Tuesday, 26 June 2007

South Armagh- leaving Bessbrook Mill

Yesterday the last soldiers left Bessbrook Mill in South Armagh- maybe a legacy of Mr Blair- no more soldiers helping the police in the border area's. But for me- unlike many Labour supporters, it is more than a footnote in the history of New Labour.
I spent almost 2 years working in South Armagh, living in Bessbrook Mill, Crossmaglen and in observation towers on the border itself.
To me it was not a battle for Independence but a place where the rule of law was not enforced where many people were happy to see the IRA keep the police off the streets so they could carry on their lucrative smuggling business.
In the 70's and 80's it was the Falls Road in Belfast, Crossmaglen, and Forkhill that were the places where soldiers were losing their lives, occasionally a TV documentary was made or a few lines in an English paper mentioned the war!
Today if we had the same situation, we would find trouble running out of the security base without falling over a Sky TV crew!
Today the Falls Rd, Shankhill and Newry are replaced by more dangerous places- Basra and Helmund province.
I am glad that Tony and Labour have now got the likes of Paisley and Adams together round a table- I know it is the only way to peace but as Bessbrook closes, I also remember the many soldiers from my Regiment who died in South Armagh and though we know the names of some of the murderers and their leaders who ordered the attacks- we know that they will sit in their large farms, bought with the spoils of their smuggling business, maybe thinking they have got away with it. they probably have but we should not forget the many British soldiers who took part in Operation Banner- the longest operation ever in the history of the British Army.
So Bessbrook Mills closes- once the busiest heliport in Europe- but for soldiers it is not forgotten just added to Aden and Malaya and hopefully one day Basra will be spoke about in the past tense as in the last moth my former Regiment has lost 4 men.
They will be remembered by many as are those who lost their lives in Northern Ireland.

The Clash and the music of 77


Three decades ago The Clash released 'White Riot' and as Billy Bragg puts it " the flame they lit is still burning bright." At www.philosophyfootball.com we are celebrating Clash Culture with four unique summer designs inspired by the lyrics and graphics of the band. Part of the profits will be donated to Billy Bragg's Jail Guitar Doors initiative (www.jailguitardoors.org.uk) like our shirts also inspired by the Clash. From Paul smashing his guitar on our re-take of 'London Calling' and the message 'Hate and War' that was spray-painted on Joe's boiler suit, to the words of Garageland as pointed today as they were back in 1977 and English Civil War, the band's pointed anti-militarism anthem. Four shirts for nostalgists or those new to The Clash, available in sizes S-XXL, plus skinny-rib. At http://www.philosophyfootball.com/

I managed to win a set of the shirts!

I put comment on a great blog by Dave Osler called Dave's Part

The shirts by Philosophy football are great- as worn by myself and the Ipswich agent- who can say more than that!

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Ipswich Refugee Week

The Refugee Council in Ipswich have just finished a week of events, aimed at highlighting the problems of refugees.
The Ipswich Labour Party invited a speaker to come to our management meeting and she gave a good talk, highlighting how few refugees we actually take in this country and how the right wing press just bundle them in together with legal migrants, illegal migrants, foreign students and legal immigrants.
What I found very informative was a small pamphlet they produced which had stories and poems from refugees who have settled in Ipswich, it did really get over the fear that led many of them to escape their own county and the problems many have experianced since arriving in this country.

I attach a poem from a refugee from Afghanistan:

Life in Afghanistan

The Talibans scared us
They wanted full power.
Women were harmed
and could not work.
No school for girls
were totally covered
when we went out.
Men were in prison
and men were whipped.
No football for boy
no parties, no fun
no music allowed.
Electricity gone
TV's smashed
blood was wasted
corpses eaten by dogs who then went mad.
Hard times.

There are some lighter moments in the pamphlet, including a piece by a refugee who is amazed that we do not all wear 3 piece suits and carry umbrellas, he also seems to have summed up the attitude to football of the people of Ipswich.

"Football is an example of equal opportunity in Ipswich. everybody supports their team. a defeat to Norwich can be very disheartening, but a defeat to Southend or Colchester is like rubbing salt in the wound!"

We all have to get the true facts about refugees over to the people of Ipswich (and the rest of the UK).
I understand many peoples fears about immigration and refugees but at present many peoples views are clouded by the fact that the national press have a very one side view of the problem.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Mrs Terry (Tory) and Mr Cann (Lib Dem) - best of friends?

No, this is not some sort of tabloid gossip, it just seems that I have become their number 1 hate figure recently. Both have had letters in the Evening Star, both defending the Tory/Lib Dem plan for the Ipswich Film Theatre but also managing to both have a go at me!
All I can say to both of them, is that I was not attacking the decision to privatise the Film theatre but the way the process was dealt with.
Sorry to disappoint both of you but your personal attacks on me will just make me more determined to keep speaking out about their administration's eroding of democracy!

Saturday, 16 June 2007

A wet day on the doorstep

A few clouds but the sun was up in a mainly blue sky, it looked like it would be staying warm as seven of us prepared to start delivering a Labour leaflet to every house in Rushmere.

Well we started- but did not finish- 40 minutes into delivering and the skies opened up. three of us ended up having to find shelter in the shops at Brunswick Road. it looked like the day would be a wash out as the rain was very heavy but fortunately after about 20 minutes the rain stopped long enough for us to finish Brunswick Road.

The other 3 teams out also managed to carry on through the rain, enabling us to get out the first 1,000 leaflets to Rushmere residents.

For all Rushmere residents who have not received a copy yet, you should be getting it delivered in the next seven days.

The main topic is the demand of Rushmere residents for an attempt at traffic calming on a number of roads - many local residents feel it is only a matter of time before a child or elderly person is hit by a speeding car.

We are still waiting for work to start on the new zebra crossings on Rushmere and Woodbridge Road. The Tories did vote against it but after they received a large petition from local residents, they had a change of heart and relented- we only found out about this when the Tories put out a leaflet before the election stating that they had secured the building of the new crossings- well you could not get further from the truth - just now we will have to see how long it will take before we see this magical crossing.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Mrs Terry - not happy

Mrs Terry the Tory portfolio holder for leisure and culture in Ipswich seems to be upset (she is also our Tory Rushmere councilor) that I have written to our local paper, highlighting the shoddy way the Tory executive made the decision to sell off the Ipswich Film Theatre- no questions, haven't read the papers and whole thing done in 15 minutes!

The local paper gave her half a page and it was - as my wife would say all "me, me, me" - about how she is the saviour of culture and so on- forgetting that a Lib dem actually sided with Labour on this.

She couldn't even spell my name right.

Well Mrs Terry that sort of attitude has made me even more determined to beat you next year!

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Deputy leader- Hain for me.

Received my ballot papers for the Deputy Leadership election- seemed simple to understand, proving that elections can be done without just have to revert to the one cross - one vote method- maybe we can advise Scotland how to do it next time!

Peter Hain got my vote-reasons- well he came to Ipswich (and is coming again this week) and I was impressed with his speech and more importantly in the answers he gave to questions put my Labour Party members from Ipswich.

An interest in Northern Ireland has also found me admire him for pushing Sinn Fein and the likes of Ian Paisley together and for seeing the Blair policy on Northern Ireland through to the end. Iraq has taken away what has been a magnificent result in bringing a sense of normality back to this troubled part of Britain.

My second choice was Hillary Benn, I feel he is one for the future and the Office of Deputy Leader (and possibly Deputy prime Minister) will be an excellent position from which he can not only learn but we also will be able to see if he is the high quality politician we hope he is.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Ipswich Film Theatre Fiasco

Yet another example of rushed through but not thought out policy by this Tory led (with Lib Dem support) administration.
This follows on last from last year when they tried to privatise the street cleaning service, then made a bodged attempt at new parking permits and more recently the decision to cut the Ipswich bus service . Now it is an attempt at privatising the Ipswich Film Theatre.
They probably thought they would get away with it now they have got rid of the lone Labour voice on the Council executive. But the Labour Group did find out and have now let this sorry story into the public domain. Here is more on the story from the Ipswich Labour Party Constituency website;
Ipswich Borough Council has been forced to reconsider its decision to privatise the management of Ipswich Film Theatre after concerns emerged about the business plan of the winning bid. Labour councillors have forced the council to reconsider the decision.The decision by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat run-Council was taken at a behind-closed-doors meeting on 24th May.
Opposition Labour councillors, who were not allowed to participate in the meeting, have since discovered that the winning bid appears to underestimate the costs involved, overestimate the amount of income that will be generated and does not conform to the council’s invitation to tender. Labour councillors are concerned that the number of specialist films shown at the Film Theatre could be cut by up to a half under the successful bid.The entire meeting where the decision was taken to privatise the Film Theatre management was rushed through in less than fifteen minutes. No councillors asked any questions, only one had read the invitation to tender document and none had read any of the bids. Labour leisure spokesperson John Mowles ( said: “There are so many unanswered questions about the winning bid that the Tories and Liberal Democrats must reconsider their decision. If the council doesn’t get this right it could mean the end of dedicated specialist film screenings in Ipswich.”Ipswich's Overview and Scrutiny Committee will now be examining the plan in detail.The last ideologically driven privatisation attempt by Ipswich Borough Council was of StreetCare services. Eventually the Lib-Cons running Ipswich Borough Council were forced to admit their preferred option would cost more, and they had to back down!

What is strange is the silence of Lib Dem Councilor, Andrew Cann. He is the (self appointed) leading Lib Dem in Ipswich who left Labour to join the party of no principles in a blaze of (self made) publicity when he released a story that the Ipswich Corn Exchange (in which the Film Theatre sits) was under threat from a Labour run administration. No press release from him this week about this bodged attempt at privatising the management of the Film Theatre by his own party!