Archive for the ‘Political Issues’ Category

BEIS outsourcing protest

Sunday, July 14th, 2019

One of many promises made by leading members of the Labour Party is that when they come to power they will put an end to the scandal of out-sourcing, which enables employers to retain the veneer of respectability while having workers engaged on key roles in their workplaces employed on wages and conditions that amount to exploitation.

Probably even Greg Clark MP, the current Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, would not stoop to employing staff on the wages and minimal conditions of service that catering and other workers at BEIS receive, and with the kind of management practices that outsourcing companies use to make a cut-price bids for contracts.

The workers at BEIS are fortunate to be supported by the PCS BEIS London and South branch; too often the major unions have failed to show much concern for the lowest paid workers, other than over them paying their union fees. Too often they have shown themselves more concerned about pay differentials and prepared to reach agreements with managements that fail to protect the interests of workers on low pay, a situation that has led to the growth of a number of small active grass-roots unions, often attacked by the traditional unions for ‘poaching’ their members as well as for their militancy.

Of course there are a number of branches of major unions who have fought for low paid workers, both their members and also others in their workplaces. At BEIS the PCS have shown how unions should behave to support low paid workers, and have also worked together with grass-roots trade unions at other government workplaces to coordinate actions.

The dispute at BEIS (and another at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office) are continuing, and it seems to be one the government are fighting more as a matter of supporting the principle of being free to exploit your workers than a matter of economics. It seems to be also one where ministers are happy to break the law, in May and June agency workers were brought in to cover the work of strikers in contravention of the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Business Regulations of 2003.

The workers have had enough. Tomorrow lunchtime, Monday 15th July catering workers and cleaners “will walkout in the first EVER indefinite strike action in Whitehall. They down tools and say “we’re not coming back til you pay up!”.

More at Living wage at Dept of Business.


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My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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Against the Sultan

Friday, July 12th, 2019

I got to the protest rather late because I stopped on the way to meet the people from Class War who were going to attend the protest. Of course they were in a pub, and the pub they had selected to meet was quite a walk from the Dorchester Hotel outside which the protest was taking place.

It took a while to finish our drinks and to get moving, and eventually I gave up waiting for them, especially when some decided they needed to get a bus., though it was only half a mile to walk. I left with one of the more active members and we hurried, getting there in well under ten minutes.

The ruling by the Sultan of Brunei to make stoning to death the sentence for gay sex, adultery and blasphemy had enraged people around the world, and protests were planned in many cities outside the luxury hotels he owns, including the Dorchester Hotel in London’s Mayfair.

There was a large crowd of protesters, but at some distance from the hotel entrance, on the pavements of the minor street that runs around the front of the building and its large yard which allow taxis to drive to its doors. There really wasn’t enough room for protesters on the pavements, but police were trying to keept the roadway clear, arguing with protesters who were reluctant to move.

Although I was over half an hour late for the start, I was still in time to photograph the two major speakers, Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry and human rights activist Peter Tatchell, as well of course as many of the protesters and their posters and banners.

Class War turned up with their two banners almost half and hour after me, and for a while stood with them on the roadway (which the police by this time had given up the impossible task of keeping clear.) Their late arrival was probably timed to ensure they missed the speeches.

After standing for a few minutes holding the banners, Class War sized up the situation decided it was time for some more definite action. They pushed aside the barriers around the hotel yard and with the ‘Women’s Death Brigade’ banner led a rush past police and security to protest on the steps of the hotel.

They shouted for the others to follow them, and a few came immediately. Eventually most of the rest of the crowd joined them for a long and noisy protest on the steps of the hotel. There were a few arguments with police who came to stand in front of the doors, but no arrests before I left three-quarters of an hour later.

Many more pictures at Brunei Sultan gay sex stoning protest


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Unfair treatment of private hire drivers

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019

Rather than write something myself about the discrimination by Transport for London making private hire drivers pay the London congestion charge to accompany some of my pictures from the protest by them at the start of April, I’ve decided to quote some of the statement made last week about their High Court case which begins today:

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) will be arguing at the High Court on 10 and 11 July that Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s decision to introduce a congestion charge on minicabs discriminates against and breaches the human rights of a mainly BAME workforce.
The IWGB is seeking a judicial review of Khan’s decision to introduce the £11.50 charge on the grounds that it is a case of indirect discrimination under the Equality Act. The charge is being imposed on a workforce that is mainly BAME (94% of London’s 107,000 minicab drivers are BAME according to TFL), while black cab drivers, who are mostly white, continue to be exempt.

This policy is also in breach of a number of articles of the European Convention on Human Rights that cover discrimination, property rights, right to a family life and ability to carry out a profession.
The IWGB has assembled a legal team which includes renowned discrimination barristers Ben Collins QC,Nadia Motraghi and Tara O’Halloran of Old Square Chambers, and TMP Solicitors founding partner Jacqueline McGuigan.

The IWGB has proposed a number of alternatives to this policy, including a cap on the total number minicab driver licenses, a levy on minicab operators such as Uber and Viavan, and the enforcement of worker rights by Transport for London (TfL).

Discrimination also runs throughout London’s enforcement regime. The most recent figures released by TfL show minicabs are almost three times as likely to be stopped by enforcement officers as black cabs, despite the fact that TfL’s own statistics show that on average minicabs are more compliant than black cabs.

You can read the rest of this statement, including quotes from some of the drivers on the IWGB web site: London congestion charge discrimination claim to be heard at the High Court 10 & 11 July

More of my pictures from the April 4th protest at Private hire drivers protest congestion charge.


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My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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Brixton Barclays

Monday, July 8th, 2019

Although my memories of the 1960s are far from clear, I’m fairly sure that the first protest I ever took part in, back when I was a student in Manchester was outside a Barclays Bank branch not far from the university in 1964. Then we were protesting against its support for Apartheid in South Africa, and stood outside handing out leaflets and calling on customers entering or leaving to move their accounts. At the time I think almost all banks were more ethical than Barclays.

A few years later, in 1969, students in the UK began the wider Boycott Barclays campaign, which became widespread and continued until after Barclays eventually sold their South African subsidiary in 1986. By then many people and organisations across society had withdrawn their accounts from Barclays causing them a loss of deposits estimated at around £6 billion a year and the number of new student accounts taken out each year had roughly halved.

It’s hard to understand why Barclays held out so long, allowing political and ideological positions to override a clear financial case for changing their policies, and disappointing that a business which had its roots in Quakerism was seen to become one of the dirtiest of banks. Perhaps as one of the largest transnational businesses in the world it simply decided it was not going to allow itself to be told what to do by protesters. But eventually it had to change.

Barclays is now under attack again for its support of fossil fuels and in particular of fracking, having invested more the $30bn in climate-wrecking fracking schemes, making it by far the worst bank in Europe. To have any chance of avoiding disastrous global warming we need to drastically cut the use of coal, oil, petrol and gas and other carbon-containing materials as fuel. Fracking not only produces dirty fuel, it also leads to extensive pollution of water sources and earthquakes; it has been banned in Germany, France, Ireland and Bulgaria in the EU and in other countries, provinces and states around the world, with further bans seeming likely.

After protesting on the busy main street in front of the Barclays branch for around an hour, the protesters held a short protest inside. They were asked to leave and agreed to do so after a few short speeches which made their position clear.

More at Climate Protest at Barclays Bank


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My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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Friday Diary

Sunday, July 7th, 2019

I had three events listed in my diary for 29th March, but for some reason, although I took the train to London, I only photographed one of them. Perhaps it was the weather, or just that I got tired and went home. But I think it was more likely that I just thought I’d done enough for the day before the last two things started.

I had after all already photographed three protests, if not the three I had come up to London for. One I hadn’t bothered to put in my diary was a regular thing, a Fridays for Future climate protest inspired by 15-year-old Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg. I photographed the first of these last October, and although there have been some big Friday school students protests since, the regular events have not really grown.

I was probably feeling pretty fed up. Although the Brexit protest hadn’t been anything like as huge as the organisers appear to have expected, I do find most Brexiteers rather depressing. Of course people voted to leave for a whole number of reasons, some of which make at least some sense, the kind of people who come to protest appear largely delusional and racist, convinced that Brexit will restore the British Empire and put foreigners, particularly black foreigners, back into their place both literally and metaphorically.

Migration to this country over my lifetime (and I was born some time before the Empire Windrush berthed at Tilbury) has revitalised our culture, giving us greater variety, most obviously in our diet, but across the whole spectrum. And it wasn’t migrants that took our jobs, but migrants who provided the workforce needed for a post-war recovery, to keep essential services like the NHS and transport running. It wasn’t migrants or Europe that took away large sections of manufacturing industry but overseas competition and government stupidity.

And again it was Thatcher whose policies greatly reduced the supply of low cost social housing, with ‘right to buy’ removing homes from councils that were largely after a few years recycled into the hands of people wealthy enough to profit from a disastrous rise in ‘buy to let.’

The last of the three events came as a surprise, when some of the Kurds I had photographed a few weeks earlier supporting Kurdish hunger strikers turned up to protest again outside parliament. The hunger strike by HDP MP Leyla Güven  began in early November; kept alive by sugary and salty drinks and vitamin B she was then on her 142 day of protest – eventually ended on 16 May after the authorities ended the isolation of Abudullah Ocalan in prison.

Kurds support hunger strikers
Fridays for Future climate protest


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My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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Brexit moan

Thursday, July 4th, 2019

I don’t like to mention Brexit. It’s a subject about which more nonsense has been talked over the past few years than any other, both before and after the referendum, which of course should never have been held.

But if you argue that one referendum is democracy in action and should be respected, it seems illogical to suggest that we should not have another one now that we have a far better idea of what leaving Europe will mean. I don’t know of course what result a new referendum would give, whether it would again generate the kind of lies and disgust with politics that drove the previous vote just over the halfway mark.

Most of the organisations I’ve belonged to have had clear rules about amendments to their constution, generally requiring a fairly high quorum and a 60% or even two-thirds majority or a majority of those entitled to vote rather than simply more votes than the other side. There were no such safeguards for the Brexit vote, which constitutionally was only advisory (although Cameron had said he would respect the decision, thinking it was certain to be to remain in Europe.)

Probably by now enough of the elderly leave voters will by now have died and new young Europe supporters will have got the vote, and together with those who have changed their minds would change the result.

Europe supporter Madeleina Kay came dressed as Brittania with a quote from Oscar Wilde ‘We’re all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars’

It now looks increasingly likely that we will leave Europe in an extremely messy way, with Boris, Farage and the DUP shouting insults at the Europeans in what they will call attempts at negotiation. We will see a hard border in Ireland, a loss in our living standards, chlorinated chickens and yet more privatision of the NHS. We’ll have a general election leading to an even more hung Parliament, probably leading to a right-wing coalition. The only consoling feature of the disatrous election results will be most of the right-wing Labour MPs who have spent almost all of their time over the past few years undermining Corbyn and their party losing their seats.

And then, perhaps in the election after next, perhaps a new revitalised socialist Labour party led by one of those now a shadow minister under Corbyn, probably a woman, will run on the platform of taking us back into Europe, win with a thumping majority and go back to Europe cap in hand. We won’t get as good a deal as we have at the moment, but they will be happy to have us back again!

Of course this isn’t an entirely serious political prediction, though I think it has more chance of coming to pass than most that we hear in the mass media, and certainly better than anything Laura K has so far come up with. Take it more as a rather dark and slightly humourous reflection on what seems an entirely desperate situation the country has got itself into.

And you can see more pictures of disgruntled Brexiteers at Brexiteers protest Betrayal.


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Christchurch vigil

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019

There was a strong reason to hold the vigil for the victims of the Christchurch mosque attacks outside the offices of The Sun newspaper. Murdoch’s papers have for years led the promotion of xenophobic views on immigration, on Europe and of simplistic right-wing views around the world, along with the misogyny exemplified by its ‘page 3’.

As I wrote in My ‘London Diary’:

Increasing numbers of Islamophobic incidents are taking place in the USA, Nigeria, Palestine, China and the UK, fueled by extreme right groups who are encouraged and emboldened by Islamophobic articles in newspapers, across the whole of the right-wing UK press, but particularly The Sun and other Murdoch titles worldwide who have engaged in a long campaign of demonisation of Muslims, and on our major broadcast media as well as on social media.

My London Diary:
http://mylondondiary.co.uk/2019/03/mar.htm#christchurch

You can see many more pictures from the event there.

I had taken both my Nikon D801 and the fairly newly bought Olympus E-M5MarkII with me, and began the event working mainly with the Olympus, which coped well in the fading light. But when it got really dark I began to severely underexpose with the Olympus, largely I think because I was simply unfamiliar with the camera.

Given that the viewfinder image comes from the sensor, I had assumed that if the viewfinder image looked good, the pictures recorded would be OK. But it didn’t seem to work like that, or at least not on the camera settings I was using. Even after using the camera regularly for over 3 months I still find its behaviour rather a mystery at times.

Of course almost all modern cameras are greatly over-complex, overloaded with features largely driven by the advertising departments. Even though I find using either of my two currently working Nikons generally straightforward, they can still throw in the occasional oddball when using flash. But I have much greater problems with both Olympus and Fuji mirrorless cameras, though rather different with the two makes.

But the Nikon D810 performed without problems, producing all of the usable later pictures using the available light, mainly from the candles. Part of the reason it worked better was undoubtedly that because I was using a wider lens I was also using a slower shutter speed, around 1/15s though that did mean a few images were spoiled by subject movement.

Vigil and protest for Christchurch victims


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My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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Syria 8 Years On

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019

Syria has certainly been one of the saddest stories of recent history. The optimism of the Arab Spring in 2011, encouraged by Western governments and then totally let down by them, becoming the second deadliest war of the 21st century so far (after the Congo). By 2016 it had seriously wounded or killed 1 in 10 Syrians. It is currently estimated that over 5 million refugees had fled the country and perhaps 8 millions are displaced inside it, from a total 2010 population of 21 million.

As so often around the world, the US had completely misread the situation in the area, not least in its 2003 invasion of Iraq which provided fertile ground for the growth of ISIS, which with covert support from both US allies such as Turkey and enemies such as the Assad regime also became a major player in Syria. At least it had the sense to support the Kurds who became the most effective force in the fight against ISIS thanks to US air power.

But both politically and militarily the US was totally outsmarted by Russia, who came to the defence of the Syrian regime (and also took some decisive action against ISIS.)

It is very hard to see much hope for the future of Syria, even though the civil war appears to be coming to a possibly bloody close in Idlib. What shape will that future take, and what will happen to the currently autonomous region of northeast Syria, the Kurdish area of Rojava, seen by many, but probably not the Syrian regime or its Russian supporter, and certainly not by Turkey as a model for a new federal and democratic Syria.

More about the protest and more pictures on My London Diary: 8th Anniversary of the Syrian Revolution


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My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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UN Anti-Racism day

Monday, July 1st, 2019

Before the march moved off from Park Lane, a group came to pose at the front carrying posters of politicians from countries across much of the world with the message ‘Wanted for Racism’, including President Bolsonaro from Brazil and the others in the picture above. It seemed rather strange to me to find that the UK representative, next to Donald Trump, was not Theresa May or even Nigel Farage but the unelected Tommy Robinson, who I hope will shortly be serving another jail sentence to add to his three previous terms.

It was of course Theresa May who set up the ‘hostile environment’ in her years at the Home Office, encouraging the demonisation of foreigners in general and sending out vans against them, as well as immigration raids, greatly beefing up the policies which had begun under Straw, Blumkett, Reid and the others. Policies which encouraged racist civil servants and the setting up of barriers including mountains of required paperwork which led to the deportation of many from the WIndrush generation.

Grenfell is another reason for nominating May. Although she made appropriate noises at the time of the fire, actions since then have largely been a way of protecting those responsible rather than seeking to bring them to justice. Her promises to those who survived the fire have not been met – over two years later there are still some who have not been found new homes.

There were many other issues raised by those on the march, particularly over the increasing Islamophobia across the country – for which Robinson must take a great deal of the blame, having inspired some to commit atrocities. He has also allied himself with Zionists groups against those calling for a fair deal for the Palestinians and opposing the ever-increasing take-over of Palestinian and Arab lands by the state of Israel. Among the marchers were several groups representing anti-Zionist Jews.

There were also those with more general but sometimes forcefully expressed views against racism and fascism, and you can see a number of these in my report on the march on My London Diary

No to Racism, No to Fascism


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My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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Big School Strike for the Future

Thursday, June 27th, 2019

School students can see clearly the threat that faces the planet – especially with some predictions that human life will be extinct on Earth before they reach middle age. I’ve never expected to be still alive in 2050, though it’s just about possible, but these people clearly should be – but quite likely won’t if we continue “business as usual“.

But its also good to be with them and to feel the energy they have, and the enthusiasm they show. As well as in the actions on the day it comes out too in the many placards. There are some mass produced from the usual culprits, Socialist Worker and the Socialist Party, but even the SWP have produced a decent one for the cause, with a nice Wave and the message ‘System Change Not Climate Change’. But clearly there are many schools where the art department is full of people making their placards.

We clearly are at a point where we need drastic change, and are unfortunately stuck with dinosaurs in charge, fiddling about with Brexit and internal party politics (both Tory and Labour) while the planet almost literally burns.

We won’t of course go on like this. It’s a simple choice, change or die, and one that has become far more critical since I first got up in front of a microphone almost 50 years ago and said we can’t go on like this. We now know much more in detail about what is going on.

Police tried to stop the protesters at the end of the Mall, but while a crowd gathered in front of their line, others coming up behind simply swarmed around the sides and ran across the grass to get to the Victoria Monument in front of Buckingham Palace.

The police gave up and the others came through to gather around the monument, and their were speeches from several of the protesters to a tightly packed crowd – and I managed to squeeze my way through to take photographs. Mostly I was so close that the fisheye became almost essential, though the one at the head of this post was made with the 18-35mm at 18mm.

After the speeches there was something of a lunch break, with people making their way along various routes back towards Parliament Square – I chose the shortest way – where some protests continued. The largest block made its way over Westminster Bridge and then turned to the east; I left them on Stamford St, deciding I’d walked far enough, but they were still going strong.

London Schools Climate Strike


There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

To order prints or reproduce images