Posts Tagged ‘Leicester’

Ballad of James McLean

March 28, 2017

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

 

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.

Poems for International Women’s Day

March 1, 2016

Inadequacy

I’m a man, a bloke, a geezer, a lad
So why should I be feeling so sad?
We are supposed to be in charge,
Lording it over our other halves.

If you think that is the extent of your role;
Watch TV all day, hog the remote control,
Take the lion’s share of the duvet at night,
When feminism comes, you’ll get a fright.

It makes me feel quite emasculated
Now that women are emancipated.
If, on the dole, I can no longer provide
It is such a blow to my manly pride.

Of what, exactly, are you afraid?
What’s your problem, not getting laid?
Is there a deficiency in your trouser department?
So I am put in your tidy, little compartment?

But you are good at housework and cooking and such
It’s your God-given role, your woman’s touch.
To be quiet, and pretty and do as you’re told,
Not to nag, complain, berate and scold.

I slave all day behind busy shop tills.
I work to pay the household bills.
Do you have a problem with that?
Would you prefer a meek doormat?

Look at Alexandra Kollantai
She could raise a worldwide hue and cry
Against patriarchy, sexism, brutality,
Artificial, capitalist plurality.

I don’t buy your consumerist shit
I’ve got a brain and a sharper wit
“Men are from Mars, women from Venus”
Just because I lack a penis,
An accident of hormones in the womb,
Doesn’t mean I have to clean and scrub and quietly fume.

There is more to life than a cock and balls.
To differentiate you boys from us girls.

We share the same problems,
We have the same goals.
Equality – for one and all.

 

Post-feminism

Old International Women’s Day
Has been betrayed, it’s not the same.
LeicestHERday is such a shame.
Politicians have conveniently forgotten
History of struggle against conditions rotten.
The courageous matchgirls’ strike
Who told the boss to take a hike,
Who fought against cruel phossy jaw,
Who weren’t afraid to break the law,
‘Gainst exploitation of Bryant and May,
For worker’s rights and decent pay.

The hypocrisy of Liz Kendall
Is enough to send you quite mental.
She spouts on about women’s rights
While council workers are in her sights.
Labour Leicester passes savage cuts –
Thousands sacked, no ifs or buts.
Thousands of families, on the dole;
She has no compassion,no socialist soul.
Reforming the system, their timid goal.
But don’t touch my MP’s pay,
Let us fiddle expenses and stay
Comfortably afloat, on our Parliamentary gravy boat
With silk cushions, duck house, and country moat.

 

 

little redlittle 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.

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.

How Saxby Street Got Its Name

September 28, 2015

Some poetic responses for the Everybody’s Reading Festival, to the eponymous book by Penny Walker, which discusses the impact of World War One on my local community of Highfields, Leicester.

What’s In A Name?

Place names – windows onto the past
From a distance of a century,
Ordinary folk from Highfields
Caught up in conflict
With other ordinary people.
We even shared the same words:
Mecklenburg, Mickleover, Micheldever
Mony a pickle maks a mickle.
Inflamed by propaganda,
Outraged at living with a Germanic street name
Indignant complaints made to the council.
At a stroke of a bureaucratic pencil
Hanover – Andover; Saxe Coburg – Saxby
As in Groby, Blaby, Barkby, Ratby
Reminders of the time when the Danelaw ruled
And Erik Bloodaxe was feared like the Hun.
Immigration is nothing new,
We all have something fresh to bring.
Today, Leicester celebrates Divali, Eid and Vaisakhi
The Empire which stoked war is but a memory
We live together as a community.

The motto of Leicester is Semper Eadem which translates as “Always the Same”. The children of Medway Primary School staged a short play, looking at the similarities and differences between 1915 and 2015.

Always The Same

Leicester stood out
In the rush to sign on
We remained aloof,
Independent.
Recognised the war for
The racket it was.
It was easy to get a job
Though hours were long
Hosiery was thriving.
We sang to rhythms
Of the factory.
No need to risk our lives
For a few bob.

Penny’s book dealt with memories from the First World War recorded in the local Oral History Archive. Since this was compiled starting from the early eighties, few people were alive who could remember the events from their adulthood. Many of the contributions were about childhood experiences of wartime.

Memories

Children played in the street
Hopscotch, top and whip, battledore and shuttlecock.
Our rhymes danced high and clear –
One potato, two potato, three potato, four!
Much better than school – crammed sixty to a class.
Lives were more fragile;
No doctors for the likes of us.
The NHS was a figment of Bevan’s imagination
To be cradled by a future war.
We couldn’t afford such luxury.
We swam through the jitties and the alleys
Fireflies amidst pollution’s pall.
Innocents in the battle
Which engulfed the world.

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.

Save Our Services in Leicester

May 10, 2014

On Thursday 8th May, the public gallery was full as the scrutiny committee of Leicester Council met to discuss cuts to voluntary services in the city. Leicester Race Equality Centre (TREC) and Leicester Council of Faiths were both allowed to submit a response (although they were limited to just 5 minutes each to put their case).

IMG_0117

TREC argued that it provided a unique service, responsive to the needs of diverse communities in the city, often working with extremely deprived and vulnerable people, and had worked to improve relations between communities in the face of far-right attempts to increase racial tension, as has happened in Thurnby Lodge and with the EDL protests. In both these cases, TREC have been involved in combating racist ideas and developing dialogue between different ethnic groups.

The council’s response to TREC’s demands for an Equality Impact Assessment amounted to just 144 words, which was completely inadequate, and contrary to the council’s legal responsibility under the 2010 Equality Act. The council’s consultation exercise was itself discriminatory, by being on-line, it excluding people without access to the internet, whether due to poverty or to disability. Only 136 people responded, and only 78 attended public meetings, with overlap between the two groups. This failed to do justice to the vast number of people across Leicester City affected by the service cuts.

Peter Soulsby, the Mayor of Leicester, acknowledged the good work done by voluntary services in the city. However, he sought to blame the Tories for the cuts, rather than taking any responsibility himself for their implementation. He said that services had to go out to tender, as this was “the way of the world”, and that the council had no choice except to cut the overall funding pot. He failed completely to address the points relating to the failings of the council’s own report. Rather patronisingly, the groups were reminded that they could also apply for external funding and were offered assistance with this.

The response from both the Council of Faiths and TREC was that they already routinely approach external sources of funding, and that TREC had exceeded the council’s own agreement as to the services it provides, with a 98% satisfaction rate from users of the service. In the past year, TREC had dealt with 794 enquiries, and faced a 70% increase in cases of harrassment. Since 1967, an estimated 150,000 people had benefited from their support.

Mayor Soulsby went on to admit that a total of 18 other services were having to go through similar reviews, such as children and adult services. It is obvious therefore, that the cuts being made by the council are widespread and affect the most vulnerable people in our society disproportionately – in the case of TREC, asylum seekers, refugees and people experiencing discrimination or harrassment. TREC works with all communities in the city.

However, Soulsby offers no strategy to stop cuts to services. We were left wondering – what was the point of voting in a Labour Mayor, or 52 Labour councillors, if they then fail to provide any meaningful opposition? In the 2015 elections in Leicester, the Socialist Party as part of TUSC (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition), will provide such a principled opposition. If any Labour councillors are prepared to break ranks and vote against cuts, then we will support them in their stand. However, we are seeking to put forward as many candidates as possible against councillors who cut services. We will also look to stand against Soulsby in the mayoral elections, in order to save jobs and vital services in the city.

The Socialist Party would scrap the tendering process, it merely adds bureaucracy and opens up public services to the private sector. Instead of wasting resources in drawing up tender documents and having to justify themselves to the council, services should simply be able to get on with the job they are supposed to do.

We point out that the council has a choice – it could refuse to implement cuts and use its £150 million reserves to buy time to build a campaign to force the government to back down on its austerity agenda. If Leicester united with other Labour councils across the country, and built support amongst council trade unions for united strike action, the government would face massive opposition and could be forced into a position where it had to back down. However, if Labour councillors are not prepared to fight, and the overwhelming evidence is that the vast majority of them will do nothing – then they should stand aside for others who will.

The Socialist Party has a long track record of fighting successful battles against cuts – for example Liverpool Council’s fight against Thatcher from 1983 to 1987 and the mass non-payment of the Poll Tax in 1990. We will continue to fight against all cuts to services, whichever party is implementing them.

Why we should get rid of the Mayoral system- From the Leicester Mercury

April 22, 2014

Save our Services- Sack Mayor Soulsby

First Person: The electorate should finally have its say on Leicester’s mayoral system

By Leicester Mercury  |  Posted: April 22, 2014

Leicester Against The Cuts protestor Steve Score

Leicester Against The Cuts protestor Steve Score

 Leicester Against The Cuts protestor Steve Score says we should get a vote on whether to keep the city’s mayoral system.

In 2011, Leicester elected an executive mayor. Today, this one person has more power over council services than all of the 54 equally democratically elected councillors. The previous system, where the councillors elected their own leadership and had more power to make decisions, was replaced without asking the people of Leicester.

In other cities, a referendum was held to decide on the change, most deciding against. In Leicester, we did not get the opportunity to vote.

Yes, the executive mayor is an elected position, but in his four-year term of office he can do virtually what he wants.

Councillors are…

View original post 375 more words