Tag Archives: writing

British Cheese for British People

Liz Truss: MP for South West Norfolk, sub-Thatcherite free market fundamentalist, rewarded for her loyalty in Johnson’s Tory leadership campaign by appointment to Secretary of State for International Trade in 2019.

Here she is in 2015, talking about imported cheese:

 

British fish for British plates,
British hates for British mates.
Here’s the church and here’s the steeple,
British cheese for British people.

British trawlers for British waters,
British sons for British daughters,
British deals for British Steel,
British out for a British meal.
Here’s the church and here’s the steeple,
British cheese for British people.

British jobs for British workers,
British shirks for British shirkers,
British porridge for British oats,
British votes for British scrotes,
British films for British viewers,
British kebabs on British skewers.
Here’s the church and here’s the steeple,
British cheese for British people.

British taxis for British ranks,
British porn for British wanks,
British chieftains for British tanks,
British crashes for British banks,
British streets for British homeless,
British hope for British hopeless,
British disease for British diagnosis,
British psyche for British psychosis.
Here’s the church and here’s the steeple,
British cheese for British people.

 

 

A Christmas Message

Xmas MessageThe Queen’s widely previewed but rarely watched Christmas message will be delivered in a royal blue 1 cashmere dress by Angela Kelly adorned with the sapphire and diamond brooch given to Queen Victoria by Prince Albert in 1840. In it she’ll encourage the country to put past differences behind us by referencing D-Day and describe the unveiling of her favourite son as a rapist and a liar as “quite bumpy” 2. Essential viewing for fans of carefully guarded language and calls for unity from super-rich folk who will do little else to achieve it.

Boris Johnson 3 meanwhile, clearly didn’t get the memo about national unity and focuses his Christmas message on Christians alone, referencing them three times in a 350-word statement while addressing a country whose own census data recognises several other major religions, Christianity’s declining popularity, and a rise in the number of people declaring themselves to be of no religion.4

On the subject of the census, Herod the Great’s Christmas message is that it, along with the Massacre of the Innocents, is just fake news.

We have yet to hear from Donald Trump, the festive season has gifted us impeachment after all, but his Christmas message will no doubt follow a similar pattern:

  1. A Christian message.
  2. Gratitude to the armed forces for freedom, democracy, etc.
  3. Gratitude to the police 5 and any other public servants working on Christmas Day.

Jeremy Corbyn, of course, bucks the trend by using his Christmas message to point out that Baby Jesus’ instruction to love thy neighbour isn’t reflected in the doubling of rough sleeping in the UK over the last six years of austere Tory rule.6

And that’s our message to you too this Christmas. It’s a tough old world out there that looks set to get tougher, so look after yourselves and each other and, however you identify, however you celebrate, if you’re a victim of the system, their system, we’re on your side, making music to bring hope, healing, encouragement, entertainment and outrage.

Hold your loved ones close this Christmas if you can, and think about those that can’t. Let’s all come out fighting in the New Year.

Merry Christmas!

Steve

Xmas Fist

 

1. Obviously.

2. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-50895486. And listen out for Air Miles Andy, at gigs and hopefully on record soon.

3. https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/prime-minister-boris-johnsons-christmas-message-24-december-2019

4.https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/culturalidentity/religion/articles/religioninenglandandwales2011/2012-12-11

5. Always the police, followed by nurses. Rarely do the other services get a special mention.

6. https://jeremycorbyn.org.uk/articles/jeremy-corbyn-my-christmas-message/index.html

We Shall Overcome at What’s Cookin’

“This is about stopping the Tories killing people. We’ll stop them with a raised fist: in the streets, on demonstrations and by organising in our trade unions, our workplaces and our communities. Tonight we’re going to stop them with a helping hand. All tonight’s acts are playing for free, all the money will go to people on the front line of stopping Tories killing people: a food bank, a soup kitchen, and a charity that supports disabled survivors of abuse and hate crime.”

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Picture: Alison Foster

Well, we all needed that after this week: some joy, some solidarity. Never underestimate the healing power of music.

There is perhaps no better band to lift your post-election blues than Commie Faggots, no better R’n’B to dance the night away to than The Beatpack’s, book-ending our favourite ever pub rockers Graham Larkbey & The Escape Committee, the irrepressible Efa Supertramp, our hero Robb Johnson thanking the audience for lifting his spirits and, of course, us, debuting Air Miles Andy and leading a rousing chorus of Bring the Bastards Down.

We emerge this morning bleary-eyed but calmer, with a renewed sense of purpose.

We shall overcome.

The final fundraising figures aren’t in yet, but the legendary What’s Cookin’ whip-round won’t have let us down. If you couldn’t make it but would like to make a contribution, here are the links:

Eat or Heat

The Christian Kitchen

Stay Safe East

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Picture: Dave Craig

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Picture: Dave Craig

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Picture: Dave Craig

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Picture: Dave Craig

Steve

UCU vs UUK

pensions shit

Once you reach a certain age you become an expert in pensions, and what I now know (state pension not withstanding) is that they fall into two broad categories, defined contribution and defined benefit schemes.

If you’re a member of a defined benefit scheme then, irrespective of your or your employer’s contributions, you know what you’re getting at the end: it’ll be a proportion of either your final salary, your career average earnings or somewhere in between. Your contributions may go up or down but, by and large, the financial risk is taken by your employer. The public sector pensions which came under government attack in 2012 are defined benefit schemes; “gold plated” as their pals in the press would have you believe, “our deferred wages, paid to us in retirement, pensions that we pay handsomely for” we respond.

Conversely, if you’re in a defined contribution scheme, the risk is all yours. You know how much you’re going to pay, and how much your employer’s going to put in, but that money’s invested by the pension company in stocks, shares, property etc. and results in a “pot” available to you on retirement with which to buy an annuity. An annuity is you going to an insurance company and saying “I’ve accumulated £ x-thousand over my working life, if I give it to you, how much will you pay me a year for the rest of my days?” And the answer is, you’ve guessed it, market-dependent.

blackboardWhy is this important? Well, the first attack on the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) was in 2011 [1] , when it moved from a final salary scheme to a career average earnings scheme, saving the employers a ton of money.

(“Who are the employers?” I hear you ask. Well for these purposes they’re Universities UK (UUK) the chancellor, vice-chancellor and principal’s club that dates back to a 19th century consultative committee. Effectively, the marketisation [2]  of higher education has turned universities into businesses and pension reforms into marginal gains.)

But worse was to come. In 2017/18, despite members’ contributions continuing to rise, UUK decided to close the defined benefit portion of the USS, shifting all the risk to the workers. They decided to, but it didn’t happen. It didn’t happen for one reason and one reason alone: sustained and determined strike action by UCU members. Don’t let anyone tell you that striking doesn’t work. [3]

So, why are they back on strike? Well, part of the resolution of last year’s dispute was the creation of the Joint Expert Panel to review the valuation of the pension scheme and (surprise!) the employers have decided to ignore some of the panel’s findings.

Today’s picket at Goldsmiths was as large and lively as the one that Russ and I visited last year, despite losing a bunch of activists to various Labour Party canvassing activities around London. They’re well-organised (well, they are teachers) and in good spirits.

We talked about the FBU pensions victory and the potential impact on millions of public sector workers’ pensions, Grenfell, Boris Johnson, solidarity, rudimentary sound engineering [4] and the general election. And we sang a few songs. [5]

 

The message is clear: UUK – play fair on pensions, the UCU ain’t going anywhere.

picket line

Steve

[1] https://www.ucu.org.uk/uss-explained

[2] The Jarratt Report, published in 1985, laid the groundwork for the transformation of universities into factories, students into customers and academics into education delivery vehicles, consolidated and accelerated by the introduction of tuition fees of up to £9000 pa by the 2010 coalition government.

[3] We can have the debate as to whether music can change the world, but the Goldmiths end of this dispute was supported by both The Protest Family and Maddy Carty. Just sayin’.

[4] Keep the mic behind the speaker!

[5] We know a bunch of songs about strikes: Mrs Windsor’s Geraniums, Funky Lol’s Picket Line and Bad Day for Bojo to name but three.

The Replacement of Rights with Gifts (And How to Put It in Reverse)

The Trussell Trust opened their first food bank in the UK in Salisbury in 2000, by 2004 there were two. Today, after nearly a decade of austerity, there are thousands [1], and their use, as difficult, demoralising, humiliating as it is for some, has become normal. The role of the state to protect the food security of its people has been abrogated in favour of the kindness of strangers, the rise of food banks applauded in some circles as growth in the power of community organising and on the right as demonstration of the success of a small state, Blair’s third sector, Cameron’s big society. [2]

Worse: in-work poverty. The number of people qualifying for the support of food banks who actually have jobs but are paid so poorly, often by super-rich multi-national corporations, that they’re forced to rely on charity for food, toiletries, sanitary products. You might as well pay for your basket of shopping at the checkout then put it all straight back on the shelves. This is life at the coalface of capitalism, this year’s ragged-trousered philanthropists work in call centres and supermarkets.

not-charitybut-solidarity

We Shall Overcome, now in it’s fifth year, offers a raised fist and a helping hand, and the helping hand, directed by local organisers, artists and promoters has often been held out to food banks, a direct interface with some of those hardest hit by austerity.

As for the raised fist: now’s the time. We stand on the threshold of major change if Labour are successful in next month’s general election. Joe Solo and Grace Petrie are hitting the road supporting CLPs, the Protest Family still slip from venue to picket line to fundraiser. While others pontificate about polls and parliamentary arithmetic, WSO activists are focussing their energy on the real possibility of a better world. Sociologist Janet Poppendieck warned that the institutionalisation of food banks can be difficult to resist and overturn. [3] We have a chance to prove her wrong, to consign Food Bank Britain to the dustbin of history.

WSO What's Cookin' 2019

Whether our next WSO gig, on 14th December, turns out to be a celebration or a show of solidarity in the face of future uncertainty is yet to be seen. What’s clear is the helping hand will still be required, so please, fill the venue, fill the bucket, fill your soul with music and common purpose, it promises to be something of an occasion whatever happens.

Steve

 

1.https://web.archive.org/web/20130112223915/http://www.trusselltrust.org/resources/documents/Our%20work/Lambie-%282011%29-The-Trussell-Trust-Foodbank-Network—Exploring-the-Growth-of-Foodbanks-Across-the-UK.pdf

2. In 2017, Jacob Rees-Mogg told LBC that he found the rise in food bank use as “rather uplifting”

3.https://web.archive.org/web/20130112230035/http://www.warwick.ac.uk/fac/cross_fac/gpp/foodsecurity/publicevents/householdfoodsecurity/food_security_summary.pdf

The Side of the Fox

Fox Logo

Genuinely written one Boxing Day out of anger and frustration waiting for the hit reports to come in.

As the election approaches, a reminder: there may be no manifesto pledge to repeal the Hunting Act but Boris Johnson is pro-hunt. He repeatedly voted against the ban and even went so far as to suggest hunting urban foxes on horseback. “This will cause massive unpopularity but I don’t care” he quipped. Oh, what a laugh.

Of course Farage is too, it speaks of the imaginary England that he wants to return to, and he supports the violent and bloodthirsty Old Surrey, Burstow and West Kent hunt.[1] His decision not to stand in the election is both cowardly and cute, as it frees him up to travel the country campaigning with Brexit Party candidates with no pressure to succeed in his own constituency.

I’m acutely aware that Protest For Dummies, the album that features The Side of the Fox, is approaching it’s third birthday, and that the time, space, finance and recording logistics for the fourth Protest Family studio album are still matters for the future, so, taking them into my own hands, I will attempt to record the band myself over the next few weeks, having learned some valuable lessons in the process of creating solo efforts Snowflake and Fake News From Nowhere.

Fox, due a refresh with drums, is on the list, with another five songs currently in guide track form. Next step is Andi on the kit and then we’ll see.

Wish us luck, and (watch this space).

Steve

Boys and Dogs

[1] https://www.huntsabs.org.uk/index.php/faqs/92-news/press-releases/552-nigel-farage-attends-boxing-day-meet-of-violent-huntsman-again

Cleaning up Outsourcing with the UVW

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The good news is that when your job is transferred from one company to another, you’re protected by a piece of legislation called the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006, or TUPE for short.

The bad news is that lots of stuff: employer pension contributions, childcare voucher schemes, flexible working arrangements, the location of your office; isn’t protected by TUPE.

The good news is that your contractual terms and conditions: pay, holiday entitlement, period of continuous employment; are all protected by TUPE.

The bad news is that any of your protection under TUPE can be overridden if there’s an economic, technical or organisational (ETO) justification, and boy, are the big outsourcing companies good at finding one of those.

If you’re being outsourced then there’s never been a better time to join a trade union.

Back in 2015 we told you about Mrs Windsor’s Geraniums when our mate Phil, a GMB rep at the time, took the Royal Parks gardeners out on strike after they were outsourced to OCS, who promptly found an ETO justification to strip everyone of two weeks pay a year as well as taking liberties with a number of other terms and conditions.

Now, new kids on the block, the United Voices of the World are bringing Royal Parks workers back out. The parks’ cleaners are demanding a living wage, sick pay and a proper holiday entitlement. It should be a matter of national shame that people indirectly employed by the monarch earn a pitiful £8.21 per hour.

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Every picket line should have one

Me and Funky Lol caught up with the UVW on their picket line at the University of Greenwich this week.[1] There the café workers have already shamed hospitality outsourcing firm Baxter Storey into paying them a living wage, now they’re demanding sick pay and an end to under-staffing after one chef collapsed and had to be admitted to hospital after an 80-hour week.

But they’re not going to stop there. UVW members, who are mainly migrant workers, women and first time union members and strikers are taking action right across the capital. They include the cleaners at St Mary’s Hospital (Sodhexo), the cleaners, security guards and receptionists at the Ministry of Justice (OCS), the security guards at the University of East London [2], the security guards at St George’s University (Noonan) and the cleaners at 200 Grays Inn Road, home of ITN, ITV and Channel 4.

The UVW know what they’re doing, they’re making the invisible visible, giving a voice to the voiceless, standing up for the very people without whom the city would just grind to a halt.

A change is coming; we know a song about that.

Steve

[1] We might’ve sung them a few songs

[2] A strange twist. The security guards at the University of East London have been taken back in house, but TUPE-ed back to their original employer on their worsened, outsourced contracts.