Monday, 31 May 2010

Join with me to protest at Israel’s terrorist attack

This murderous attack by the Israeli government on an aid convoy sailing in international waters is an act of state sponsored terrorism. It is also an attack on the entire international community. Over 700 people from 40 countries, 28 of whom are British, are taking part in the convoy.

Israel acts with such shameless contempt of world opinion because it feels it is above international sanction. And for far too long it has been. This situation must change. The British government must express its outrage at the attack on its citizens and the aid convey in the strongest terms. The British Ambassador should be withdrawn from Israel and the Israeli Ambassador asked to leave Britain. Support should be given to the Palestinian call for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council. Effective International sanctions must now applied. The world must unite to send the strongest message to that such acts of terrorism will not be tolerated. And the International Palestinian solidarity movement must send the strongest message we will redouble our efforts to break Israel’s brutal siege of Gaza.

I know today is a Bank Holiday, and that many people will be planning to spend it with their friends and families. I urge you to change those plans and join me in attending the Emergency Protest at 2pm today outside Downing Street in London.

My thoughts and prayers are with familes of those killed and injured and with all those on the convoy whose lives are still endangered.

GAZA AID FLOTILLA ATTACKED, 10 KILLED. Emergency Protest today, 2pm, Downing Street, London.

Israeli forces have attacked the international aid convoy Freedom Flotilla en route to the besieged Gaza Strip, killing at least 10 people and leaving more than 50 injured.

The attack came on Monday morning, 31st May, after one of the six ships in the convoy was hit by Israeli navy forces before being stormed by commandos descending from helicopters.

The interception reportedly took place in international waters, more than 150km (90 miles) off the coast of Gaza.

Listen to George Galloway’s interview about the outrage here.

BBC report here.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Yvette Cooper is right to be angry

Yvette Cooper is quite rightly angry. She has been accused of undermining the fight for women's equality by not standing for the Labour leadership and supporting her husband Ed Balls instead. Her reasons are not political, they are personal. She wants more time to spend with her young children. Nor is she withdrawing from politics. She will continue in the demanding role of shadow work and pensions secretary. Despite this Johann Hari suggests her actions are a throw back to 'a 1950s world of brilliant women stepping aside for their less impressive husbands'.

I find this kind of judgemental attitude very patronising.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

“Prisoners of the language of power”

Robert Fisk's lecture to the fifth Al Jazeera annual forum is well worth a read. He illustrates the way many journalists have become “prisoners of the language of power”. Words that are loaded with historical meaning are used as if they were entirely neutral. This sort of journalism all to easily becomes a transmission belt for the politics of subjugation.

The struggles of the oppressed against their oppressors become instead one of “competing narratives” in which “there's no justice, no injustice, just a couple of people who tell different history stories…So an 'occupation' can become a 'dispute'. Thus a 'wall' becomes a 'fence' or a 'security barrier'. Thus Israeli colonisation of Arab land contrary to all international law becomes 'settlements' or 'outposts' or 'Jewish neighbourhoods'.” Instead of illuminating right and wrong, or speaking truth to power, Fisk concludes that “...when we use these words, we become one with the power and the elites which rule our world without fear of challenge from the media”.

Friday, 28 May 2010

ConDem government to collapse in 18 months?

Yes, according to Richard Murphy. He is bold enough to make the case that the new coalition government's economic policy will drive up unemployment at such a rate that it will be thrown into crisis within 18 months. Time will tell if Murphy is right, but his call for the left to develop 'strong, evidence based, economic policies’ is spot on.

The debate over how to tackle the economic crisis is still confined to very narrow parameters. The Tories and Lib Dems have brought their policies into line with each other. And Labour, while not as eager to attack public spending, essentially only differs over the timing of the attack.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Progressive Politics after the General Election

Good report and analysis here from Respect National Secretary Clive Searle on the election outcome and Respect's prospects for the future.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Council must win the right to re-invest in housing

Later this morning I will be holding my weekly advice surgery. As usual, I expect it to be busy, and as usual I expect housing to top the list of concerns. Unfortunately, the ConDem cuts package is set to make this problem worse. Local authority spending will be one of the biggest casualties, with the hugely inadequate spending on housing cut even further. This would be disastrous in Birmingham, which already suffers a crippling shortage of decent housing. 

Palestinian solidarity hits new heights

One of the great successes of Viva Palestina's campaigning work to break the siege of Gaza is the way it has inspired others to do likewise. The Guardian carriers this report of a massive aid effort heavily supported by the Turkish government which has set sail. It will soon no doubt face Israeli gunboats. My friend, Respect colleague, and Viva Palestina organiser Kevin Ovenden is accompanying  them. My best wishes and prayers are with him and all those involved in this noble and heroic act of solidarity.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

'Return to core values and the law, not the War on Terror'

The victory of appeals by Pakistani students Abid Naseer and Ahmed Faraz Khan against deportation should have marked a victory for human rights in this county. No matter what the charge against them, no person should be deported to a country where they could face torture. And as Mr Justice Mitting commented in his ruling, Pakistan has a ‘long and well-documented history of disappearances, illegal detention and of the torture and ill-treatment of those detained, usually to produce information, a confession or compliance’.

Monday, 24 May 2010

We need action on Israel's nuclear weapons

Imagine if you picked up a newspaper today and read that Iran had been in possession of nuclear weapons since the 1970's and tried to sell them to one of the world's more brutal and morally corrupt regimes. There would, quite rightly, be outrage and calls for international sanctions to ensure that Iran is tied into nuclear proliferation treaties.

Well, today's Guardian carries exactly that story. Except the culprit is not Iran but Israel. According to declassified South African government documents Israel attempted to sell apartheid South Africa nuclear warheads for possible use against other African states.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

BNP Not Welcome Here

Unite Against Fascism have a protest tomorrow, Monday 24th May, from 8:00 a.m. and 12:30 a.m in Birmingham city centre. I intend on supporting it. More details, and a contact number, in the UAF press release.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Schools facing damaging cuts

When the axe falls on public spending it is no use thinking it will only chop 'waste'.Spending cuts of the scale the ConDem government is talking of will hit vital services, damage communities, and threaten economic recovery. This week's Birmingham Post sounds the alarm over government plans to scrap the £47 billion Building Schools for the Future programme.

The government has announced a review, but virtually every school in Birmingham is already depending on this programme, either to sign long awaited and badly needed refurbishment or rebuilding contracts, or to complete those works that are already on site.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Well said, Diane Abbott!

I've been watching the front runners for the Labour leadership contest, and struggling to tell them apart. This isn't helped by the fact that women, of all colours, are treated as marginal figures when it comes to competing for positions of political power. But more than that, this contest was in danger of reinforcing one of the most negative aspects of politics today.

One by one, the leadership contenders were lining up to admit that Labour had 'failed' on immigration. This was only heading in one direction - more attempts to prove that Labour could be 'tough' on immigrants. 

And that is why I am so glad that a breath of fresh air has been injected into the Labour leadership debate by Diane Abbott.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Remembering the civil rights movement

Speaking of the Civil Rights movement, I noticed that BBC Radio 4 broadcast an interesting documentary about one of the seminal songs of that era; Bob Dylan's 'The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll'. In the song, Dylan chronicles the killing of the black 51 year old hotel worker and mother of eleven at the hands of racist William Zantzinger on 8 February 1963.

The Wikipedia entry about the song says; 'The lyrics are a commentary on the racism of the 1960s, which valued a black woman's life so lightly. In 1963 when Hattie Carroll was killed, Charles County was still strictly segregated by race in public facilities such as restaurants, churches, theaters, doctor's offices, buses and the county fair. The schools of Charles County were not integrated until 1967.'

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Still with us

The election of the first black man as President of the United States has inspired people everywhere who yearn for equality. But half a century after the birth of the civil rights movement the depth of racial inequality in the United States continues to shock.

A new study highlights how there has been a ‘huge’ increase in wealth inequality with a typical white family earning five times that of African-American families of the same class. A significant factor for this growing divide is a deeply embedded institutionalised racism in American society. The report identifies the detrimental impact ‘of persistent discrimination in housing, credit and labour markets. African-Americans and Hispanics were at least twice as likely to receive high-cost home mortgages as whites with similar incomes’.

For every £1 a public sector worker earns, they spend nearly 70p of it in the local economy

With up to 7,000 council workers facing the axe Birmingham’s own ConDem coalition would do well to listen to UNISON leader Dave Prentis. He warns that slashing public spending puts at risk economic recovery, ‘If you cut public sector jobs, you close off opportunities to the young and those made redundant by the private sector. If you cut public sector jobs, you damage local economies. For every £1 a public sector worker earns, they spend nearly 70p of it in the local economy – the local shops, the local hairdressers, local bars and local businesses.’ Read more here.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

GMB call for end to private equity tax breaks

With George Osborne due to announce where £6 billion worth of cuts will be made, the trade union GMB has come up with one proposal to help ease the public debt. They suggest ending tax relief on private equity borrowing.

At just one company, the  chemist chain Boots, the tax relief for last year was £230 million - money that otherwise would be going into the public purse if this tax break was abolished. The national figure must run into the billions.

It seems a sensible idea to me but following it through would  entail the ConDem government upsetting some very wealthy backers. Don’t hold your breath. The full story is here.

Stop Islamophobia conference

I will be speaking at the forthcoming Stop the War Coalition conference on tackling Islamophobia. There is a report here on the aims of the event. 

Monday, 17 May 2010

David Milliband for leader? No Thanks.

Labour will soon elect a new leader to replace Gordon Brown. It badly needs someone who will turn his or her back on the disastrous New Labour era, and put up a fight on behalf of the people who voted for them. Whoever is elected Labour leader, must not continue to repeat the mistakes – and crimes - of the Blair days.

Unfortunately, the front-runner appears to be David Milliband. He is gathering support from the media and political establishment because they think he is someone who will restart the Blairite revolution. Nothing could be more disastrous for Labour, or the rest of us. If the Blairite’s retake control of Labour they will try move it even further away from its roots as being a defender of working people. With savage cuts on the way this is exactly the kind of Labour party we need, but it looks increasingly it is exactly the kind of Labour party we are not going to get. A victory for David Milliband will result in the Labour party shifting further to the right.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

‘An Alliance For Reaction- The ConDem Coalition Agreement’

Anybody going to the Lib Dem special conference in Birmingham today should take a look at the latest edition of Ken Livingstone’s Socialist Economic Bulletin. It carries a damning critique of the ConDem agenda and shreds any notion that this will be a 'progressive partnership'. Well worth a read.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

1,000 families a week face eviction

One of the many crimes of New Labour was its enthusiastic continuation of the Tory assault on council housing. In this city, and especially in inner city wards like Sparkbrook, Labour’s failure has compelled thousands to suffer the despair of living in overcrowded conditions and the frustration of spending years on the council’s housing waiting lists. As a result of the lack of affordable housing, many have reluctantly have been forced into the housing market. But with unemployment increasing, the number of families unable to meet mortgage repayments are rising, and so are evictions.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Empty Lib Dem promises

Before the election the Lib Dems were at pains to distance themselves from the Tory enthusiasm for immediate cuts to public spending. According to a report on Channel Four just a few months ago, Nick Clegg said “that ‘merrily slashing now’ would be "an act of economic masochism" as he made it clear that the Lib Dems would not support plans, backed by the Conservatives, for early cuts to public spending’.

That promise lasted less than 24 hours after the Lib Dems became part of the Tory government. They have signed up to £6 billion of cuts in the next 50 days.

With unemployment now hitting levels not seen since the last Tory government in 1994, there is real concern that new government spending cuts will drive unemployment above 3 million and set back the prospect of economic recovery. For areas like Sparkbrook and Springfield wards, where already unemployment is in the region of 18-20%, (the Birmingham average is a just over 8%), the prospect of a generation of lives being thrown on the scrap heap by this Tory government, just as a generation was under the Thatcher government, is very real.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

The true face of the Lib Dems

All those who vote Lib Dem in the belief that they represent a ‘progressive’ voice in British politics will be scratching their heads this morning. Thanks to the Lib Dems we now have a Tory government. Working class communities, like the ones I represent in Sparkbrook, are fearful of a Tory government. And for good reason. Many remember what the Tories did last time in power. They remember mass unemployment, attacks on public services, growth of inequality, riots on our streets, and they do not want a repeat. Well, the Lib Dems have made that Tory threat real again. We will suffer for that because the Tories will swing the axe in a more brutal way than Labour would have done.

But the Lib Dems will suffer too. This will prove toxic for the Lib Dems at the ballot box and they will bear the brunt of the backlash to the cuts from the electorate. I expect to see Lib Dems advances over the last few years in inner city Birmingham, advances made on the backs of the anti-war movement, to be wiped out in the coming period. The Liberal Democrats have shed any right to claim progressive credentials. It is only right they suffer the backlash from those who mistakenly thought otherwise of them.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

We need investment, not cuts

Whatever the outcome of the negotiations about the new government, we know one thing for sure: All three parties are united on, and committed to, deep cuts in public spending. It is our services, pay, pensions and jobs that are at risk.

Yet none had a detailed plan for cuts in any of their manifestos. In fact, they deliberately did not mention cuts in any of the debates because they know how unpopular they are. The voters were not asked to vote for cuts, and the parties have no mandate for them.

Instead we are supposed to be frightened into agreeing huge attacks on living standards because of the crisis in countries such as Greece. But this only proves the point that cuts won't work - Greece was recovering until it was demanded that they raise VAT, increase the pension age to 67 and accept job losses and huge cuts in pay.

Investment works. And we can avoid any crisis by investing in schools and colleges, our creaking infrastructure and new council homes. They should all be green investments too, reducing carbon emissions. Over a short time they will pay for themselves as getting people off the dole will save the government money. And getting people back in work and spending again will produce tax revenues, which is the key to reducing the government's borrowing.

This increase in investment can be a temporary one. It doesn't need to be anything on the scale of the bank bailout, which is £126bn. The sky didn't fall in even when that happened, and that is producing no return, either in new lending or in tax receipts.

Investment will produce a return and can be financed in many different ways. Aside from increased borrowing, we could instruct the banks (which taxpayers now own) to lend to these projects and to viable businesses. Interest rates are much lower than expected, so we could use this saving to invest. We could even set up a state investment bank, like the government's Green Investment Bank, but with real firepower to get the economy on its feet and people back into work.

Above all, we must reject the failed policy of cuts. It has no logic, no support and no mandate from the voters. Instead, we can and should invest in our future.

Monday, 10 May 2010

‘Wake up the nation’

With a vicious cuts package on the way whoever forms the new government, the author of this piece of graffiti on Woodbridge Road in Moseley may well get their wish sooner than they think.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Faith and Climate Change

This morning I presented an eco award to All Saints Church in Kings Heath. They are part of the Faith and Climate Change initiative and received the award for their good practice. I was impressed by their work and touched by the warmth of the reception I received. Well done to all concerned.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Post election get together tonight

Thanks once again to the 5,000 + voters of Sparkbrook who re-elected me as their councillor. I am proud to be so. And thanks too to those who voted for Saleem, Tahir and Rana. I am really proud of our joint campaign.

Tonight I am hoping to catch up with my supporters. I have booked a marquee, food is being cooked, fun, political chat and some well deserved chill out awaits! All are welcome. If you are interested in coming, please ring 078 121 72885 for details. Hope to see you later!

CandidatePartyVotes castElected
Alldrick, Charles JohnGreen Party
Azim, MohammedLabour Party
Kadir, AbdulConservative Party
Qureshi, Naeem RabbaniLiberal Democrats
Yaqoob, SalmaRespect

Friday, 7 May 2010

Thank you!

Thanks to everybody who supported my campaign. Despite being written off by the media I came second, polling over 12,000 votes. It is a fantastic achievement and testimony to a desire for a political alternative to the parties of bombing and big business. It is clear that many people’s fear of a Tory government boosted the Labour vote, puncturing the Lib Dem bubble but also squeezing my vote as well.

I am really proud of the campaign that I ran. And as I said in my speech at the count, I will be campaigning for peace, justice and equality with the same passion tomorrow and in the months to come.

Now, after almost 24 hours without sleep, a more considered analysis will have to wait a little longer!

Thursday, 6 May 2010

It is not too late to help...

Polling day is going very well and I am very happy with the way the day is developing. Polls do not close until 10pm and we will be working right up to the last minute getting our vote out.

Any time you can spare this evening to help will make a big difference. Please come to 95 Walford Road, Sparkbrook, Birmingham B11 1NP or ring 078 121 72885. Thank you for your support and don't forget, vote no 6 for MP!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Voter fraud – George Galloway names names

Today George Galloway held a press conference about postal vote fraud in Tower Hamlets and issued the following press release. Even to someone from Birmingham it makes shocking reading.

‘For the last six years Respect has been campaigning against voter fraud ,’ Galloway said. ‘In my successful campaign in 2005 in Bethnal Green we uncovered hundreds of fraudulent votes and attempts to subvert the democratic process and handed them on to the police. To the best of my knowledge nothing was done to make the system more secure. Tower Hamlets council has also been complicit in this complacency.’

Respect has a substantial dossier on the current abuse and the principal people involved in this attempted fraud. George Galloway will name these people and the Respect bus will drive to their addresses where reporters and photographers will have the opportunity to question the people Galloway has named.

The letter below was sent this morning.

Monday, 3 May 2010

All to play for

Thanks to everybody who helped leaflet the entire constituency in a little over one day! It was a fantastic effort and testimony to the great spirit and commitment among my campaign team. With just four days to go there is all to play for. Yesterday’s canvassing and hustings in Moseley (where Roger finally did make an appearance) both went very well. Name recognition is high and our returns give very encouraging signs about how well we are going to vote in that ward. We also had large canvassing teams in Balsall Heath and Sparkbrook where the response was fantastic. Between now and polling day we will be on the doorstep. If you would like to join us, or help with the campaign in any way, please ring 078 121 72885. With your support we will make a little bit of history on May 6th.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Another hustings, and still no Roger...

Photo:Women only hustings organised by Saheli Womens Group in Balsall Heath.