Posts Tagged ‘Bristol’

Bristol’s Labour Mayor Marvin Rees on What His Party Has Done for the City

August 3, 2021

As a member of the local Labour party, I got this general email from Bristol’s elected mayor, Marvin Rees, explaining what his administration has done to improve conditions in Bristol. I’ve mixed feelings about Rees. He can be stubborn and obstinate, insisting on what he wants against the wishes of local people. He did this in the case of the housing development now being built in Hengrove park. His plans for the development were opposed by local people, who wanted fewer houses and more amenities, like shops, to be built on the site. But despite the fact that Rees’ own plans for the area were also criticised by the planning authorities for exactly the same reasons, Rees overruled the suggestions of the locals and went ahead with his own plans. There has also been a similar controversy over his scheme for a new arena for the city. Common sense would say that it should be built nearer to the city’s centre, where communications are excellent and visitors from outside the city could easily get to it via the motorway. However, for some reason best known to himself, Mayor Marv has decided instead that he wants it built in Filton, a suburb some distance away from the centre in the north of the city. Which is far more difficult to get to.

On the other hand, I was very impressed by his handling of the pulling down of Colston’s statue by Black Lives Matter. There have been demands from Bristol’s Black community for the statue to be taken down for decades, and so the assault on it probably shouldn’t have been surprising. After all, it followed similar attacks on Confederate statues across the Pond in America. Despite loud criticism from people of the right, like Alex Belfield, I think Bristol’s police did exactly the right thing in not trying to defend it when it was attacked. It was the only monument affected. The other statues nearby, such as one to Bristol’s sailors, and of the 18th century politician, Edmund Burke, and Queen Victoria (Gawd bless ‘er) weren’t touched. Neither were the surrounding shops and offices. But I think there would have been a full scale riot if the cops had tried to defend it. And I think it’s extremely likely that some in the mob that attacked the statue were hoping for a chance to fight the police as symbols of racist authority. The police didn’t give them the opportunity, and saved the people and property in the area from harm. As for Marvin himself, while he has made it very plain that, as a man of colour, he personally loathes the statue, he has been extremely diplomatic and careful in his handling of the controversy.

Here’s what he says in his email:

“Dear member,

I am writing to you to thank you for your support in the recent elections and to let you know how your Labour administration is repaying your trust in us. 

I want to start by reiterating how grateful I am; for everyone that voted for me and for the activists who knocked on doors, called voters, and spread our message of hope on social media. It’s been an enormously difficult year – which makes me even more appreciative for the support – but we still managed to adapt to the circumstances and get Labour’s message out to the voters. Our activists are the cornerstone of our movement – we wouldn’t have won the mayoral elections if it weren’t for the strength of our members. 

However, despite winning the Mayoralty and gaining a Labour Metromayor in the West of England Combined Authority, we lost a number of excellent councillors and had hard-working, dedicated candidates miss out on their seats. I know how talented our candidates were and how much they cared about their communities, so these results were hard to take. 

Despite the disappointment, we’ve regrouped and have been working to put Labour values into action and to continue delivering on your priorities. I want the next three years to be defined by inclusivity, sustainability, and delivery – everything we do will be defined by those three principles. 

At the first Full Council since the election, we put forward a motion that forbids the Council or its partners from following Home Office guidance that uses rough sleeping as a reason to cancel someone’s leave to remain, resulting in their eventual deportation from the UK. It should go without saying that we found this guidance deplorable – it shows how out-of-step Priti Patel and the Home Office is with Bristol’s collective conscience. Read more on Cllr Tom Renhard’s Blog. 

This announcement follows a recent further £4m investment to help tackle rough sleeping and the setting up of Bristol Street Outreach, a new service to support rough sleepers. Since 2019, we’ve reduced the levels of people rough-sleeping by 80% – this new service will focus on on-street engagements, particularly with those who have been sleeping rough for a long time, to help enable them to move off the streets and live independently.

As well as this we’ve:

Won Gold Food Sustainable City Status – only the second city in the UK to do so – for excellence in tackling food waste, urban food growing, and action to address food inequality. Awarded by the independent, Sustainable Food Places Board, the accolade recognises the work of Bristol’s good food movement and the city’s work to tackle the impacts of food on public health, nature, and climate change. More information here. 

• Offered residency to a number of Afghan interpreters who worked with the British Army, as they were at risk of persecution by the Taliban. 

• Moved forward building a 17,000 seater arena and its surrounding district – which now includes a 15 acre public park, £3.1m for transport infrastructure, 2,600 news homes, employment space, up to three new schools, a health centre and retail and leisure facilities – with it now set to open by the end of 2023.

• Allocated £34m in funding to help businesses in the city centre upgrade to cleaner vehicles, so they can avoid fines when the Clean Air Zone is implemented.  Despite pushing back the implementation date for the Clean Air Zone, by giving people and businesses time to adapt we will still have cleaner air by 2023 – the same time as we would if it had been implemented this October. 

• Painted a trans-inclusive rainbow crossing on Wine Street to as part of our celebrations for Pride Month. As well as this, we passed a motion that will strengthen mental health provision for LGBT+ people within the Council, and to work with our partners to improve services across the city.

Built the largest water-source heat pump in the UK, bringing zero-carbon energy to 5,000 homes in central Bristol. This comes after we built the largest land wind turbine in the country in Avonmouth. We’re also pushing ahead with finding a partner for the City Leap Programme, which will see us invest £1bn in decarbonising Bristol’s energy systems. 

• Started work to transform the Bear Pit into a haven for bees and butterflies. We declared an ecological emergency last year and are working to turn make our built environment more ecology-friendly – We’re investing in green structures and bright native flowers in the bearpit to attract pollinators and make it a thoroughfare the city can be proud of. 

• Invested £4.7m to rejuvenate our high streets, including Bristol city centre, East Street, Church Road, Shirehampton, Filwood Broadway, Stapleton Road, Brislington Hill, Filton Avenue, Two Mile Hill and Stockwood. The funding will help develop a support programme for existing and new high street businesses, while funding improvements to the streets in a bid to boost footfall through them. Financial support will also be offered to new or expanding businesses, such as pop-up stores or galleries, to reduce the number of vacant premises on the streets.

This is just a small selection of the work we’ve been doing for you. As this next term is only three years rather than four, we wanted to hit the ground running, but we have much, much more in the pipeline that will be ready for announcement in the near future.

If you would like to find out more about the work we’ve been doing, have questions over specific policy, or just want a general chat, then please feel free to ask your constituency executive to invite myself or a Cabinet member to one of your party meetings. 

I hope everyone has an enjoyable summer – I look forward to seeing you all again soon.

Best wishes, 

Marvin Rees”

The various green projects Labour has introduced shows the administration is taking ecological issues seriously and shows that the Labour party in the city would be behind the Green New Deal proposed by the left, which would not only help the planet, but also create jobs and new industries. I’m also particularly impressed by the investment in local high streets and their businesses, and the offer of residency to the Afghan interpreters who worked for the British army. With the Taliban now advancing in Afghanistan, these people’s lives would very much be at risk if they remained there, and they undoubtedly deserve to be given sanctuary here in the UK, no matter what Priti Patel may think.

Despite my strong criticisms of some of Rees’ policies, I think overall he has been good for the city, and hope his administration will continue to do its best for Bristol and its great people.

Reply from Local MP Karin Smyth to Letter Against Tory NHS Privatisation

July 19, 2021

Firstly, sorry for my silence the past few days. The TV company we’re with were upgrading the network in our area and we lost internet and TV reception. The TV came back on as expected, but we still couldn’t get the internet. We had to call an engineer out and the first opportunity for one to come was today. Well, he did indeed come and fix it, so all should be up and running as usual. We hope.

Last week I put up a piece about the pro-NHS group, We Own Out, encouraging people to write to their MPs asking them to vote against the Tories’ latest wretched health bill, introducing more privatisation into the NHS. I wrote to my local MP, Karin Smyth, as requested, and got an excellent reply from her last week. Here it is.

“Thank you for your email regarding the new Health and Care Bill which was debated for the first time in the House of Commons yesterday. I voted against the Bill along with my Labour colleagues but it was passed with a large government majority. Jon Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Health, made a very strong contribution and you can read the whole debate on the Hansard website here. There was not time for me, or more than 30 other MPs, to speak so I was unable to place on record yesterday why this legislation is such a missed opportunity which fails patients and their families in Bristol South.

Before I became your Member of Parliament I worked in the NHS and witnessed at first hand the wholesale chaos of the last reorganisation of the NHS in 2012 pursued by the then Conservative/Lib Dem coalition government. Up until that point there had been a general consensus about how to improve healthcare in our country: enhanced GP services, more care within communities to help support people closer to home and a stronger role for local government. Instead of listening to those of us within the NHS about the problems their plans would create the government simply ploughed ahead with a market and competition based system.

So now the government has accepted the almost complete failure of their last attempt and is having another go.

What they should be doing is giving new life to the NHS to enable it to fulfil the objectives set out by its founders in the pioneering post-war Labour government – high-quality healthcare, free at the point of use, fit for the modern world. But instead of a focus on improving care we have a proposals to create nothing more than a cronies charter, giving the Secretary of State huge unaccountable power to interfere in local NHS decision making with dozens of new, appointed, positions of responsibility. There is nothing to tackle the workforce crisis which means it is becoming harder and harder to recruit doctors, nurses and other staff. It is the fault of government, not hard pressed staff,  that people in south Bristol found it difficult to see a GP or were waiting for an operation even before the pandemic.  

In the coming months the Bill will be subject to line-by-line scrutiny and I expect to be part of the committee which undertakes that work. I will have a relentless focus on amending it to improve outcomes for patients and their families, through an integration of health and social care based on quality rather than cost saving or even cost cutting. I want to see effective, locally accountable and properly funded health services of which we can all be proud.

I will be updating you regularly on that work. We must all keep up the pressure on the government to make sure the National Health Service, on which we all rely, can meet our health and care needs in the 21st century.

Yours sincerely

Karin Smyth
Labour MP for Bristol South”

I’m very grateful for her reply. I’ve heard Karin speak before at local meetings of her disgust with the Tories’ privatisation of the NHS. She has said that she became an MP specifically because she felt so strongly about what they were doing to this most precious of British institutions.

I think she is a member of Labour’s right-wing, but am absolutely confident she will fight for the NHS and do exactly as she says she will about scrutinising and opposing this vile piece of legislation.

Alex Belfield Attacks Rishi Sunak Cutting Miners’ Pensions

July 5, 2021

More from the person Gillyflowerblog, one of the great commenters here, has described as my favourite right-winger. Belfield is definitely a man of the right with some appalling views, and many of my commenters understandably can’t stand him. But here he says something that should be coming from the left. Rishi Sunak has decided that he’s going to cut miners’ pensions by £14 per week in order to save £1 billion. And Belfield begins his video by saying he’s never been so appalled. He attacks Hancock for channelling government money and support to his friends in the hospitality industry, but the government is now saying that they can’t afford to support the people who did one of the most dangerous jobs on Earth.

Belfield makes much of the fact that he grew up in a pit village. He remembers the ’80s and ’90s and how those years tore communities apart, between scabs and strikers, people who did one thing and those who did another, simply to put food on the table. That’s why he’s a fan of the film Brassed Off, because it feels so raw and captures that period so well. Miners were killed not just by accidents but also through the stuff they inhaled that damaged their lungs. Many of those, whose pensions will be cut have already died. He makes it very clear that he despise this move to cut the pensions of men, who worked extremely hard and suffered much to feed and light this country.

This, however, is what corporatist capitalism is. It’s been described as ‘socialism for the rich’, as government aid is removed from the poor and needy, and given instead to the rich and greedy in the form of subsidies, tax breaks and so on. And the government is four-square behind it. I can also remember the miners’ strike, and my mother told me today of something her mother said about remembering the miners in the Bristol area marching through town begging when they were striking, because they were so poorly paid. Yes, Belfield is an appalling right-winger, but when he attacks the government for their attacks on working people, I’ll put it up regardless. It doesn’t matter if it comes from left or right, within reason. If it’s correct, I’ll reblog it.

But if Belfield’s correct this time, then I do wonder what Starmer’s position on this is. He should be condemning it, but he’s a Blairite, who’s afraid of offending all those middle class people on the right he wants to appeal to. So will keep silent, and once again betray the working class by not speaking up?

History Debunked Asks if Black lives Matter to Black People

June 28, 2021

It’s a provocative, controversial question to be sure, but it does need to be asked. In this video History Debunked’s Simon Webb raises it in connection with the shooting of Black activist Sasha Johnson. Johnson was shot a month ago by a Black gang while dancing the night away at a party in Peckham. According to the police officer in charge of the investigation, none of the thirty people, who were present at the shooting have offered any evidence. It seems that Black lives only matter when the killer is White. When this occurs, the slogan ‘White silence is violence’ is trotted out to castigate any White that doesn’t condemn the killing or offer evidence. But when it comes to Black on Black violence, Blacks cover it up. Hence the various claims made after the shooting that a White supremacist was responsible as demonstrated in Diane Abbott’s noxious tweet about it. But the four men accused of the shooting – Prince Dickson, Cameron Derigg, Troy Reed and Demontay Brown, are all Black. There’s a certain irony that they were caught because of Stop and Search, which Sasha Johnson condemned as racist against young Black men. The cops stopped one during such a search, he ran away, was arrested, and so led them to the others. But the thirty people at the party aren’t giving evidence because of a belief in the Black community that it’s wrong to cooperate with the police. Any Black person who does is a Judas. But more Black lives are lost to Black gangs than to White racists, and if Blacks really want to stop Black people being killed, then they should tell their boyfriends and sons not to stab and shoot other Black men. As for the 30 people at the party, their silence really is violence. By not coming forward to give evidence against Johnson’s shooters, they are all complicit in her shooting.

A few years ago, Black on Black violence really was an issue that was being discussed in the mainstream media. This was in the 1990s or early 2000s. There was even an edition of the Ali G show in which Sasha Baron Cohen’s wigger alter ego did a mock interview with the senior police officer supposedly about Black on Black violence. G was particularly interested in the weapons that ‘brothers were using against brothers’. The police chief had brought along a selection of knives, swords and other weapons that had been taken from Black gang members. Then Cohen decided to turn the interview into farce, and started drooling over how cool these weapons were, to the obvious horror of the policeman. The fact that even Ali G was discussing the subject showed very clearly that it was definitely not a taboo subject. But now it’s vanished. The Black Lives Matter movement is only concerned with Black lives if their taken by Whites. And its fair to say that many Black are very unhappy about this.

One Black Conservative American youtuber last year put up a long video about why many Black Americans hated Black Lives Matter. This consisted of clips of Black people, including business people as well as ordinary peeps, stating very clearly that in their experience, all the abuse and violence had come from other Blacks, not Whites. This included a man, who’d been physically threatened as well as people, who’d seen their shops and businesses trashed by the rioters.

There is indeed a widespread, deep distrust of the police amongst the Black community in both America and Britain. It’s doubtless due to the real racism Blacks have experienced at the hands of White cops. Since the race riots in Britain of 1981/2 there have been efforts to recruit more Black and ethnic minority officer into the police as a way of countering this. Cressida Dick, the Met’s police chief, has announced that she wishes to recruit a further 20,000 police officer. To Alex Belfield’s horror, she is also trying to change the law to give preference to Black applicants. She’s almost certainly doing this, or wants to do it, because of the long-standing campaign to get more Blacks into the rozzers as a way of gaining the community’s trust.

As for the reluctance of the people at the party to give evidence against the shooters, my guess is that there are other factors at work quite apart from simple racial solidarity. It’s been suggested that it was a gang shooting, and they accused were really trying to kill Johnson’s partner. Johnson was simply unlucky enough to get in the way. In this case, the silence of the other partygoers probably is due to fear for their lives. A Black resident of Bristol’s St. Paul’s area said much the same after the riots of 1981/2. She was on the side of the police against the rioters, as she wrote in an article in the Bristol Evening Post that the area was being terrorised by criminal gangs, and people were afraid of speaking out against them.

But there’s also a marked hostility amongst Black anti-racist activists to media reporting of Black on Black violence. Remember the murder of Demilola Taylor? He was a 12 year old Black lad, who was stabbed by a gang on his way home from school, finally bleeding to death in the stairwell of the block of flats where he lived. A vile, horrific murder that shocked the nation and was extensively reported in the press. I’ve mentioned before the many vile attitudes held by the Black and Asian Studies Association that thoroughly disgusted me when I read their wretched newsletter. One of the worst was their accusation that the Beeb was being ‘racist’ for reporting it. In issue 32/33 of their newsletter they complained about its reporting and stated that the media should instead have carried stories about all the Blacks murdered by Whites. They were showing their prejudices here. They’d obviously concluded that Taylor was murdered by a Black gang, but their ethnicity hadn’t been mentioned on the national news and it was later revealed that it was made up of people of different races. It’s an attitude based, no doubt, on the extensive reporting of Black criminality by the right-wing press, which certainly was racially biased. I’ve no doubt that the Black activists, who oppose the reporting of Black on Black assault and murder do so from a genuine belief that this somehow supports anti-Black racism and ‘negative stereotypes’ of Black people.

But most of the Black people stabbed and shot are attacked by other Blacks. And I’ve no doubt that there are many British Blacks, like those in America, who would like this to become an issue. They want their neighbourhoods to be safe, and to be able to raise families and run businesses without fear of being robbed, looted or murdered by anyone, whether White supremacists or Black criminals.

It’s just Black Lives Matter and similar organisations, like the Black and Asian Studies Association, who want to silence any discussion of Black on Black violence.

And their determination to silence its reporting is both an indictment and makes them complicit in the killings they ignore.

History Debunked Attacks Racially Segregated Schools, Demolishes Free School System

June 26, 2021

Here’s another video from another Conservative youtuber, Simon Webb. Webb’s channel, History Debunked, specialises in attacking various myths and pseudo-history being pushed as authentic Black history. In this video he attacks the call from supporters of Critical Race Theory that there should be separate schools for Black pupils, and particularly for boys. He has seen for himself how such schools actually lead to worse academic performance and behaviour in such a school in Tottenham in Haringey. But some of the reasons for its failure – management by parents, instead of qualified teaching staff – are also a major problem for the Thatcherite free school project, which was intended to allow parents to break out of the state education system.

Webb begins by quoting a passage describing how one Black activist, Derek Ball, urged Blacks to abandon their demands for integrated schooling during the Civil Rights struggle, and instead concentrate on building good, all-Black schools to boost Black educational achievement. The argument for these is that, despite attending the same schools as Whites and Asians, Blacks, and particularly Black boys, still fall behind because of the lack of suitable role-models.

Webb describes how the Seventh Day Adventists in Haringey in 1980 set up their own, all-Black school as part of this ideology. Staff at the school, John Loughborough, were good, moral, upstanding people. Unfortunately, they had a problem recruiting proper teaching staff, so they were being taught by the friends and relatives of the people who founded it, who wanted a job. Webb states he noticed how the academic achievement and basic behaviour of the children of friends, who sent their kids there, progressively decline. Their interest in and performance in vital subjects like maths and physics declined. At the same time, their interests narrowed to Black music, culture and politics. The teaching staff were unable to keep discipline, and so their behaviour became worse, instead of better. By the 1990s, when Haringey closed it down, it was the worse school in the borough.

Webb states that he has heard similar stories from across the Pond, and there are also similar stories about Muslim and Orthodox Jewish schools in this country. In the case of the Orthodox Jewish school, the educational curriculum was extremely narrow, so that its former pupils were left unprepared for life in wider British society. The same is true of the Muslim schools, while many of the pupils at the former John Loughborough school have a chip on their shoulder about how poor their schooling was, and its inability to prepare them for mainstream British society. He states that the problem with schools is that their management requires a very specific set of skills, which most parents don’t have. He states that in all the similar schools of which he knows, Black, Muslim, Orthodox Jewish, there are similar problems – a narrow curriculum, safeguarding issues and poor discipline.

The demand for racially segregated schools to benefit Blacks goes back several decades. I can remember the idea being debated in the 1990s. Round about the time Bristol City Museum was setting up its ‘A Respectable Trade’ exhibition about the city’s role in the slave trade, a women wrote into the local paper, then the Bristol Evening Post, calling for such schools. There were similar moves before then. After the riots in the St. Paul’s area in 1981/2, the council sent into schools various teams and advisors to teach the children not to be racist. This included the school at which my mother taught. This was accepted by staff and parents, though I do remember that the headmaster at the time refusing to allow the same anti-racist educators to take Black children out of the school to have special lessons on their Black identity, or something like that, as he was firmly against any kind of segregation.

I also recall Thatcher’s attempt to break up the state education system. As well as the City Academies, which were so terrible she and her education secretary, Norman Fowler, were actually winding up before Blair later relaunched them as academies when he came into power, she also announced she was passing legislation for free schools outside Local Education Authority Control. No longer would parents have to tolerate sub-standard education as the hands of evil lefty teachers and local councils. No! Parents would now have the power to break free and found their own schools, run how they wished. Which would undoubtedly do well due to market forces. All absolutely tripe, of course. Teaching really is a skilled profession, which not everyone can do. But right-wing governments like those of the Tories and Blair have been able to use it as a political football and partially privatise it by playing on the general belief that ordinary people know how to teach and manage a class better than the professionals. I remember back in the 1980s how the right-wing press, including the Bristol Evening Post, was constantly attacking teachers with scare stories about Communist teachers indoctrinating children. Thatcher herself, in one of her wretched speeches, was scathing about ‘anti-racist mathematics’, while her lapdog paper, the Scum, ran the story about children in Brent or Lambeth being taught to sing ‘Ba Ba Green Sheep’ because the original nursery rhyme, ‘Ba Ba Black Sheep’, was supposedly racist.

And the concerns about the narrowness of the curriculum in some of the free schools and academies run by religious organisations are perfectly justified. A few years ago there were concerns about the Muslim schools up north, with allegations that they were being run very strictly in accordance with traditional Islamic practice. The sexes were segregated, discipline harsh, and the curriculum narrowly religious. There have been allegations since that this wasn’t the case, and such concerns were the result of Islamophobia. The Christian schools set up by a the evangelical Christian head of a haulage company have also been criticised for their severe and humiliating discipline, as well as teaching Creationism as science. As for Orthodox Jewish schools, the French academic, Alfred Kepel, in his book about the rise of religious fundamentalism, The Revenge of God, describes one such school in Paris where the only secular subject was maths.

I am certainly not against faith-based schools. Both Mike and I went to an Anglican church school and got a Christian education. But the school also strongly condemned sectarian and racial prejudice, and did take children to other, non-Christian places of worship, like the local mosque, as a way of teaching them about those faiths.

Nevertheless, the very narrow focus of some religious or racial organisations in the education they wish to provide should be of concern. Whatever their faith or none, children need and deserve a broad education which promotes their personal achievement and growth and prepares them for wider British society rather than isolating them in self-imposed ghettoes. And they also need to be taught by properly qualified, experienced and skilled staff, rather than ordinary people, who wrongly think they can teach thanks to decades of being told so by the right-wing press.

The free schools and academies may not provide this, and in many cases they certainly don’t. But they make profits for the academy chains and support the Tory ideology of attacking the state provision of education.

I’ve no doubt that racially segregated education is a failure, regardless of whether it is intended to benefit Blacks or other ethnic minorities. So are the free schools and academies generally.

All of them should be wound up, and schooling returned to the state and control of local authorities.

History Debunked on the White Slaves of Early Modern Scotland

June 21, 2021

This is another video from History Debunked’s Simon Webb. I’ve put up a number of his videos because they seem to contradict and refute some of the falsehoods deliberately being told about slavery and the maltreatment of Blacks in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests. I’ve made it very clear that I despise Black Lives Matter, but I fully recognise the reasons behind their anger. As a community, Blacks do suffer from poor educational achievement, poverty, a lack of career opportunities, drug abuse and the violent criminality that goes with it. I know from talking to Black and Asian friends and relatives that there is real racial discrimination out there, including the threat of genuine Nazi violence. What I object to is some of the glib assertions and false history that has been added to genuine fact and the one-sided presentation of these problems. It’s simply an historical fact that slavery has existed in very many societies right across the world. It existed in Africa, and the Black slaves we acquired during the days of the transatlantic slave trade were purchased from powerful African slaving states like Dahomey, Whydah and a number of others. Black Africans were also enslaved by Muslim Arabs, Turks, as well as Indians and were exported from east Africa as far as modern Sumatra and Java. One historian of slavery has remarked that it has been so prevalent across the world, that what is remarkable is not that White Europeans practised it, but that White Europeans and Americans abolished it. But slavery is increasingly being presented as something that only White Europeans and their colonies did to Blacks.

In this video Webb talks about a form of slavery practised in Britain from the late 17th century to the end of the 18th century, which I doubt few people know about. It was the enslavement of White Scots people to work in their country’s mines and salt pans. The law, Anent Colliers and Salters, was passed in 1660 and was designed to stop shortages of labour in the coal mining and salt-making industries. The salt was produced through boiling seawater in vast pans. These were large parts of the Scots economy at the time, and the law was intended to stop workers in those industries going off and seeking gainful employment elsewhere. The law bound the miners and salters to their masters, who were given the power to beat them, whipping those who refused to work, as well as the right to sell them to other owners. They could not look for other jobs or even leave the area. In 1661 the law was extended so that the masters could forcibly conscript into their employment tramps and vagabonds. And there were harsh punishments for runaway miners. When one owner put up a mine for sale, as occasionally happened, the men were listed alongside equipment and livestock like the pit ponies. In 1701 Scotland passed what was dubbed ‘the Scots Habeas Corpus Act’, which prevented Scots from being imprisoned without cause. But it specifically excluded the workers in the above industries. In 1775 legislation was passed emancipating colliers and salters, but it applied only to new workers. It contained a ‘grandfather clause’, specifically excluding previous workers. It was only in 1799 that a law was passed freeing all miners and salt workers north of the border. He explicitly states at the end that the moral of all this was that slavery was not something that was done solely to Blacks. It was also done to Whites and continued until a few decades before the emancipation of all slaves.

As with all of his videos, I think you have to be aware of his personal bias. He seems to be a Telegraph-reading Tory, and some of what he says is incorrect. He has said that Britain never advertised for Caribbean workers, but this has been contradicted by several of the great commenters here, who remember just such appeals. In my understanding, he is wrong in what he says about the Mansfield judgement banning slavery in Britain. The judgement was issued by Lord Mansfield on a case brought before him by the Abolitionists on behalf of a slave, James Somerset. Somerset had been sold to another master, who wanted to take him abroad, which Somerset didn’t want to do. It’s like the later Dredd Scott in America. Webb claims that the judgement did not rule against slavery, only that slaves couldn’t be taken out of the country, because Mansfield had no power to pass judgement outlawing existing forms of British slavery such as that of the miners and salters.

This is wrong. In every book I read it is stated that Lord Mansfield ruled that slavery did not exist under English law. This is correct. Slavery had died out in England by the end of the 12th century as the Normans banned it. The former slaves instead became villeins, serfs. The mass of English peasants were unfree. By law they could not leave the manors on which they were settled, their property was technically that of their lords, and they had to pay a fine compensating the lord for his loss when their daughters married. In addition to working on their own plots of land, they were also required to do labour service on their lords’ demesnes. Their property reverted to their masters on their deaths, so that their widows and children had to appeal to the lord to get it back. Meanwhile, the parish priest had the rest to take the deceased peasant’s best beast, meaning his best cow, ox or bull. It’s not as severe as chattel slavery, and serfs have certain rights, which slaves don’t. But sometimes, especially in the Russia as the tsars, the distinction between serfdom and chattel slaves is a fine one. Serfdom was abolished in France during the French Revolution. Other states, like Denmark and the German states, abolished it in the decades following and during the 19th century, as did Russia under tsar Alexander II.

In school we’re taught, or given the impression, that serfdom died out because of an acute labour shortage following the death of between a third and half of the European population during the Black Death in the 14th century. In fact what happened is that the Black Death commenced a long period in which serfdom began withering away as landlords began to compete amongst each other to persuade peasants to settle on their estates and commute labour services into money rents. But the process was a long one. The last serf died in 1645, I believe. In one of her programmes in which she visits various historic towns, Dr Alice Roberts, a former female star of Time Team, medical doctor, anthropologist and Professor for the Public Engagement with Science at Birmingham university visited one of the great cities of Norfolk. She learned there about a battle in the 16th century when the local peasants revolted against attempts to turn them back into bondsmen – serfs.

Furthermore, even if slavery was formally abolished in England and serfdom had withered away, it was still customary to purchase certain types of human being. Time Team’s Tony Robinson, also known as Blackadder’s Baldrick, described the appalling conditions suffered by 18th and 19th century mill workers in his series, The Worst Jobs in History. He trembled with raw, justified outrage when he told how millowners would to workhouses and orphanages to buy the children left there to use as their workers. Wives were also seen as the property of their husbands, and the traditional form of divorce amongst British peasant and working class communities was to take them to market to sell. It happened up and down the country, including Bristol, where you could get a reproduction of an advertisement for such a sale down at the Central Library. The transportation of certain criminals also acted as a form of slavery. The Monmouth rebels in the West Country, who supported the illegitimate Duke of Monmouth against James II, if they escaped hanging by Judge Jefferies were transported to Barbados, where they were sold to the planters for sacks of sugar. Irish rebels were also treated the same way. A friend of mine at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum, who was a staunch anti-slavery activist with a mixed-race African wife, told me how you could still see the former cabins occupied by the White Irish amongst those of the Black plantation labourers in Barbados and the Caribbean. The Irish cabins were patriotically decorated with shamrocks.

I think the Mansfield judgement only applied to English law. Scots law is different, because until the Act of Union in the early 18th century England and Scotland were different countries with separate parliaments and different legal systems. Since the 12th century, English law includes custom and precedent. A judgement passed on one case acts as the model for others in similar cases. Scots law is based on Roman law. As I understand, a judgement passed in one case is not automatically binding for similar cases. It can be used as the basis for a similar decision, but the judge is also free to disregard it and make his own judgement. Lord Mansfield’s judgement probably only affected English, and not Scots law. Nevertheless, it was highly influential in that during the 1820s and ’30s before the abolition of slavery in the British Empire, Black slaves in the Caribbean used it as the basis for their own efforts to gain their freedom. There were a series of slaves, like Grace James of Antigua, who had been brought to Britain, or English overseas territories like Gibraltar, by their masters. On their return home, they presented themselves to the Guardian and Protector of Slaves, the official charged with protecting the slaves from brutality and maltreatment, as free people of colour illegally held in slavery. Their owners naturally objected, claiming they were being robbed of their property. The colonial authorities appealed to the home government for guidance, and the diplomatic correspondence, as printed in the government’s blue books, included copies of the Mansfield judgement.

I also believe that the conditions for miners in the north of England was similar to those in Scotland. I think it may have been on Bargain Hunt, one of the Beeb’s early evening antique shows, or perhaps Great Railway Journeys with Michael Portillo, that they were in County Durham. The presenter was shown around the miner’s hall, the grand headquarters of the local trade union. He was told about the horrendous, oppressive conditions contained in the contract that traditionally had to be signed by every miner binding him to his master. These were only successfully fought and finally overturned thanks to union opposition in the 19th century. Which is another demonstration why we need strong, effective unions.

There was considerable sympathy for enslaved Blacks amongst working people, and particularly in Scotland. It’s been claimed that one reason for this was because of the enslavement of White, Scottish mineworkers. Thus the authorities and slave masters complained that there was too much sympathy for runaways among ordinary Scots, who were hiding and protesting them.

I think that possibly too little is known about serfdom and the traditional enslavement of Whites in Britain and Europe. Some of this might simply be due to the fact that most history is ‘history from above’, the actions of monarchs and great statesmen and politicians, rather than social history, or ‘history from below’. Another factor may well be the myth most Brits have grown up with – that Britain is the country from which freedom and good government flows. What isn’t appreciated is that every one of the freedoms we enjoy, and which are being stripped from us by the Tories, were hard won through the blood, sweat, toil and tears of ordinary folk and their champions.

It has led to a distorted view of history, the myth of ‘merrie England’ in which everything was somehow better in the old days, when lords ruled and the hoi polloi knew their place. It’s a view that the right do want to bring back. But a lack of understanding of traditional forms of British forced labour, that applied to Whites, has also contributed to the equally distorted view that slavery and forced labour is very much something that Whites inflicted on Blacks or other people of colour.

Both are wrong, and need to be fought.

Bristol South Labour Party’s Motion Demanding Action and Leadership from Starmer and Dodds

June 19, 2021

Mike has put up a chilling post this morning revealing a hidden truth about the recent Lib Dem by-election victory in Amersham and Chesham. They won not because there is actually a revival in that awful party’s fortunes, but because of tactical voting and the almost complete collapse of the Labour vote. Labour got only 622 votes, 1.6 per cent of the total, and lost their deposit. And I don’t doubt for a single minute that it’s because of Keir Starmer’s abysmal leadership. He has spent all his time and energy as leader persecuting the left, all under the specious pretence of fighting anti-Semitism. He has broken every one of the promises he made to support Labour’s genuinely popular manifesto commitments. These were for nationalised utilities, a renationalised NHS, a proper welfare state, and strong unions and workers’ rights. He showed his contempt to the party’s Black members through his offhand, lacklustre support for Black Lives Matter and by refusing to investigate or punish the bullies responsible for the racist abuse and treatment of Diane Abbott and other Black MPs and activists. And more significantly, he has done precious little to attack the Tories and hold Boris Johnson accountable for the deaths resulting from his bungled Covid policy, the corruption which has seen the Etonian fraud grant government contracts to his friends’ companies, the continuing assaults on democracy and free speech, the absence of any genuinely beneficial trade deals for Britain as a result of Brexit, and the descent into rioting and unrest in Ireland.

All of these issues are open goals. But I’ve seen precious little comment from Starmer on any of them. One internet commenter has already posted that Cummings seems to be doing more damage to the Tories than him. And I agree.

As a result, Bristol South Labour party passed a motion Thursday night to invite Anneliese Dodds down to the constituency to hear our concerns about the lack of leadership. It’s an amended motion. The original explicitly called upon Starmer to make his presence felt and start showing that Labour had good, viable policies. This was altered because some members felt that Starmer was already doing something towards this with his policy review.

“Social Change Motion

The dark days of WW2 exposed a desperate need for radical social change in Britain.  The Labour Party took on the challenge and delivered the miracle of our Welfare State.

Most of the years since then have seen a Tory hegemony; the last decade in particular has brought about a devastating erosion of all our public services; the crisis today is scarcely less urgent than that of 1945. Just as during the war, the Covid pandemic has thrown into harsh light how grievous the levels of need have become – in health, education, housing, social care and now, of course, climate change.  The whole country is witnessing this and is desperate for signs of future hope and change.

Hope can come only from a Labour Government in power with a bold and radical agenda for change.  We know, however, that to achieve this will require extraordinary action – not only an inspired and inspiring manifesto but an imaginative co-operation within the parties of the Left.  Clearly. some form of PR will be necessary if the Tories are to be held in check in the long term.  Equally clear is the need for Labour to stop its factional infighting and concentrate on winning the next election.  

Our Leadership’s current policy of holding the Government to account for its handling of Covid and for its many other failings is right and necessary but it is nowhere near sufficient to the country’s needs.  The time for radical change is now.  The country is ready to listen now and it is high time for it to hear what the Labour Party stands for.

The path to victory in 2024 must be opened up without delay.  This branch therefore calls upon our Leadership to set aside their present caution – and reliance on focus groups -and respond to the country’s urgent needs.

Action: to invite Annelise Dodds** in her role in co-ordinating the NPF consultation to a Bristol South CLP meeting to hear and address the concerns expressed above.

Amendment to add: Action: Invite Annelise Dodds** in her role in co-ordinating the NPF consultation to a Bristol South CLP meeting to hear and address the concerns expressed above.”

The motion shows the depth of concern Bristol South CLP has with the lack of action and leadership on Starmer’s part. Some of those who actively campaigned during the council elections said they were told by people on the doorsteps that they were voting Green, because they didn’t know what Labour stood for. The party has some excellent Green policies, but these haven’t been sufficiently communicated to the public.

I honestly don’t know what would come of inviting Dodds down to hear the concerns of the constituency party. Given the highly authoritarian and dictatorial leadership style, precious little. It seems that Starmer’s and the party bureaucracy’s response to criticism is to suspend the critics. But they and Starmer are leading the party to disaster. He can’t blame Corbyn, or the continuing power of the left. Labour’s poor showing in the elections is due to him and him alone.

He should now either start showing real leadership and demonstrably oppose Johnson, or he should leave and make way for those who will.

Labour suffers worst by-election result in party’s history. Will Starmer accept the blame? | Vox Political (voxpoliticalonline.com)

Yes, Young Radicals Really Are Leaving Labour for the Greens

June 13, 2021

Yesterday Mike put up a piece about the shift in voting intention among the young. Many of them are choosing to support the Greens rather than the Labour party. According to stats from the Tory-owned YouGov, 27 per of young people intend to vote Green, as against 35 per cent for Labour and 21 per cent Conservative. Mike and the peeps on Twitter were in no doubt that it was because of Starmer’s miserable leadership. If you punish the previous leader of the party by suspending him, ‘throw the Palestinians under the bus and give in to flag-shaggers’, as Frank Owen’s Legendary Paintbrush said, ‘you lose the youth vote’. Not only that, but if you go back on your election promises to renationalise the NHS and the utilities, strengthen the welfare state and restore the trade unions and workers’ rights, and start giving people a decent living wage, you will lose voters, and not just the young ones. These were all extremely popular policies, but they’re anathema to the Tory Labour right. Hence Starmer has broken all of these promises. They are also not going to support a leadership that seems more determined to purge the Labour left – which is really just traditional, centrist Labour – than fight the Tories.

As it stands, Starmer doesn’t represent anything. He’s an opportunist, as shown the other day when he pledged to back Trans self-ID after people have started questioning it and the danger it represents to women. Most supporters of the trans ideology undoubtedly do so out of conviction, but this looked like a cynical attempt to garner support from the gay and trans communities.

Young people tend to be more radical than their elders, and this generation are particularly worried about the environment. It can be seen in the rise of Extinction Rebellion, who are damned nuisance in my opinion, but I don’t doubt they’re right about the environment. I don’t have the stats available at the moment, but the YouGov figures certainly tally with the results in Bristol at the council elections. Many wards elected Green councillors, particularly in the more radical areas of the city.

Britain’s young people are suffering. Their education has suffered because of the Coronavirus lockdown, their job prospects are also in doubt because of the effect the lockdown has had on the economy, they’re mired in debt thanks to the massive hike in tuition fees brought about by the Tories’ Lib Dem collaborators and the welfare state no longer exists to support them, or anybody else. And they are worried about possible irreversible damage to the Earth’s ecosystem and the final extinction of life, including humanity, on our beautiful world.

They and the rest of the British people need and deserve better. The Tories will always be the Tories, the Lib Dems have no principles when it comes to power, and under Starmer Labour has been hollowed out and turned into a vestigial, sham opposition. So they’re going to the Greens. I don’t this will trouble Starmer, as the attitude among the Blairites seems to be that so long as the party is kept out of the hands of its traditional supporters, the socialists and working class, then everything’s great. Even if the party goes under or loses its place as the main opposition party.

But the party’s real supporters and activists demand better. They want a proper Labour party that stands up for working people. And that means

Starmer must go!

Labour is losing young voters to the Greens – because of Starmer | Vox Political (voxpoliticalonline.com)

My Email to Simon Webb of History Debunked on Ideologies of Black Colonisation and the Slave Trade

June 8, 2021

I sent a couple of emails to various people last week discussing and attacking what I believe to be a dangerous form of anti-White racism within Black Lives Matter and similar Black, allegedly anti-racist activism. One of these was to Simon Webb, the vlogger behind History Debunked. Now Webb is a Torygraph-reading right-winger, who believes in the Bell curve stuff about Blacks having, on average, lower intelligence than Whites. It’s dangerous stuff and did lead to the passage of discriminatory immigration and eugenics legislation. But Webb does not believe in eugenics – indeed, he criticises it in one of his videos. He also denies being racist and states that he has many Black friends and has been involved in their education. He’s certainly provided evidence of this with photos of himself surrounded by Black children, to whom he’s reading. Now I’m aware that some of his statements must be taken with a pinch of salt. Both Brian Burden and Trev have shown very clearly that some British authorities, at least, were appealing to Caribbean workers to come to Britain at the time of the Windrush migration. But there are others posts he’s made where he cites his sources and where it seems that he is almost certainly correct.

I sent him this email as it describes my own experience of briefly collaborating with the Black And Asian Studies Association, and their hardly subtle anti-White bias. He has also discussed in several of his posts the apparent desire to airbrush Black African slavery out of history. This tallies with my experience in Bristol recently, where Cleo Lake and Asher Craig, in their demands for reparations for slavery for all ‘Afrikans’ seem to be determined to put the blame for slavery solely on White Europeans and Americans. While this is a private email, I hope it clarifies some of the reasons why I am so deeply suspicious and opposed to some of the policies now being articulated by the Black Lives Matter movement and associated activist groups.

I am very much aware that anti-Black structural racism exists, and have Black and Asian friends and colleagues who have suffered the most terrible abuse and threats simply because of their colour. But I don’t believe the distorted history and identity politics of BLM are helping the matter. Indeed, I firmly believe that they are driving White and Black apart, and that they are assisting the Tories by providing them unintentionally with material they can exploit to divide the great British working class.

Dear Simon,

I hope you will forgive my contacting you like this rather than commenting on your great YouTube channel. I’ve been watching your videos for a little while. Although I have to say that we probably don’t have the same party political views, I do share your concerns with the way myth and deliberate falsifications which are now being passed as authentic Black history by activists, educators and the media., I thought you might be interested to hear of my experiences with certain Black groups.

Way back in the 1990s and very early years of the present century I did voluntary work at the former Empire and Commonwealth Museum at Bristol’s Temple Meads station. I really enjoyed working there, and met some great people, which include Black volunteers and historians. I was tasked with putting together a database of the Museum’s holdings on slavery. These were mostly copies of text documents and official papers the Museum had acquired from the Commonwealth Office. There was also a library of books people had kindly donated to the museum. These included not just the classic texts and studies against transatlantic slavery but also contemporary studies, including those of it in modern Black Africa. I also briefly cooperated with a Black organisatiion, the Black and Asian Studies Association in providing them with materials for Black history week. 

This cooperation ended when I had a look at a copy of their wretched magazine. I think it was number 32/33. I took immediate exception to the tone. While there were exceptions, the attitude behind most of it was that all White people were automatically racist unless shown to be otherwise. Moreover, that issue came out after the Observer had run an article predicting that by the middle years of this century, Whites would be a minority in Britain. The magazine simply reported this in its ‘things you should know about’ column. However, a few lines later it sternly rejected any limits on Black and Asian immigration to Britain as racist, and stated that Blacks needed their own, special, exclusive spaces. This is, in my view, colonialist. It resembles what we did in our colonies. 

I sent them a reply, which reminded them that certain parts of the Arab world also enslaved Blacks, backed up by an obituary in the Independent of a Sudanese Black civil rights activist, who had been told by his Arab compatriots that Blacks shouldn’t be educated and were to be used as slaves. I also pointed out that there was unreported class of White poor in South Africa, as covered by another piece in the Independent about a photographic exhibition of works on them, ‘Outlands’, as well as other bits and pieces. They sent me back a letter telling me not go get in touch with them again.

A few years agoafter I left the museum, I tried writing a book based on the material I had amassed at the Museum. This was rejected by the mainstream publishers, so I have had it self-published with Lulu. It’s in two volumes, and is entitled The Global Campaign. In it, I tried to set British transatlantic slavery in its wider imperial setting. America and the Caribbean weren’t the only British slave colonies. There was also Cape Colony, Mauritius, Ceylon and India, as well as the kidnapping of girls in Hong Kong, and slavery in Java and Sumatra. I also covered the infamous ‘coolie trade’ and the enslavement of indigenous Pacific Islanders.

And that, I believe, is one of the reasons why I think I was turned down. Slavery and its history has always been linked to Black civil rights activism ever since W.E.B. Dubois, who wanted equality for Black in America and independence for Black Africa. The problem here is that much of the slavery the British pledged to end was indigenous. It was by other Blacks in Africa, as well as by Arabs, Indians, Sri Lankans and the peoples of modern Malaya and Malaysia. It contradicts the cosy, received narrative that it was all Whites’ fault.

I also believe that it may have been unacceptable because not only did I deal with indigenous African slavery, I also showed its parallels with European serfdom, and argued that Europeans turned to the enslavement of Africans because their traditional sources of slaves – eastern European Slavs – had been cut off by the expanding Ottoman Empire. There were other reasons, I’m sure. A friend suggested that I may well have been turned down because, not being a tenured academic, I was outside the closed guild of people publishing on it.

If you want to read the book for yourself, it’s available from Lulu or I can send you a copy.

I‘ve also tried corresponding with Asher Craig, the Black head of equalities in Bristol in response to her comments about slavery in the city during an interview last years, and with her and Cleo Lake, a local Green councillor, after they both pushed through a motion in the city council calling for reparations for slavery to be paid to all ‘Afrikians’, which I also criticised for creating an ahistorical division between Whites and Blacks. I haven’t had a response from either of these two ladies.

Yours with very best wishes,

BBC Documentary Next Thursday on the Tearing Down of Colston’s Statue

June 2, 2021

According to the Radio Times, next Thursday, 10th June 2021, BBC 2 is showing a documentary about the tearing down last summer of the statue of the slaver and philanthropist, Edward Colston, by Black Lives Matter protesters and the ensuing controversy. The blurb for the programme, Statue Wars: One Summer in Bristol, on page 104, runs

On 7 June 2020, in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, protesters marching through Bristol to support the Black Lives Matter movement tore down the statue of slave trader Edward Colston and threw it into the harbour. This action put the city at the forefront of the culture wars of last summer. How would Bristol’s mayor, Marvin Rees, himself a descendent of enslaved people, hold the city together in the face of tensions that threatened to explode.

An additional piece on page 102 says

As an elected politician, letting a film crew follow you at work is always high-risk. And more so in the case of Bristol’s mayor, Marvin Rees, who let the cameras in just days after protesters toppled the statue of 17th-century merchant Edward Colston, known to have been involved in the slave trade, and threw it in the city’s harbour last summer.

Rees was in the eye of the storm that followed as Bristol became the focus of culture-war salvoes over history and heritage and the council had to deal with counter-protests from biker gangs and the arrival of a new statue – of a Black woman protester – planted on the empty plinth by a London sculptor.

It all makes for a sharp and thought-provoking film and Rees emerges welll, calm and shrewd in the heat of the crossfire and amid some impossibly hard decisions. Meanwhile, we also hear from other Bristolians with conflicting, heartfelt views on its history, and realise Rees has his work cut out looking for common ground.

The documentary’s on at 9.00 pm.