Sunday, 16 November 2014

NUS Pulls Out of Free Education Demonstration - Bath Students Outraged

The National Union of Students (NUS) has pulled out of the Free Education Demonstration on Wednesday 19th December in London, angering Bath students who wished to participate in the demonstration. The demonstration had the official support of the NUS nationally at a meeting in September, however the NUS leadership allegedly attempted to distance themselves from it and has now pulled support entirely on health and safety grounds. Meanwhile, both the University of Bath and Bath Spa University Students' Unions have  taken the decision not to provide transport to the demonstration. A dissenting University of Bath student commented that the Students' Union President has been "useless". Reiss McGuinness, a recent Bath Spa University graduate said that the universities had behaved "as expected".

Bruce Galliver, the Bath Spa University Students' Union President is supportive of the demonstration, however, despite a majority voting in favour of the decision in a student council vote, he was ultimately unable to get the university to organise transport. Following the withdrawal of support from the national NUS, Bath Spa University recieved a letter from the NUS recommending against sending students to the demonstration. The decision then had to be referred to the the Board of Trustees. There are 12 trustees, 8 students and 4 externals on the board and of those 8 students, 5 voted against organising a coach. Bruce 's letters to the Trustees can be found here.

Mr Galliver commented "I'd like to make it clear to students that I followed a democratic procedure here in line with the Unions constitution, but my position was and still is that the Union should organise transport and support at this demonstration for free education. Despite the fact that the Union will no longer do this, I still intend to offer any assistance and support I can to students who still wish to attend the event. I feel it's a very justifiable and important cause and I hope this decision will not affect the morale of those who intend on going. I apologise for the delay in this statement coming out and I hope everyone is able to make arrangements in time for the 19th."

The University of Bath has agreed to subsidise coach tickets for the demonstration, however these have now sold out. The University of Bristol is organising coaches for the demonstration, and some students from Bath will be going with their coaches. Other students will need to find their own way there.

A Student's Perspective

Recent Bath Spa Univerisity graduate and local activist Simon Jilley has sent the following words for inclusion in this article:

This is going to be my first student rally since the 2012 demo, which nobody really quite understood and a lot of people were very upset at the NUS at for changing the route last-minute. I am now not a fee-paying, exam-writing, decision-making student, but that doesn't mean that I've in any way fallen out of the loop. If anything, I feel much more connected now than I ever did before to the student struggle.

Four years ago, I was on Embankment listening to speakers as protesters were being forced into a riot in Parliament Square, just a few hundred metres away. I was extremely confused by the situation I was in. The speakers spoke nothing of the situation in Parliament Square, nor seemed to care at all. They just spoke from their cue cards, about how certain unions are making certain points of progress, and this means certain things and of course the whole situation will be solved by blaming the coalition government. It's all because of the coalition government, after all, that our government is corrupt and are a group of bastards on a pedestal. I was quite sickened by the whole affair – I saw mounted police charging at those trapped in Parliament Square, but from 200m in front of me. I couldn't do anything about it, and it was like watching a dystopia film.

At the demo two years ago, called '#demo2012', I was a part of a fringe meditation demonstration in front of Big Ben which, although it had no noticeable message to offer to the general public, had a prominent impact on each and every one of us that were involved. It was the first time that most of the group had ever interacted with the police on that level – and it wasn't pre-planned in any way. It was a spontaneous act, that caught everyone (including myself, in some ways) by surprise. We left the march that we didn't understand and the movement that we had become very disillusioned by, and created our own movement in those hours sat in front of Big Ben.

Two years on, and there still exists a lot of that movement that was created in Autumn 2012. We are still demonstrating spontaneously, and contributing to things that really mean something to us. I was similarly at a march that I was fairly disillusioned by a month back – at the TUC Britain Needs A Payrise demo. We supported the Occupy Democracy actions, and became much more a part of that than we had been a part of the TUC march. We had a spontaneous 'Freedom March' a few months back, in Bath. It's all happening, this movement is strong.

Now we are preparing for the Free Education demonstration. 19th November is going to be a massive day for students, and all peoples, in these lands. We are going to demonstrate for Free Education – the first time in my memory that any such people have demonstrated for such a thing in Britain. The implications of Free Education are massive – with free education, we regain freedoms that were taken from us in generations passed, and move more stably towards a freer, more creative, and more joyful world. We've lost our footing in the last few generations – perhaps a lot of people fell asleep, and let the politicians gain many ones over us. But the Free Education fight is a huge part of the movement towards this better world.

I am shocked that the NUS pulled out of the march. I knew that some part of the NUS lacked a lot of backbone after experiencing things two years ago, at #demo2012. But I didn't expect that they would do something so foolish, aggressive, and cowardly as this. By pulling out of the demonstration in the way that they have, they are effectively marginalising the 'hard-line' protesters that go on the march anyway. We are all going to be marginalised, and will be noted for having been on the Free Education demo. The NUS pulling out has led to many Students' Unions (most of the Unions in Britain are affiliated with the NUS) shamefully dropping their pledge to Student Democracy.

In Bath, both Unions have dropped out of the march for pretty much the same reasons. At Bath Uni SU, an online poll was conducted that decided that Bath Uni SU should provide transport for, and support, the march. Despite 86% of respondents supporting the march, on 6th November, the same day that the NUS released their statement of pulling out of the march (less than two weeks before the march – an unrealistic time for a student group to gather and plan a coach...), the SU pulled out, citing the NUS reasons of problems with risk assessments. At Bath Spa SU, a motion was brought forward to the Student Council on 28th October for the SU to support and provide education for the demonstration. The Student Council voted widely in favour of the motion. There was confusion after November 6th, and little was known about what was going to be happening. Fliers had already been distributed around campus, and in the Students' Union, and continued to be so after the NUS announcement. But on 12th November, Union President Bruce Galliver released a statement that, despite his personal strong support of the march and of the SU providing transport, the Board of Trustees had voted 8-to-3 against the SU supporting the march and providing transport. This is despite Bruce offering that the SU provide a 'Demo survival pack', 'two delegated SU stewards', and 'our own risk assessment'. Despite his clear encouragement, in a letter sent out to all of the Trustees on 11th November, for reasonable measures to be taken in order to still provide support and transport (see here), it was not stated that the Trustees had engaged in any kind of dialogue about the matter.

What we are seeing across the country is a clear disregard of Student Union democracy, as Unions across the country are pulling out of a march that their members voted in support of. We are not receiving adequate reasons for why Unions are pulling out ('on health & safety grounds' does not count as 'adequate', for there is always the opportunity to take extra measures to ensure that all things are covered for), and instead are understanding that Student Democracy is becoming weaker, and listened to less.

And this is why we really need this demonstration. This demonstration is for Free Education. The meaning of 'freedom' is strong, extremely strong, for me in relation to this demonstration. It is iconic, what is happening across Britain with the 'freedom' to act democratically being revoked in the weeks leading up to the demonstration. We will be marching for freedom: not only for an education system that is 100% inclusive of all peoples irrespective of economic background and that doesn't purge students into financial instability afterwards, but also for an education system that allows for a freedom of democracy to exist.

Notably, you will notice that November 19th is not a one-day event. Students are being encouraged to Walkout/Occupy/Resist on December 3rd, on the National Day of Action for Free Education. Students should 'use the time between the 19th November and 3rd December to build on your campus. Run rallies, meetings, stalls, protests, and link up between universities, colleges and schools in your local area'. There is longevity to it all. There is something big happening out of it – it is now time for us to take back what they stole, to bring our future, and the future of generations that will follow us, into our actions. We need to plot out what should be happening on the map, to make it all a reality.

Maybe it is more beneficial to the movement that the Student Unions have backed out. As financially-vested bodies, they have people that they must always respond to, and they are often made liable for their actions. But we can ask, still, that members of the Student Unions join us in our independent movement, making a Free Education a reality before our very eyes. For, in our independent rise, we will make a reality of what we collectively see must happen, without having to be suppressed in our ideals by any individual or governing body.

After November 6th and November 12th respectively (when the Unions pulled out), groups of us have organised to provide forms of transport for people wanting to join the march. Bath Spa students will mostly either be making their own way there from Bath, or will be joining the Bristol Uni coach. Bath Uni students have been invited onto a National Express coach, as lots of tickets were bought at one time. There is no funding available currently in the activist movements in Bath – and it is a suggestion of mine that we may sort out some kind of a collective fund to support when occasions like this happen (in 2010, the UCU provided transport from Bath to London for the November demonstration – they are not doing so this year, and none of us appear to have a spare £500 to pay for a coach). Let's get ourselves stronger, and support each other in all of the struggles that go on. And, no matter who you are or where you stand, come to London if you can for the Free Education demonstration, or give support to us working for a Free Education Future!




Thursday, 13 November 2014

Occupy Bath and the Re-Imagining of Democracy in Parliament Square


Local activist and one-time resident of Occupy Bath in Queen Square, Simon Jilley, reports on Occupy Democracy and the continuing efforts of Bath activists to create a better world for all...
 
Just over three weeks ago, several Bath Occupiers headed over to London with the TUC wagon to be a part of something pretty massive. Not only was there to be an 80,000-strong march on Hyde Park to add ourselves to, but, perhaps more current to our sentiments, the day marked an energetic beginning to a 9-day occupation of Parliament Square.

As Alex and myself arrived at Parliament Square, having taken a planned detour whilst en-route to the march, we were greeted by vivacious greetings from the Big Ben-side of the Square, as our drumming was warmly welcomed over to a small group of pavement-occupiers. Strategically, we worked our way around the square before joining the group, as to suss out the situation police/security-wise. In the 1-minute journey across the square towards the demonstrators, we met a kindly warden who advised that we were not allowed to drum on that particular 30-metre path that crossed the square; then we met a couple of Met's finest profilers, who asked us all about ourselves and our drums and what we were doing, yadayada. To add to tensions, two GBC Legal Observers rushed over to us as the Met were trying to spark conversation, apparently assuming that our arrests were imminent.

We got to our group, about 30-or-so there, and brought the drumming vibrantly to the surface. We drummed, shouted 'FREEDOM!', sang our 'freedom song', and chanted some more about freedom. Within a few minutes some Westminster Council fellows came on over, seemingly claiming [but we couldn't hear for sure...everyone started shouting and chanting and singing and we drummed when they came over] that we couldn't play there despite having been specifically told by our profiling coppers a few minutes previous that we could. So, we kept our tune, as it was raising spirits, and people were really encouraging us. We continued playing for quite a while, till another friend came along, and played some more before Alex was given direction to do the speech from The Great Dictator (Charlie Chaplin). 
Greed has poisoned men’s souls...more than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness...the hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people...you are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate - the unloved and the unnatural! Soldiers! Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty!
Soon we had rounded up a few people for the rally, and promised others that we would return with a huge crowd more. I didn't quite expect that we could do that – but the intentions were out there, and there were thousands on the march, so why not?

The march was very regimented, with lovely neatly formed groups from particular unions and groups that we rounded past with our drums and chants for freedom. The black block darted off, over the railings, shortly followed by the 20 cops that had been following them probably for the whole march.

We got to Hyde Park, where a Green Party spokesman from Taunton was slamming the talk about how 'THIS IS GOING TO BE A FIVE PARTY ELECTION!!!'. The whole situation, combined with my lack of sleep, reminded me of Alex Jones' appearance on Waking Life. But, it precipitated what was then to come for the Green Party – an absolute onslaught on the media for failing to represent the party at an acceptable level. Hash-tagged as #invitetheGreens, the campaign has pushed the party into a bit of a publicity limelight over the past fortnight.

A Hare Krishna stall was there, serving up the same kind of irresistible nourishment that they continuously provided throughout the 2011 Occupy St Paul’s, and at plenty of other demos, completely for free. It felt like I was on another march that had climaxed in the middle of nowhere, and I was starting to get anxious to move on back to Parliament Square. The idea of a rally, anyway, has never appealed to me in the slightest – let alone a rally, as was apparent in this instance, that didn't seem to even physically exist (I saw no stage, nor knew of there being any main gathering place anywhere in Hyde Park..). We'd all finished our prasadam curry, and my two friends were stretched out on the grass, seemingly getting ready for a siesta. The samba band, who had been playing about 50 metres away from us, had stopped playing, and all was becoming quiet.

I noticed that one of these two towers, which we'd marched near for some of the march, read 'democracy'. I was jubilant as I read the other: 'OCCUPY'. They had each been carried upright by a few people, but now were being brought to a horizontal, like as if a movement was being planned. Five or six people took each tower, red and black flags started waving, and the samba band were about to start up again.

I rushed my friends to get themselves ready to go – we had another march to get on! As Occupy Democracy, Reclaim The Power, the Black Block, and plenty of non-affiliateds gathered and started moving on out of Hyde Park, a police van rushed to a stop and a squad of maybe ten cops shyly marched alongside the group. Their presence was weak, and largely ignored.

We joined as the march was working its way out of Hyde Park, and reclaiming the streets towards Parliament Square. 'Whose streets? OUR STREETS!' roared our crowd, the samba gave the pulse, myself and Alex drummed too, and we gave our lungs to 'FREEDOM!', too. I met a few activists I hadn't seen in quite a long while, which was fantastic. The camaraderie was really really strong. We are united, together in whatever happens. I suspected that we may miss our bus home through this – but it didn't matter. This was something more important than a safe trip home.

A police line were waiting for us at the end of one road, about halfway to Parliament Square, lined up. They were hardly formidable-looking, lacking the riot shields and batons that I came to expect through my time last year at Balcombe. There was a park on our left, so we all hopped the railings and walked through the park, leaving the cops a little embarrassed by their stunt.

We got back onto the road, causing very little road disruption and even being supported by a few motorists along the way. As we approached Parliament Square, I was feeling very excited at what was soon to follow. The hundred-or-so of us in our march were to return to Parliament Square as a huge wave of energy, taking the Square from the oppressive forces that dictate this 'democracy'. A slim line of police stood between us and the Square. We weaved around them, and marched straight into the centre of the square. I remembered finishing a Stop The War march in 2007 in this square, as a samba band kept rhythms going and police started surrounding the square. This was a similar scene – but there were plenty more of us than them, and we were committed to doing something incredible. We weren't going to be moved.

So as myself and my two friends ducked out of the square some minutes later, as we had a coach back to Bath to catch as well as thirty-or-so comrades on the coach to elate to, we left realising that this is the start of something beautiful, again. What began as a mere idea, conjured by a collective of 'subvertivists' under the 'Adbusters' motif, became an assembly of whoever and whatever, all across the world. Reclaim The Square became a common reality. What is strange for me, though, is that since early 2012, when the last of the camps were decamping and people getting burnt out, there has been little motion towards taking this much, much further.

Now we are over two weeks since that initial action, and just over a week since Occupy Democracy ended the 24/7 occupation of Parliament Square. Russell Brand brought the occupiers pizza, but occupiers were warned that, should they fall asleep on the pizza boxes, they would be prosecuted under the 2011 Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill for using 'sleeping equipment' in Parliament Square. Tents and structures are banned in Parliament Square, to which police also claimed that umbrellas were banned as a form of 'structure'. Tarpaulins were banned, leading to two 'Battles of the Tarpaulin' between the occupiers and the police. The police kicked the occupiers out of the central square after the second Battle of the Tarpaulin, creating a #TarpaulinRevolution on the periphery of the 2-metre police fence guarded by police dogs. Banners and posters were banned from Parliament Square, in one of the most obscure depictions of policing in a 'democratic nation' that can possibly be imagined. People were arrested for giving food and drink to activists, and the Police even arrested the deputy chair of the London Assembly's Police & Crime Committee, Jenny Jones, in one particularly embarrassing episode for the London Met/the government. The Occupiers persisted through wind and rain, through police brutality, and through a media blackout for the first few days. And what has come of this?

A Return to Parliament Square is planned for 6pm on Friday 21st November. The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts are calling to 'Build A Movement Not Just A Demo', urging students to Occupy their campuses, organise walkouts during classes, and 'resist'. Focus E15 Mothers, on 29th October, occupied the East Thames Housing Association Headquarters, turning the entrance to the offices into a creche for the day. The Adbusters collective called us all to greatly unify ourselves, that the right time for revolution will be the right time for revolution ('our battle tactic will become one of subtlety and subversion, hover and sting, actively waiting for our revolutionary moment to come').

The Occupation of Parliament Square made the TUC rally mean something to me. I am often one for quite controversial statements, and will not hold back again this time. 'Britain Needs A Pay Rise' is a shallow and fairly arrogant idea. What will a pay rise do, when we are living in a society of broken communities? In my experience, money does not save any troubles around us, but often leads to increased isolationism and paranoia. In this time of austerity, we need to look beyond the financial ripping-off that we are experiencing.

We are living in a society that claims to be democratic, and where we are fooled into thinking that we can actively change anything that is happening by voting for another party, or by going on a march. I felt unwelcome at the 'Britain Needs A Payrise' demo, and I know a fair few other Occupiers refused to join the march because of a complete disconnection with the focal point of the march. It was a big, digitally-printed, banner-waving, boxed-in march for the middle-class/Unionised working class to feel like as if they were actively doing something about austerity. The feeling on the coach to and from Bath reflected this. People spoke of this year's march in relation to last year's march, like as if the march is a yearly commodity, that it's just a day out strolling with thousands of other people through the city and occasionally, should the occasion arise, shouting a pre-printed slogan. There was a general feeling of a reluctance to actually do anything. The Occupy Democracy and Reclaim The Power activists emblazoned the march with a meaningful purpose. Through the march, we gathered energy and pace to march powerfully on Parliament Square, and kick-start Occupy Democracy. It is in rooting myself with collectives that actually are as direct as RtP and Occupy, as well as the countless grassroots activists that are occupying, resisting, and risking arrest and personal livelihoods through standing up for what they believe in, that I continue to believe and feel that change is happening, and that the world around me is gradually becoming liberated. For now, just as much as any other time, a question resounds in my mind: if not now, when?

Friday, 10 October 2014

"The Writer With No Hands" - An Interview With Matthew Alford

Local university lecturer Dr. Matthew Alford has spent the last few years investigating the death of Hollywood screenwriter Gary Devore, and now the documentary feature film "The Writer With No Hands", based on his extensive research is being shown at festivals across the world. We caught up with Matthew for an interview about the documentary and the impact his findings could have on the Hollywood movie industry.

Tell us about The Writer with No Hands
Dr Matthew Alfrod
It is a documentary feature film about the mysterious death of a Hollywood screenwriter in 1997. His name was Gary Devore.  

Body of lies: The CIA's involvement with Hollywood film-making.

What are the circumstances surrounding his death?
Gary vanished into thin air whilst driving home to his wife near Los Angeles. There was a huge, fruitless search. A year later, an ‘amateur detective’ found a hand-less corpse in a ditch. The police called it a freak accident and a freak discovery but they never looked into Gary’s equally freakish links to the US government's intelligence services. So I did. I found that Gary had just written what he called "the hardest hitting movie Hollywood will ever see ". Of course, no one ever saw it.  

CBS news article on Gary Devore

What do you think may have happened to Gary?
It might be a case of ‘enforced disappearance’, perpetrated by a group tied to US security services. It is hard to be sure, though, without full access to documentation, such as the 600 pages of case notes that the Police are withholding from myself and Gary’s family. They tell me this file is marked "confidential".

What is your interest in the subject?
 I've always been fascinated by propaganda and the abuse of power, and it’s particularly intriguing when it occurs through entertainment. Pentagon and CIA manipulation of Hollywood scripts is fairly commonplace, including on major franchises like Transformers. Much of this is done secretly by supposedly ‘public’ bodies. But Gary's death is, potentially, the most dramatic illustration of corruption in this area I've ever come across. 

Reel Power - Matthew's first book

How is the film doing?
The Writer with No Hands premiered this year at Hot Docs festival in Toronto, which is pretty major, and has gone on to festivals in Seattle, New Jersey, and Dallas. More to come. I was told that less than 1% of films get into big festivals without an established name or sales agent attached, so that's an excellent sign.  

Cine In Style article on The Writer With No Hands

How has Hollywood reacted to a film that essentially criticises the Hollywood system?
Early days. I have had some celebrities and corporations initiate contact asking to see the film. Team Downey (Robert Downey Jnr’s company) was one of them, so obviously I sent them a copy, especially as they'd have the power to get it sold through Disney. Unfortunately, I had a bit of a mind-blank, since the film raises all these questions about Pentagon interference in Hollywood and Iron Man is mentioned on the list. Bang goes Disney. Ironically, even as we speak, I am wearing my favourite Marvel t-shirt, which has a picture of Iron Man plastered all over it.

Why did you make the film? 
I hired a director because I wanted some extra protection. I figured the CIA would be less likely to hassle me if I was recording everything. That was a decision I often regretted deeply.

What is the next step? 
Looking to sell it worldwide. I have also just finished writing the book-of-the-film, which I'm equally excited about. Of course, acclaimed obscurity is a nagging possibility, so I'd like to keep building public support for the project.

Who is the writer with no hands? 
Me, for a while. Gary, forever.

How do you think The Writer with no Hands will affect the film industry?
If people get behind it, The Writer with No Hands can put significant pressure on the CIA and Pentagon to end their interference in the screen entertainment industries. With real momentum, we might even find something unprecedented: proof of a Western state-sanctioned murder and cover-up of a whistle-blower.


How was your relationship with director William Westaway?
Will has all the depth of a flat-screen television. His agenda was to make me out to be a kooky conspiracy theorist, who had abandoned his family for the sake of an obsession. None of this was true, as he well knows.

 
What messages do you think people should take away from the film?
I’m not keen on messages in movies. I just want people to be entertained by the movie and, until it is out properly, click ‘like’ on Facebook so I can keep them posted.  

The Writer With No Hands Facebook page

Dr. Matt Alford is a lecturer at the University of Bath. In 2010 Pluto Press published his first book, Reel Power: Hollywood Cinema and American Supremacy.  
 

The Writer With No Hands - Official Website 

The Writer With No Hands Facebook page





Friday, 2 May 2014

Bath Man Attempts to Press Charges Against Tory Ministers

Keith Ordinary Guy and supporters outside Bath police station
At 2pm today, local man Keith Ordinary Guy, who writes a letter a day to David Cameron, and an army of supporters went to Bath police station to attempt to press charges against Iain Duncan Smith and Lord Freud for breaching the Human Rights Act over the Claimant Commitment Contract.

Supporters came from as far afield as London and Cornwall. One supporter commented "I believe that slavery should not be back on the statute books. Nothing is voluntary, it's all enforced - workfare, zero hours contracts. Non compliance means no food."

Keith first spoke to the police officer on the desk. He told her:

"As a citizen, you are the only people I can come to."

"I am horrified."

"Between 2011 and 2012, 10,600 people died after being found unfit for work by Atos. Our government is doing this to us. You are the only portal of access and we need help."

"The Claimant Commitment Contract is just the latest phase and it's just horrific. I'm not a demonstrative man, I just want justice."

The police officer then went to get the Inspector. Keith commented "I think the policewoman on the desk was nearly in tears. I feel that I was taken seriously."

Keith Ordinary Guy in Bath
police station attempting to press charges
against Iain Duncan Smith and Lord Freud
When the Inspector arrived, Keith told him:

"If you refuse to sign the contract, you have no access to benefits in Britain. It's forced labour."

The Inspector replied:

"If it's been brought into a statute, it's not something I can deal with. The people who brought it in would have looked at the Human Rights Act. You would need to take it up with a solicitor."


Keith responded:

"Between 2011 and 2012, 10,600 people died. They've refused to release figures since then. I've tried to bring charges of manslaughter against them and I think that still stands."

The Inspector replied:

"My job is to enforce the law as it stands."

After the leaving the police station, Keith was upbeat. He told us:

"It went really well because it has given me an insight into the situation that we're actually in. It's our opinion that what they are doing is inhuman, but what they did is put the laws onto the statute book."

"The next step is to see if there's a solicitor that can take on the legal challenge. Crowd sourcing for legal funds may be the next move."

"Ordinary people need money to get access to justice - they've scrapped Legal Aid. Unfortunately the law only works for the rich."

"I will try to raise a legal challenge."

"So many people are dying. A million people are using foodbanks and the government are saying that they've got nothing to do with it."

Supporters then joined Keith for a coffee. From the discussion afterwards it was decided that they would form a people's army - called "The Shoestring Army", as those involved are living on a shoestring. The domain name was then immediately registered.

This is Day 1 of a new fight back for the lives of ordinary people. Stay posted - The Shoestring Army is only going to grow.

Keith's website, where he publishes his letters can be found here: http://www.keithordinaryguy.org.uk/


Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Bath Campaigner to go to Police to Bring Charges Against Tory Ministers

Keith Ordinary Guy - the Bath man who sends a letter to David Cameron every day - is heading to Bath Police Station at 2pm on Friday 2nd May to send the message that the government's new Claimant Commitment Contract contravenes the Human Rights Act (HRA), and that Iain Duncan Smith and Lord Freud are in breach of the Human Rights Act.

The message reads:
Iain Duncan Smith and Lord Freud Breach Human Rights

The Claimant Commitment Contract. Policy Aims:

The conditionality regime will recast the relationship between the citizen and the State from one centred on 'entitlement' to one centred on a contractual concept that provides a range of support in return for claimant's meeting an explicit set of responsibilities, with a sanctions regime to encourage compliance.

Iain Duncan Smith and Lord Freud have reintroduced slavery through forced compliance (sanctions regime), denying people the means of survival if they do not comply or fail to meet conditions.

HRA
- Article 4 - Prohibition of Slavery and Forced Labour
2: No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.
Exclusion:
Any work or service which forms part of normal civic obligations.
Under these contracts the work or service cannot be considered normal because it involves the loss of means of survival.

The new Claimant Commitment Contract means that claimants are required to perform forced or compulsory labour via contracts set up by DWP work coaches.

Claimants who refuse to sign the contract or breach it will be denied Universal Credit (JSA etc.), i.e. the means of survival, thus breaching Article 1 of the HRA.

HRA - Article 2 - Right to Life
1: Everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law. No one shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in the execution of a sentence of a court following his conviction of a crime for which this penalty is provided by law.
Earlier today we caught up with Keith to find out more about the campaign:

What drove you to to take this action?
I’ve been writing ‘A letter a day to number 10’ for over two years now, currently on No 728, and it is clear that the government have an agenda that they are pursuing regardless of public outcry, facts or the suffering they are causing. I have been to the police twice attempting to bring charges against Iain Duncan Smith and was fobbed off both times. This time, I called on Sonia Poulton and her camera man Lee to, at the least, make this a very public ‘event’. Whatever the outcome I hope that we can bring the glare of publicity to bear on the inhuman policies being inflicted on the British people. I have a particular care for disabled people as someone who has experienced severe mental health problems all my life. The treatment of disabled people by this government is so inhuman it beggars belief.

Do you think it will make a difference?
Yes I do think it will make a difference if in no other way than to raise awareness. People have felt comforted, supported and encouraged by my letters, I have been told many times that seeing that days letter gave someone the strength to go on for another day. Even if just one person is helped to keep going that was a letter worth writing as far as I am concerned.

What measures can other ordinary people do to oppose the cuts to benefits, the workfare scheme and generally make the world a better place?
I think it is crucial that relying on social media alone to do anything effective will never work. Whatever we do, and report on social media, must happen in the real world. I encourage people to be as creative as possible, through writing, art, music, drama, peaceful protest, handing out leaflets, reporting government crimes, creating public events, whatever people can dream up to protest, protect and raise public awareness. We had a picnic in Regents Park last year, called ‘We Shall Overcome’ inspired by the Joan Baez song, with floral tributes to the 10,600 people who had died within six weeks of being found fit for work by Atos. I was unable to attend and so co-ordinated live updates on Facebook and Fusion Radio dedicated a day of music in memory of our lost. Along with the group in London, who handed out leaflets and talked to people, the event was followed by many sick and disabled people online as well as those who simply could not travel to the event that day. Many were moved to tears, including me, and shared what was truly loving and peaceful day.
The We Shall Overcome Event in Regent's Park
Join Keith at Bath Police Station on Friday 2nd May at 1.30pm

Keith's website, where he posts his letters and the (very few) replies he gets can be found here: http://www.keithordinaryguy.org.uk/

Find out what happened at Bath Police Station here: http://standingstonesblog.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/bath-man-attempts-to-press-charges.html



Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Ticket Holders Refused Entry to Nigel Farage's talk in Bath


Nigel Farage's talk in Bath was hit by a scandal tonight when genuine ticket holders were refused entry. Several individuals, who had applied for tickets prior to the event, were refused entry to the UKIP leader's sell-out event at The Forum. One ticket holder refused entry told us "They approached us immediately. They had obviously made their decision based on looks. No further reason given. Discrimination based on looks alone".

Meanwhile, approximately 40 anti-UKIP campaigners protested outside, some of which were able to make it inside.


Earlier today, Nigel Farage was kicked out of The Bell Inn in Bath, full story here: http://standingstonesblog.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/ukip-demo-tonight-after-farage-kicked.html


UKIP Demo Tonight, After Farage Kicked out of The Bell

UKIP leader and all-round racist (and elephant-hating) scumbag Nigel Farage is set to give a "sell-out" talk to curious and supportive residents of Bath this evening. However, we have it on good authority that "some" of those tickets may have been claimed by activists. Anti-immigration advocate Farage (whose own family were French immigrants escaping religious persecution) last week declared a hatred of elephants, along with his UKIP chums, by voting "No" to a key resolution on the ivory trade. Other members of UKIP, some of whom have been suspended, have recently been quoted saying that the Somerset floods were God's revenge for gay marriage, and that British-born comedian Lenny Henry should move to a black country.

This afternoon, Mr Farage was asked to leave The Bell Inn on Walcot Street in Bath. The Bell's statement reads:
"Just had UKIP leader Nigel Farage and his be-suited henchmen in the pub with a BBC News film crew. 
Avoiding any actual political argument, I told him that he was welcome as a citizen to have a pint – we are, after all, a public house – but it was inappropriate for him to be using our premises for his hustings. I asked the camera man to stop filming. Most of the entourage then finished or left their drinks and went outside. They may have continued filming outside, I don’t know, but that is the public highway and they have every right to.

Martin Tracy of The Framing Workshop said he’d brought them in as he thought it would help raise the profile of Walcot Street. He had the decency to apologise when he realised how inapt that was.

I wrote this because our frontage may well feature on tonight's BBC News or BBC West News, and I'd rather not be deluged with complaints"

Tonight's demonstration will be outside Farage's talk in The Forum, 1a Forum Buildings, St James Parade, Bath, BA1 1UG from 6.30pm. Go along and tell him he's not welcome in our city.

The "Farage Wave", just after he was kicked out of The Bell - buy Gary a pint here: http://www.thebellinnbath.co.uk/vinyl-dj-sets/2-uncategorised/46-buy-gary-a-pint



Update: Ticket holders refused entry to Nigel Farage's talk "based on looks alone" http://standingstonesblog.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/ticket-holders-refused-entry-to-nigel.html

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Earth Hour Gathering in Bath - And There's More on the Way

This year's Earth Hour - organised by WWF - saw up to 70 environmentally aware people of all ages and many different backgrounds gather together on the green in front of the Royal Crescent to celebrate the event. Earth Hour, in which people are invited to switch off all electrical devices between 8.30 and 9.30pm, is an international campaign to raise awareness about energy usage. It began in 2007 in Sydney, Austrailia and has since become a worldwide hour of action.

The event saw people from all over the city congregate en masse with candles, acoustic guitars and blankets. The combination of a growing sense of environmental awareness, good weather, and the great job undertaken by the people who organised the event were key factors in its success. Even residents of the Royal Crescent came down to the event. At the end of the evening several people did a litter pick and everyone took home a bag of rubbish, to ensure that Earth Hour stuck to its environmental principles.

Due to the success, there are now plans to make "Earth Saturday" a regular event, on the last Saturday of every month, with the next event scheduled for 26th April. Organisers say that if the weather is looking bad, the event will be moved to the following Saturday.

So come on down, this could be the start of something big!

Earth Saturday - Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/EarthSaturdayBath
Earth Saturday - April Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1486206851599754

Friday, 14 March 2014

Foster Watch #5 - Don Foster Abstains on Latest Badger Cull Vote

FOSTER WATCH
is a series of posts following Bath MP Foster, who is now Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government. Details of Don's voting record can be found at http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/mp.php?id=uk.org.publicwhip/member/40062&showall=yes#divisions



Back in August 2013, Don told the Bath Chronicle that he was 'pressured' into voting for the badger cull, having been told by the former Liberal Democrat Chief Whip that he had to 'toe the party line', and that preferred choice would be to abstain (see here for full article). Of course, now Don is the Lib Dem Chief Whip, and it's now his job to make MPs vote against their wishes.

This week the badger cull was debated yet again in parliament, and yet again the pro-culllers lost the debate - 219 to 1, although unfortunately this vote is non-binding and won't by itself stop future culls. However, some pro-cull MPs chose to abstain, because the report on last year's cull has yet to be published. Don chose to abstain, and then sent the following e-mail to his anti-cull constituents:
"Morning, 
Thank you for contacting me regarding the vote in the House of Commons on 13 March regarding the possible extension of badger culls nationwide. 
As you may be aware, I decided to abstain from voting on this motion and I would like to take this opportunity to explain the reasoning behind my decision. I chose to abstain as I acknowledge and agree that the trials that took place had numerous shortcomings in terms of cost, humaneness and achieving targets.
However, I did not chose to vote for the motion as I believe that we should not side line the issue of bovine TB, but instead endeavor to quickly develop viable alternatives to tackle bovine TB.
Originally, I voted in favour of the trials taking place as bovine TB is a terrible disease that results in the deaths of tens of thousands of cattle every year. Around 28,000 cattle were slaughtered in England in 2012 alone as a bovine TB control measure. It is estimated that we could be paying as much as £1 billion over the next decade if we do nothing to stop the spread of this disease.
Badgers and cattle transmit bovine TB between each other – the scientific evidence to support this link is now beyond dispute. It is equally clear that no other country has managed to make significant progress on bovine TB without tackling how the disease is spread by wild animals. It was for this reason I voted in favour of two badger cull pilots going ahead this year.
However, since the trials started it has become clear that they were not being completely successful and because of this I could not agree to a national roll-out of further cull trials unless I was convinced of the safety, humaneness and effectiveness of these initial trials.
The trials have not reached the target of removing 70% of the badger population, with initial estimates suggesting the trials reduced the badger population by over 30% in the Gloucestershire and around 60% in the Somerset.
It is due to these short comings that I support developing a viable alternative to badger culling. However, at the moment this alternative does not exist as the option of vaccinating badgers, requires them to be trapped and vaccinated on a yearly basis, which I sure you will agree is logistically problematic. The current vaccine available is only around 70% effective, this poses further problems when you consider that in disease hotspots it is estimated that a third of badgers will have bovine TB.
For this reason, it is clear that we need to advance and accelerate work in developing a viable alternative and I am grateful for the work being done by the Wildlife Trust to advance this alternative. The Government is also investing £11.7 million in vaccine development over the next three years.
Furthermore, George Eustice, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, delivered a statement at the end of the debate yesterday. You can read this at the following link http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm140313/debtext/140313-0004.htm and scroll to 4:45PM.
I hope that this is helpful in explaining my position on the issue of badger culls. Please do not hesitate to contact me further on this matter on any other.
With best wishes,
Yours sincerely,
Don"
Well, where do we start with that? Obviously Don has forgotten that he was pressured into voting for it and attempted to make up an excuse for voting in favour of it. TB declined by 3.4% in cattle between 2012 and 2013 without badger culling - Defra's figures are wrong. Vaccination has been shown to work in Wales - TB has declined by 24% as a result far more than than the 16% reduction that even the government admits that a badger cull could deliver (see here for reference). Last year it was calculated by badger expert Professor Rosie Woodroffe (no stranger to badger culling, as she was involved in the last badger cull, but like all good scientists has accepted that her findings showed that it would make 'no meaningful contribution' to tackling the problem) that the cost of badger vaccination would be £2,250 per square kilometre per year, and that the cost of culling, including the cost of policing, would be £2429 per square kilometre per year (reference). Furthermore, the charity Care for the Wild estimated the cost per badger in last year's cull was £4121 (reference) and in January Biocensus reported that the cost per square kilometre was £12857, with just £3913 per square kilometre for vaccinations in Wales (reference). Vaccination could potentially be even cheaper as we know that there's a lot of potential volunteers who would be willing to help with vaccinating badgers for free (several of our friends recently attended badger handling courses, and many more people across the country have attended similar courses), if it meant a complete end to culls.

Don correctly states that "no other country has managed to make significant progress on bovine TB without tackling how the disease is spread by wild animals", however he neglects to mention that so country has ever solved the problem by culling either. Last year's cull failed to meet the target of killing 70% of badgers in the cull zones, and, which could potentially make the TB problem in these areas worse due to the peturbation effect caused by fleeing badgers (reference). Lastly, as no badgers were tested for TB in last year's cull, there's no way of knowing how many badgers were carrying the disease in the first place. The cull was never going to work, and farmers are being conned. The choice between vaccination and culling is a no-brainer - vaccination is cheaper, delivers better results than culling, and will help to build bridges between farmers and badgerists, not create divisions. Don appears to be on the fence with this issue - e-mail him the facts here: donfoster@parliament.uk

For more on the badger cull, here's our in-depth look at the issues: http://standingstonesblog.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/the-badger-cull-what-you-need-to-know.html

For more on Don Foster, the Foster Watch home page is here: http://standingstonesblog.blogspot.co.uk/p/blog-page.html


Monday, 18 November 2013

UWE Arms Fair, Bristol - Drop Beats Not Bombs Rally

Just in from campaigners against the arms fair at the University of the West of England, Frenchay, Bristol. The arms fair will be taking place on Wednesday this week. More info on the arms fair and plans for protests here: http://standingstonesblog.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/stop-uwe-arms-fair.html

Drop beats not bombs rally
4pm @ UWE, Frenchay campus
by the bus stops
Tuesday19th.

Listen out for the sound system!
The University of the West of England in Bristol is hosting an arms and 'defence' business fair on the 20th November 2013. This conference portrays itself as the main networking and business event in the UK for the MOD and the military community. See their website: http://www.dprte.co.uk

Students are coming together and welcome support to kick them off campus!

Students at UWE believe a decision to host this event is not in the interest of students or education but part of a wider shift towards profit-driven interests. We are calling on UWE not to invest itself into, promote, support or enable profit-making from/of/through wars, military uses of research, military networks, and violent approaches towards conflicts. Students also denounce the University's strategy of investing into large infrastructures which are largely useless to students and education, like the planned 20,000 seats 'UWE stadium' or UWE's massive Conference Centre, where this conference is to take place.

Please sign our petition here:

https://www.change.org/petitions/calling-the-university-of-the-west-of-england-uwe-bristol-not-to-invest-itself-into-promote-support-or-enable-profit-making-from-of-through-wars-military-uses-of-research-military-networks-and-violent-approaches-towards-conflicts

Our student newspaper, the WesternEye has published this article: http://www.westerneye.net/news/2013/11/uwe-hosts-arms-fair/

A student has written an open letter showing the related gaps between UWEs claims to sustainability and this military conference:
http://www.westerneye.net/comment/2013/11/open-letter-to-uwe-sustainability-of-the-bloodhound-scc-cars-rockets-and-forthcoming-arms-and-defence-fair-at-uwe/