Sunday, 26 June 2016

Labour coup plotters should put up or shut up..otherwise leave the party

What an extraordinary time for these Labour Mps to be mounting a coup against Corbyn. The stats show that 63% of Labour supporters voted for remain, 64% of SNP voters backed remain, yet no one is asking for Nicola Sturgeon to stand down. The coup Mps have proved themselves to be totally irresponsible with this action. Many of them have been itching to launch a coup ever since Corbyn was elected by an unprecedented 60% of the membership last September. There have been false da...wns like the Syria bombing vote and reshuffle but now they have come out into the open. The timing could not be worse, at a time when the Conservatives are in disarray over the EU referendum vote, with Cameron resigning and the country looking at a probable general election inside the next year. So these Labour MPs think now is the time to grab some blame for the party regarding the EU vote, which make no mistake was all born out of Tory internal party machinations. If the coup plotteers want a change of leadership they should have triggered a leadership ballot. They would ofcourse no doubt lose such a ballot of the membership - possibly by even more than last time. The coup attempt looks set to fail and in that event those involved really must consider their position in the party. We really cannot go on with this group pf people continually seeking to undermine the democratically elected leader.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Need for intergenerational solidarity post Brexit vote not the creation of more division amid a blame culture

The comments, post referendum vote, blaiming older people for the leave vote at the cost of the young really does not contribute anything beyond creating further division in a society already incredibly divided after this process. The media generally is obsessed with fermenting intergenerational conflict blaming the old for young people's problems.

The reality is that there are poor people across all the classes, both young and old. Reducing things to the young don't have it be...cause the old do is simplistic and obscures the main issue which is that it is the 1% having the mass of the wealth to the exclusion of the 99%. There are young and old in both groups.

The austerity measures pursued by this goveernment have hit the 99% particularly hard to the benefit of the 1% - this is what fueled disillusion and the leave vote - the fact this got lost in translation in a debate about immigration is one of the great unfortunates of this process.

What is needed now is to unite in solidarity across classes and generations, not build ever more division. A more equal distribution of wealth between all will bring a better happier society

Friday, 17 June 2016

The creation of a society that looks out with a spirit of generosity toward others of all races and creeds would provide fine testimony to the life of Jo Cox

The death of Jo Cox is a terrible tragedy, someone who got elected for the right reasons to help make the world a better place. She was not alone in that ambition amongst MPs. It has been one of the more nauseating elements of the last 24 hours to hear so many media outlets - that have spent the last few years encouraging an atmosphere of contempt for MPs - shedding crocodile tears over this tragedy.
Jo supported the Syrian refugees, was a positive voice on migration (a rarity indeed) and backed remain in Europe. She was about an open diverse society, the exact opposite of those who feed on the insecurity of many and the encouragement of a distrust of the other.  The best epitaph to Jo Cox would be to continue to promote that vision of an open diverse society, whilst facing down those who seek to divide us against each other.

* published Guardian, Independent & I - 18/6/2016

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Tribute to Theresa Helm - a valiant fighter for justice and peace

The news of the death of Theresa Helm will have saddened the many people who have known her over the years.

I have known Theresa for almost 20 years, though saw less of her in recent times. She was part of a group of people who came together and energised the mission of justice and peace in the Brentwood diocese and nationally during the 1990s and noughties.

Theresa was active in her justice and peace group in Hornchurch parish, together with Fran Marshall. Both then became more involved when they helped launch the justice and peace centre at Chigwell.

Fran left Chigwell but Theresa continued the valuable work there keeping the flame of justice and peace burning, long after others in the Brentwood diocese had packed up.

The Chigwell J&P centre became a hub of justice and peace work, hosting workshops and study days on issues like international debt, trade and aid, food security, globalisation, migration, child soldiers and human trafficking. The Chigwell sisters also supported the work of the National Justice and Peace Network.

Theresa was a keen advocate of training and formation of people. Much of the work at Chigwell has focused on formation over the years. Sadly, the need for formation of Catholics in the faith has never received the recognition it deserves. Theresa did her best but it was always an uphill struggle.

I remember doing a feature on the work of the centre for the Universe newspaper, focusing on Theresa and Fran. Being centred in Chigwell, the parallels were drawn with Birds of a Feather – it was never clear who mirrored which character, though we never had a Dorian.

Theresa worked closely for many years with then chair of the Brentwood J&P commission Kathy Piper, who died in 2013.

I also knew Theresa and her partner of many years Alex socially. They took me to the Gay Hussar restaurant in Soho for the first time. Alex being of Hungarian descent, seemed keen that night to try every drink in the place. A night never to be forgotten.

We also used to go to Lee Hurst’s comedy club at Bethnal Green, seeing the different comedians along with several drinks and a kebab later on.

Another occasion was a few years ago when I met up with Theresa and Alex at the British Beer festival at Olympia. I got in with my press pass, receiving a free drink to boot. It took much effort on my part to explain that if I’d had to pay it would have affected my objectivity as a journalist.

Theresa and Alex though were keen beer festival attenders. They were staying in a hotel that time for the whole four days of the event. They visited other festivals around the country, including Whitstable.    
Theresa battled and overcame against cancer but last year the disease returned. Sadly Theresa has left us now. The world will be a lesser place for her loss, always up for a laugh but also a serious person whose abilities and intellectual integrity did not get the proper recognition they deserved.  RIP Theresa.

*Funeral will take place at 1.15 on Tuesday 21st June 2016 at Chigwell Convent Chapel  

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Polly Toynbee right about Brexit supporters unleashing furies they can't control

Polly Toynbee is absolutely right in her Guardian article (Brexit supporters have unleashed furies they can't control, 14/6) to highlight how any rational debate on Europe is being lost amid a cacophony of nonsense about immigration. It is not insignificant that the owners of the newspapers who have done most to sell their products on the back of anti-migrant coverage over recent years are almost uniformally in favour of leaving Europe.
Polly is also right to point to a further lurch to the right following brexit. Indeed, on the subject of migration, the chances are that in the short term at least numbers will actually increase. The work will still be there, so those good old Tories like Boris and Gove, won't have a problem seeing European migrants replaced by migrants from elsewhere. Then what will happen to the returning Brits (2 million plus) who presently live and work in EU countries?
Migration will only reduce when the economy begins to falter. Then the migrants will disappear as quickly as they came. This doesn't ofcourse fit with the Brexit backing parts of the media fiction that migrants only come for benefits but it is the hard cold economic reality.
Migrants are not the problem and certainly no reason to leave the EU. Most of the hardships that the migrants are being scapegoated for are caused by the austerity measures being imposed by the present government. That is where the focus should be not on those who come here seeking only to contribute, earn a living and pay their taxes.

*published Guardian - 15/6/2016

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Wanstead High School student Leanne Mohamad's contribution in Speak Out challenge marks significant defence of free speech

The story of what happened to Leanne Mohamad, following her excellent speech at Jack Petchey’s Speak Out challenge event, exposes the real nature of free speech in this country.

The reality seems to be that everyone is free to speak just so long as it is not about anything that matters. The comments from some to the effect that she should have been advised to choose another subject etc underline the point.

I have seen this very authentic speech that is eloquent, articulate and speaks from the heart. Leanne draws on her own background, including the death of a relative. The treatment she received online and elsewhere has been a disgrace. The support for her both locally and nationwide since the incident has been gratifying and in the true spirit of free speech.

As a former pupil of Wanstead High, it was a pleasure to see someone giving such a powerful passionate speech about one of the great injustices in the world today. The shame was that the competition organisers did not see fit to advance the speaker onto the next stage of the contest. This though does not change the fact that Leanne Mohamad’s steadfast stands marks an important victory for free speech in an increasingly anodyne world.

* published Ilford Recorder/Wanstead & Woodford Guardian - 9/6/2016

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Goodbye to Haynes Baptiste - a friend and true fighter for racial justice over 50 years


Haynes Sylvester Baptiste was laid to rest today at St Gregory’s Catholic Church in Earlsfield, south London.

Haynes, 83, has been a fighter for racial justice in this country for the best part of the 50 odd years in which he has resided here since migrating from Dominica in 1956 as part of the Windrush generation.

He lived through the years of the no blacks, no irish, and no dogs notices being routinely put up in bed sit windows. Haynes experienced this ferocious racism at first hand.

He also fought against racism in the Catholic Church being a founder member of the Catholic Association for Racial Justice in the early 1980s and later serving as chair and vice chair. He helped lead the efforts of CARJ to break the mould of white domination of the hierarchy in an increasingly diverse Church. It was a hard battle that remains long from won.  

One of Haynes longstanding desires was to see a black bishop, reflecting the multicultural nature of the Church in the UK. Sadly, to his dying day that aim has not been achieved. It was also to the chagrin of the Bishops Conference of England and Wales that no bishop could find time in their busy diaries to attend the passing of such an important figure in the fight for racial justice. Frankly, a disgrace.  

Born in Dominica in 1932, Haynes progressed becoming a teacher on the island. He was moved around in that role, prior to deciding to come to England. Once here, Haynes did a variety of jobs, working on the trains as a fireman and in a mental hospital. He then worked for the Post Office and then British Telecom. A strong trade unionist and Labour Party member Haynes was always on the side of the workers.

When BT was privatised he left to work with the Methodist Church on racism awareness workshops.

In 1967, he married Juanita Murdock at Holy Trinity Church in Brook Green. Two years later the couple moved to Earlsfield, where they have attended St Gregory’s ever since. They have four children and seven grandchildren. Haynes was also a keen musician and cricketer.


In 2013, Haynes was awarded the Papal honour of the membership of the Knights of St Gregory for his work across society.

Haynes funeral was a testimony to the life of the man. It brought together family, parish, members of the Catholic Association for Racial Justice and people from far and wide involved in his life. There was much love and warmth displayed on the day.

I will always remember Haynes breaking into a smile whenever we met, usually opening with the words: “who have you been upsetting this week?” There would then be chat about the Church, Labour Party and the trade unions. I'll miss him.

A solid family and community man, Haynes Sylvester Baptiste has made a huge contribution throughout the whole of his life. There was laughter and tears today to celebrate a man who gave so much for a better tomorrow. Let’s hope others will be now prepared to pick up the torch of racial justice carried so long and honourably by Haynes.  

* published Independent Catholic News - 8/6/2016