Monday, March 20, 2006

London news round-up

Disgrace at Dolphin Square

WORKERS at the luxurious Dolphin Square hotel in Westminster, where many MPs lodge while in London, are to be made redundant on little more than a pittance whilst the company buying the prestigious development have been accused of offering incentives to tenants to sign new leases.
The Transport and General Workers Union said it was a disgrace that the low paid staff were being treated with low esteem and given a low reward for their loyalty. The union also accused the new owners of closing down the hotel merely to increase profits.
TGWU regional industrial organiser Nick Grainger said the reason put forward for the closure, which the union has been told is to comply with a planning regulation and breach of lease enforced by the landowner Friends Provident, was viewed with scepticism. He said it was hard to believe how the hotel could operate for decades but that the change of ownership now triggered a hitherto unknown and unnoticed clause in the lease. “If what we have been told is right, it seems the hotel should never have been allowed to open let alone operate for 30 years,” he said. “People will draw their own conclusions from this explanation and feel for the loyal staff who have been misled.”
The union said the allegedly “generous” redundancy offer was, in reality, a further month’s pay on top of the statutory minimum terms. “When you’re on a low basic pay in the first place, the extra month doesn’t actually amount to a great deal compared to the service our people have given,” he said.
Up to 90 staff will be made redundant in early April 2006 when Mantilla Holdings, the Jersey-based new owners of Dolphin Square, convert the hotel to long-term leases. The TGWU said it understood the company has spent over £200 million to purchase the lease of Dolphin Square and to compensate tenants.
Nick Grainger said the sums of money being talked about for the tenants were “fantasy land” as far as the staff were concerned. “If multi-million pound sums are floating around to help ease tenants’ concerns, it is entirely understandable how the staff feel completely let down,” he said. “Many of the tenants are MPs and many are Labour MPs. “As they pocket their incentives on top of their parliamentary salary and accommodation subsidy, we would urge them to think of the people who have served them who now face a bleak future. We urge them to demonstrate a real and living commitment to social justice literally on their doorstep.”

Apology And £100,000 For Duwayne Brooks

DUWAYNE Brooks, the friend of race murder victim Stephen Lawrence, who called was attacked at the same time and called the emergency services to aid his stricken friend, has been awarded £100,000 and an apology from police after they botched the handling of the case.
On Friday the Metropolitan Police announced that it had agreed to pay Brooks and issue him a letter of apology. A statement from the Met said: “The Metropolitan Police Service can confirm that it has reached a settlement regarding civil actions brought by Duwayne Brooks against the MPS. “The claimant has agreed to discontinue a claim against a number of named individuals. The claims against the Commissioner have been settled. “This has been a protracted and difficult period for all persons involved and was initially borne out of the tragic racist murder of Stephen Lawrence and the attack on Duwayne Brooks. “The terms of this settlement include a written letter of apology and financial compensation, which was authorised by the MPA.”
Brooks’ solicitor Jane Deighton said the settlement was unprecedented in terms of the figure and also the fact that the claim was brought purely on the matter of race. “The size of the settlement and the fact that there was a written apology says that they have accepted that there are lessons to be learned,” she said.
Brooks had been carrying the action against the Met for seven years over the way he was treated by investigating officers following the death of his friend Stephen 13 years ago. Six years ago, a judge at a Central London County Court had rejected Brook’s claims for compensation against the Met. But in 2002 three appeal judges reopened the case allowing him to sue the Met Commissioner and 12 police officers for breaches of the Race Relations Act.
Brooks claimed that detectives treated him like a criminal while conducting the investigation. He said the police failed to take his account of the attack seriously and that he was not treated as a victim. He claimed victimisation and that he was treated as a suspect in the matter.
Deighton said Brooks was delighted with the settlement and will now seek to get on with his life. “He thinks it’s a sensible settlement. It’s a very large amount of money, sufficient to help him put away last 13 years. His persistence has been vindicated.”

Camden Abu Dis Meeting

CAMDEN Trades Council recently held a joint meeting with the Camden Abu Dis Friendship Association at which Dr. Huda Dahbour spoke on life in Abu Dis, a town near East Jerusalem which has been dissected by the notorious Israeli apartheid wall. This wall, which is claimed to be a defence against suicide bombings, is in reality a means of driving the Palestinians from their homes in order to expand Israel’s boundaries by stealth.
Dr Dahbour, a medical doctor, runs a psychotherapy unit to help women suffering from the stress of unrest and domestic violence. She has suffered greatly from the Israeli occupation; her own son is presently one of about sixty Abu Dis teenagers in prison for throwing stones at heavily armed Israeli soldiers.
The course of the wall cuts off residents of Abu Dis from schools, jobs in East Jerusalem and medical facilities (one school has the wall going through the playground). While the wall has a number of crossing points Israeli troops make life as difficult as possible. At the Abu Dis crossing point pregnant women going to hospital have to jump across a large ditch, thus causing injuries to themselves and their unborn children.
After Dr Dahbour spoke the audience took part in a lively discussion on the practicalities of developing links between Londoners and Palestinians. To underline just how difficult life is for Palestinians under Israeli occupation, another member of the planned delegation to Camden was unable to come because she was was refused permission to leave by the Israeli border guards at the airport.

Len Crome Lecture

EACH YEAR the International Brigade Memorial Trust holds an annual lecture to commemorate the life of Doctor Len Crome, a Latvian born doctor who played an important role in organising front line medical services for the volunteers who fought with the International Brigades against the fascist rebels in the Spanish Civil War. This year, the seventieth anniversary of the outbreak of the conflict, the speaker was Enrique Moradiellos, Professor of History at the University of Extremadura in Caceres who spoke on “Albion’s Perfidy: the British Government and the Spanish Civil War”.
The speaker’s title perfectly sums up Britain’s policy towards Spain in the nineteen thirties. Dr Moradiellos made it perfectly clear that British policy was clearly in favour of Franco’s rebellion. The policy on “non-intervention” was simply a cloak for supporting the fascists. This covert support was recognised by Franco himself as being even more decisive that the massive support received from Hitler and Mussolini.
From the start Franco’s rebellion was covertly supported by the British Government. By declaring an arms embargo on both sides the British Government immediately put the lawful elected Government at a disadvantage as they were the only side able to purchase arms. Needless to say Britain had been a major arms supplier to Spain for over a century.
Britain also refused to condemn support for the rebels which came from Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy and put heavy pressure on France, who under the Popular Front Government were supportive of the Spanish Republic, to follow the British line.
There was no namby-pamby pinko liberal nonsense about one bourgeois democracy coming to the aid of another. As one might expect the British National (i.e. Conservative) government was not displeased to see a democratically elected left wing government which included Socialists and Communists come under fire.
As British investors owned huge tracts of Spain’s metal mining industries the British government could be relied to defend their interests. However, the British government’s response was not just about safeguarding profits; they had a much broader strategic view. They wanted to ensure that their ownership of Gibraltar, which was the key to maintaining British control of the Mediterranean. For the same reason they were keen to maintain good relations with Mussolini’s Italy which presented a potential threat to British control of the Suez Canal and hence to the Empire in India.
The British Government was not openly in favour of Franco, that was politically unpalatable for the British public who were overwhelming opposed to Franco from the start, so the British Government had to deceive the electorate. While the British Government initially hoped that Franco’s rebellion would secure a quick victory and that Britain and a more reactionary Spain would resume business as usual some elements in the British Government were concerned about the war dragging on.
The unexpectedly strong resistance of the Spanish people and International Brigades, who were aided by the Soviet Union, forced Hitler and Mussolini to drastically increase their support, leading some in the British establishment to fear that Franco would become too dependent on his fascist friends.
In some respects certain British officials were more Francoist than the Francoists. One British diplomat was given a ticking off by the Foreign Office for giving Fascist salutes at meetings. The same individual even urged Franco to execute some captured British Brigaders, an attitude that shocked even Franco who was by no means squeamish on these matters.

Remembering Tom Mann

by Rob Laurie

LAST WEDNESDAY saw supporters of the Marx Memorial Library, trade unionists and family members witness the unveiling of a recently restored portrait of legendary trade unionist Tom Mann.
Alongside Library Chair Mary Rosser, Barry Camfield, Assistant General Secretary of the Transport & General Workers Union paid tribute to Tom Mann who in a long career was one of the founders of the present day Transport and General Workers Union. It was therefore appropriate that the TGWU funded the restoration.
Tom Mann who was born in 1856 at Coventry began his working life at the age of nine. At fourteen he began an engineering apprenticeship. On moving to London he eventually secured a post in an engineering shop where his foreman introduced him to socialist ideas. Taking part in his first strike in 1886, he first read The Communist Manifesto in the same year and after this date openly declared himself a communist. After a spell in the north of England he played an important part in leading the successful 1889 dock strike in London. He became first president of the
newly formed General Labourers’ Union, (now part of the TGWU).
As a member of the Independent Labour Party he stood for Parliament three times.
For nine years, 1901-1910 he lived in Australia, continuing his trade union and political work. On his return to Britain he took a Syndicalist stand arguing that socialism would be achieved through trade union activity rather than by parliamentary elections. During World War One he opposed to Britain’s involvement in the First World War.
Elected as Secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering Union in 1919 he was forced to retire in 1921. At an age when he could have enjoyed a well deserved retirement he joined the Communist Party of Great Britain becoming a strong supporter of the Soviet Union. He was still being arrested in his late seventies. He died in 1941 in Leeds.
The unveiling was attended by NCP General Secretary Andy Brooks and other London comrades.

Celebrating Marx

Comrades and friends from Africa and India gathered at the NCP Party Centre last Saturday for a reception to celebrate the life of Karl Marx, who passed away on 14th March 1883.
In the formal part of the celebrations Explo Nani-Kofi from the African Liberation Support Campaign Network spoke highly of Marx and NCP leader Andy Brooks talked about the contribution of Marx and Engels to the revolutionary movement in 19th century London. “We are standing on the shoulders of giants” Andy said. “and our struggle today will pave the way for the inevitable revolutionary changes to come”.
A representative from the RCPB (ML) called for the unity of communists and the unity of the working class to counter the bourgeois offensive and NCP President Eric Trevett praised Karl Marx’s immense contribution to the working class movement.
Though most of the evening was spent in meeting new friends and old there was, of course, time for a collection for the New Worker, and that raised £295 for the fighting fund.

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