Posts Tagged ‘Karin Smyth’

Reply from Local Labour MP Karin Smyth on Fracking

November 4, 2022

A little while ago one of the internet petitioning organisations email me to request that I, and no doubt thousands of others, write to my MP to object to Liz Truss’ wretched plans to bring back fracking. I had absolutely no problem doing so, not least because one of the areas scheduled for it is in Keynhsam, a small town between Bristol and Bath. Today I got a very kind reply from here detailing her opposition to it and support for a sprint to Green energy. The email runs

‘Dear David

Thank you for contacting me about fracking.

I agree with you on this important issue. Fracking is unsafe, will not help our energy security or cut bills and is opposed by local communities.

I am pleased that the new Prime Minister has restored the ban on shale gas fracking in England. I find it extremely concerning, however, that this Conservative government previously broke its manifesto commitments in order to pursue a damaging policy that put the interests of fossil fuel companies above those of the British people.

To truly deliver energy security and lower bills, I believe we need a green energy sprint. The current crisis is a fossil fuel crisis and we cannot escape it by doubling down on fossil fuels. Renewables are today nine times cheaper than gas. The only way to cut energy bills and have energy security is with zero-carbon home-grown power, including by quadrupling our offshore wind capacity, more than doubling onshore wind and more than tripling solar by 2030.

I also agree that we need to prioritise and fund energy efficiency, which is why I support proposals for a national effort to bring all homes up to energy performance certificate band C within a decade. This would save families large amounts each year on their energy bills and reduce national gas imports by up to 15%.

Only Labour will consistently deliver promises to tackle the climate crisis and improve green energy. Please be assured that in the meantime I will continue to press the Government on this issue, as well as support calls to accelerate efforts on energy efficiency and homegrown renewables.

Thank you once again for contacting me.

Yours sincerely

Karin Smyth MP
Labour MP for Bristol South

The most interesting piece of this is the line that ‘renewables today are nine times cheaper than gas’. Nine times! This tells me that we are definitely being exploited by the fossil fuel companies.

Email from 38 Degrees Urging People to Contact MPs and Vote Against Fracking Tomorrow

October 18, 2022

I had this email come through earlier this evening, urging me to contact my MP to ask her to attend tomorrow’s opposition day debate and vote against Truss’ proposal to bring back fracking.

David, we’ve got a chance to make sure MPs take a stand against fracking. How? There’s a vote set to take place about the Government’s ridiculous fracking plans on Wednesday in Parliament. [1]

We know the public are against it – it’s why you and 80,000 others signed the petition demanding the Government rethink their plans. And we also know multiple politicians have been speaking out against fracking, including Conservative MPs. [2] Now we need them to back their words up with action, and vote against fracking this week.

But they’ll only do that if they hear from us, their constituents, calling on them to show up tomorrow – and vote against fracking.

So, David, will you ask Karin Smyth to go along tomorrow and vote to stop fracking in its tracks?

EMAIL MY MP

Don’t worry if you’ve never emailed your MP before – here are a few suggestions on what you could say:

  • Make sure you ask them to go along to tomorrow’s opposition day debate on fracking.
  • Mention how harmful fracking is to the local community and environment – it can cause earthquakes, and increase air pollution and road traffic. [3]
  • Remind them that fracking was banned for good reasons in 2019, and science shows the process has not become safer yet. [4]
  • Tell your MP that the real solutions to the energy crisis are more renewable energy and home insulation. In contrast, fracking emits greenhouse gases that contribute to climate breakdown. [5]

So, will you email your MP now asking them to attend the vote tomorrow and stop fracking in England once and for all?

EMAIL MY MP

Thanks for all you do,

Simma, Megan, Matt, Tom and the 38 Degrees team

NOTES:
[1] The Telegraph: Tory rebels vow to bury fracking as they urge Liz Truss to make policy U-turn
[2] 38 Degrees: Sign the petition: the government must rethink its fracking plans
The Guardian: Tory-led council votes to demand Truss stick to no fracking pledge
[3] BBC News: What is fracking and why is it controversial?
Daily Mail: What is fracking, why is it controversial and will it REALLY solve the energy crisis? MailOnline answers your key questions about the practice after the UK government lifts the ban
[4] The Guardian: Why fracking in UK will not fix fuel bills and is economically high risk
[5] The Guardian: Fracking causing rise in methane emissions, study finds

I’ve had no problem doing this, not least because one of the proposed areas for fracking was part of Keynsham, a small town just southeast of Bristol near Bath. If you click on the link, you get to a general page that asks you for your address so you can contact your local MP, whoever he or she may be, and send them your message asking them to attend the debate. If you also want to halt the return of fracking, please feel free to use the link above to contact your local politico.

Letter from Local MP Karin Smyth Supporting the Railway Workers’ Strike

July 25, 2022

A few weeks ago I had an email from one of the left wing organisations asking me to write to my local MP to get them to support the railway workers strike. It was part of a national campaign, and they had already created a form letter you could use so that all you really needed to do is add your name and address. I was very happy to do this, as the railway workers’ strike isn’t just about the pay and conditions for the train drivers, but for all the railway workers, some of whom are going to be paid much less than them. And there are important questions regarding public safety, as well as the fundamental issue of the right to strike. Which the Tories would dearly love to strip from working people.

On Friday I was delighted to receive this reply from my local Labour MP for Bristol south, Karin Smyth, in which she gave her full support to the RMT strikers.

The letter reads:

‘Dear David

Thank you for contacting me about the industrial action on pay and conditions for rail workers

I appreciate the concerns you raise. Rail workers showed real bravery to keep the country going during the pandemic and were promised a high-wage economy by the Government as we emerged from it. Yet since then we have seen the biggest fall; in living standards since records began. I believe the Transport Secretary owes it to those rail workers, as well as the millions of people who rely on them, to help reach a deal.

However the Government’s legislation this week shows that rather than negotiating they are seeking to make the situation worse.

I agree the issues involved in this dispute are very serious, involving pay and cuts in safety and maintenance staff. The only way it can be resolved is with a deal on pay and job security, as it has been in Wales, where the devolved Government came together with employers and unions to manage change and avoid a strike. Employees have every right to fight for fair pay. I and my Opposition colleagues with always defend the right to strike.

The Transport Secretary has said these negotiations are a matter between the employer and the union. However, independent legal advice commissioned by the TUC found train operators “are not free to agree terms and conditions” with their employees without the involvement of the Secretary of State. It also found that he possesses “very significant contractual power to direct how industrial action such as the current strike is handled”.

I strongly believe helping resolve industrial disputes within and between publicly owned bodies like Network Rail is absolutely the Government’s duty, especially when rail is so key for our economy. My concern is that without a mandate to negotiate, talks between rail operators and unions are condemned to failure.

I am also alarmed by the Government’s plans to replace picketing workers with agency staff, which has been condemned by some of the biggest employment agencies in the country. In my opinion, it is unworkable, unsafe and goes against good employment practices and I will be working with colleagues to oppose the legislation on all counts.

Thank you again for contacting me.

Yours sincerely,

Karin Smyth

Labour MP for Bristol South.’

I am delighted that Karin is supporting the railway worker’s strike and opposing the government’s attempts to deny them the wages and conditions they deserve, but also to jeopardise public safety on this vital piece of our economy.

My Email Conversation with the Secretary of South Bristol Labour Party over the Trans Issue

July 21, 2022

I sent an email to the secretary of local Labour party last week following the monthly meeting on Thursday in which our local MP, Karin Smyth, was taken to task by the LGBTQ+ officer. Karin has defended the attendance of the anti-trans group, Labour Women’s Declaration at the Labour conference this year. The LGTBQ officer seemed to think they were simply a hate group, who believed that trans people were communists. I sent the secretary an email stating some of the issues involved, like preserving women’s sex based rights, and dignity and safety in schools, prisons and rape crisis centres, as well as their autonomy in sports. And as bonkers as it sounds, unfortunately some extremists, taking their lead from Queer Theory, do see the trans movement as a method of indoctrinating children and others to live ‘queerly’, but not as well-adjusted gay men and women, living in a tolerant and accepting society. Rather they see the ultimate goal of the kind of queer consciousness they wish to promote as a radically unstable sense of identity, dissatisfied with bourgeois society and determined to overthrow it.

A few days ago I got this very kind reply from the secretary, who wrote:

‘David

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts

What do you want me to do with your email as at the moment it is only reaching myself as I monitor this inbox?

I could pass to all of Exec. if you are happy for me to do that and we could discuss how to take forward.

A discussion on this topic at an All Member Meeting would be tricky to chair and I am not sure I could volunteer to do that

A brave attempt was made by Red Line TV here: https://youtu.be/q9pwiS9Tv3Q

The trans debate has become really hostile and closed in my view with many feaful of expressing viewd or even asking questions for fear of being accused of transphobia

Karin gave a robust response to the question.’

I’ve emailed the secretary back, stating that I merely want the email passed on to the LGBTQ+ officer. I also say that because of the toxicity of the issue, I don’t want a debate because we need to be united against everything the Tories are doing to working people.

‘Dear Aileen,

Thank you for your kind reply and the link to the debate on the trans issue by Red Line media. I completely understand your reluctance to chair a debate on the issue because it has become just so toxic and polarising. I’d be happy if you just passed it on to the LGBTQ+ officer. My point in writing is simply to point out that, in my view, Labour Women’s Declaration have a legitimate ethical and scientific case. And also that, as mad as it sounds, there are Marxists who wish to go further and use the gay and trans movements not to promote tolerance and inclusion, but as a form of political indoctrination. 

I was also very impression with Karin’s defence, and have emailed her to tell her so.

I do not wish to cause division in the party over this issue, and especially not as I’m sure there is so much else we all can agree on. And not now when the Tories are so deep on their assault on working people of all colours, sexuality and gender identity. I note from an article in yesterday’s Independent that they have removed a pledge to support abortion and women’s sexual health rights from a Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office statement on religious freedom and gender equality. This shows to me that they intend to go follow the Americans in trying to ban abortion, as Karin and so many other people warned on Thursday. I also note from American news on the Net that the House of Representatives is hurrying to pass legislation safeguarding gay and interracial marriage. And right-wingers like Michael Knowles are asking their followers if gay marriage should be the next right to be overturned.

These are grim times, and I hope whatever our respective views on the trans issue, we can all come together to resist Tory profiteering, the cuts to the NHS and its stealth privatisation, the continuing destruction of the welfare state and the attempts to strip women of their rights to abortion. As well as any attacks on gay marriage if they attempt that.

Yours with very best wishes,

Dave Sivier’

i Newspaper Reports that Britain Has Repealed Commitments to Abortion and Female Sexual Health Rights

July 19, 2022

This is another subject that came up at the local Labour party meeting last Thursday. Local Labour MP Karen Smyth and the others were extremely worried what the Tories would do over here after the Roe vs. Wade ruling was overturned last week in the US supreme courts. They were afraid that the Tories were going to try the same thing over here, and wanted to enshrine abortion rights into UK law, regardless of personal conscience. They were not wrong, as this report by Senna Sandhu in today’s I, which states that the government has removed the commitment to abortion and other sexual health rights in a report from the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office. This begins

Government quietly removes commitments to women’s rights after summit on freedom of beliefs

Commitments to abortion and sexual health rights have been quietly removed by the Government from an international pact on freedom of belief and gender equality.

References to repealing discriminatory laws that threaten women’s “sexual and reproductive health and rights” and “bodily autonomy” have been removed from a statement published on the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) website.

The FCDO told i that access to sexual and reproductive health remained a priority and that the statement was amended to get rid of a perceive ambiguity – but did specify the problem.

Sexual health activists said the amendments raised concerns about the UK Government’s position in the wake of abortion rights being rolled back in the US.

Lisa Hallgarten​, head of policy and public affairs at Brook, which specialises in sexual health for younger people, told i: “The whole point of the original statement is to recognise the need to support the right to religious belief and practice, but ensure it is not at the expense of the fundamental rights of women and girls.

“By changing the language, the purpose and effect of this statement are fatally undermined, and religion appears to trump human rights.”

The original statement was released around the time of the London 2022 International Ministerial Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB), hosted by the UK Government on 5 and 6 July.’

For further information, see https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/world/government-quietly-removes-commitments-to-women-s-rights-after-summit-on-freedom-of-beliefs/ar-AAZKyib?ocid=msedgdhp&pc=U531&cvid=e791c1670503466bbcb25fdbfa5de8fc

This could be the beginning of a very nasty wedge. I gather from a report on YouTube that the House of Representatives over the other side of the Pond are seeking to pass legislation protecting same-sex and interracial marriage. Like any government has any business bringing back slavery era laws intended to protect the purity of the White race as part of a raft of legislation intended to keep White from socialising with Blacks. Or any other non-White people.

I remember that after the supreme court ruling, American conservatives were pouring scorn on the fears of left-wingers like Robert Reich that after Roe vs. Wade, the Republicans would seek to overturn same-sex marriage and other recently won rights. Now I note that Michael Knowles, another American conservative, is asking his followers if they support same sex marriage or not. And there was another conservative YouTuber over there who asked which right the Republicans should strike down now. This included same-sex marriage.

Some of the best videos I saw on YouTube commenting on gays obtaining the right to marry after the legislation was passed came from Christians, who very definitely didn’t see it as a threat. There was a woman stating that she was still in a Jesus-centred heterosexual marriage with her husband. Another was of a bloke poking around in a field trying to see if gays had suddenly dropped out of the sky or were hiding in his hay stack doing ‘homosexual things’. Obviously he couldn’t find any, which was the point. Gay marriage affects only gays. It doesn’t affect anybody else, or derogate from the marriage of husband and wife.

But despite all the denials, it looks like the American right is coming for gay marriage. And where they lead, our Tories follow, as this disturbing article reveals.

It’s been years since same sex-marriage was legalised over here. I’ll admit it still seems strange to me, having been a teenager in the 80s. Despite the growing gay rights movement, there was still a vicious homophobia around. I can also remember listening with incredulity when I was a schoolkid when one of the older lads told us about a piece of Wicker’s World the previous night, when the great travel broadcaster had a covered a gay wedding in Las Vegas.

But the world has moved on. Since the 90s young people have been far more tolerant and accepting towards gays. Straight people have gay friends, and the majority of people haven’t been bothered for a long time about the sexuality of certain slebs and their partners. People like Elton John, Freddie Mercury, Julian Clary, Paul O’Grady, Alan Carr and others. I hope that if they try stripping gay marriage away, they’ll have a fight on their hands.

Just like I hope they have a fight if they try stripping these vital women’s rights away.

My Emails on the Trans Issue to Local MP and the Local Labour Party

July 18, 2022

I hope everyone’s enjoying the summer sunshine, or at least not suffering too much from the heat. I went to a Zoom meeting of the local Labour party here in south Bristol. One of the issues that came up was the Pride march and the attendance of the anti-trans group, Labour Women’s Declaration, at the annual conference where they will have a stall. Bristol had held its Pride celebrations the previous Saturday, and the local Labour party had taken part in the march. Unfortunately, Bristol Anarchists had appeared as well to make a nuisance of themselves and insult the other marchers. They chanted slogans attacking Pride for being too corporate – ‘No Pride But Corporate Pride’, and called one of the Labour men a scab and a Tory, before being shown the door by the cops. They also turned up the following day, Sunday, at the Trans Pride march, where they made a nuisance of themselves again. They’re really not doing their best to make a non-coercive system based on communal ownership and absolute personal autonomy very popular.

Our local Labour MP, Karin Smyth, appeared to give her monthly report. She is horrified by all of the candidates for the Tory leadership and dreads any one of them getting in. She also reported that they are not turning up to the committees set up to scrutinise government activity. This is an important function of parliament, which they’re just breaking. They don’t give any excuse or tell anyone they’re not coming. They just don’t turn up. Priti Patel was particularly mentioned as one of these offenders. I’m not surprised. She’s one of the laziest MPs in the House and has always had a deep contempt for anything except her own political ambitions, as she demonstrated when she was caught conducting her own foreign policy with Israel under Tweezer. This attitude may well show how the Tory candidates intend to behave once their leaders – complete contempt for the dignity and functions of parliament, just like Bozo. Or Charles I or Oliver Cromwell, for that matter.

When it came to questions, the party’s LGBTQ officer raised the issue of Labour Women’s Declaration’s attendance at conference and asked Smyth why she support them. Smyth said that it was because they were concerned with protecting women’s sex-based rights. So the officer said he was on their website, and couldn’t find anything about women’s rights, just stuff about trans. He also said that they thought trans people were communists. Smyth repeated that they were defending women’s sex-based rights. She also said that she wasn’t a member of the group, but felt it was important that they should be heard.

I feel very strongly that in the case Smyth’s right. Trans people, of course, should have the same respect and dignity as everyone else, but the automatic treatment of transwomen as women, especially when they’re still biologically male, does negatively affect women’s sex-based rights, especially their right to safety, dignity and autonomy in sports. As for trans people being communists, that’s obviously not true, but there are trans activists who are strongly influenced by Queer Theory. This is a postmodern revision of Marxism, and it does see campaigns to promote respect for gay and trans people as a method of creating a queer Marxist revolutionary communist. This needs to be weeded out of the gay and trans movement. They should not be used by extremists for political indoctrination.

I therefore sent the following emails to Smyth, supporting her on her support for Labour Women’s Declaration, and to the LGBTQ officer seeking to provide him with further information on the issues involved for women presented by the trans movement.

Here’s the email I sent to Smyth:

‘Dear Karin,

Thank you for your report to the local Labour party at the meeting last night,, and particularly for standing up for the right of Labour Women’s Declaration to have a stall at conference. I’ve been following the issue of the way trans rights also impacts on women’s rights, and believe very strongly that women’s sex-based rights – the right to privacy and security in rape and domestic abuse shelters, prisons, sport and toilets, for example, must also be safeguarded. And there is a Marxist ideological dimension to the current push for transgenderism. Some transgender activism is based on Queer Theory, a postmodernist Marxist view of gender based on the theories of Marcel Foucault. This was founded by Gayle Rubinl in the 1980s in her essay, ‘Thinking Sex’. This is also affecting the Drag Queen story hour events now staged by many school and public libraries here and in the US. Two years ago an essay was published in an American educational journal presenting Drag Queen story hour as a queer Marxist strategy for indoctrinating children to live ‘queerly’ with the revolutionary consciousness required to rise up against bourgeois society. The American academic James Lindsay has made an excellent series of videos going through these papers and critiquing them. See the video ‘Groomer Schools 4: Drag Queen Story Hours’ at his New Discourses channel on YouTube at Groomer Schools 4: Drag Queen Story Hour – YouTube. and this on Gayle Rubini’s ‘Thinking Sex’: The Origin of Queer Theory: Gayle Rubin’s “Thinking Sex” – YouTube..

Thank you for standing up for these women to also have their voices heard in this controversial and emotive issue.

Yours faithfully,

David Sivier’

And here’s the email I sent to the Labour party to go to its LGBTQ officer

”Dear Sir,

At this month’s all members meeting last night the new LGBTQ officer queried Karin about her support for Labour Women’s Declaration having a stall at conference this year. He seemed to believe that their opposition to the trans movement is based on hate and prejudice.

I’ve been following the controversy about trans rights, and do not believe this to be the case in the many feminist groups expressing criticism or opposition to the trans movement. The movement to include transwomen in many areas reserved for natal, biological women does present real dangers to women’s sex based race. There are already cases in America where biological men and boys have raped women and girls in prisons and schools after gaining admission to their private spaces through claiming that they identify as women. There are problems with fairness in sport, as transwomen retain the biological advantages they had when they were men. There are also issues with the medical process of transition, in that the cross-sex hormones can and do have detrimental effects on patients’ health. Many trans people are coming forward to complain that these complications were not sufficiently explained to them when they were seeking treatment. And I could go on.

What concerns me particularly here, though, is that the LGBTQ officer did not know that there really is a Marxist ideological element behind the current wave of transgender activism. This is based on Queer Theory, a postmodernist revision of Marx based on the theories of the French philosopher and paedophile Marcel Foucault. It was founded in the 1980s by activists like Julie Bindel and Gayle Rubin, whose essay ‘Thinking Sex’, remains one of its cornerstones. More recently there has been a paper published in an American educational journal by a transperson and a drag queen, Little Miss Hot Mess, about using Drag Queen Story Hour to indoctrinate young children into living ‘queerly’ and developing a queer revolutionary Marxist consciousness.

I am very much aware that this sounds absolutely barking mad, and sounds very much like some stupid conspiracy theory cooked up by the Sun and the rest of the Tory rags. Unfortunately, this papers exists. See the critique of it by James Lindsay on his New Discourses YouTube channel in the video ‘Groomer Schools 4: Drag Queen Story Hour’.

I’m very much aware that trans people also need to be protected from prejudice, and hopefully there is a way to reconcile their demands with women’s sex-based rights. I also feel very strongly that we need to be aware and very vigilant that there are activists whose desires for the trans movement go far beyond simply combating prejudice against them. The issue of grooming, both sexually and ideologically, is becoming prominent and has been seized on by the far right. Laurence Fox has already put out a video on this, with his party’s programme for combatting it.

We need to be aware of these issues and prepared to combat the challenges over this issue from both the extreme left and the extreme right. And that means we cannot ignore the fringe elements in the trans movement nor the way their presence is being used by the right. I do not want the Labour party and decent trans and gay activists to be smeared as Marxist paedophile groomers through failure to tackle this issue.

Yours with best wishes,

David Sivier’

I don’t know if I’ll get any replies to these messages. Somehow I doubt it. But I am convinced of the necessity of defending women’s sex-based rights and making sure that the Labour party is not one-sided on this issue. The Tory media has had great fun with the inability of senior Labour politicos to answer the question ‘What is a woman?’ after they declared their uncompromising support for trans rights. And this latter is alienating many women from the Labour party. And the concerns over trans and gay issues, and their teaching in schools, is very much being used by far right politicians like Laurence Fox. Only proper, clear debate, hearing from both sides, can stop this and offer the opportunity of protecting both trans people and women.

Message from We Own It about Their New Website and Campaign Against Channel 4 Privatisation

June 14, 2022

I got this email from anti-privatisation campaign group We Own It informing me about their new website and their continuing campaign against the government’s proposed sell-off of Channel 4.

‘Dear David,

What do Armando Iannucci, the Archbishop of York and Siobhán McSweeney from Derry Girls all have in common?

They’re all taking a stand against Nadine Dorries’ plan to privatise Channel 4.

They’re not the only ones. 27 independent production companies, actor Jon Pointing, comedian Jack Rooke, and the Bishops of Ripon and Leeds are taking a stand too.

They’ve come together today to send a message to the divided Conservative Party: Channel 4 ain’t broke. Don’t fix it. Conserve it.

Thanks to donations from hundreds of you, today we were able to launch an ambitious new campaign which hit the front page of the Yorkshire Post, the Evening Standard, the Independent, the National and local papers across the country.

Check out the beautiful new website and share it to spread the word! We need YOU to make this big launch even bigger! This is a campaign we can win.

Share the new campaign on Twitter

Share on Facebook

Check out the website and forward the link by email to friends and family

THANK YOU so much for showing this government where you stand.

Cat, Alice, Johnbosco, Matthew, Jack and Kate – the We Own It team

PS Thanks so much to everyone who took part in the day of action for the NHS on Saturday. You were all over the press for that campaign as well!’

I very much support this campaign, not least because Bristol is one one of the various cities in which the broadcaster is located. I’m afraid that if the government privatises the station it will have to close down its offices or studios in Bristol and the other towns, and that these local broadcasting industries will be severely damaged. A little while ago I wrote to my local Labour MP, Karin Smyth, to express my fears about the loss of local broadcasting in Bristol. She very kindly wrote back stating that she also was going to oppose Channel 4’s privatisation.

I think the channel has declined in quality since the 1980s and 1990s, but it has been a vital part of British broadcasting and cinema. There have been a stream of British films made either by, or with the participation of Channel 4 films. And when it was first launched in the 1980s, it offered a genuine alternative to mainstream broadcasting. It showed Indian films in a slot entitled ‘All India Goldies’ as well as an adaptation of the Indian national epic, the Mahabharata. It also provided excellent opera coverage, and really did much to bring it to a genuinely popular audience. It also gave Britain the wit and wisdom of the journalist and TV critic, Clive James, who had his own show on a Sunday night. James published a trio of books of his TV criticism, as well as his travel journalism and an autobiography, Unreliable Memoirs. His writing could be hysterically funny, as when he covered the extremely excitable remarks of over-the-top sports commenters. In one of his articles he described how one of the cars broke down or crashed during a race ‘and Murray Walker exploded’. At other times, when discussing the horrors of the Holocaust and the surviving Nazi and Fascist leaders like Albert Speer, Baldur von Schirach and Oswald Mosley, who turned up on British television, he was deadly serious and scathing. As he also was when writing about Stalin’s famine and purges and Mao’s China. He interviewed a number of great personalities on his show, including a very young Victoria Wood and the late, great Peter Cook. For fantasy enthusiasts, there was The Storyteller, a series of tales adapted from folk stories, narrated by John Hurt, with puppet creatures, including the Storyteller’s dog, created and operated by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. Henson and Frank Oz were the geniuses behind the Muppets. They also made the fantasy movie The Dark Crystal, in which every character is a non-human creature. In the 1990s Henson’s Creature Shop also created the various aliens in the Australian-American SF series Farscape. I am very much afraid that if Channel 4 is privatised, then this history and pool of great broadcasting talent and skills will be permanently lost.

And it will be lost not because there’s anything wrong with Channel 4, but because the Tories’ backers, like one Rupert Murdoch, want British state broadcasting to end so their own cruddy networks can move in and take its place.

Bristol and Labour’s Elected Mayor, and the Arguments Against

April 26, 2022

On the fourth of May parts of the country are due to go to the polls again. These are mostly council elections, but down here in Bristol it’ll be for a referendum on the system of elected mayors the city has had for the past few years. At the moment the elected mayor is Marvin Rees for Labour. His predecessor, Ferguson, was supposedly an Independent, but he had been a Lib Dem. He personally promoted himself by wearing red trousers, even at funerals when he toned the colour down to dark claret. His first act was to change the name of the Council House to City Hall for no real reason. His administration was responsible for running through a programme of immense cuts. He intended to make £90 million of them, but told Bristolians that they shouldn’t be afraid. He also turned down grant money from central government to which the city was qualified and untitled. I heard at a meeting of the local Labour party that he left the city’s finances in a colossal mess, and it has taken a great effort for Marvin’s administration to sort them out.

The local Labour party has thrown itself four-square behind the elected mayoralty. It’s being promoted in the election literature from the party, boasting about how, under Rees, 9,000 new homes have been built, green power and other initiatives invested in. The opposition parties, by contrast, have wasted council taxpayers’ hard earned money on trivialities.

I think the party is also holding an on-line meeting tonight to convince members that the system of elected mayors is a positive benefit. Speakers include Andy Burnham amongst other prominent politicos. One of the claims being made is that elected mayors are democratic and transparent, whereas the previous committee system meant that decisions were taken behind closed doors.

But I am not convinced by any means that the elected mayoralty is a benefit.

Bristol South Labour MP Karin Smyth has stated that she is also no fan of the system. She has made it plain that she is not criticising Marvin’s administration, and is very diplomatic in her comments about his predecessor. But she has described the system as ‘too male’ and believes that the city should go back to being run by the council, whose members were elected and in touch by their local communities. The anti-male sexism aside, I agree with her. There have been studies done of business decision-making that show that while a strong chairman is admired for leadership, collective decision-making by the board actually results in better decisions. And one criticism of Rees’s government in Bristol is that he is not accountable to local representatives and has zero qualms about overruling local communities.

Here’s a few examples: a few years ago there were plans to build a new entertainment stadium in Bristol. This was due to be situated just behind Temple Meads station in an area that is currently being re-developed. It’s a superb site with excellent communications. Not only would it be bang right next to the train station, but it’s also not very far from the motorway. All you have to do if your coming down the M32 is turn left at the appropriate junction and carry on driving and your at Temple Meads in hardly any time at all. But Marvin disagreed, and it wanted it instead located in Filton, miles away in north Bristol.

Then there’s the matter of the house building at Hengrove Park. This is another issue in which Rees deliberately overruled the wishes of local people and the council itself. Rees decided that he wanted so many houses built on the site. The local people objected that not only was it too many, but that his plans made no provision for necessary amenities like banks, shops, doctors’ surgeries, pharmacies and so on. They submitted their own, revised plans, which went before the council, who approved them. If I remember correctly, the local plans actually conformed to existing planning law, which Marvin’s didn’t. But this didn’t matter. Rees overruled it. And I gather that he has also done the same regarding housing and redevelopment in other parts of south Bristol, like nearby Brislington.

Rees definitely seems to favour the north and more multicultural parts of the city over the south. And I’m afraid his attitude comes across as somewhat racist. South Bristol is largely White, though not exclusively. There are Black and Asian residents, and have been so for at least the past forty years. Rees is mixed race, but his own authoritarian attitude to decision making and the reply I got a few years ago from Asher Craig, his deputy-mayor and head of equalities, suggests that he has little or no connection to White Bristolians. When I wrote to Asher Craig criticising her for repeating the claim that Bristol was covering up its involvement in the slave trade, despite numerous publications about the city and the slave trade going all the way back to the ’70s, in an interview on Radio 4, she replied by telling me that I wouldn’t have said that if I’d heard all the interview. She then went on about the ‘One Bristol’ school curriculum she had planned and how that would promote Blacks. It would be diverse and inclusive, which she declared was unfortunately not always true about White men. This is a racial jibe. She may not have meant it as such, but if the roles were reversed, I’m sure it would count as a micro-aggression. And when I wrote to her and Cleo Lake, the Green councillor from Cotham, laying out my criticisms of her motion for Bristol to pay reparations for slavery, I got no reply at all.

A few years ago I also came across a statement from a Labour group elsewhere in the city, stating that Blacks should ally themselves with the White working class, because they did not profit from or support the slave trade. This is probably true historically, but it also reveals some very disturbing attitudes. Support for slavery has become something of a ‘mark of Cain’. If you have an ancestor who supported, you are forever tainted, even if you are the most convinced and active anti-racist. And Critical Race Theory and the current craze for seeking out monuments to anyone with connections to the slave trade, no matter how tenuous, is part of an attitude that suspects all Whites of racism and tainted with complicity in the trade, except for particular groups or individuals. It disregards general issues that affect both Black and White Bristolians, such as the cost of living crisis and the grinding poverty the Tories are inflicting on working people. These problems may be more acute for Black Bristolians, but they’re not unique to them. Working people of all colours and faiths or none should unite together to oppose them as fellow citizens, without qualification. But it seems in some parts of the Labour party in the city, this is not the attitude.

Rees’ overruling of local people in south Bristol does seem to me to come from a certain racial resentment. It seems like it’s motivated by a determination to show White Bristolians that their boss is a man of colour, who can very firmly put them in their place. I may be misreading it, but that’s how it seems to myself and a few other people.

Now I believe that, these criticisms aside, Rees has been good for the city. He was very diplomatic and adroit in his handling of the controversy over the toppling of Edward Colston’s statue, despite the obvious disgust at it he felt as a descendant of West Indian slaves. But Rees ain’t gonna be mayor forever. Indeed, he has said that he isn’t going to run again. There is therefore the distinct possibility that his successor won’t be Labour. And then there’ll be the problem of opposing someone, who always has the deciding vote and can overrule the decisions of the council and the rest of his cabinet.

The people of Bristol voted for the system following a series of deals between different parties to get control of the council, where the individual parties by themselves had no clear majority. It convinced many people that the system allowed them to get into power over the heads of the real wishes of Bristol’s citizens. Now the Lib Dems and the Tories are demanding an end to the system. It’s clearly a matter of self-interest on their part, as obviously they are trying to abolish a Labour administration and the system that supports it.

But I believe that on simple democratic principles the elected mayoralty should go and the city return to government by the council.

Oh yes, and they should start calling it the Council House once again, instead of continuing with Ferguson’s egotistic name for it.

Email from Local Labour MP Karin Smyth about Health and Social Care Bill

April 8, 2022

I got a message today from my local constituency MP, Karin Smyth, who holds Bristol South for Labour informing me about the progress and attempts by Labour and the House of Lords to amend the government’s vile Health and Social Care bill. I’d written to her previously as part of a campaign to defend the NHS from the government’s latest push for privatisation by We Own It, and she has sent me messages before keeping me updated on this issue. She’s a supporter of Keir Starmer, but I have to give her due credit for working hard to protect the NHS and I believe that she does work hard for her constituents. As you can see, she is pleased that they have been able to keep private healthcare companies off the new NHS boards, but the opposition was not able to stop the further centralisation of power in the hands of the Health Secretary. She also describes how the act does nothing to solve the problem of understaffing in the NHS and social care sector, among other criticisms.

I don’t believe for a single moment that the government has any intention of solving these problems. The Tories have been pushing for the privatisation of the NHS ever since Thatcher, an aim that Alan Milburn in Blair’s government also shared. Blair, however, kept the NHS well funded. BoJob is doing the opposite to run it down ready for privatisation, which will no doubt be applauded by right-wingers like Alex Belfield, GB News and the Murdoch press. Here’s the email:

Dear David 

Last week, MPs debated Lords amendments to the Health and Care Bill. I am writing to update you further to our previous correspondence.

As you know, this wide-ranging Government Bill covers NHS structural reorganisation, procurement, an expansion of powers to the Health Secretary, social care charges and public health measures.

Like many in the health sector, I agree with the objective of more integrated health and care services. But I am concerned that this Bill represents a rushed, top-down reorganisation that will fail to integrate care and erode local accountability. It will do nothing to address workforce shortages or improve the standards of health and social care.

I commend members of the House of Lords who secured several amendments to improve the Bill, including powers to create a new licensing regime for non-surgical cosmetic procedures, provisions to ban hymenoplasty, positive recognition towards parity of esteem for mental health, and the introduction of mandatory training on learning disabilities and autism for all regulated health and care staff providing these services.

I am pleased that, at every stage, Labour has sought to amend the Bill to remove any possibility that private firms can have any role on the boards of Integrated Care Systems, as well as ensuring transparency around the awarding of contracts to non-NHS providers. Following pressure from the House of Lords, the Government amended the Bill to prevent chairs of these new boards appointing members involved with the private sector, who could undermine the independence of the health service. I am committed to upholding the NHS’s founding principles as a comprehensive, integrated, and public NHS that is there for all of us when we need it.

The House of Commons also supported an amendment to continue the provision of telemedical abortion services. Maintaining the existing provision of at-home early medical abortion following a telephone or video consultation with a clinician is crucial for women’s healthcare. Not only did that preserve access to a vital service during the pandemic, it enabled thousands of women to gain access to urgently needed care more quickly, more safely and more effectively. I believe it is right that women’s healthcare reflects the needs of those whom it serves.

I am disappointed, however, that the Government rejected several Lords amendments, including proposals for a consultation on a scheme to regulate the prices and profits of tobacco manufacturers and importers, with the funds raised to reduce smoking prevalence and improve public health. Smoking is responsible for half the difference in life expectancy between the richest and the poorest in society. I urge Ministers to publish their delayed Tobacco Control Plan and ensure its focus is on eradicating these vast health inequalities.

On workforce, there is a shortage of 100,000 staff across the NHS as well as 105,000 vacancies in social care. Staff and NHS leaders across the country are exhausted after their heroic efforts of the past two years. They are burned-out and overstretched, and there are simply not enough of them. Despite chronic shortages, the Government rejected a Lords amendment that would have required Ministers to publish – every two years – a full and transparent assessment of current and future workforce requirements. Health and care services must have the workforce they need to deliver safe high-quality services now and in the future. This amendment was an opportunity for Ministers to ensure a strategic, long-term approach to health and care workforce planning. I am disappointed they rejected it.

More widely, I agreed with the Lords’ decision to overturn a Government amendment to change the social care cap, which campaigners and health charities warned would leave people with low levels of wealth exposed to very high care costs. Unfortunately, Ministers rejected the Lords’ decision, and their amendment was reinstated. I am concerned that it will leave people with moderate assets living in poorer areas forced to sell their home to pay for their care, while wealthier people from richer parts of the country will be protected.

The Bill also gives, in my view, unnecessary and sweeping powers to the Health Secretary to intervene in the running of NHS services. It includes a requirement for Ministers to be informed of every single service changes and every single reconfiguration, with the Health Secretary deciding whether each should go ahead; effectively ending the operational independence of NHS England. While I supported a Lords amendment to prevent excessive ministerial interference in the NHS, the Government rejected it and these powers were reinstated into the Bill.

This is a moment of great pressure on the NHS: a record six million people are now waiting for treatment and public satisfaction with the NHS is at its lowest level in 25 years. Yet this Bill fails to address these immediate challenges. It does nothing to improve the provision or quality of social care and it will not achieve better integration or strengthen accountability to patients.

Yours sincerely

Karin Smyth MP
Labour MP for Bristol South’

Email from Bristol South MP Karin Smyth about the Government’s Health and Social Care Bill

November 21, 2021

I received this message yesterday from my local constituency MP, Karin Smyth, about the government’s Health and Social Care bill, which threatens to further privatise the NHS and give patients poorer service for the profit of private healthcare providers. Karin’s message runs

“Dear David

Thank you for contacting me about the Health and Care Bill 2021-22, I am writing further to our previous correspondence to update you regarding the latest developments on the Bill.

This Bill marks a break from disaster of the 2012 Act known sometimes as the Lansley  Act. Thanks to strong and consistent campaign by many of us the worst excess around competition and fragmentation of that Act are removed.  The Bill does not address the current problems, or indeed those in evidence before the pandemic, and so I will still be opposing as it is unlikely to be amended.  The Health and Care Bill will enter “Report Stage” next week, which is an opportunity for the whole House to consider what has been done during the committee stage.

As you know, as one of the Labour members on the Bill Committee, I have been following this Bill extremely closely, and doing everything I can to improve it, including submitting amendments to make the new boards created by the Bill more accountable, providing for palliative care, and tackling health inequalities.

I will continue to pursue these themes at report stage, and have submitted a number of amendments including one to establish a Good Governance Commission to ensure that ICS boards are accountable and properly scrutinised.

I am committed to upholding the NHS’s founding principles as a comprehensive, integrated, and public NHS that is there for all of us when we need it.

This is a moment of great pressure on the NHS. Yet there is nothing in the legislation to address the greatest challenges facing the NHS. I believe the Government’s focus must be on ensuring that services are appropriately staffed and have the resources they need, and have been arguing for greater workforce planning, and equipping local people with the skills and training needed to help alleviate the pressures.

Thank you once again for contacting me about this important issue.

Yours sincerely

Karin Smyth MP
Labour MP for Bristol South”

I believe Karin is absolutely sincere in her defence of the NHS and is doing everything she can to preserve it. Unfortunately, I really don’t believe this is true of the current Labour leader, Keir Starmer. I believe very strongly that if he is given the chance, he’ll betray it, just like he’s betrayed every other cause he’s embraced and pledge he made to become Labour leader.