Sunday, June 24, 2007

SYN Exec

As my last post indicated the Exec met and discussed putting into action a campaign for a real living wage as we all decided at our Conference.

The name we've settled on is COFUP! - which stands for COalition Fighting Unfair Pay.

The focus of the campaign is
a) to campaign for Labour councils to have a living wage as part of their workerprocurement agreements; and

b) to make a Living Wage official LabourParty policy by having it passed at Conference.

The Launch rally will be on Tuesday 24th July at 7pm in Committee Room 9, House of Commons.

Speakers TBC

Put it inyour diary - and start spreading the word!

More details to follow!

SYN also have a facebook group that can be found here

Monday, May 28, 2007

Real Living Wage campaign

Hello all,
next up on our agenda is SYN's real living wage campaign.

Our founding conference passed a motion that stated "all workers, regardless of age, are entitled not only to a minimum wagebut a universal wage high enough to live on."

and instructed the exec to campaign for a universal living wage of at least £8 an hour.

(The full list of motions can be found here.)

The exec will be meeting soon and I'll keep you posted on what is happening.
In the meantime you can sign e-petition calling for a real living wage here!/

In the meantime if your not a member of SYN you can join here here. and members can join our email list by emailing myself or Owen (or leaving a comment on this blog)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Final Hurdels!

As the campaign enters the final stretch - were all neeed to campaign heavily - I hope to see you all at the SYN meeting on saturday where we'll be working out exactly what we can do to help!

In the meantime check out the latest on John's Blog

John wll be campaigning in Scotland and Wales to help Labour candidates in their campaigns. Campaigning for Elaine Smith in Scotland (20-21 April), and Sue Lent in Wales (30 April). They are both strong candidates with a fantastic record of standing up for working class people. They are both consistent and vocal opponents of the war in Iraq.

We will be sending up a group of people to campaign with John in Wales - please let us know if your interested in going.

See you all Saturday!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Profound apologies for the lack of posts - please please please dont kill me (well at least not till after the revolution its ok i know your gonna shoot me after that ive already been promised by at least 3 rival sects ;p)

Anyway onwards and upwards eh comrades!

Hope to see you all at SYN's next meeting - it is open to all so please if your not a member yet come along see what were about and Join up!!

21st April between 2 and 4 in the conference room of the RMT Office Euston ( map can be found here

This will be mainly to discuss the John4Leader campaign and SYNs input in the final few weeks
But we'll also briefly touch on

SYN so far - update on SYN'S first year
SYN plans for autumn 07
Promoting SYN and building on an excellent first year.

I hope to see as many of you as possible there.

Please RSVP to me, many thanks

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Rally 31st March

Sorry for Cross Postingbut everyone should know about this fantastic rally on the 31st March in support of John McDonnell.

Venue Shaw Theatre Euston Road 12.30-4.30
A combination of Comedy Music and Politics - a must have for all you anoraks.....

Acts include
Steve Gribben
Dave Rogers of Banner Theatre
'Jago' panjabi folk band singing and dancing
Lost Marbles string band
plus more

speakers :
Tony Benn
Mark Serwotka PCS Gen Sec
Matt Wrack FBU Gen Sec
Alice Mahon, former MP
Jeremy Dear NUJ Gen Sec
Doug Nicholls General Secretary of CYWU
Suresh Grover Monitoring Group
Dot Gibson National Pensions Convention
Jim Mortimer AMICUS Unity Gazette
Gary Heather (CWU Broad Left)
Andy Reed ASLEF National Organiser
Patrick Sikorski is Assistant General Secretary of the rail union RMT
Darren Williams Secretary, Welsh Labour Grassroots
Martin Mayer, Chair of TGWU Broad Left
Vince Mills Campaign for Socialism - Scotland
Jon Rogers UNISON United Left
Marsha-Jane Thompson Co-Chair of SYN
and of course.......John McDonnell MP

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Meacher debacle boosts John4Leader campaign

Firstly, I want to apologise for being so rubbish at updating this blog. The past month or so has been ridiculously busy for both me and Marsha (as it has been for most people on the Labour left recently) - but hey, we'll try and make up for it in the coming months.

Thursday was a bit of a shock for many in the labour movement. Former New Labour minister Michael Meacher announced his intention to stand for Labour leader on Thursday - and explicitly stated his intention to force John McDonnell out of the contest.

As everyone who has been remotely connected with the John4Leader campaign will know, Meacher's campaign was not, in fact, launched last week. It has been rumbling along for months. During this time, John has been rushing up and down the country, addressing packed public meetings, actively re-engaging with trade unionists and party members, and winning the support of numerous Labour party and trade union grassroots organisations across the country. In stark contrast, Meacher has focused all of its efforts on winning support in the Westminster Bubble - meeting MPs for cups of teas and inviting them for dinner in an effort to win their support.

The John4Leader campaign has always been open and honest about its tactics from the very beginning. The focus is on winning support from the rank-and-file of the labour movement. In the view of everyone involved, we will get the required 44 nominations if we win a groundswell of support - and prove that there is an appetite for a genuine contest. Our campaign is restoring the PLP's original intended role - that is, to serve as the political wing of the labour movement.

Firstly, I want to explain why Meacher chose this week to announce. His attempt to win support in the PLP - by ignoring activists in the grassroots - has failed disastrously. Last week, Alan Simpson (his campaign manager) gave Meacher a massive vote of confidence by announcing that he's standing down and doubting Meacher's chances of getting the 44. McDonnell had won the support of all the grassroots organisations of the Labour left, all the main trade union broad lefts, and most recently ASLEF. It was now or never for Meacher.

As we all now know, Meacher's campaign launch was a disaster. Only two MPs turned up - Kelvin Hopkins and Ian Gibson. Ian Gibson (who chaired the press conference) then let it be known that he was not backing Meacher for leader, adding: "He has asked some people if we would respect his decision to run, but that doesn't mean we will vote for him." Peter Soulsby was alleged by Tom Watson to be another prominent backer - and quickly wrote on Watson's blog making clear that he was not backing Meacher and had written to him to say so. Meacher is an easy target, and the media have had a field day - ridiculing his lack of support, his "vainglorious" campaign, and the number of houses he owns (estimates range from 7 to 11).

Meacher has no support base in the labour movement. He was a New Labour minister who voted for all of Blair's reactionary policies - whether that be tuition fees or Foundation Hospitals. He stayed in Government to vote for the war - unlike, say, Robin Cook, who (credit where credit's due) had the guts to resign on a point of principle. Only when he was sacked from the Government in June 2003 did he decide to perform a spectacular u-turn, suddenly opposing all the policies he had voted for - including the war in Iraq. Support for Meacher is non-existent in the trade unions. The only 'Meacherites' out there are a handful of 9/11 conspiracy theorists and anti-GM food activists. Unfortunately for Meacher, neither have a slice of Labour's electoral college.

However - ironically - Meacher's campaign has provided a huge boost to the John4Leader campaign. All of a sudden, the media blackout was broken - and John was all over the news. Meacher was bombarded with messages from angry Labour party members and trade unionists demanding that he step down. The John4Leader office was overwhelmed with messages from supporters promising to increase their involvement. Tony Benn, Christine Shawcroft (Labour party NEC), Elaine Smith MSP and a range of leading trade unionists and Labour councillors wrote a letter to the Guardian demanding that he support John's campaign. A number of MPs have indicated since Thursday that they will nominate McDonnell - flushed out by Meacher's catastrophic launch. The Westminster Bubble was full of a mixture of ridicule, pity and frustration.

Crucially, John is now on the map as the only possible credible left candidate. Some of those who identify with the "soft left" have been reluctant to support our campaign on the basis that they have reservations about the level of support John would win. True, many of these have already been won over by the level of support that John has achieved since last July. However, Meacher's launch has now shown beyond reasonable doubt that there is no "credible" left alternative to John. As if to drive this point home, the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (whose leading parliamentary representative is Kelvin Hopkins, one of the sole Meacherite MPs) backed John's campaign by a margin of 4-1 just two days after Meacher's launch.

It is undeniably true that Meacher's launch was an attempted coup against the labour movement. A left candidate has already been backed by the grassroots of the Labour and trade union left. Thursday's events represented an attempt to impose a candidate against the will of trade union and Labour party activists by a handful of parliamentarians. Meacher's message was thus: "You may well support John McDonnell, but you're never going to get the chance to vote for him. Therefore, you will have to support me whether you like it or not." Unfortunately, his claim that he had 30 supportive MPs has been exposed as tragic wishful thinking. In actual fact, Meacher has the support of between 5 and 7 MPs. In contrast, John McDonnell has 22 signed up - and a previous 15 or so who have indicated they are likely to support him. This has been achieved solely because of the grassroots campaign.

Nonetheless, we need to bare in mind the slightly sinister side of recent developments. Two weeks ago, the Independent on Sunday wrote that Gordon Brown much preferred to "crush" Meacher rather than McDonnell. On the day of the launch, Brownite MP Tom Watson claimed that Meacher had more parliamentary support than McDonnell. For those who can't remember, Watson led last September's attempted Brownite coup against Blair. Watson is extremely close to Brown - and indeed visited Brown just a day before the September putsch. The Evening Standard suggested: "Speculation is mounting at Westminster that allies of Mr Brown have encouraged Mr Meacher to stand in order to split the vote on the left of the party." The Torygraph suggested that "Brown gets leadership opponent he wants", adding: "Do not be surprised if a number of presumed Brown loyalists appear on Mr Meacher's ballot paper."

It is clear that New Labour would prefer Meacher over McDonnell. Meacher is a representative of Labour's distant past; he is compromised by his support for New Labour's policies prior to his sacking; he has no base in the labour movement. McDonnell has a consistent political record; he is a solid and growing base in the labour movement; he is one of the most articulate, convincing members of the PLP. New Labour know that he would wipe the floor with Brown in any public debate. They recognise that a successful McDonnell campaign will put the Left back on the map and threaten to completely unravel New Labour's grip on the party.

Our task ahead is clear. We need to renew our commitment to building a successful campaign. We should ignore the Meacher campaign which, frankly, has no chance of gaining any grassroots support. Let's keep getting people in the party, giving out John4Leader leaflets, encouraging MPs to sign John's nomination papers. Ironic as it may seem, but the chances of our campaign succeeded have now considerably increased. Let's no waste the opportunity before us.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

John McDonnell Meeting in Norwich

Please see below report from Daniel Morley SYN member.

Massive John McDonnell Meeting in Norwich

An unprecedented turnout of 100+ students and trade unionists welcomed John McDonnell to Norwich and UEA on an otherwise dreary Friday evening on 9th February, rewarding and surprising in equal measure the weeks of hard work from students to promote the event and campaign.

The large turnout from what is an extremely ‘depoliticised’ campus bearing a dearth of socialist ideas and consciousness clearly demonstrated that not only are the youth not apathetic and resolutely opposed to all things Labour Party, but that the only way to effectively move students politically is in reference to the labour movement, and that the only way to renew the labour party is through the left wing.

The meeting had long been planned since the conception of John’s campaign for leadership in the summer. A term of consistent work by members of the newly formed UEA Socialist Society and Socialist Youth Network has slowly raised the banner and ideas of socialism and John’s campaign.

The hard work has evidently paid off, particularly in the two weeks of flyering preceding the meeting, and has hopefully led to a raising of profile and reputation of not only socialism but the Socialist Youth Network.

A series of meetings on John McDonnell, the Labour Movement and a resolution in the student union council formed the run up to John’s appearance itself.John was only able to speak to students for an hour as he had to rush off to another meeting at the local Labour Party, which was also highly successful. John outlined the background to his campaign, the history of New Labour and how this was consistently alienating Labour’s support base, highlighting the fear that the party is sleepwalking into another Tory government.

He also spoke of policies such as nationalisation under workers control. The key topic addressed by members of the audience in both meetings was over how to actually mobilise support for a socialist campaign.
John responded by saying that the social base was there, and that our task was to bring in those groups that Blairism has consistently alienated, i.e. the trade unionists, public sector workers and working class as a whole, especially the un-unionised immigrant workers.

Only through organising an effective grass roots working class campaign can we force the media to pay any attention to his campaign.The massive turnout, especially from the youth, and the campaign to get people to join the party to vote for John highlights the fact that the only way to reinvigorate the party is through socialism and the rank and file movement.
While the Labour Party Blairites and Tories and Liberals hold their meetings behind closed doors, terrified of openly taking their campaigns and ideas and testing them against the mood of the public in open meetings, the socialists emphatically and confidently build for large open, public meetings as a means of discussion and to bring ordinary people into our campaigns.

Imagine Brown touring the country, hosting huge meetings on the platform of a progressive, confident and positive campaign to bring the masses into the party to vote for his campaign. It would never happen!

We must continue to build on the grass roots success of such meetings and bring as many ordinary and working class people into the party on the basis of John’s campaign.
We will be manning a stall in Norwich town centre on Saturday 17th February to meet even more people.
The reinvigoration of the Labour Party is only achievable on the basis of socialist ideas! Participation in politics and society is only achievable through socialism!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Involvment in the Labour Party

Motion one that we passed at SYN Conference calls on SYN to " encourage all socialists and trade unionsists to join the labour party"

To that end Vino has kindly drafted a guide to Labour Party structures to help you all on your way to becoming budding Labour party activists.
Enjoy :)

Guide to Labour Party structures

When you join the Labour Party, which can easily be done via the website, you will get a letter from Head Office giving you a membership card with your membership number on it.

The card should also say what CLP (constituency Labour Party) you are in. Each parliamentary constituency has its own CLP. In addition, the letter that you get with your membership card should say who the CLP secretary is. This is an ordinary member who has been elected or volunteered to do the job of taking notes at CLP meetings, advertising them etc.

Most constituencies are divided into branches. A branch consists of one or more local council wards. The Branch Labour Party (BLP) is the most local unit of Labour Party organisation.

If you ring the CLP secretary or other contact number given on the introductory letter, they will be able to tell you what branch you are in and when and where its meetings are.

Each BLP has a chair, a secretary, a treasurer and normally a youth officer, women’s officer, membership secretary and several other posts. They are called ‘branch officers’. These positions are normally not particularly contested and, if you want to get involved, it is likely there will be an officer vacancy that you can take up.

Most CLPs have a General Committee (GC) and an Executive Committee (EC). The GC is the most powerful body in the constituency party and it normally plays the main role in electing a chair and secretary for the CLP and choosing the Labour candidate for MP for the constituency. Branches select the candidates for local council positions.

Each GC is made up of delegates from the branches in the constituency. Normally, branches tend to send one man and one woman, although larger branches can send more. Branches also tend to send 1 delegate to the EC. The EC is made of 1 delegate from each branch and the CLP Chair, Secretary, Treasurer etc – who were elected by the GC.

So, if you wish to get involved at the constituency level, you can go as a delegate from your BLP to GC meetings. In Labour seats, these may be attended from time to time by the local MP, which will give you a chance to hear his/her parliamentary report and perhaps question them.
Additionally, the Labour Party does have other committees and structures, notably a Local Government Committee to deal with local council matters, but these are secondary to the role of the CLP and the Branch as the basic levels of Labour Party organisation from the point of view of the ordinary member

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Trade unions4 john - Report

More than 130 trade union activists met at Friends Meeting House for the Trade Unionists 4 John rally initiated by the London Region of the AMICUS Unity Gazette and chaired on behalf of the Gazette by Ted Knight.

Speakers from the platform started with Gill George from the AMICUS NEC, speaking in a personal capacity, who explained why she supported John from the perspective of being a trade union activist outside the Labour Party but nevertheless part of the Labour movement. This point of view was repeated by a minority of later contributors from the floor of the meeting.

Gill was followed by Gary Heather speaking on behalf of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) Broad Left, who explained the work being done in that union to build awareness of and support for John’s leadership challenge. Gary explained how, as a Labour Party member and union activist, he was pleased to be able to support a leadership candidate who not only opposed privatisation but also supported public ownership of privatised industries such as telecoms.

I was the third speaker, speaking on behalf of UNISON United Left and I echoed support for John’s opposition to privatisation and explained the impact which John’s campaign was having in mobilising young trade unionists.
While nearly one in five of the workforce are young workers only one in twenty trade unionists are young, with young people focusing on single issue politics.
I went onto say how, John’s campaign had led to the formation of the Socialist Youth Network of young Labour Party and trade union activists which would provide a continuing platform for organisation and campaigning.
I spoke about the need for us to organise through the broad left groups because the leadership of the bnig4 are too timid to get on board for a serious challenge - Dave Prentis (General Secretary of UNISON) told Tribune at christams that what he hoped for in 2007 was a smooth transitionto a new labour leader!

I was extremely pleased to see no less than 15 SYN'ers in the meeting with more i am told in the meeting downstairs on Palestine - so well done us :)

Geoff Martinof Health Emergency was the next speaker. Geoff focused upon the impact of Government policy on health workers and the anger and hostility which this was provoking. He pointed out that morale in the health service was now lower even than under the Tories but that John’s campaign could provide a focus for this anger.

The final platform speaker was John McDonnell himself, who warned that the departure of Tony Blair could be hastened by the activities of the Metropolitan Police. John spoke about his campaign but in particular focused upon the strong support he was receiving from rank and file organisations in the trade unions, which he contrasted with the downright opposition of some General Secretaries. He had just come from a meeting of the UNISON Parliamentary Group at which he had been given a UNISON Labour Link magazine, which had a story on the labour leadership showing pictures of leadership and deputy leadership candidates but excluding himself - referring back to my point that the leaders of the big 4 are too timid to get on board for a serious challenge! John said some MP's and leaders of Trade unions are living in Cukoo land not in the real world - we need to make them come back to reality!

In a theme that he returned to in his closing remarks, John pointed out that the reason for this hostility was the same as the reason for the media blackout on the campaign – which was that a socialist challenge for the Labour leadership was a threat to all sections of the establishment (including within the Labour movement).

Wide ranging contributions from the floor were started with two contributions from PCS activists concerning the strike action due for 31 January. Other speakers came from AMICUS, CWU, UNISON, PCS, RMT and the POA (whose delegates brought greetings from General Secretary Brian Caton who was facing possible imprisonment for standing up for his members’ rights).

Paul Mackney, retiring joint General Secretary of UCU spoke from the floor and to much amusement set out the reasons for not supporting John – “He doesn’t accept the modernisation agenda, he doesn’t support neo-endogenous growth theory and he isn’t even corrupt. You won’t get any seats in the House of Lords from him!”

The meeting was concluded by impromptu greetings from Tony Benn, who had arrived without expecting to speak but rose to the occasion, expressing warm support for John and warning that if Labour MPs failed to allow a contest for Labour leader it could come to be the final act in New Labour’s destruction of the Labour Party.

John McDonnell closed the meeting with a reminder to activists to lobby MPs to use their nomination rights to ensure that we have a candidate on the ballot paper for Labour leader who will support trade union policies

All in all a very impressive meeting people seem really fired up and ready to go - all of us now need to put as much pressure on members of the PLP to nominate John - and not just your own MP - as Unionists you can legitimately contact those MP's that have links with whichever union your in and put pressure on them to back John as well.

I've heard John speak a lot over the last 6 or 7 months but I must say that was one of the best from him - i've never before seen him so angry and so up for this challenge.

The meeting concluded at 9.30 and John had to run straight off to do News at 10 *which sadly I missed cos I was in the pub by then having a vodka!)

So SYN'ers this is it the fight for our labour party and movement is on!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Feminists4John McDonnell

A couple of things to bring to your attention


Please see below from Mary Partington SYN's womens Officer on Feminsts4John

2 - Don't forget the TU4John meeting tomorrow night.

It would be great to have lots of SYN input into both.

Dear Friend,

From the very beginning when John McDonnell MP first announced his bid for the Labour Leadership, we made it clear that this campaign is about encouraging political participation and providing a voice to sections of our society who have felt alienated and excluded from politics. We have been absolutely overwhelmed with support since the launch of the campaign, as it inclusive and far-reaching.

We are all aware that women, although making up over fifty percent of our society, are severely under-represented in political activism and decision making. Far too often feminism slips off the agenda. It is now important to fully establish the feminist program within the John4Leader campaign, making sure that anti-sexism and issues that particularly affect women are at the forefront of political debate, encouraging more female activists to get involved.

John’s campaign is about reclaiming the Labour Party as a democratic voice for working people including the women who are struggling in low paid jobs; the women who have been let down by insufficient welfare provision; the female trade unionists who have stood up for their rights; women who want a good education; women who have suffered unacceptable violence; women experiencing racism; women who believe in their right to control their own bodies. Most of all FEMINISTS4JOHN is about hearing the voices all of these women and showing that another world is really possible.

If you are fed up with being under-represented, are tired of being ignored, believe that feminism is essential to the labour movement then please contact the campaign to offer your ideas and skills.

Warm regards

Mary Partington

Another World Is Possible

Saturday, January 27, 2007

This war must end

Today I spoke at the School Students Against War Conference on behalf of Labour Against The War. SSAW are a pretty remarkable organisation - they're completely run by school students and have organised antiwar school walkouts across the country. A whole new generation of lifelong activists is being trained up by organisations such as SSAW - and that's something that should give our movement reasons for optimism.

As the Conference reminded me, the war in Iraq radicalised thousands of young people. Huge numbers of us took to the streets, not least on that cold Saturday back in February 2003. The antiwar movement has dispelled the myth that today's young people have become somehow depoliticised. The problem is, of course, that Blairism has so associated the Labour party with war (among so many other things) that, up until now, most young lefties would not have dreamt of joining the party. Let's be honest: if you're a young, idealistic activist committed to fighting for peace and justice, why would you join a party whose leadership has allied with the most rightwing American regime in modern history to bomb Iraq back into the Stone Age? Such is the tragic damage that New Labour has done to our party: after all, these are the very young people who would almost instinctively have joined the party a generation ago.

That's why this Conference gave me such hope. When I raised the suggestion of joining the party in order to support an antiwar candidate for the Labour leadership, I expected hisses and boos. Instead, there was applause at the idea. Several speakers from the floor made the same suggestion. This alone is evidence of the success of John McDonnell's leadership campaign. Young activists who just a few months ago would have preferred to stick burning matches in their eyes than fill in a Labour party membership form are now enthusiastically joining. If the Labour party is to exist in any meaningful sense in the years to come - and if the current terminal decline in membership is to be reversed - then we depend on winning over such inspirational, dedicated young activists.

Below is a summary of the speech I gave on the war on terror at home:

Over the past few years, the rulers of Britain and the United States have used the atrocities of September 11th and July 7th to justify an onslaught against civil liberties and rights that people have struggled and fought for over the centuries. What we've seen over the past few years is a concerted effort by New Labour to strip us of basic democratic rights.

Attacks on civil rights are not new. For example, Thatcher and the Tories stripped working people of their rights in the 80s, leaving British workers with fewer rights than anywhere else in the Western world.

Since September 11th, we've seen a series of legislation taking away our rights and giving more power to the state. In 2001, for example, new laws allowed foreigners to be detailed as terrorist suspects indefinitely. In 2003, the time that a terrorist suspect could be detained was doubled to 14 days. In 2005, control orders of alleged terror suspects were introduced – which effectively grant the ability to place people under house arrest without charge.

Last year, laws were passed allowing the state to arrest people for supposedly "glorifying" terrorism. New Labour pushed to increase the time that terrorist suspects could be held without charge to 90 days – effectively internment, and a level which would have left us with the same level as South Africa under apartheid. The government were defeated, but still managed to get away with 28 days.

Anti-terrorism laws have been used to routinely harass peaceful protesters. Most famously, Walter Wolfgang was held by police under the Terrorism Act 2000 for heckling Jack Straw at Labour Party Conference. The idea that an 80 year old pensioner could be a terrorist is of course ridiculous – as the police well know. At the same conference, hundreds of others were stopped under the Act.

As the war against Iraq approached, the police arrested protestors at the Fairford military base nearly a thousand times – purely to intimidate and harrass anti-war activists.

New Labour is also intent on introducing ID cards – which will give the state a register with details of the entire British public,
effectively putting us under lifelong surveillance at great cost.

As we all know, these attacks on civil liberties have disproportionately attacked Muslims. Since September 11th, we've seen a tide of Islamophobia whipped up by the tabloid media. At the same time, the state's harassment of Muslims and more broadly Asians has increased. After the July 7th attacks, stop-and-search of Asians increased twelve fold.

We witnessed the horrific assassination of Charles de Menezes by the police on July 22nd 2005 – who then lied through their back teeth about the events leading up to the shooting. We've also seen, for example, the Forrest Gate raid – where the police shot an innocent man and dozens of cops farcically spent a week searching a tiny house for a supposed chemical weapon.

And of course, there's Belmarsh – the British Guantanamo – where people are held without charge and are going literally insane because of their circumstances.

These attacks on civil liberties and rights are not new. Throughout history, states have used the supposed existence of a national emergency to justify attacking people's basic rights.

New Labour claims that these attacks are making Britain safer. Nothing could be further from the truth. At a time when Muslims are demonised in the press, at a time when they continue to languish in overwhelming poverty and suffer disproportionately from unemployment, these attacks on their rights – such as humiliating stop-and-searches – only further radicalise parts of the Muslim community. Indeed, it deepens the feeling of many young working class Muslims that the British state is at war with Muslims generally.

The real reasons behind terrorism are clear. New Labour's murderous foreign policy has radicalised an entire generation. In the past few years, New Labour has participated in the invasion of Afghanistan, stood by Israel in its brutal occupation of Palestine, tacitly supported its barbaric invasion of the Lebanon, and of course joined the invasion of Iraq. Young Muslims have been radicalised by the manifest injustice, and indeed terrorism of British foreign policy – in combination with other reasons, like poverty, unemployment, and a rising tide of hatred against Muslims.

The terrible truth is this – so long as the current British foreign policy remains, thousands more will die abroad and, undoubtedly, here. Attacks on civil liberties are not the solution - a change in foreign policy is.

Nothing has done more to boost international terrorism than the war against Iraq. Bush and Blair remain al-Qaeda's most important recruiting sergeants. Part of the justification for attacking Iraq was that al-Qaeda had a presence there – a lie. Following the invasion, we can now be in no doubt that Iraq is crawling with al-Qaeda – some of whom will no doubt attempt to strike Britain one day.

I also want to turn to the sheer hypocrisy of Western imperialism. We should all condemn terrorism wherever it happens. The deaths of 52 innocent civilians on July 7th was a terrible crime. September 11th – and the murder of 3,000 innocent civilians – was again a disgusting act of terrorism we should all condemn in the strongest possible terms.

But what about the even bloodier acts of Western terrorism? Before September 11th, around a million Iraqis had been killed because of Western sanctions. Since the invasion of Iraq, according to the Lancet, 655,000 Iraqis have been slaughtered. Furthermore, thousands of Palestinians have been murdered by Western ally Israel.

American terrorism has been responsible for the deaths of literally millions of civilians since World War II. The killing fields of Vietnam and Southeast Asia, Central and South America, and the Middle East, testify to that.

To end with, I want to plug John McDonnell's campaign. John is standing for the Labour leadership against New Labour. He is committed to fighting against the so-called War on Terror both at home and abroad. He will restore all the civil liberties taken away by New Labour. He will end the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, and stand against Israeli aggression in the Middle East – which, as we know, are the main causes of terrorism. A victory for John will mean peace in the Middle East, the restoration of our civil rights, and the end of Britain's status as an international terror target.

Therefore – and I know this controversial – I urge all of you to join the Labour party, if only to have a vote for a candidate who will end this murderous war. Thank you.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Brown is the new blue

It's funny what people will delude themselves into believing. Ever since the Tories were booted out of office back in 1997, a myth has persisted that a Brown premiership will somehow represent some sort of break with Blairism. An entire industry seems to have been created by the British media dedicated to analysing "codewords" uttered by Brown which reveal his supposed real intentions when (if) elected. A coalition of so-called "Brownites" has long argued that Brown's leadership will represent a real change - either because of naivety, sycophancy or desperation.

You've got to pity Brown. What does the co-founder of New Labour have to do to convince people that he is wedded to the same neo-liberal, pro-war agenda as Blair? Brown himself is more than happy to brag about. Take this quote boasting about his neo-liberal credentials:

"I have introduced most of the Private Finance Initiative, sold off air traffic control, made a controversial decision on the London Underground, set up the Gershon review to sack or make redundant 80,000 civil servants, made the Bank of England independent and introduced the most widespread competition reforms this country has ever seen."

Indeed, Brown is the architect of New Labour's privatisation agenda. Last year, Brown announced a £26bn expansion of PFI across 200 public sector projects. It's PFI that has allowed private contractors to milk our public services dry. Even before the current crisis, PFI was ravaging the NHS: the first wave of PFI schools suffered bed reductions averaging 30% and staffing level cuts of 25%.

The "contoversial decision on the London Underground" was the disastrous decision to part-privatise it. As he boasted, it was his initiative to massacre civil servant jobs - a decision he announced to Parliament without any consultation with the workers he was sacking.

In the one major policy dispute between Blair and Brown since 1997 - over pensions - Brown attacked Blair from the right. While even Blair pledged support for the proposal to re-establish the link between earnings and pensions (granted that this was along with a rise in the retirement age), Brown opposed the policy on grounds of “affordability”. Despite an eventual agreement between them, which allowed the Government to announce its response to Turner, there is widespread suspicion that Brown will renege on the supposed deal as soon as he is installed in Number 10.

Since his pledge last year to run a Blairite administration if he becomes party leader, Brown has veered to the right with increasing confidence. He supports another attempt to introduce de facto internment through 90 days detention. He has made it known that he is willing to review the £3,000 cap on annual tuition fees for students – which, if lifted, would open the floodgates to an internal market in higher education.

Last year he echoed Margaret Thatcher’s call for a “property-owning democracy” when he described his vision to “build a home-owning, asset-owning democracy.” No wonder the Washington Post on 14th May said to him bluntly: “You don’t sound like the socialist you are portrayed to be.” His response was clear: “I’m a free trader. I’m pro-open markets,” adding that “the economy that I admire most is the American economy.” This echoed many earlier comments in which Brown has professed his admiration for what he regards as the more entrepreneurial US economy while repeatedly calling for Europe to “adjust its social model to combine flexibility with fairness” through “wholesale economic reform.”

There are sinister signs that Brown is willing to pander to racist prejudices in order to win power. As well as some of the empty jingoistic policies he has floated, such as the establishment of a ‘British day’, he argued on Radio 4’s Today that “people who come into this country, who are part of our community, should play by the rules. I think learning English is part of that… I would insist on large numbers of people who have refused to learn our language that they must do so.”

And, of course, Brown is committed to wasting £25bn on Trident. Not only did he wholeheartedly support the war in Iraq, but he also committed Britain to yet more American-led wars - while in the same breath claiming Gandhi as one of his chief inspirations.

It's clear that the notion Brown will represent any shift to the left is, frankly, wacky at best. A vote for Brown will mean a vote for more privatisation, more wars, and more cuts. That's why I'm proud that SYN unanimously backed John McDonnell's campaign for the leadership. Indeed, a vote for John will be a vote for peace, workers' rights, free education, and publicly-funded democratically run public services.

It's time those in the labour movement still backing Brown to decide whether they're happy voting for a candidate who opposes Labour party and trade union policies - or a candidate who has spent his entire political career campaigning for those policies. So, who's it going to be?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Ruth Kelly - isn't it time she was sacked?

Ruth Kelly doesn't seem to have understood her ministerial brief. You see, her position entails arguing for equalities. As it turns out, she's become the Cabinet's chief advocate against equalities. I'm sure George Orwell would be amused.

See here for the story in the Guardian

Something you can do about it.....

Ask your MP to sign EDM 142!!!! (details below)

Reports out today suggest that Ruth Kelly is close to promising that the new regulations on sexual orientation discrimination in goods, facilities and services will have exemptions for religious adoption agencies.

The Government is being lobbied heavily and MPs are receiving sackloads of letters from religious groups calling for the right to discriminate against lesbian, gay and bisexual people. MPs need to hear from those of us who want an end to such prejudice and discrimination. The exemptions being called for will mean LGBT people could be turned away from hotels, guest houses, soup kitchens and other services. We have fought so hard over the past three years on this issue; please ensure that you act today to preserve the rights of LGBT people to live their daily lives free from discrimination and harassment.

Act now to save these regulations!
Ask your MP to sign EDM 142

Desmond Turner MP has tabled Early Day Motion 142 on the subject, asking the Government to ensure that these regulations are passed in full, with only a doctrinal exemption. So far it has 114 signatures; it needs many more to get the attention of ministers. Have a look at the EDM here: .
Please urge your MP to sign the EDM. You can find out who your MP is by going to the website and entering your postcode.

Sign the petition on the Prime Minister's web site
Please also sign the petition on the PM's website, which you can access by following this link: Don't forget to confirm your signature when requested, otherwise it won't count!

Write to your MP
It' s always best to write a letter in your own words. However you can use the letter below as a template if you're pushed for time.
{insert name} MP
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA
Dear {Insert name}
Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations
I am writing to express my support for robust legislation banning discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual people in the provision of goods and services.
I welcome Part 3 of the Equality Act 2006, which outlaws discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods, facilities and services. However I am concerned that further exemptions to the regulations beyond the doctrinal exemption already proposed by the Government would themselves be discriminatory.
I also welcome the Northern Ireland Regulations and urge the Government to take the same approach for the rest of the UK - that any exemptions should only be for internal doctrinal matters such as baptism and confirmation. It should not be lawful to refuse lesbian, gay and bisexual people services offered to the public such as hospices, schools and adoption services.
Any watering down of these regulations would only serve as a green light for discrimination and would not deliver for lesbian, gay and bisexual people what religious groups and others already are entitled to.
Please pass on my views to the Government and let me know your views on this matter.
Yours sincerely
{Insert name}

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The fightback has begun

It's an exciting time to be a young lefty in the labour movement. We have a socialist standing for the Labour leadership. We have overwhelming public support for the issues that many of us have been campaigning on for years - such as privatisation of public services, workers' rights, free education, foreign policy (not least Iraq), and Trident. Despite the fact that thousands of socialists have ripped up their Labour party cards in disgust at New Labour's reactionary policies over the last decade, Left candidates won the top 4 out of 6 places in last year's elections to Labour's NEC. Labour Party Conference has defeated the New Labour leadership on issues such as PFI, privatisation of health, pensions and nationalisation of the railways, demonstrating the growing chasm between the labour movement and the New Labour clique. In the trade unions, only those candidates who have at least postured to the left have won elections in the past few years.

This is the context behind last week's launch of the Socialist Youth Network. After two decades of reaction, the labour movement has begun to swing to the left. A new generation of young socialists committed to taking on New Labour has emerged. A dynamic young Labour left has appeared on the scene. Through SYN, we're ready to take on the Blairite clique who have hijacked the political wing of the labour movement. Over the coming months, Marsha and myself will be writing on this blog about the activities of SYN as well as giving our own thoughts on the latest goings-on as the Blair era comes to its long-awaited end.

Anyway, to kick things off, below is my report of SYN's launch conference last Saturday for Labour Left Briefing. Forward to socialism! (And all that)

One of the great successes of the New Labour project has been to drive young socialists away from the Labour party. It’s clear to see why it’s such an uphill struggle to convince youthful lefties that the political wing of the labour movement is the principal terrain of struggle. After all, ten years of Blairism has meant attacks on free education, the defence of the Tory anti-union laws, and the murderous war on Iraq. Little wonder that politicised young people have either joined one of the hundred or so dead-end sects; or, more commonly, thrown themselves into single-issue campaigns. With a few honourable exceptions, young Labour politics has become dominated by ruthlessly ambitious Blairite types who would probably sell their own mother for a parliamentary seat.

The young Labour left is back. Nearly a hundred young socialists attended the launch conference of the LRC’s new youth wing, the Socialist Youth Network, on 13th January. All the key elements of the young left were present, including trade unionists, students and peace activists. John McDonnell, Tony Benn and Katy Clark MP were among those who attended to offer their encouragement to the rebirth of the young left of our movement.

The fact that 19 motions were up for discussion might seem like a recipe for a sectarian bloodbath. A conscious decision was made by the conference organisers to avoid a stage-managed rally at all costs and, instead, to encourage a lively debate: a strategy not without risks. In reality, a comradely spirit dominated each discussion. All motions were debated and passed in the space of only a few hours. Given the sheer range of socialist traditions represented in the room, this was a real achievement. Crucially, the motions passed reveal a clear orientation towards the labour movement. The priorities of SYN include, for example, fighting for a real living minimum wage without exemptions, the repeal of the Tory anti-trade union laws, opposition to the privatisation of public services and the restoration of free education.

A motion pledging support for John McDonnell’s leadership campaign was the first to be passed – and did so unanimously. This is hardly surprising. Many of those attending were there precisely because they had been inspired by the John4Leader campaign. The emergence of SYN is yet further proof of the recent resurgence of the Labour left; indeed, if McDonnell had not announced his candidacy back in July, it is debatable as to whether SYN would ever have emerged.

SYN has a key role to play in the labour movement. It brings together a growing network of activists who will fight for socialism in the trade union and student movements, as well as the Labour party. It will build up an organised young left to take on the dominance of Blairites within the Labour party – not least by providing a support base for those whose only prior experience of Labour politics is contact with frothing-at-the-mouth rightwingers. Above all, it will train up a whole new generation of socialists who will go on to lead our movement.

SYN will undoubtedly play a central role in the revitalisation of the Labour left that has been underway since the launch of McDonnell’s leadership campaign. It goes without saying that years of defeat produced a vastly weakened, marginalised and depleted Labour left. Understandably, two decades of reaction undermined the confidence of even the most battle-hardened socialist; for many, it has led to cynicism and defeatism. The new generation rising from the ruins of New Labour share a new mood of militancy and a desire to go back on the offensive. Expect SYN to be at the forefront of a left advance within the labour movement.

Of course, it is true that socialist youth movements of varying descriptions have existed before and largely failed. There are grounds to believe that SYN will be different. SYN is not the front of any sect; it has solid trade union involvement, thereby avoiding the potentially fatal pitfalls of student politics; and its parent organisation has deep roots within the labour movement.

One of the great legacies of John McDonnell’s campaign will be the return of a young socialist left rooted within the labour movement. The fightback has begun.

Hello and welcome

Welcome to the SYN blog

Quick report re conference (Owen will post a fuller version) it was very well behaved with no sectarian arguments - must be a first and I was pleased to see that the majority of people there were not from the "organised Left" but were there in an individul capacity - mainly Trade Unionists and Students. This shows in the elected officers positions, of the 19 exec members only 6 are from the "organised left"

This is exactly what we envisaged SYN being, somewhere that the disillusioned disenfranchised youth can come together to engage with politics - rather than just single issues - and im really pleased that SYN is a broad church for young activists.

Despite reports from the weekly worker that myself and Owen had tried to enter into some kind of anti - communist witchhunt- our comrades in communist students were able to participate and withdrew their wrecking motion in order that the conference could run smoothly. I await there report on the confernce in this weeks issue :)

Great speeches as you would expect from John McDonnell MP, Tony Benn and Katy Clarke MP and many contributions from the floor - with one motion having no less than 11 speakers!

I was impressed with the attendance which the morning star quoted at over 100.
For a founding youth conference I thought this was very encouraging given the current climate of young people not engaging in political parties, and am looking forward to building on this. I was especially impressed with the number of women there were at the meeting.

In our movement I'm so used to being one of few or the only woman at events that it was really encouraging that there were so many there - typically though the men hogged the platform speaking on all the motions even the abortion rights and feminist motion - but I was pleased to see them supporting womens rights in relation to these particular issues!

Ive posted some pictures at the end of this report but if anyone has anymore please send them to me.

The Full text of all 19 motions is here

The Full list of Elected Officers is as follows.

Co-Chairs: Myself and Owen Jones

Secretary: Vino

Treasurer: Eamon O'Hearn Large

Womens Officer: Mary Partington

LGBT Officer: Jonathon Millins

BME Officer: Heenal Rajani and Robin Sivapalan (Job Share)

Disabilities Officer: Chris (aka Kit) Leary

Trade Union Officer: Ross Marshall

Students Officer: Sofie Buckland

General Exec

Male Seats
David Broder
Matt Willgress and Ben Folley (job share)
Angus Hebenton
Daniel Robertson

Sitara Amin
Grace Drewell
Louise McMullan
Charlynne Pullens