Posts Tagged ‘Christine Blower’

Refugee Rights & Stop Trident – 2016

Tuesday, February 27th, 2024

Refugee Rights & Stop Trident – On Saturday 27th February 2016 I photographed two large protest marches in London. The first was part of a protest across Europe calling for safe passage for refuges and the second was against government plans to replace the UK’s Trident nuclear weapons which recently for a second time failed a test launch in 2023.

European March for Refugee Rights – Hyde Park

Refugee Rights & Stop Trident

Several hundred protesters, including many who had been to aid refugees in Lesvos and at the Calais camps and some who had volunteered in Syria with Medicins Sans Frontiers, marched from Hyde Park Corner to a rally at Speakers Corner before going on to Trafalgar Square as part of a day of protest in cities across Europe calling for safe and secure routes for all refugees and asylum seekers seeking protection in Europe.

Refugee Rights & Stop Trident

They want an end to the deaths in sea crossings and other borders and for refugees to be allowed to keep their possessions and be reunited with their families.

Refugee Rights & Stop Trident

Groups supporting the protest included the Syria Solidarity Campaign, Solidarity with Refugees, London2Calais, Migrants’ Rights Network, SOAS Solidarity with Refugees & Displaced People Soc, Wonder Foundation, Calais Action, UK Action for Refugees, Refugee Aid Initiative, No Borders and the Greece Solidarity Campaign.

Refugee Rights & Stop Trident

A woman who had volunteered at Lesvos came a child’s life-jacket worn on the dangerous sea crossing to there, more suitable for a beach holiday; others wore similar life-jackets on the march which have become a symbol for the refugees and those who drown on the journey from Turkey to Lesvos. Refugee support groups from Brighton brought a splendid banner they had made based on Picasso’s Spanish Civil War painting ‘Guernica‘.

I marched with them through Hyde Park to Speakers Corner where there was a short rally before they marched on to Trafalgar Square in front of the CND Stop Trident march which was then beginning to march from Marble Arch.

Some then decided to join the CND march but others decided to march in front of it. CND stewards at first tried to stop them but then halted the Stop Trident march for around ten minutes to leave a gap between the two marches which were following the same route.

More at European March for Refugee Rights.

Stop Trident March – Marble Arch to Trafalgar Square

Around sixty thousand had come to Marble Arch to join the march to a rally in Trafalgar Square against government plans to replace the UK’s Trident nuclear weapons at a cost of £180 billion or more.

CND say Trident is immoral and using it would cause catastrophic global damage. These weapons of mass destruction don’t keep us safe and divert resources from essential spending on services like the NHS, schools and housing.

In 2024 CND estimates that the total cost of building and maintaining Trident has been £205 billion. The UK has hung on to nuclear weapons largely as a matter of prestige and to justify its position on the UN Security Council and it has never been an important deterrent – and the recent test failures make it even less of a credible threat to other countries.

I arrived late for the official photocall before the start of the march on Park Lane because the crowd of marchers was so dense and we were soon moved well away from the front banner and those holding it by stewards in the usual somewhat unfriendly ‘Stop the War’ manner.

At the southern end of Park Lane the march halted for around ten minutes to make a gap between it and the marchers for Refugee Rights who had come to join them. I went to take a few pictures of this march and then returned to the ‘Stop Trident’ march.

After taking some pictures of the marchers, working my way through the crowds I had to leave and take the tube from Green Park to Charing Cross for the start of the rally, meeting the head of the march as it arrived at Trafalgar Square.

It was a long rally with a long list of distinguished speakers including Nicola Sturgeon, Caroline Lucas, Leanne Wood, Vanessa Redgrave, Bruce Kent, Christine Blower, Mark Serwotka, Tariq Ali and many more including some younger activists, and you can see photographs of most of those who spoke. They all opposed the renewal of Trident which they dismissed as out of date, totally irrelevant to our defence and a complete waste of money which could be put to so much better use providing proper jobs and services.

The rally went on longer than expected as we were waiting for the final address by Jeremy Corbyn who was travelling down from Sheffield where he had been speaking at a conference. He arrived on the platform to an enormous round of cheering and applause and gave a rousing speech ending the protest on a high note.

Many more photographs of the march and rally on My London Diary:
Stop Trident Rally
Stop Trident March

Ed Davey Privatises the Royal Mail – 2011

Monday, January 22nd, 2024

Ed Davey Privatises the Royal Mail: 2011 is a year Liberal Leader Ed Davey would like to forget, particularly now that the scandal around the persecution of postmasters wrongly convicted because the Post Office and Fujitsu refused to admit the Horizon software had serious faults, long exposed by Private Eye and Computer Weekly, has now emerged into public view.

Ed Davey Privatises the Royal Mail

In 2011 Lib-Dem MP Edward Davey, MP for Kingston & Surbiton as was heading the Tory/Lib-Dem coalition’s plans to sell off our postal services as Minister for Employment Relations, Consumer and Postal Affairs. Before becoming an MP he had worked as a management consultant in Sweden, Taiwan, Belgium, South Africa and elsewhere, who specialising in postal services.

Ed Davey Privatises the Royal Mail

His then boss, Business Secretary Vince Cable, was the Lib-Dem MP for the neighbouring constituency of Richmond & Twickenham, so the plans to sell off the publicly owned Royal Mail came from Lib-Dems in this small area of West London.

Ed Davey Privatises the Royal Mail

So Kingston was the obvious place for the national ‘Keep the Post Public’ protest on Saturday 22nd January 2011 and over a thousand came from across the nation for a rally and march there.

Ed Davey Privatises the Royal Mail

Kingston-on-Thames was also relevant for the royal connections incorporate in its name. Kingston is a Royal Borough and the town where many of the earliest Kings of England were crowned, and the march passed within a few yards of the Coronation stone in front of Kingston Guildhall before ending by the River Thames.

And although the Queen herself was unable to come and defend her Royal Mail, a fairly convincing royal look-alike came suitably dressed to give a royal address against selling off her Royal Mail.

Also there to speak were a number of trade union leaders including CWU general secretary Billy Hayes, Dave Ward of the CWU Postal department, Jim Kirwan, CWU London regional secretary, Christine Quigley of London Labour Youth and Christine Blower, the NUT General Secretary. Others speaking included the local Labour candidate and a school student who got huge applause for telling the rally how they had organised and occupied their local school against government cuts and fees increases.

Speakers pointed out that privatisation would result in price rises and the abandonment of the universal service which requires the Royal Mail to deliver and collect to all of the 28 million UK addresses six days a week at the same cost. And we have since seen this happen although not officially; we now get deliveries of mail on perhaps four or five days in a typical week and the collections have become far more erratic.

The cost of a First Class Stamp was then 41p. Presumably as a sweetener for buyers of the privatised company there was already to be a 5p rise in a few months time. If prices had risen simply according to the Bank of England’s inflation calculator, the stamp should now cost 58p but the actual cost now is over double that at £1.25 – a huge increase. And although using a First Class stamp was supposed to mean next-day delivery, First Class letters now regularly take 2 or 3 days or more to arrive.

There were fears that the privatisation would have negative effects on Post Offices, which had been separated from the Royal Mail delivery service since the 1969 Post Office Act, but there were still strong business connections. So far this has not led to many post office branch closures, although many branches are now part of larger stores such as W H Smith. It remains to be seen what effect the closure of many of this company’s high street outlets as it moves towards a focus on travel will have.

In 2011 I wrote “An ICM poll in 2009 found that 78% of us believed selling Royal Mail would be a bad deal for the taxpayer and 82% thought prices would go up.” And it’s clear that we were right. I (and the coalition government) also thought that “the Royal Mail represents rich pickings for the rich supporters of the government“. Its operating profits since 2013 have been over £400 million in every year except 2020 and in 2022 were £758 million. We are paying through the nose for a reduced service. That’s privatisation for you.

More about the march and pictures of the speakers and marchers on My London Diary at Keep Royal Mail Public.

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