study, soon to be published by UCU, reveals high levels of staff dissatisfaction and low morale throughout colleges in England, a serious challenge to both employers and the government.

Members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), who teach in schools, are also striking on Thursday 24 April over a separate pay claim.

In both schools and colleges, many teaching professionals believe their employers are ignoring their professional status and serving business interests at the expense of community needs. NUT and UCU and the National Union of Students, NUS recently launched a joint campaign ‘Our schools, our colleges, our communities’ to draw attention to threats to the quality of local, public education from college marketisation, ‘city academies’ and cuts in public services.

On Thursday 24 April, the two unions are likely to hold joint events in many locations.
Sally Hunt, general secretary of UCU, said

College lecturers feel undervalued, despite their successes, which the government has recognised. 'The considerable difference in the average pay of lecturers and teachers doing the same work is grossly unfair.
“It is more than four years since FE employers agreed to move lecturers to the same length pay scales as school teachers but 47% of colleges still haven’t done that. The treatment of FE staff is a scandal. Pay has been further eroded by below-inflation pay awards.
“Further Education is central to the government’s plans for reskilling the nation but colleges must also serve their communities, not simply be factories for qualifications. Lecturers are delivering. Now college employers must tackle the deep dissatisfaction amongst their staff


There will be a rally at the Guildhall in Cambridge at 12pm on Thursday 24th held with the NUT. Come along and support the rally. Picket line details to follow.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

More Bloody Repeats!!!

So, in a repeat of last seasons Champions League Semi Final either Chelsea or Liverpool could face Manure in the final.

Surely it will be the turn of Chelsea to triumph over Liverpool, although this largely depends on Avram Grant's approach to the game. The major advantage is the second leg is at Stamford Bridge. Disadvantages are 1) Avram Grant will probably play a bizarre formation with Cudicini and Cech playing up front 2) Liverpool may have a psychological edge 3) referees seem to like awarding dubious penalties to Liverpool and not giving them against!

That leaves Manure v Barca. Manure seem to bottle it in Europe and on the whole R****y and Ronaldo don't seem to perform enough at this level. I may be proven wrong but I hope not. I think Barca will triumph in this game and also the final whoever they face.

UNITE Hunger Strikers Hospitalised

Sacked airport shop stewards hunger strike for justice Workers’ health deteriorates dangerously – Urgent protests needed!

Socialist Party reporters, BelfastThree sacked airport shop stewards, Gordon McNeill, Madan Gupta and Chris Bowyer, began a hunger strike at Transport House Belfast on Monday 7 April demanding justice from their union, Unite. Rather than attempt to resolve this issue through direct dialogue with the shop stewards, the union’s answer has been coercion – in the form of instructions to the police to forcibly remove them from the building – and misinformation – in the form of a Unite public statement that completely falsifies what has happened in this dispute and misrepresents what the protesting shop stewards are demanding.

Six years on from the decision by their employer, airport security firm, ICTS, to sack them for striking for a pay increase, the shop stewards who led this dispute are still campaigning for justice.Two of the shop stewards, Gordon McNeill and Madan Gupta, have decided to begin a hunger strike at Transport House demanding that commitments given to them last September by UNITE General Secretary Tony Woodley and other senior officials of the union, including Irish Regional Secretary, Jimmy Kelly, be honoured in full.

Today, both Gordon McNeill and Madan Gupta have been rushed to Belfast City Hospital in a critical condition. This is the second time today that Mr McNeill has been hospitalised. Quickly after returning to Transport House, Mr McNeill took ill and was joined by 72 year-old diabetic Madan Gupta back to Belfast City Hospital. UNITE still refuse to meet with the workers who have been fighting for over 6 years for justice.Protests to Unite are urgently needed!

Please send email letters of protest to tony.woodley@unitetheunion.com & jkelly@tgwu.org.uk. Fax letters to Belfast: 02890 240 133. You can also phone protests to the Belfast union offices: 02890 232 381.For more details see socialistpartyni.net

Monday, 7 April 2008

ID Cards to be Tested on Students

From an article in this weeks issue of 'The Socialist'

If the mainstream media are to be believed, it would seem as thought the government have backtracked on their controversial plans to introduce ID cards. Things, however, are not quite what they seem. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith recently announced plans for ID cards to be introduced on a voluntary basis for certain groups, including students.

Smith clearly sees students as an ideal and willing testing ground for the wide scale introduction of the scheme. This is hardly surprising considering the lack of fight from the NUS leadership against New Labour’s attacks on education in the past. Due to the relationship between the NUS bureaucrats and New Labour, serious grassroots campaigning has given way to lobbying and talks with ministers over canap├ęs and champagne. This was seen to devastating effect with the lack of effective campaigning over top-up fees.

Any sense of voluntarism dissipates when it becomes clear that students would need an ID card to access student loans and to open a bank account. Thanks to the governments education policy, both of these are an absolute necessity for anybody wishing to enter full-time education. This is coercion of students, who are already faced with spiralling debts. Now they are to be faced with an erosion of their civil liberties and an invasion of privacy. ID cards are yet another hurdle that working class students would have to face in order to gain a university education.

With the Student Loan Company privatised, and huge subsidies offered to companies instead of that money given to students it opens up what NUS VP for Welfare, Ama Uzowuru, describes as being ‘…completely impractical. The student loan system is complicated enough as it is, without introducing yet another layer of bureaucracy to the process. Many students change address at least once a year and would be obliged to report such changes in their personal circumstances or face a £1,000 fine’

It is also the private sector who are to be trusted with the introduction of ID cards. The thing is, they can’t be trusted with our information. We have seen the debacle of the Home Office losing CD’s containing sensitive personal information.

ID cards do not offer protection from ‘terrorist attack’ or make the country any safer. ID cards did not prevent the Madrid bombings or the 9/11 attacks. The 7/7 attacks in London were carried out by those born in Britain.

The introduction of ID cards is not going to change the material conditions that breed anger and terrorism. Instead of spending millions on wars and ID cards, the government should be investing in hospitals, education and public sector pay

Despite the criticism of the plans from NUS leaders, there appears to be nothing concrete in the way of organising a campaign involving the mass body of students. Despite outgoing NUS President Gemma Tumelty stating she is ‘extremely concerned at the Government’s plan to use young people and students as guinea pigs for their ID card scheme’, the only plans she has to fight this are summed up when she says ‘We look forward to engaging in the consultation on this issue, and will make sure the Government is aware of students’ concerns.”

This approach points to the sterility of the NUS in terms of taking on the government. If the undemocratic ‘Governance Review’ is passed at NUS Conference then the union will become merely a charity that lobbies on behalf of its members. It will alter the way in which the NUS operates, taking power away from ordinary students and giving it to unelected, unaccountable business people. Lobbying a government that doesn’t listen is not an effective way of mounting a campaign.

Successful campaigns require the involvement of the rank and file student movement. Where action as been taken such as in France and in Greece, victories have been attained. Socialist Students have played a major role in grassroots campaigning, through the widely supported Campaign to Defeat Fees. In order to defeat this attack on the civil liberties of students a strong, united campaign involving ordinary students is necessary. Socialist Students will be organising on campuses around the country to say ’No to ID cards, no to fees. For free education for all.’