Friday, January 30, 2015

National Campaign Day with Lyn Brown and Harriet Harman - Sat 31 Jan

"Tomorrow is national campaign day. Lyn Brown MP and Harriet Harman, Deputy Leader of the Labour party, invite you to the opening of the new campaign centre for Bermondsey and Old Southwark - followed, of course, by a canvassing session for Labour's candidate for Bermondsey, Neil Coyle.

We're meeting at West Ham station at 10am or you could meet us at 10.45 at the new campaign centre 46 Tower Bridge Road, SE1 4TR. It's a 10 to 15 min walk from London Bridge, Elephant and Castle or a short bus ride from Tower Hill or Bermondsey station.

I hope you can join us. And we'll be back in Ilford North on Valentine's Day..."
Best wishes
(West Ham CLP Vice Chair - Campaigns)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

"Rights at Work" UNISON Labour Link event at House of Commons

This is a fantastic picture from last weeks' London UNISON Labour Link "Rights at Work" event for our members who live in Ilford North CLP. The event was organised by Lilian Greenwood MP (who use to be a UNISON national officer and is a great friend of our union). We had speeches on "Rights at Work" by guest speakers Chuka Umunna MP, Ilford North Candidate Wes Streeting and Shadow London Minister, Sadiq Khan. West Ham MP, Lyn Brown, also came to speak to members and their guests.

Workers in this country need to understand that the Tories in the last 5 years have decimated our employment rights. They have doubled the amount of time that an employer has to get rid of you without you having any rights for unfair dismissal; they have watered down TUPE protection if you are transferred to another employer who wants to slash your terms and conditions - and if you want justice at work, it could cost you at least £1200 up front, to even appear before an employment tribunal. 

Yesterday evening I chaired an "Equality at Work" event sponsored by London Labour Link for our LGBT members at the House of Commons which I will post upon soon.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Holocaust Memorial Day - Old Town Hall, Stratford

Yesterday I went to a Holocaust Memorial Day, ceremony organised by Newham Council which took place in the Old Town Hall in Stratford, E15. 

The hall was packed with residents and pupils from local schools. 

It began with a choir singing a specially composed song by Craig Murdoch, performed by ECaM stars and orchestra called "Remember me".

The Newham Chief Executive Officer, Kim Bromley-Derry welcomed the audience. The Mayor, Robin Wales, spoke next on the Holocaust and its relevance to Newham. He described us gathering here today as an act of defiance against fascism and that personal stories remind us that real people lie behind the figures. Many countries including Britain during the Second World War did not do enough for refugees fleeing the Nazi's. We must never forget this when we think about refugees who are fleeing persecution today. Nor should we forget the contribution that modern day refugees have made to Newham.

The testimony was by death camp survivor, 83 year old Rudi Oppenheimer. Rudi was born in 1931 to a German Jewish family in Berlin. They were not religious and lived a comfortable middle class life and were proud to be German. 

As a young child Rudi was unaware of the political persecution of Jews in German by the Nazi Government. His father eventually moved to Holland while the rest of the family went to London where his sister was born. They all later joined their father in Holland thinking they would be safe. 

In May 1940 Germany was at war with Britain and France and they invaded Holland and quickly overran the country. Soon after this the Germans began to persecute the Jews in Holland.  

The discrimination that Rudi and his family suffered at the hands of the Nazi in Holland, was in one way, even more shocking than being sent to a death camp.  In a series of laws they were forbidden from working, using public transport, from going to sport clubs, libraries, theatre, non Jewish shops and they had to wear yellow stars on their clothes at all times. Rudi even had his bicycle taken away from him. Once the Nazi had got away with de-humanising Jews, then it is no surprise that they ended up murdering them.

All Jews in Holland were forced to live together in Amsterdam under a strict curfew. Ironically, Rudi thinks that as a child he may have played in the same street as Anne Franks. She was to eventually die in the same death camp that he and his family was to end up in.

Eventually after waiting weeks for the "knock on the door" they were told by German Police to leave their homes for "Resettlement to the East". They were sent by train to a transit camp. Unbeknown to the family, both sets of Grandparents were sent to death camps and gassed when they arrived.

Rudi believes that one of the reasons why he survived, when so many didn't, was that his sister was born in Britain and the Germans thought the family could be exchanged for German nationals held in Britain. They were known as "Exchange Jews".  After 7 months in the transit camp they were still sent to the infamous Bergen Belsen death camp. They were greeted by shouting SS Guards, barking dogs, sadist commandants, heavy labour and a starvation diet.

At the camp both his parent died of brutality and disease but he and his brother was able to live, thanks to Rudi working in the camp kitchen and stealing food. He always felt guilty about this since he was in effect stealing food from other inmates but he and his brother would have not survived otherwise. 

Belsen was the camp where there was so many dead bodies when the British freed it in 1945 they had no choice but to use bulldozers to push the bodies into huge pits. Some 70,000 people died there. 

After a series of near misses, Rudi, his brother Paul and sister Eva were liberated and eventually arrived in London to live with their Uncle.  Rudi had a successful career with oil company BP. Paul wrote a book about their life called "From Belsen to Buckingham Place". 

In the Q&A that followed Rudi was asked if he "forgave" those who were responsible for what happened to him? He said he did not forgive but he doesn't hate them anymore. The only people who could forgive are his parents since they were the  ones who had really suffered.  He did however believe in God.

Next there was modern dance performance by pupils of Lister Community school and then readings by pupils from Kensington Primary school and Kingsford Community school including "First they came..." by Paster Martin Niemoller
" First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
  Because I was not a Socialist.
  Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
  Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
  Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
  Because I was not a Jew.
  Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me".
Followed by a Candle lighting ceremony led by the Mayor, David Gold (Chair of West Ham FC), Lyn Brown MP (see photo), John Biggs AM, John Barber (Representative Deputy Lieutenant) and Rudi.

Finally, a minute of quiet reflection and then classical music from local tutors.

Afterwards, there were some tears from some while others in the hall were talking to each other and  sharing stories and even photos of their own relatives. There was a massive queue to buy signed copies of "From Belsen to Buckingham Place" and Rudi sold all his copies. I will get one from the website.

It was quite an emotional event and it is not just about the history.  As Rudi reminded us since the Second World war there has been other holocausts in Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnian. Not only should we never forget what happened but we must always be on guard against intolerance, bigotry and fascism in all its guises.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A UK Foreign Policy for the Middle East - Newham Compass 17 Feb 2015

This is going to be a really interesting event. It clashes with my UNISON branch AGM. Which is a real shame as Mike is always an entertaining speaker and was the former chair of the foreign affairs select committee.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Committee on Workers Capital - Global Proxy Review 2014

Check out this report published last week by the Committee on Workers Capital (CWC). 

The CWC has "over 200 members from 25 different countries, the CWC connects labour union organizations around the world to advance the responsible investment agenda on the global stage". 

The Global Proxy Review  takes an international view on the way fund managers vote the shares they hold and manage on behalf of workers pensions funds at Company AGMs. Use this information to hold fund managers to account for the way they vote on important environmental, social and governance issues (ESG).

Sunday, January 25, 2015

London Loop Walk: Section 1 - Erith to Bexley

Off message but today Ms Grayee and I started on a long distance walk around London. The "London Outer Orbital Path" (better known as London Loop) is a 240 Km (150 mile) mostly sign posted route around outer London. It is divided into 24 linear sections which vary between 6.1 and 16.8 km accessible by public transport within London (tfl) Zone 6.

We are going to try and complete all the sections within the next year. The first section was 8.5 miles long from Erith to Bexley.  It took about an hour from Forest Gate (East London) to get there. This part of the walk involved walking along the River Thames which was the best bit by far. The water, salt marshes, the light and "big skies" was marvellous. But this is also in an industrialised part of London with more than its fair share of road noise, litter, scrap yards and rubbish tips.

We met up in Crayford with a group of young people who were nearly finishing the loop after 2 years of weekend walking and they said this was by far the worse section, which they had left till last. They were a cheerful bunch who admitted that they had already enjoyed the hospitality of a number of pubs on route and were looking forward to their next pit-stop. My type of people!

We agreed that the instructions on the official "Transport for London" route here are pretty rubbish (shame on you Boris).  So tonight I have ordered "Capital Ring' by Colin Saunders and "The London Loop" (Recreational Path Guides) by David Sharp. The youngsters were the only obvious ramblers we saw all day. 

We started about 11.15 and finished at 3pm. It took a while to get back to Forest Gate but had Sunday newspapers to read. 

I am looking forward to the next section which is Old Bexley village to Petts Woods and only 7 miles long.  I will make further posts and even create a London Loop Facebook page. I will be busy, busy in the run up to the general election in May but will hopefully be able to snatch a few days to retreat to my hinterland. 

Update: London Loop 2015 FaceBook page

"My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose"

I still think this is the best version of this classic love poem. Happy Burns Night Comrades!

Check out some other more traditional versions here.

Meet Nigel Farage

Check out the new website Meet Nigel Farage and find out Nigel's plans to privatise the NHS, cut the NHS and charge for the NHS.

All his plans are sourced.

It is about time that Farage and UKIP got held to account for their Ultra Tory Right wing nonsense.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

West Ham at Wes' Birthday Canvass

Today is the birthday of Labour candidate for Ilford North Parliamentary seat, Wes Streeting.

So instead of giving him a well deserved day off, his campaign team designated it as "Wes Birthday Canvass Day" and arranged 3 separate #labourdoorstep sessions.

West Ham went to the 2pm session and took part in a number of campaign teams, while our MP, Lyn Brown, ran a telephone canvass session in the CLP HQ (Lyn is out of door knocking action at moment due to a serious knee injury).

My team was led by Newham's youngest Councillor, Seyi Akiwowo, who enjoyed bossing us about and sending us hither and thither. After we finished I had an unusual telephone conversation with a West Ham CLPer, who asked me if I remembered where they had parked their car? (they eventually found it).

Double click to enlarge picture and check out the top right of collage for photo of show stealer, Cara.