Archive for the ‘Leicester’ Category

Ballad of James McLean

March 28, 2017

Listen here –http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Andrew_Walton/Deliveroo_Rider_EP/Ballad_Of_James_McLean

This tale is all too sadly true –
James McLean, he walked the talk.
To London streets, where homeless folk
warm hands on steaming cups of brew.

In Leicester, likewise, courageous stand;
he pitched his tents on Jubilee Square.
Mayor Soulsby, angry at protest there,
Served him notice to quit the land.

But public ground belongs to all;
The Diggers, once fought for such a right.
We have no choice, except to fight,
No longer to be held in thrall.

Moved on, James struck on pastures new,
Nearby the Old Town Hall.
Providing shelter, comradeship too.
Sir Soulsby, he still had the gall

to impose an unjust fine on him:
good James did nothing wrong.
Leicester in Bloom’s all proper and prim
But I’d rather see the homeless throng

provided with places for their needs;
hostel funding should not be cut.
New Labour councillors claim to heed
calls for more resources . . . but

Blairites cry tears of Tory blue,
their words don’t match their deeds.
False claims of  building houses new,
while poor are thrown on the streets.

A Mayor’s vast salary will console;
Soulsby’s never suffered on the dole.
‘Gainst cruel hypocrisy, ruthless cant,
we must, like James, protest and rant.

Homeless services, they must stay,
the fat-cats must be booted out.
Capital’s greed has had its day,
let people protest, hear us shout.

As cuts hit home, we realise
We must all strike and organise,
like James McLean, who made his stand,
and occupied our council land.

mclean

 

We need to keep our E C M O

August 29, 2016

Tories, closing our heart units down;
I said, Tories, they’re making us frown.
I said, Tories, vested interests abound.
We need to get very angry!

Children, born with holes in their hearts,
Fragile babies, who need the best start.
You can go there, and I’m sure you will find
Surgeons with skills to repair you.

We need to keep our E C M O
We need to keep our E C M O
Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygen,
It can help save your life.

We need to keep our E C M O
We need to keep our E C M O
It can help you to breathe, pump your blood all around,
It can help save your life.

Families, stay with their loved ones,
I said, families, we were all young once.
I said, families, with support and love,
We need to be there for one another.

No man, does it all by himself.
Don’t let Tories, put our hearts on the shelf,
We can go there, to the Glenfield Hospital.
I’m sure they can help you today.

We need to keep our E C M O
We need to keep our E C M O
It can help you to breathe, pump your blood all around,
It can help save your life.

We need to keep our E C M O
We need to keep our E C M O
It can help you to breathe, pump your blood all around,
It can help save your life.

Tories – when they make you feel blue
I said, Tories, pick yourself off the ground,
They don’t care, that children are kept alive
Their hypocrisy is so jive…

That’s why, we need our NHS Trusts,
We say, no more privatisation and cuts.
We have technology, called the E C M O
That can start you back on your way.

E C M O, we need to keep our E C M O
It can help you to breathe, pump your blood all around,
It can help save your life.

E C M O, we need to keep our E C M O
It can help you to breathe, pump your blood all around,
It can help save your life.

E C M O, we need to keep our E C M O
Tories, they come in both blue and red.
I said, Tories, they don’t care if we’re dead.

E C M O, we need to keep our E C M O
Young child, young child, you didn’t have a good start,
Young child, young child, with a hole in your heart.

There’s a petition, you can find it online,
A petition, it won’t take you much time:
To MPs, although they are mostly scum,
But it might, just, get something done.

Sign the official Parliamentary petition here for a review into the closure of Children’s Heart Units, at the Glenfield Hospital in Leicester, in Manchester and at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London.

 

 

 

City of Sanctuary

June 24, 2016

Welcoming hands, and cheerful smiles
Greet us along the Golden Mile
As we make our way to Leicester town
Vibrancy – white, black and brown.
In this peaceful city of sanctuary
We can share basmati and curry.
The people who gave you Jamie Vardy
Join as one, for a great big party
Spiralling out round Victoria Park
We’re underdogs, but we can bark!
Let’s celebrate, laugh, dance and sing
In our step we have a special spring
Flow through the city like the river, soar
Like a wyvern, over a place I adore.

Opposing hatred and bigotry in Leicester

May 29, 2016

Leicester has been in the news a lot recently, because of the unprecedented success of its football team. However, we have seen the far-right attempt to jump on this bandwagon, oblivious to the multicultural nature of both Leicester and its footballing heroes. This was the scene last weekend:

leicesterbf

photo – Leicester Socialist Party – see more details

For two weekends in a row, the people of Leicester have successfully defended the city centre from Britain First, a far-right splinter-group which crawled out of the wreckage of Nick Griffin’s BNP. They claimed to be campaigning for the EU referendum, but their literature is full of lies and hatred, targeted at Muslims in particular. The Another Angry Voice blog has posted a useful guide to their brand of hatred.

Leicester is one of the most diverse cities in Britain and has a proud record of standing up against racism. Dividing people in terms of their race is a convenient smokescreen for the ruling class. If working-class people are made to view each other as the enemy, then they are not blaming the real causes of their problems. These include attacks on services and jobs which the Conservatives are carrying through nationally, but unfortunately the local Labour council are passing these on to the people of Leicester and the shortage of council housing due to a lack of investment in public housing over decades.

People are at the mercy of private landlords, on zero-hour contracts, in insecure employment or are unable to get a job. It is not surprising if the ruling class try to divert their anger on to scapegoats, such as “terrorists” or “immigrants”, rather than admit that the situation we find ourselves in is because of the system of capitalism. This results in an increase in racial attacks and discrimination against minorities.

The Socialist Party in Leicester have a long tradition of holding street stalls in the city centre, every Saturday. When confronted with the bullying tactics of the far-right, we refused to go away. Instead, we called on the public to oppose and surround their stall. We reminded people of the nature of Britain First, and why they do not stand for modern Britain. We pointed out that we need to unite as a community in order to defeat the Tories’ attacks and it is still vitally important to oppose the far-right, just as the people of Leicester saw off the National Front in 1979 and opposed the EDL when they marched through the city in 2012.

leicesterbf2

A similar unwelcome reception for Britain First this weekend – picture Midlands Antifascist Network

If they are left unopposed, racist thugs can get away with attacks on Muslims. Britain First has invaded mosques, and its leader Paul Golding has been convicted of harassment. He was arrested again this weekend, after breaking bail conditions by failing to show up to a scheduled appointment in a probation office in Luton, as he was 50 miles north of that city, in Leicester.

leicesterbf3

Golding being escorted by members of the local constabulary – picture East Midlands Anti Fascist Network

The far-right have form in this city. In 2010, the EDL broke out of police lines and attacked Big Johns, a local fast-food restaurant, because it was selling Halal produce. In 2013, I wrote about a Leicester pub, “The Globe”, which was attacked on a neo-Nazi website for allegedly refusing to serve members of the armed forces, in case this offended Muslims. As a result, staff of the pub received threats, although the report was clearly completely fake. Britain First share the racist views of the EDL and BNP and have no place in a modern, democratic society.

The principle of freedom of speech extends only to those who will allow freedom of speech to others. In destroying a stall table and megaphone of socialist groups, Britain First showed themselves to be no respecters of the right of free speech. They brought a loud sound system, blaring out patriotic music, in an attempt to drown out the public’s opposition.

Fortunately, they were again sent packing, behind police lines and carrying armfuls of their racist publicity, which they were unable to give out due to being surrounded and outnumbered. The public of Leicester will need to be watchful and ready to mobilise to counter their threat.

The Socialist Party stands for unity of the working class and against any attempts to divide us. We stand against racism, bigotry and intolerance. We are a democratic party and are happy to debate with our political opponents, but we will organise against far-right bullies, who resort to abuse, threats and violence.

The Socialist Party campaigns for a LEAVE vote in the forthcoming EU referendum, but not on the basis of racism and xenophobia. We are for a united, socialist Europe, not the bosses’ undemocratic EU, whose treaties have imposed privatisation and austerity across the continent.

 

 

Sir Soulsby, British Steel and the case of the Chinese Granite

January 26, 2016

I was standing at a stall in the centre of  Leicester last Saturday afternoon, with the noise of pan-pipes playing Abba jarring my ears.

steel

I had taken the old British Steel logo (designed by David Gentleman in 1967) and made posters with “Save Our Steel”. “Renationalise the steel industry to provide jobs for communities”, I shouted – but the pan pipers had now been joined by some Hare Krishna devotees and I wasn’t sure if people could hear what we were saying.

The last remaining steelworks in Britain, representing centuries of skills and jobs for local communities, are under threat of closure – the Indian steel company TATA is announcing job losses at Port Talbot as I write this. The problem has been that cheaper steel has been imported from China, where labour costs are far lower and our industry has simply been unable to compete.

I realised that the very granite paving slabs we were standing on were also symbolic of the process of capitalist globalisation. They were shipped from China and are made of Chinese granite. It was obviously cheaper for Sir Peter Soulsby, the Lord Mayor of Leicester (no doubt having hired a consultancy to do a cost effectiveness analysis) to import tons of rock halfway across the planet, so that Leicester’s streets could be paved. Cheaper, that is, if you don’t take into account the exploitation of workers in China, or the greenhouse gases involved in the transport of the rock. The word “cheap” in this context is relative – the whole project cost £19m, with £1.5m set aside for the materials needed.

From the beginning, things went wrong – the “wrong type of granite” was delivered, which delayed the project, and specalist machinery had to be purchased to maintain the pavements. Despite all this effort, problems continued – granite is naturally porous and so was always going to be a challenge to clean. One comment was that a bag of chips should have been thrown on the paving slabs to test them before they were purchased.

It isn’t even as if the new paving slabs have been particularly prized by the people of Leicester. In 2010, just three years after they were laid, a quarter of them had become loose and so much of the city centre had to be dug up and re-paved.

So how was Chinese granite chosen for this job in the first place? The manufacturers explain that granite was chosen because it was “traditional to Leicestershire” and because it lasted longer than concrete. Indeed, granite is traditional to Leicestershire. Some of the oldest igneous rock in the world is under Charnwood forest, to the north. The area is dotted with local granite quarries. Had people been informed of the potential difficulties and product miles involved in transporting the rock, maybe they would have had second thoughts?

Under capitalism, it is cheaper to import huge quantities of steel, or granite from China, and ship it across the globe, than it is to use locally-manufactured alternatives. Labour cost is clearly the major factor in this. The answer is surely to secure decent terms and conditions for workers worldwide, so that jobs cannot be undercut.

The stall I was taking part in was on a cold Saturday in January in Leicester was organised by the Socialist Party. The Socialist Party is part of the Committee for a Workers’ International, which fights for socialism and workers’ rights in 45 countries worldwide. We argue for democratic control of industry, decent wages and secure jobs. If the profit motive is taken out of the equation – then we can truly have a future that benefits the vast majority of the Earth’s population, and ensures that there will be a habitable planet for future generations to enjoy.

 

 

 

 

Uncovering Resistance: Leicester and Leicestershire in World War One

October 3, 2015

This set of poems arose from a book by Penny Walker, exploring Leicester’s resistance to World War One. I performed these as part of the Everybody’s Reading Festival.

Common to the interviews done in preparation for the book, were family silences on the subject of war. Perhaps it was just too difficult a subject to be talked about. The prevailing attitude (completely unhealthy of course) of the British “stiff upper lip” may have played a part – or perhaps words were simply not capable of capturing the horrors of the trenches.

The opening line, “For fifty-seven years”, refers to Harry Patch, who never talked about the war to his late wife, and was 100 before being inspired to pass on an anti-war message to future generations.


Silence

For fifty-seven years, he kept it secret from his wife
A shameful infidelity, a nightmare, a scream of terror.
For words cannot encompass the horror
Cannot convey the conflict.
Unless you were there, you would not understand.

The title of my next poem, “Cat and Mouse”, refers to the treatment, common to both conscientious objectors and suffragettes – of being imprisoned for a short time, then released – only to be recaptured by the authorities. The popularly called “Cat and Mouse Act” enabled the government to remove suffragettes from prison, if they had been on hunger strike, forcibly feed them, then return them to prison. As the war went on, it became more difficult to obtain exemption from the war. Conscientious objectors faced similar treatment, and the opprobrium heaped on them continued, even after the conflict had ended.


Cat and Mouse

We were released,
Asked to sign on
Imprisoned again.

Up before the beak,
The middle-class old duffer,
Deaf to our pleas.

Treated like criminals,
Blacklisted.
After war ended
Still people held grudges.

Life goes on,
We make do.
Where others perished,
We still live.

The white feather
Becomes a white poppy.
Symbol of resistance,
Symbol of pride.

Common reasons for objecting to the war were non-conformist Christian beliefs – the idea that it is never right to kill another human being, as well as socialist beliefs – the idea that the working class should unite against the bosses, and that this struggle must be international. This imperialist war is a war for the aristocrats – so why should we do their dirty work for them? Common to both strands of thought, were rock-solid principles.

“I have been fighting all my life” is a quote from John Flanagan, who was a shop-steward and a member of the Independent Labour Party in Bradford. His grand-daughter now lives in Leicester. When asked why he refused to fight, he replied that he had been fighting all his life, but he refused to kill fellow workers. Often Christian and socialist beliefs went together, and I (an atheist) have tried to combine these outlooks in this poem.


Principles

I will not fight against my fellow man.
This is not an act of cowardice;
I am as patriotic as the next fellow:
But war must be resisted.

Without us, the general’s plans are naught.
We are the ones who have to drive in
The bayonet. Who have to turn against
Common humanity, common decency.

I have been fighting all my life
For decent pay and better conditions.
The trade union banner is my flag.
The bosses are our enemy, not each other.

An injury to one is an injury to all.
Thou shalt not kill.
We were all created in the image of God.
We are all equal.

One of the most enduring images of the First World War is the recruitment poster with Lord Kitchener, “Your country needs YOU”. In this poem, I contrast the glory and camaraderie which many people signed up to war, with the shell-shocked veterans who returned from the front, only to be shunned by polite society. For the ordinary Tommy, there would be no treatment of the psychological effects of the war, and this was only just beginning to be understood.


Kitchener

Kitchener pointed at each of us.
Our friends had signed up,
Some lied about their age to join.
We were young in those days
Eager, idealistic, naïve.
By Christmas it would all be over:
Cut down in the trenches of Passchendaele or Ypres.
Such a waste of life.
The Lonely Ones returned
Not to a heroes’ welcome.
Nomadic – unable to settle, or rest.
Thoughts echoed through their heads
To surface in nightmares.
Ignored by society, shunned.
Past glories, forgotten.
Fingers still point accusingly
At broken men.

little red little green

If you have enjoyed my poetry on this blog, my new collection, “Little Green Poetry” is now available from Lulu – – £4+P&P (paperback) or £2.50 (for e-book readers)

You can still order copies of my first collection, “Little Red Poetry” from http://www.leftbooks.co.uk or http://www.lulu.com – again for £4 (pb) or £2.50 (as a pdf for e-readers).

I hope you enjoy reading my poems, and, as always, all proceeds will go to help build the fightback against corporate political parties, to build a voice for the millions, not the millionaires.

To find out more about my politics, visit the website of the Committee For A Workers’ International, which is engaged in struggle in around 50 countries worldwide.

Leicester South Hustings – TUSC is the only party opposing cuts

April 26, 2015

Footage of myself and other candidates at Leicester South Hustings, at Highfields Community Centre – a local community facility, which is itself under threat because of cutbacks to council funding. This is at the hands of Leicester Council, which is overwhelmingly Labour-controlled. What is the point of Labour if it offers no opposition to Tory cuts?

“Andrew Walton, representing the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) said they would argue against cuts to public services. He also said TUSC would increase the minimum wage to £10 an hour. And he committed, if elected, to just take the average salary of Leicester South constituents.”

Two councillors in Leicester, Barbara Potter and Wayne Naylor, have left the Labour group – upset at infighting and a failure to fight back against the government’s austerity agenda. They founded Leicester Independent Councillors Against Cuts, which is part of TUSC nationally.

In contrast, Labour have committed themselves to Tory spending plans – only 5 Labour MPs voted against the government’s austerity agenda in January 2015 – http://morningstaronline.co.uk/a-2a08-Labour-MPs-backing-for-austerity-Bill-a-disservice

To fight against the cuts – vote TUSC, wherever you can in the elections on May 7th.

For more information about TUSC, see http://www.tusc.org.uk

If you agree, join my facebook group here – https://www.facebook.com/groups/1616394085249208/

TUSC Parliamentary Candidate Pledges Support for the NHS and for a £10-an-hour Living Wage

March 16, 2015

Press Release:

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) today announced its second local parliamentary candidate for the General Election. Andrew Walton, who has lived in Highfields for the last 20 years, will be standing in the Leicester South constituency. He will be working closely with the present city councillors who are part of Leicester independent Councillors Against Cuts, which is affiliated to TUSC.

Andrew Walton picture

Photo credit – Mike Barker, Leicester Socialist Party

Having worked in the NHS for the past decade, I have direct experience of the attacks faced by the health service and its workers from both Tory / Lib Dem and Labour governments. “Unfortunately, the Labour Party’s role in promoting Private Finance Initiatives and Foundation Trusts handed large parts of the NHS over to privateers. Since then, the Lib Dem/Tory coalition has continued this trend”.

“TUSC on the other hand campaigns for a high-quality, free NHS under democratic public ownership and control. We see no future for greedy corporations and tax avoiders, like Boots, who make massive profits from health provision at our expense.”

Another key area which I will fight on as part of his electoral campaign, will be fighting for a living wage for all. TUSC supports the Trades Union Congress’ demand to increase the minimum wage to £10 an hour, and for this to be linked to inflation or increases in wages, whichever is higher.

vote tusc

A recent article in the Leicester Mercury, highlighted the plight of over 2,500 textile workers in the city, who are paid less than half the minimum wage, just £3 an hour. “In the 21st century, in the world’s sixth wealthiest economy, there is no excuse for poverty pay,” he explained.

I will also pledge to campaign to relieve the day-to-day pressure on overworked front-line hospital staff. “This will improve service provision and minimise stress-related illness. This is one reason why TUSC stands in solidarity with workers taking action to defend jobs, conditions, pensions, and public services.”

If you are not on the electoral register, you won’t get any say in the coming elections. Please register to vote, and use your vote to support TUSC in Leicester South and Leicester Independent Councillors Against Cuts in the local elections.

Pounding

November 4, 2014

I line up at the back, no speed record for me

Alongside Scooby Doo and a Teletubby.

Inside my vest, my heart is pounding

Anticipating the race, cheers resounding.

In my ears, the starting gun sounding

Us off – syncopated surge carries us forward

As one, in a collective lunge

And a stop – into a brick wall of humanity.

I shuffle through the starting line,

Released, the path clears, temptation

To go with adrenaline, in full flow.

Slow, slow – take it steady

I tell myself. Concentrate on the pounding

Beat of my feet on the shiny, wet street

Going on and on. The city fades in the distance.

We separate from the multitude

At the split off point – force myself off on the long way round.

Alone, on a trek past sleepy village, after village

Sileby, Barkby, Queniborough, Thrussington.

Rounding the corner, going back home,

Keep the rhythm steady, feet still pounding,

I can do this – visualise the finish,

Put the pain out of my head.

But my muscles scream out,  the endless pounding

Has taken its toll. I stumble and slow to a walk,

Trudge past now-familiar landmarks

That never seemed so far from home.

A second wind then takes me, past bewildered shoppers

Wondering why anyone would put themselves through this.

Finally – New Walk, and a last incline,

Final, aching push uphill.

To a corridor of claps and cheers

Vicky Park and welcoming beers

In my local. But first, a massage

Yet more pounding. My spine felt fine,

Till your hands started pounding

Playing xylophone on my vertebrae,

My legs cry out in agony.

But I am proud, shiny medal hangs

Round my neck.

Veteran of another race.
little red little green

 

If you have enjoyed my poetry on this blog, my new collection, “Little Green Poetry” is now available from Lulu – – £4+P&P (paperback) or £2.50 (for e-book readers)

You can still order copies of my first collection, “Little Red Poetry” from http://www.leftbooks.co.uk or http://www.lulu.com – again for £4 (pb) or £2.50 (as a pdf for e-readers).

I hope you enjoy reading my poems, and, as always, all proceeds will go to help build the fightback against corporate political parties, to build a voice for the millions, not the millionaires.

To find out more about my politics, visit the website of the Committee For A Workers’ International, which is engaged in struggle in around 50 countries worldwide.

Ballad of Leicester Pride

September 2, 2014

 

The far-right don’t like diversity

They are scared, confused and crude

But I am proud of this diverse city

We won a victory, and subdued

 

Their threats, racism and bluster

They really haven’t got a clue

Hundreds we managed to muster,

Rally against their bigoted views.

 

Mardi Gras the carnival was called

A celebration of human rights.

Faced with violence, the Mercury stalled

Afraid of putting up a fight.

 

So we organised opposition instead

It really was quite easy.

But the march still hung by a thread

Because the council were quite queasy.

 

LGBT, black, white and brown

Unity it was the answer.

We gathered together in Leicester town,

Faced hate with music, dance and laughter.

 

But bullying and homophobia

Continue still, unabated,

Amidst far-right xenophobia,

So we peacefully demonstrated.

 

We are aiming for equality,

So let’s not get in a stew,

We can defeat bullies with frivolity,

Why can’t we love whomever we want to?

 
little red little green

 

If you have enjoyed my poetry on this blog, my new collection, “Little Green Poetry” is now available from Lulu – – £4+P&P (paperback) or £2.50 (for e-book readers)

You can still order copies of my first collection, “Little Red Poetry” from http://www.leftbooks.co.uk or http://www.lulu.com – again for £4 (pb) or £2.50 (as a pdf for e-readers).

I hope you enjoy reading my poems, and, as always, all proceeds will go to help build the fightback against corporate political parties, to build a voice for the millions, not the millionaires.

To find out more about my politics, visit the website of the Committee For A Workers’ International, which is engaged in struggle in around 50 countries worldwide.