On June 9th 2017, the Establishment and mainstream media were coming to terms with the fact that they had been given one almighty kick in the crotch. The General Election had not gone as planned. Fair enough, the Conservatives ran out as the largest party, but despite the backing of most of the media and a predicted landslide, they did not command a majority in the House of Commons.
Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party had stolen Conservative seats all over the country, had increased the Labour vote share and more importantly, had re-energised young people, who came out in their droves to vote. Make no mistake, the Conservative victory (if you can call it that) was a pyrrhic one. Under the current 'first past the post' system, no-one actually 'won' the election. In actual fact, the country had rejected Theresa May's self-proclaimed 'strong and stable leadership' and their manifesto had gone down like a plate of cold sick.
Theresa May called the election for numerous reasons. They say that it was about securing a stronger mandate from the electorate in order to be in a better position to negotiate Brexit. In reality, the Conservatives wanted to distract attention from allegations of electoral fraud during the 2015 General Election and they saw an opportunity to take advantage of the polls and destroy Labour once and for all. It had nothing to do with the 'national interest' and everything to do with the Conservatives holding onto power and rolling out further austerity, as the 'will of the people'.
However, it backfired. The election campaign exposed Theresa May for what she is; an incompetent, complacent, socially awkward, faux Christian; a bargain basement politician, who offered nothing other than meaningless slogans and mantras. A Poundland Thatcher, terrified of public, televised debate, who cares more for the interests of wealthy elites than ordinary people. The voters simply didn't like it, and the Commons majority secured by David Cameron in the previous General Election, disappeared.
Now, Theresa May has no mandate to roll out the Conservatives' manifesto, has no apparent policies and doesn't even appear to have a government. More tellingly, it would appear that the public has no confidence in her to handle Brexit.
All this being the case, the Peoples' Assembly have arranged a demonstration, scheduled for July 1st 2017 and have invited everyone and anyone to join in and send a message of protest against the possibility of a further five years of austerity, which the Conservatives have no mandate to force on us.
For the flyer and all the details, click here
For more information about the Peoples' Assembly, click here
A campaigning law firm has marked International Workers’ Memorial Day 2017 by launching a national photography competition to highlight, and defend, the vital protections which allow workers to return home safely at the end of each day.
Thompsons Solicitors’ “Focus: on safety at work” competition – which comes with the chance to win a share of £5,000 and feature in an exhibition at the People’s History Museum – challenges budding photographers to capture in an image why health and safety is so important in the workplace.
Participants will be asked to submit photos that illustrate why health and safety should not be considered a burden or “red tape”, but an essential protection for all.
The competition launch coincides with International Worker’s Memorial Day, a day which commemorates workers who have lost their lives as a result of dangerous working conditions, and draws attention to harmful practices in workplaces across the world.
“Critics like to dismiss health and safety as ‘red tape’, but it’s this so-called ‘red tape’ which is usually just planning and common sense that helps to make our workplaces safe and ensures that employees return home to their families at the end of the working day,” said Tom Jones, head of policy at Thompsons Solicitors.
“With a General Election going on and Brexit on the horizon, the basic building blocks that ensure a safe place of work are under threat as never before. As accident at work specialists, whether it’s the hazard of a trailing cable in an office, asbestos exposure in a store room or a truck reversing without thought, we see the impact on individuals and their families when health and safety slips off the agenda.
“Thompsons is launching this competition, and later, an exhibition, to show what health and safety really means and how important it is day to day. We want budding photographers from across the UK to use their cameras and creativity to show why health and safety is not a burden, but something every worker deserves.”
The competition will run until 28 June, after which a panel of judges will decide the winners. Entrants should seek to capture an image which explores one or more of the following themes:
- what ‘health and safety’ means to me;
- why I think ‘health and safety’ is important;
- why ‘health and safety’ is neither a burden, nor “red tape”
- why I think ‘health and safety’ should be protected.
Photographs should be submitted at www.thompsons.law/focus.The winners of the competition will be awarded a share of £5,000, and have their artwork displayed at an exhibition in the People’s History Museum in Manchester. No participant should put themselves at risk of injury, prosecution or other detriment in pursuit of an entry. The full terms and conditions can be found at www.thompsons.law/focus.
Despite saying that there were would be no snap General Election after she became Prime Minister, Theresa May (in classic Tory-style) has now performed a u-turn and set the date for June 8th. Don’t be fooled by people saying that this is a ‘brave’ decision. It isn’t. For starters, the Crown Prosecution Service is currently investigating thirty cases of alleged cheating and expenses fraud by the Conservatives during the 2015 election. Secondly, the government’s Brexit ‘negotiations’ look set for disaster, with the UK set to gain nothing other than a break-up of the country, as Scotland and Northern Ireland pursue independence. In addition to that, having injected poison into the NHS since 2010, the Conservatives are seeking to put it out of it’s misery by way of full privatisation. If that wasn’t enough, the government’s program of austerity will continue to ruin the lives of the vulnerable and those at the bottom end of the pay-scale. If an election was held in 2020, it’s likely that the public backlash against them would be immense. Theresa May is hoping that she can avoid all that and blindside the public by taking advantage of the polls and a mainly sycophantic mainstream media by winning a General Election now. That way, she can secure her position and have free reign to lay waste to the country and make the rich even richer in process, claiming that it’s the ‘will of the people’. The Prime Minister is showing neither courage, nor leadership. Like David Cameron before her, she’s playing political games to cover her own backside and protect her party. Make no mistake; barring the well-heeled end of society, the welfare of the British people is way down her list of priorities.
People need to pause for a second and think very carefully about this election. The media are already going out of their way to say that it’s as good as won for Theresa May and that it’ll be a landslide victory. They’ll roll out polls saying that the Tories are way ahead and that Labour has no chance of winning. Anyone with any degree of common-sense should know that polls aren’t a reflection of public opinion, they’re designed to shape and influence it and must therefore be disregarded. The reality is that the millions of decent, fair-minded people in this country have been presented with a golden opportunity to achieve genuine, positive change and equality on a scale not seen on these shores for generations. The political and media establishment will (for the most part), steer clear of Labour’s policies because they don’t want the public to know what they are. They’ll play the man instead of the ball by painting Jeremy Corbyn as an unelectable leader of a ‘chaotic’ party. After June 8th, it’s unlikely that the British people will ever have another chance to give neo-liberalism and the greedy establishment the kicking that it so richly deserves.
Look at the policies and judge for yourselves. A minimum wage of £10 an hour, investing in and safeguarding the NHS and social care, renationalising the railways, scrapping zero-hours contracts, free school dinners for all children, a program of building affordable homes, strengthening workers’ rights, protecting small businesses, security for pensioners and the elderly, support for carers, a foreign policy based on peace rather than conflict, scrapping the ‘bedroom tax’, scrapping the Work Capability Assessment and Brexit negotiations with people at the heart of it, are all policies worth getting behind and voting for. Contrast that with what the Tories are offering. Their main pitch will be Brexit and they will use the tried and tested formula of tapping into people’s fears, insecurities and prejudices in order to secure votes. They will offer nothing for the NHS, nothing for young people, nothing for the disabled and nothing for schools. They will however, offer plenty for the wealthy in this country by way of tax cuts and will go above and beyond in terms of attacking Trade Unions and their members, who make up more than six million of the country’s workforce. They will hedge their bets that fear, division and hate will see them through, as people vote in terms of which demographic Sky News, the Daily Express, the Sun and the Daily Mail say they should despise the most, be it immigrants or the unemployed, rather than what will have the biggest positive or negative impact on their lives. As always, they will take the country’s elctorate for fools.
Jeremy Corbyn is a rare breed. He’s an honest and decent man in politics who can’t be bought and who time and again has been on the right side of history, be it on wars in the Middle East, the NHS and the economy. He has no fear of standing by his principles and is neither irrational, nor impulsive. In terms of electability, Corbyn has been winning elections since 1983, often with increased majorities. The Labour Party that he inherited as leader was broken and demoralised after the 2015 election. Under his leadership and despite the savagery of the UK’s right-wing press and media, Labour has performed solidly in council, Parliamentary and mayoral elections, with membership figures that place it as one of the largest political parties in Europe. Corbyn has also nurtured young talent within the party, with the likes of Angela Rayner, Richard Burgon, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Cat Smith doing an admirable job on the opposition front benches. The UK under Corbyn wouldn’t be a poodle for Donald Trump and the United States. The UK under Corbyn wouldn’t be a tax haven for the super-rich, nor would it be a prostitute for big business. The UK under Corbyn would be a society based on common values, social justice, peace and equality.
Don't be fooled by the smears, don't be conned by the Tories or those claiming to represent working class values. The working class has a party with working class values at its heart. Today's Labour Party will bring back an economy that works for all with re-investment, good jobs and fair pay. Don’t give Theresa May the blank cheque book she craves for her scorched Earth policies and don’t let the establishment keep the status quo any longer. Most of all, don’t squander this opportunity on June the 8th. Be brave, be bold and vote Labour.
Ian Hodson (National President)
It's great news that a mainstream political party has recognised the importance of taking positive action to raise pay. Since 2008, politicians from all parties along with many in the media, have pushed the narrative that society will somehow improve by imposing austerity and blaming minority groups for the state of the country's finances. Sadly, many have fallen for this deception and the 'look over there' politics that has rose to prominence since the Conservatives returned to power in 2010.
Low pay and exploitative employment contracts are a blight on the economy and an insult to taxpayers, who have to foot the bill for in-work benefits whilst businesses and corporations count the profits. Labour's announcement that they will raise the minimum wage to £10 an hour in the event of a general election win in 2020 is very welcome and should be applauded by all in our society.
The BFAWU has long argued that rather than being used to fill the bank accounts of wealthy business owners through the use of in-work benefits, our taxes should be used to properly fund our NHS and other public services that we rely on. By raising the minimum wage to £10 an hour, we can take a giant stride towards making that a reality.
The introduction of a £10 an hour minimum wage would be a game-changer for millions of working people, who are struggling to make ends meet, many of whom work in the food industry.
The BFAWU fully supports this pledge by Labour and as one of the party's longest standing affiliates, we will continue to make the case for a Labour government in 2020.
Ian Hodson (BFAWU National President)
The hypocrisy of some employers is simply incredible. McDonalds has one of the largest political lobbying operations in the world and has pioneered the ‘low road economy’ by using it’s political activities to smash employment rights in just about every country it operates in. Indeed, in what would appear to be staggering hypocrisy and the death of all irony, McDonalds have worked with the Conservatives in terms of developing policies in relation to ‘healthy eating’ and obesity. Now, it turns out that McDonalds’ business ‘model’ includes a clause in employees’ contracts that forbids them from expressing any political affiliation whatsoever on social media. Despite being in total contravention of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and Articles 19 and 22 of the United Nations' International Bill of Human Rights, the company continues to stick two fingers up at the law and acts with complete impunity in this country, thanks to a UK government that has a remarkable tendency to cheer on unscrupulous employers from the side-lines when it comes to shafting workers.
We must not allow the big corporations to shut down political activity or debate. The lack of engagement in politics down the years (especially among young people) has already led to an increasing trend (with honourable exceptions) of intellectual inferiors from privileged backgrounds being elected either as MPs or into government itself. There is a clear agenda to dumb down society and political debate as a whole, in order to facilitate this. In McDonalds' case, we believe that this contractual clause is a blatant attempt to choke off any momentum gained by the Fast Food Rights campaign and other activist organisations who have been highlighting grotesque employment practices within the fast-food sector for a number of years.
The BFAWU condemns the clause and demands its immediate removal. We would like to hear from any McDonalds worker, or anyone else in working in fast-food who has been threatened by their manager or faced a disciplinary process due to this clause or something similar. The UK is supposed to be a democracy; we will not tolerate the suppression of political beliefs and the undermining of political rights by employers in any way, shape or form.
Ian Hodson (BFAWU National President)
The recent by-elections in Stoke and Copeland have sent the mainstream media and it’s political allies in Westminster into orbit with their attacks on Jeremy Corbyn and the current direction of the Labour Party. It’s true that Labour lost Copeland and it’s always disappointing to lose a seat in any election, but contrast the media coverage of the loss of a seat with a 2,500 majority with the complete lack of hysteria around the Tories losing the safe seat of Richmond last year, defending a majority of 23,000. The media have also been quiet about the Conservatives being pushed into third place in Stoke. As yet, I can’t recall any news reporter asking Theresa May if she’s going to resign.
The Stoke by-election was quickly disregarded by the media and enemies of Corbyn once Labour held the seat, beating UKIP in the process. That’s despite the Stoke constituency voting in favour of Brexit. To report even the merest whiff of a Corbyn triumph goes against the media narrative and subsequently, the agenda.
In reality, there were a number of factors that led to Labour losing the Copeland by-election. Boundary changes in the area had already benefitted the Conservatives before a vote was cast and it’s clear that UKIP voters in that constituency, switched back to the Tories and enabled them to win the seat. In addition to that, Labour’s majority in Copeland had been falling significantly since 1997 and the Labour candidate that stood for the election, wasn’t even Jeremy Corbyn’s preferred choice. If that wasn’t enough, wheeling out Peter Mandelson and Tony Blair to attack the party and it’s leader during the week leading up to the elections, whether it was by accident or design, didn’t help matters. Each of those factors might not look like that big a deal taken in isolation but collectively, they all contributed massively to the defeat and looking at it rationally, it’s ridiculous to ask Jeremy Corbyn to take sole responsibility for it.
It’s interesting that independent polling shows the policies being offered by Corbyn’s Labour have huge support among large sections of the public. However, when people realise that they are Corbyn’s policies, the reaction is often surprise because they tend to refer to the media’s narrative in terms of what he stands for. Our Union (the BFAWU) backed Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership of the Labour Party in both elections and continues to support his efforts. This isn't because we’re a ‘hard-left’ cult that sees Jeremy Corbyn as a messiah who can do no wrong. It’s because we know that his intentions towards the people that we represent are genuine. Our members will have a far better, fairer chance both in life and in the workplace with common-sense policies being offered by an honest and decent man, with a proven track record of being in their corner and very often, on the right side of history.
Today's Labour Party is more in tune with the needs of our communities than ever before, with a shadow cabinet full of young talent who are connected to the aspirations of ordinary people in a way that we haven’t seen for decades. The media just don't want them to see it. Supporting a living wage of £10 an hour, stopping the privatisation of our NHS, introducing a national investment bank, building affordable homes, re-nationalising railways, ending zero-hours contracts, scrapping the bedroom tax, scrapping the work capability assessment and strengthening workers’ rights are all policies worth getting behind. Jeremy Corbyn’s vision brings young people into the equation for once, and offers them a future (particularly in education), rather than uncertainty, exploitation and subsequently, lost generations. A Corbyn-led Labour Party will challenge the government’s failure to ensure that the wealthy pay their fair share and will address the grotesque gulf between executive pay and the wages of those at the bottom.
All this can be achieved. The Labour government that so many of Corbyn’s detractors in the party claim to want so much, can be realised if personalities are put to one side and everyone unites behind the twice elected leader, in order to give him the fair wind that he deserves. An vibrant shadow cabinet, a supportive Parliamentary Labour Party, a huge membership with active branches, along with continued Trade Union support and exciting ideas would be more than enough to crush the Conservatives in a general election.
Our decision to support Corbyn in 2015 was the right one and our continued support for his leadership remains exactly the same in 2017. As one of the Labour Party’s longest affiliated organisations, we’ve seen many changes and stood firm in the face of those who would take away our rights. Today's Labour Party represents us in a way we haven’t seen for a very long time and make no mistake; we will fight to get it into government, whenever that election is called.
Yours in solidarity
Ian Hodson (BFAWU National President)
The upcoming by-elections in Stoke and Copeland are a real test for you, your communities and their values. The media will have you believe that these vitally important elections are some sort of referendum on Jeremy Corbyn and his leadership of the Labour Party. They may try and convince you that these elections are all about a ‘Brexit’ candidate versus a ‘Remain’ candidate. The reality, is that these are parliamentary by-elections. This is about electing someone to be your voice in Westminster; someone who is going to raise the concerns of you, your friends, neighbours and family members in a wider political arena. This being the case, it’s absolutely vital to be aware of exactly what you are voting for.
UKIP and the Conservatives will inevitably play ‘divide and rule’ politics. They will adopt the strategy used by Donald Trump and play on your anger, fears and insecurities. They will blame all of society’s ills on immigrants and people on benefits, whilst claiming that they’re going to make Britain 'great again'. They won’t tell you that it's a combination of greed, prejudice, cronyism and political ideology that lies at the heart of what is wrong with this country and/or your communities.
The lack of social/affordable housing is down to the government’s failure to build any; the sorry state of our NHS is down to a lack of government investment and an agenda of privatisation; the erosion of workers’ rights and spread of zero hours contracts, is down to the government’s attacks on Trade Unions and it’s strictly pro-business, pro-capital, everyone-else-be-damned mentality; the meteoric rise of foodbanks and homelessness is down to the government’s needless programme of austerity and cuts.
For probably the first time since Clement Attlee’s post World War II government created the NHS, provided both social security and council housing, and wiped out unemployment, the Labour Party is offering policies that would benefit communities such as yours: a firm commitment to restore employment rights and end the use of exploitative employment contracts, whilst raising the minimum wage to £10 an hour; the re-nationalisation of rail and our NHS, along with a house building programme that will provide decent, affordable homes for all who need them.
When it gets right down to it, the choice you are being faced with is a clear one. Do you choose a candidate who offers you hate and blame with no solutions and no ideas that will benefit your area? or do you choose a candidate that is willing to stick their head above the parapet on your behalf, fight to improve your community and protect the public services you rely on, such as your NHS? A candidate that will make the case for investment in jobs and decent housing. Someone with ideas, who offers equality and inclusivity.
The choice is not ‘Leave’ or ‘Remain’; it's unity or division.
The BFAWU believes that the Labour Party offers the best opportunity for all it’s members to have a better life in a fairer society and we would therefore ask you to support the respective Labour candidates in the Stoke and Copeland parliamentary by-elections on February 23rd.
Yours in solidarity
Ian Hodson (BFAWU National President)
There is a toxic atmosphere of anti-migrant hysteria following the EU referendum, which has become normalised since the election of US President, Donald Trump and is being underpinned by the UK's Conservative government.
In a situation where migrants, Muslim women and others are being attacked and refugees are being abandoned by Britain and Europe to destitution, drowning and exploitation, there has never been a more important time in recent history to stand up to racism.
On March 18th, we wish to see the Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) demonstration for UN Anti-Racism Day the biggest yet, to show that Theresa May does not speak for us when she blames migrants and refugees for the problems caused by austerity and the financial crisis.
Over the past 4 years, SUTR has organised a number of protests in defence of migrants and refugees. At their recent conference, 1,500 participants – including Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott, Lord Alf Dubs and others – launched a mass anti racist movement. Let's join them in London in March 2017 so that we can stand up to racism together.
Details of the march are here, http://www.standuptoracism.org.uk/national-demo-refugees-migrants-welcome-stand-racism-islamophobia-anti-semitism/
The UK is sleepwalking into a dystopian era; a country where unless you have the right insurance you will get no help or assistance from the state.
The government's seemingly endless austerity agenda has been underpinned by the virtually unchallenged Tory political ideology that public sector is bad, and private sector is king. The truth of course is that for the most part, anyone using services from outsourced or privatised providers be it transport or energy, will have little option but to cut their own budgets in order to be able to pay for them.
We hear and read stories on an almost daily basis about the elderly and those on low incomes having to decide whether to heat their homes or eat during the winter, along with stories about the rising costs of rail fares. Make no mistake, the government have similar plans for the NHS. The Conservatives never wanted a National Health Service and since 2010, they have embarked on a mission to starve it of funds, whilst selling off sections of it and offering multi-million pound contracts to the likes of Richard Branson and his Virgin empire. Unless we start to wake up and act, access to any form of medical care or assistance will depend on how much you can afford to pay by way of insurance. The government aren't prepared to stop there either. Emergency services, such as the police and fire services have also been stripped to the bone, as part of the government's agenda of small state and large scale private enterprise.
A short film has been made to provide a clear warning of what our future will look like if we don't stand up for our fantastic and dedicated public sector. We must stop the Tories selling off our services to their friends and cronies. Please watch and share.
The film can be viewed here
Fair pay for the work people do is a basic right. Workers should not be facing hardship as a result of poverty pay, particularly at Christmas.
A march and rally in support of a real living wage of £10 an hour will take place at Devonshire Green in Sheffield at 1pm on Saturday, December 17th.
The event is supported by a number of other Trade Unions such as Unite and the GMB, along with the BFAWU. and local Trades Councils.
For more information, click here