Friday, 29 December 2017

Car must return to the role of servant rather than master if pollution is to be tackled

Standing at the point where Blakehall Road crosses over the M11 Link Road provides an excellent illustration as to why pollution has grown to the dangerous levels it has today.

I remember the protests against the building of the Link road, back in the early 1990s. The people living in a tree on George Green, the occupation of the houses on one side of Cambridge Park Road and further on down the route into Leytonstone.

The claims of the protesters then was that transport policy amounted only to building ever more roads – predict and provide. These roads would then fill with cars and cause pollution.

The car reigned supreme in those days, public transport ran a very poor second.

Fast forward 25 years to the present day and those predictions of the protesters have come to pass. The Link is a very busy stretch of road, often crammed with lines of traffic, emitting fumes, whilst moving slowly along.

Now, the Cambridge Park Road (above) is beginning to jam up at rush hour in the way that it did 30 years ago when the planners first dreamt up the Link Road.

And it is the humans living above who have to breath the polluted air belching forth from this high level of traffic. There are two primary schools and a number of care homes all sitting right on Cambridge Park road - all breathing in those fumes.

Scientific research suggests that living near roads travelled by more than 10,000 vehicles per day could be responsible for some 15-30% of all new cases of asthma in children, and a similar proportion of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and  coronary heart disease cases in adults 65 years of age and older.

There are some identifiable causes of pollution such as diesel cars, though let’s not forget it was not that long ago that people were being told these vehicles were a good thing. Now, the opposite has been found to be the case. People with these types of polluting vehicle need to be helped to make the change, not simply penalised.

The move to electric cars will improve the quality of the air. It will also cut noise pollution – the bane of many lives on roads like the A406.

The urgency of the situation is such that more draconian measures may need to be taken in the short term, such as restricting the number of cars on the road at any one time.

What is for sure is that action needs to be taken. The car has been a wonderful liberating invention for people across the world. However, the car needs to be the servant, not the master of humankind. This cannot continue, unless we are happy to go on steadily poisoning ourselves to death.

Over recent years, the rights of the car driver to drive pollute wherever and whenever has become sacrosanct – this cannot be sustained, unless we want to go on slowly poisoning ourselves to death.   

·        For details of pollution on your road, see:

published - Wanstead Directory - January


Thursday, 28 December 2017

Renewables revolution

The excellent expose on the appalling deal struck over Hinkley Point nuclear power station goes some way to explaining this governments outright hostility to renewables. The recent announcement in the budget of the removal of subsidies from renewables was a blatant act of aggression. However, if as renewable energy gets cheaper and cheaper ministers minds are clouded by the ridiculously high guaranteed "strike price" of £92.50 per megawatt hour for Hinkley generated power, who can be surprised? . 
The government should be looking to get out of nuclear power entirely and join the rest of the world in the renewables revolution.
published - 27/12/2017 - Guardian

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Fans revolution coming at West Ham

A fans rebellion was in the air at the London Stadium before the West Ham game against Newcastle United on Saturday.

Members of the self styled “Real West Ham Fans Action Group” were handing out cards around the ground titled “the revolution is coming.”

Among the demands of the group are “a fit for purpose football stadium promised by the board” and “more transparency with regards to why we sold out and left Upton Park and what the financial position of the club actually promised by the board.”

The group also calls for “more attention to detail for our disabled and elderly fans” and “better travel for our fans to away games.”

Elsewhere the group are calling for the owners to be “more professional on social media,” which should include “removing the [David] Sullivan kids from speaking on the club’s behalf.”

The group, which has formed a seven member committee are asking for fans views. via twitter@realwesthamfans or email -

Sunday, 24 December 2017

One step forward, two steps back for West Ham, as Newcastle take all the spoils from the London Stadium

West Ham 2-3 Newcastle United

West Ham manager David Moyes could not hide his disappointment at this defeat, which kept his side rooted in the lower reaches of the Premiership relegation battle.

An aggrieved manager was quick to highlight big mistakes on the first Newcastle goal and that the second was off side. “I’m disappointed but it’ll happen,” said Moyes. “We knew if we could win this today we could get away from the bottom.”

The manager admitted that the team had missed their talismanic midfielder Manuel Lanzini, who was serving the second game of his ludicrous two match suspension for the diving charge at Stoke last week.

Moyes identified the failure to convert a penalty when two one down as a pivotal moment in the game. “The penalty was such a big moment in the game, the chance to get back to 2-2.” We need to get a little bit more reliable when it comes to penalties,” said Moyes.

The manager also revealed that he would be looking at the goalkeeping situation again, after this result, meaning Joe Hart maybe returning for the game at Bournemouth on Boxing Day.

The game all started so well for West Ham, with just five minutes on the clock, when Marco Arnautovic intercepted a sloppy pass across the back by Henri Saivet. The Austrian striker then ran on to cooly finish under the advancing keeper Rob Elliot.

The lead only lasted four minutes as Saivet made amends curling a free kick inside the post .

The game continue to ebb and flow with first the visitors twice hitting the woodwork. West Ham’s Arthur Masuaku saw his long range effort pushed aside by Elliot, while Michel Antonio then nodded wide from an excellent Arnautovic cross.

The game continue apace in the second half, with Arautovic seeing his shot go narrowly wide of the post. But seven minutes into the half Christian Atsu cutting in from the left laid the ball on a plate for Mohamed Diame to prod home.

Two minutes later came the penalty as Antonio broke through the middle only to be pulled down by Ciaran Clark. Andre Ayew strode up to take the penalty but his body shape said it all, resulting in Elliot pushing the effort away.

Another sloppy piece of football from the home side saw the ball given away in midfield, only for Newcastle to break at speed with three against two defenders – the move was finished by Christian Atsu.   

West Ham clawed a goal back as Andy Carroll’s header from a corner rebounded to Ayew, who rammed the ball high into the net. The home side continued to press but in the end all to no avail.
Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez was happy with the result. “It was a great day for our fans and for our players,” said Benitez, who felt his team had been hard done by in recent games, not getting the results their efforts deserved

Thursday, 21 December 2017

The growing influence of so called gamesmanship could destroy football as an entertainment spectacle

There has been much debate recently about diving to try to get an advantage in football matches.

West Ham’s Manuel Lanzini was deemed to have dived to get a penalty, when challenged by a Stoke defender, at the end of a 70 yard run.

The referee in the game awarded a penalty but the panel that oversees such matters ruled later that Lanzini had dived.

The panel decision seems to have undermined the authority of the referee. West Ham manager David Moyes made the point well when he said that the referee was only 10 yards from the incident.

West Ham are now without their influential midfielder for two games due to this retrospective action.

Don’t get me wrong diving to get an advantage, such as a penalty, is wrong. Certain players are well known for easily going to ground under challenge – Lanzini is not one of them. However, the approach of banning players after the fact appears to run against natural justice and undermines referees.

Diving is but one unsavoury element of the game that has become prevalent over recent times.

The importing of skills that really belong in the acting profession has been going on for some years. There are a number of players, who literally only have to be touched before they go down rolling around as if shot. They then usually, make an amazing recovery, once they’ve got the decision or it has gone against them.

These antics come under the heading of gamesmanship or as some of us prefer to call it cheating. The effort to fool the officials has reached such epidemic levels, that a player who stays on his feet under challenge, can now be seen to be at a disadvantage. Football seems to be heading toward the status of a non-contact sport.

It would be wrong to say these developments are new, though a few years ago when the game was much more about physical contact, a player left writhing on the ground after a tackle from Chelsea’s Ron “Chopper” Harris or Leeds United’s Norman “bites your legs” Hunter were unlikely to be feigning injury.

Another development of recent years, to the cost of the spectator, is time wasting. Most clubs seek to time waste at some time, usually when running the clock down at the end of a game. But some will start time wasting antics in the first half of a match. Goalkeepers are particularly good at devising ways to waste time.
What has happened is that many of these nefarious ways of going on have combined to a ridiculous level, to the extent that the idea that the players are there to entertain the public seems to be getting lost.

The reaction of the authorities to these misdemeanours creeping into the game always seems to go over the top.

One way of seeking to outlaw some of these practices over recent years has been the liberal use of yellow and red cards. A player should only be booked if a foul is malicious with intent to cause harm. The number of times that a player simply mistimes a tackle or is simply a bit too physical, yet immediately the referee is brandishing a card in the air. The punishment benchmark has been altered to the extent that players are now booked for things they would previously just be warned for, whilst misdemeanours that would previously have attracted a booking, now merit a sending off.

This over penalising of players stops the flow of the game and thereby detracts from the entertainment value.

What is needed is a serious look at the winner take all culture that has engulfed football. Time wasting, diving for penalties and play acting to fool officials generally - none of these practices should have a place in the entertainment world of football. The referees have a difficult line to tread between asserting authority and not becoming the centre of attention themselves. Many fail to tread that line but are not being helped by some recent developments in the game. Failure to stem the tide of cheating and win at all costs mentality could in the end destroy football as an entertainment that people want to come to watch. It won’t necessarily take a lot of change to put things right but certainly the writing is on the wall if the problems are ignored or dealt with in the wrong way

*published Morning Star - 23/12/2017

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Young Marx – a light hearted romp through the life of a revolutionary socialist in the mid-1850s

The play, Young Marx, provides fast moving entertainment, drawing on socialist revolutionary life in the migrant community around Soho in the middle of the 19th century.

The cast, led by the excellent Rory Kinnear as Karl Marx, offer a quick skip through the life of the Marx family, with the ever dependable and supportive Friedrich Engels, in the mid-1850s.

Richard Bean and Clive Coleman’s narrative encompasses Marx role as father, drunk and genius. He has scraps with the law, duels with an opponent and suitor for his wife, impregnates the family maid - all whilst working on his master work Das Kapital.

This play entertains, whilst also informing and educating - offering a rudimentary understanding of Marx’s writings, set amid slapstick humour. The alienation of labour, commodification and the role of money all get a brief airing.

Set in Soho, mainly at the Marx family residence of the time in Dean Street, the play features insights into the refugee community, particularly the Prussians at this time, who lived in the area. The revolutionary meetings, the struggles to halt those who see a violent attack on Queen Victoria as the way forward.

Kinnear provides much of the energy, tipping over at times into his inner Michael McIntyre. Oliver Chris provides a great foil with his Engels.

In one telling moment of Engels frustration, he explains how he is an observer but Marx has the insight into how society works – the structures of class and exploitation that forces so many to live in abject poverty.  

Nancy Carroll as the long suffering Jenny Von Westphalen (Mrs Marx) and Laura Elphinstone as the maid and confidant Helene “Nym” Demuth also give excellent performances.  

Young Marx is the debut play at the new Bridge theatre, near to Tower Bridge in London. A great start for the new £12.5 million theatre, which has performance Julius Caesar and Nightfall coming up over the next few months.

*Young Marx plays at the Bridge Theatre until 31 December 2017

Friday, 15 December 2017

New swimming pool should be cause for celebration in Wanstead

The news that there will be a swimming pool in Wanstead has been greeted with much enthusiasm among the local population.

People living in this area have for too long had to travel miles to reach their nearest pool. The lack of a pool has further underlined, the sometimes heard view in these parts, that Wanstead is the forgotten part of Redbridge.

Swimming is an excellent and essential exercise. It exercises many different muscle groups, without the same wear and tear issues as say running. It also vital to be able to swim because, put simply, you could drown. It is surprising how many people around cannot swim.

There have been those who have criticised the new swimming pool venture on the basis of cost. Most notably Conservative candidate for Wanstead Village, Scott Wilding has said in the past that the pool is likely to be “a white elephant.”

Critics often mix up the sums regarding how the pool is going to be funded. It will not be coming out of revenue funding, which accounts for the day to day services that the council has to provide. So, there will not say less be less bin collections or council funded social care because of the swimming pool.

Funding for the pool is coming from capital spending. So there will be £750,000 from Sport England, with the remainder of the funding coming from internal capital and borrowing at a preferential rate. The money will pay back in time from the admission fees generated by the pool and adjacent gymnasium.

Many will have been surprised to hear the likes of Mr Wilding talk about costs, given that it is the actions of his Conservative government with its failed austerity policies that are forcing a series of relentless cuts on local authorities across the land.

Redbridge has had to absorb £134 million of cuts since 2010, with more in the pipeline. It’s cuts for the mass of people, whilst a few of the very rich continue to get ever richer with tax breaks and other benefits. These are the type of policies that have created an incredibly unequal society, best exemplified by the sight of over 1 million people going to foodbanks, while over 140 billionaires enjoy a life of plenty.

The Labour Council has struggled to keep public services for all, whilst under pressure to constantly cut. The retaining, and indeed updating in Wanstead, of the library is one major achievement. Street collections have also been maintained.

The council has struggled to maintain services against a real from the Tory government that seems determined to drain the life blood out of local communities across the land.

Given, the aforesaid, it is all the more credible that a new swimming pool to improve the lives of the many people living here should be underway – a cause to celebration. 


See - Wanstead & Woodford Guardian and Wanstead & Woodford Recorder -   14/12/2017

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

The lesson of Christmas should be that charity is no substitute for justice, especially when it comes to foodbank welfare

Christmas is a time when charity is very much at the forefront but is it a distraction from justice?
Take foodbanks. Go to any supermarket and you will find a basket full of goods, bought and donated by the public for foodbanks. Meanwhile, the supermarket pays the staff such low wages that they themselves often have to go to the foodbanks. The supermarket also has another basket round the back that is filled up with food to throw away.
Yes, it is good to give but at the same time should we not ask why in the fifth richest country in the world more than a million people have to go to foodbanks?  Also, I pay my taxes to provide a fair welfare system that supports people when they fall on hard times, not subsidise bad employers, who don't want to pay living wages. Nor do I support the culture of the present welfare system which seeks to punish people for their misfortunes and helps push them toward foodbanks.

* published Evening Standard - 14/12/2017/ Ilford Recorder - 21/12/2017

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte concedes title, as West Ham secure first win under David Moyes

West Ham 1-0 Chelsea

An action packed derby game at the London Stadium ended with new West Ham boss David Moyes securing his first victory, whilst Chelsea manager, Antonio Conte, conceded the Premier League after their fourth defeat in 16 games.

A happy Moyes explained how his side had taken confidence from their spirited perfornance against Manchester City last Sunday, which saw the Hammers lose out narrowly to the league leaders.

“We had a good plan and organisation,“ said Moyes, who once again deployed Marko Arnautovic and Michel Antonio in free running roles up front to stretch the Chelsea rearguard. A similar tactic had been deployed against City.

“We tried to fill the middle of the pitch with power and pace,” said Moyes, who though pleased with the rising energy levels of the players, said that he would like to see Arnautovic and Antonio play 90 minutes, not having to come after after 75 minutes as in this game.

The West Ham manager proved once again that he is not afraid to ring the changes, with Adrian retaining his place at the expense of England’s Joe Hart, after an impressive game against City. Others missing out on the start were the clubs four main strikers Andy Carroll, Andre Ayew, Chicarito and Diafra Sakho, all of whom started on the bench. Sakho did get on for the last 20 minutes.

The home side began as they meant to go on, not allowing Chelsea any space. The approach yielded early dividends, when, in the fifth minute, the impressive Arnautovic exchanged passes with Manuel Lanzini in  the penalty area, before calmly slotting home.

Chelsea then piled on the pressure with Eden Hazard seeing one shot go just wide, while Adrian turned another round the post.

Five minutes into the second half, Arnautovic was sent clear away by Antonio but Thibaut Courtois came out to block the resulting shot.

Fans wondered at this point whether West Ham would live to regret that miss, as Chelsea began to camp in the home team’s half.

The Hammers though held on, with Hazard and Alvaro Morata missing good chances for the visitors.

Moyes was again full of praise for the home fans for the way they got behind the team. “The fans have been fantastic since I came, it’s a great atmosphere,” said Moyes, whose never say die attitude runs throughout his players and staff. On one occasion, as the game reached  a climax, Stuart Pearce got involved, angrily kicking the ball away after a Chelsea player had tried to feign injury. The old West Ham favourite received loud applause as he returned to his seat - urging the crowd on.

Conte declared his desire to stay in the battle for the title but conceded that four losses, with two against sides at the bottom of the table really was not good enough. “You can lose once or twice,” said Conti. “I said it would be very very tough and that is proving true.”

published - "David's West Ham slays Goliath as Conte concedes title," - Morning Star, 11/12/2017 

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Uber have an annus horribilis, as brand takes a bashing

Exploitation of workers, failing to abide by regulations in London, cover up of a major data breach and sexual harassment claims are just some of the features of the past year for beleaguered care hire company Uber

In the UK, the future of the car hire company has come under threat, as TFL refused to renew its license to operate in the capital. Uber were accused of a number of irregularities, including its approach to reporting serious criminal offences, its approach to how medical certificates are obtained and use of blocking software, stopping regulatory authorities getting full access to the app.

The company has begun an appeal in the courts.

Other towns are looking closely at what is happening in London and the operation of the company, with Brighton and Cambridge among those reviewing operations.

The company has also been seeking to defend its position as a main player in the gig economy. This has involved claiming that its drivers are self-employed, so not entitled to things like holidays and sick pay.

A tribunal ruled in favour of two drivers supported by the GMB, who claimed that they were effectively employees of the company. The company appealed the key tribunal ruling on worker’s rights but lost again in November at the high court. It is now looking to take its case Supreme Court.

There was more damaging news from the US, where Uber there have been revelations of a data breach and sexual harassment claims.

Uber admitted that it had failed to disclose a cyber-attack that exposed the data of some 57 million drivers and passengers. The breach affected 2.7 million individuals in the UK. The company then paid the hackers £75,000 not to release the stolen data.

The UK Information Commissioner’s Office said that Uber’s admission over the hack “raises huge concerns around its data protection policies and ethics.”

Also in the US, former Uber engineer, Susan Fowler alleged in a blog that she was sexually harassed at and experienced gender bias during her time at the company. She claimed that one manager propositioned her and asked for sex, but her complaints to HR were dismissed because the manager was a high performer. She said Uber continued to ignore her complaints to HR, and then her manager threatened to fire her for reporting things to HR

The New York Times then published further details of other abuses involving sexual harassment and drug use.

The company hired Eric Holder, former US attorney general, to lead an independent investigation, which saw more revelations and eventually 20 staff were fired.

In June, CEO and company founder Travis Kalanick stood down.

Further problems saw the Google self-driving-car group, now known as Waymo, accuse Uber of using stolen technology to advance its own autonomous-car development. The law suit, filed in the US District Court in San Francisco, claimed that a team of ex-Google engineers stole the company's design for the lidar laser sensor that allows self-driving cars to map the environment around them.

So it has truly been an “Annus Horribilis” for the car hire company, with its global reputation in the taters. The new management will certainly have their work cut out, not least the way it treats its workers, if next year doesn’t prove to be worse than this year.  

Published by Unionline

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Wanstead Park needs a cash injection and some tender loving care

The scene in Wanstead Park at this time of year offers a panorama of colours, with the yellows and coppers blending against the greens and reds, amid a constantly changing natural scene.

It is a breath taking experience, for those of us lucky enough to be observing the different seasons of change throughout the year. The park is a real gift to people living in this area – a green lung as it were.

However, it has been alarming over recent years to see a deterioration in the state of the park. The most visible sign of the decline has been the emptying of water from the lakes.

The park has a unique water system, with the five lakes effectively regulating water flows between them.

Well that is how it worked for hundreds of years but recently the system has broken down. I am not sure if there is any flow from Shoulder of Mutton to Heronry. The Heronry lake dried out earlier in the year, it having been supplied over recent years by a nearby pumping system that saw water coming from a bore hole. The pump was broken, so the flow stopped. Thankfully, this has now been fixed, so the Heronry has refilled.

The Perch pond had a pennywort infestation, which the City of London Corporation brought in contractors to treat. Whilst this was happening the water supply from Perch to Ornamental was cut off. The result is that the magnificent Ornamental lake has been drying out for the past couple of years. Thankfully, the flow from Perch to Ornamental has now been restored, with the latter lake slowly refilling.

These sticking plaster solutions though have taken far too long to be enacted. The park was classified as at risk on the English Heritage register back in 2009, on the basis of the faulty waterways. What is required is for the centuries old system of water flows to be fixed, with maybe some extra reserves from bore holes and the Roding brought into the scenario as well.

The work that needs doing is premised on attaining a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Over recent years the City of London Corporation has postponed even applying for this money, having presented it as a panacea for resolution of all the parks problems. Things though do seem to be slowly moving ahead but we need some urgency to resolve the issues of our beautiful park.

The Friends of Wanstead Park have been trying to move things along, their efforts together with Leyton and Wanstead Mp John Cryer saw a Save Wanstead Park summit held recently in Parliament. It was aimed at bringing all the stakeholders in the park together to agree a plan of action to save the park. There seems to have been some positive movement in a number of areas but we wait to see things really begin to transform in the park.

What is for sure is that the custodians of the park, the City of London Corporation could do better. One has only to visit other parks in the area, such as Valentines and Victoria, not to mention the recently opened Walthamstow Wetlands  to see what can be achieved with a bit of money and will power.

Wanstead Park does not need huge change, it is the wilderness nature of the park that makes it so attractive to so many. What it does need is a bit of Tender Loving Care, a recognition of what a wonderful natural resource we have in the park, something that the present generation has a responsibility to preserve to hand onto future generations.

published - Wanstead and Woodford Guardian - 30/11/2017
Ilford Recorder - 7/12/2017

Monday, 27 November 2017

It's the magic of players like Payet, Di Canio and Brooking the fans want to see, not a record of how many miles players have run in a match

Many west ham fans must still have memories of Dimitri Payet and that final season at Upton Park. Much of the football played in that final season was brilliant, in the true spirit of West Ham -and the Frenchman was at the centre of most of it.
The drag backs, step overs and pull downs of the ball. The brilliant free kicks. The sense of anticipation as the ball looped over to Payet, what would he do with it next? It was the sort of exhileration that fans were happy to pay their money to see - the exciting, the unusual.
Payet ofcourse fell from grace and left the club, things have never been the same since.
We now have work rate continually discussed, have the players run far enough, are they fit enough. The result is all that matters, we must "grind out" some results is the regular cry. Avoid the drop, sack the manager. Hang on a minute is this not an entertainments business?
All a far cry from that final Upton Park season. Payet didn't tackle back but nor did Paulo di Canio or Trevor Brooking  in their time. These players were the artists of football, not the journeymen putting in the miles. Players who lifted the game to a new level of entertainment beyond the attritional business of so much we see today. Players that the fans loved to see and be thrilled by week in week out - it's what makes the beautiful game beautiful.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Fans recreate Upton Park atmosphere, as David Moyes secures first point as West Ham manager

West Ham 1-1 Leicester

New West Ham boss David Moyes likened the atmosphere in the London stadium to that of the old ground at Upton Park as the fans really got behind his beleaguered team.

A chorus of the club's anthem “I’m for ever blowing bubbles” lifted the stadium in the second half, as the fans tried to roar their team to victory.

Moyes had previously called for everyone at the club to unite and get behind the team. On the pitch, the new manager was impressed with the resolution shown by the players but believes there is a long way to go before things really come right for West Ham United.

The manager thought his team unlucky to go behind early on and was pleased they did not then capitulate. “The second half was much more like us. For 10 minutes the crowd were right behind us,” said Moyes.”We got a reaction from the players but we are still going to have to do loads and loads of work.”

“The passing and play should be better. I think the players worked hard tonight and deserved the applause,” said Moyes.

After early signs of promise, West Ham fell behind in the eighth minute as Jamie Vardy got away down the left to cross for Marc Albrighton to turn home.

There was much effort from both sides in this game, without a lot of end product. The next best chance fell to Vardy in the 42nd minute as he turned onto his right just pulling the shot wide of Joe Hart and the far post.

Three minutes later, West Ham were level, as Cheikhou Kouyate saw his header from  an Manuel Lanzini’s corner deflected into the net.

The home side pressed hard in the second half, looking unlucky not to get a penalty in the 77th minute, when Andre Ayew went down under challenge from Harry Maguire.

The final effort came in injury time, with an Ayew overhead kick going just over.

- published - morning star - 26/11/2017

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Catholic Associaton for Racial Justice loses agency status at the Bishops Conference

The Bishops Conference of England and Wales (BCEW) has confirmed that the Catholic Association for Racial Justice has been stripped of its status as a Church agency.

Founded in 1984, CARJ became an agency of the BCEW in 2002. A bishop always sat as president on the board of CARJ, with Migration Bishop Pat Lynch being the last such individual to occupy that role.

The organisation has been largely funded by the proceeds of a collections taken up on the national Racial Justice Sunday (second Sunday of September) each year. The collection began in 1995 and has been taken up every year since.

A statement from the BCEW confirmed that “CARJ is no longer an agency of the Bishops Conference.”

On the subject of Racial Justice Sunday, the BCEW confirmed that Racial Justice Sunday will continue, with a voluntary collection. “As agreed with the board (of CARJ), next year CARJ will receive some of the money from this collection,”said the BCEW spokesperson.

The BCEW were non-committal as to whether the removal of CARJ from agency status amounted to a downgrading of racial justice as a priority, suggesting instead that the focus had shifted to the area of human trafficking.

"The bishops' contemporary racial justice work focuses on migrants, refugees and asylum seekers as well as those who are victims of human trafficking. Recently this has been expedited through the office of migration policy, diocesan initiatives to support refugees and the Santa Marta Group on human trafficking,” said the BCEW. "Supporting and integrating migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and victims of human trafficking is an integral part of the Church's witness in England and Wales. It is the importance of this witness that has led to the bishops focussing this work within the Bishops' Conference.”

Others though are concerned that the downgrade of CARJ does indicate that racial justice per se is being relegated in the Church lexicon. “Hate crime, racism against Muslims and on grounds of Jewish ethnicity, not to mention against other ethnic communities at the heart of our religious community are right now on the rise,” said Francis Davis, Professor of Social Justice at St Marys University, Twickenham. “If the bishops timing is not to be misread as a lack of care we need to know what plans they have to convincingly address these issues as core business.”

At the recent CARJ AGM, a motion was passed stating: “Regretfully, we accept that Bishops’ decision that CARJ will no longer be an Agency of the Bishops’ Conference. However, we commit ourselves to engage with diocesan bishops and to develop a positive partnership for the future.”

Yogi Sutton, chair of CARJ, said:”We in CARJ accept that the Bishops Conference wish to give priority to the issue of ‘migrants, refugees and trafficking.  

“CARJ has a wider mission which involves us working with a variety of partners (religious and secular) and supporting a variety of vulnerable groups.  The recent Race Disparities Audit has confirmed the complex and diverse network of inequalities that currently exist in UK society and the need for those working for racial justice to address this complexity .

“We believe that the Bishops’ more focussed mission and CARJ’s broader mission require a degree of independence.  However, both are important, and the two are complementary and should be mutually supportive.  We hope in the future to work alongside the Bishops Conference in a mutually supportive, complementary and independent partnership.”

CARJ works in dioceses and parishes to support people from diverse backgrounds. CARJ aims to empower black and minority ethnic Catholics to give them an effective voice in the Church and in the wider society.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Polluting ourselves to death

A recent report from the World Health Organisation  declared that millions of people in the UK were  inhaling air that is too dangerous to breath.

The study found that 44 out of 51 towns and cities failed its test for fine sooty particles smaller than 2.5 microns across.

The particles, known as PM2.5s, have been linked to causing heart disease and premature death and they should not exceed 10.5 micrograms per cubic metre of air.

Among those places with excessive levels were London registering a level of 15 micrograms. Glasgow and Scunthorpe topped the chart with levels of 16. Birmingham recorded 14 and Manchester 13. Edinburgh and Inversness were among the cleaner places, with levels of 8 and 6 micrograms respectively.

The lack of concern among so many people regarding pollution is amazing. There is now a pollution epidemic, whereby we are effectively poisoning ourselves and our children in order to live environmentally destructive lifestyles
The effects on our health are frightening, with higher levels of asthma in children due to pollution. Children also  fail to develop full lung capacity, which leads to problems in later life, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

It is estimated that pollution causes 40,000 premature deaths in the UK each year, some 9000 in London.

In the Wanstead area, residents around Woodbine Place have complained about the pollution being caused by the buses sitting with their engines running. There have been high levels of pollution recorded around major roads, often near to our schools.

There is a growing awareness of the problem but also confused thinking regarding solutions. People don’t want to breath polluted air yet also don’t want restrictions imposed on their use of cars, planes and other polluting technologies. We really cannot have it both ways. Polluting technologies have to be restricted and in the case of things like the diesel vehicles totally eliminated over time.

The London Mayor Sadiq Khan has shown the way, putting cutting pollution high on his list of priorities. The first measure has seen a toxic charge of £10 imposed in the central London congestion area for polluting vehicles. This mainly relates to petrol and diesel vehicles registered  before 2006. The plan is then to extend the range for the charge out across the majority of London.

It is a start but much more needs to be done.

Other countries have taken much more radical action to cut pollution. In Paris, there are odd-even bans on vehicles, with public transport made free at times of high pollution levels. Car and bicycle sharing schemes are encouraged.

In Copenhagen,  cycles are prioritised over cars, so there are now  more cycles than people. It has been estimated that one mile on a bike benefits society by 27p whilst a mile in a car costs 15p.

In Zurich, the number of parking spaces has been capped, with only a certain number of cars allowed into the city at any one time.

So there are many things that can be done, if the will is there. Central and local  Government actions in terms of regulations will help to cut pollution but people also need to take action individually to live less polluting lives. Drive a little less, use public transport more and reduce those flights. A collective push by everyone can see the scourge of pollution defeated but only if there is a common will to achieve that goal. 

 Former US president John F Kennedy summed up the situation well, when he said: “In the final analysis our most basic common  link is that we inhabit this planet. We breath the same air. We cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”

published in the Universe - 17/11/2017

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

150 years of Building Ilford exhibition

The excellent 150 years of Building Ilford exhibition at the Redbridge museum shows how the town has developed from virtual village status in the mid 19th century.

The pictures and videos take the visitor through different periods, revealing how Ilford developed along a steady line, with sudden upheavals seeing big changes in the basic choreography of the town.

The early 1900s saw the bridge down the hill from the Broadway, over the River Roding flowing on to the Thames further along. Few, today, would realise that Ilford used to be a place where boats docked and unloaded cargo.
Then there was the old clock tower at the top of the hill at the Broadway cross roads.
One scene shows an aerial shot of the high street in 1937, busy with people and early motor cars. A place for the well healed, as well as the workers, keeping things ticking.

The old distinctive Hippodrome building, standing opposite the railway station, was destroyed in the war, eventually be replaced in later years by a series of shops including  C&A in the 1960s.
Noticeable in the depictions from the first half of the 20th century are the trams and tracks running along the high street and other avenues around the centre of town. What a retrograde step it was when all these tramways were torn up by the car dominated culture of the post war world – a sign that not all change is for the better. Maybe, one day the they will return, with tramways once again running from Ilford right into the centre of London.

The 1960s were another time of major recasting of Ilford, with the distinctive brash building of that era coming to dominate the skyline. Big shops like Harrison Gibson stand out.

The next big changes came in the 1980s, with the new bypass around the centre of town, some pedestrianisation. Some old buildings were removed but one positive development saw the building of the central library in 1984. The Exchange also arrived creating a new hub for the town amid that pedestrian precinct.

Now today, the town seems to have entered another period of recasting, with the coming of Crossrail, likely to further change the nature of the town. More housing is coming to the area, with Sainsburys due to redevelop its present site, building hundreds of flats on top of a new supermarket. Other developments are underway or in the pipleine .

The exhibition is fascinating for its depiction of how humankind is constantly changing and shaping the built environment. Sometimes for good, sometimes for ill - with the often subjective judgment residing in the eye of the beholder. The people, though, are but players on the stage, there for a short while, before moving on . The transitory nature of the built and human environment is well illustrated in this excellent exhibition – well worth a visit.
*The 150 years of Building Ilford exhibition runs until June 2018 at the Redbridge Museum, Central Library Ilford    

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

David Moyes has the chance to revive his own and West Ham's fortunes

The owners of West Ham United have finally sacked manager Slaven Bilic, replacing him with David Moyes.

So the show goes on at the London Stadium, only with a new ring master in charge. Moyes though has bridges to build from the start, with fans already gathering petitions protesting against the appointment of the former Sunderland, Real Sociedad, Manchester United and Everton manager. The protesting fans are most concerned about Moyes recent CV that has been something less than impressive. He took Sunderland down last season, failed in Spain and at Manchester United - though in the latter case, he was not given a lot of time or the resources that his successors received to do the job.

At West Ham, if he can start well and get the fans behind him, Moyes maybe able to get back more to the halcyon days of his career at Everton – the fans will certainly be hoping that is the case.

The demise of Bilic has been a sad thing to witness. The former West Ham player came in on a high for the final season at the Boleyn ground. His tenure began well with victories at Arsenal and Liverpool. Dimitri Payet thrilled the fans, with his breath taking skills. The great football continued almost to the end of the season. A better last week could have seen West Ham finish fourth. In the event, they came 7th.

Already though some of the cracks were beginning to appear, with some silly points given away with na├»ve mistakes, particularly in defence. The second season started badly at the club’s new London Stadium home.

Recruitment was bad over the summer, with the players brought in on the whole not being up to the mark. This was emphasised further in the January transfer window when the club paid over the odds for Robert Snodgrass (£10m) from Hull and Jose Fonte (£8m) from Southampton.

It took time to iron out the problems at the new stadium, though this was done in time but whatever anyone says the London Stadium will never be the Boleyn ground. Bilic managed to pull things around on the pitch with the team finishing a credible 11th.

There was though all the time the rumours of boardroom unhappiness with the manager. Other managers were being touted to replace Bilic, who was not offered an extension on his three years contract.

The West Ham high command have a very strange way of working with their managers, which seems to involve a lack of direct contact but communication by social media. Whether intended or not it creates a feeling of undermining all of the time, rather than everyone pulling together against the perceived outside enemy – namely, the other football clubs in the Premier League.

The signings made last summer looked good - Javier Hernandez (£16m), Marko Arnautovic (£24m), Pablo Zabaleta and Joe Hart. However, the new signings have not gelled. Hernandez has been played all over the place, often visibly showing his displeasure with team mates and the management. Arnautovic upset Bilic early on when he was sent off in the Southampton game putting the team in a difficult position. He never really got the manager’s confidence back after that and has been a substitute in recent games. Zabaleta  has probably been the pick of the signings, though even he has given away a number of needless penalties. Hart just looks permanently frustrated at what is going on in front of him. West Ham is certainly not a happy ship.

Moyes will need to sort things out from the start. If he does the players are certainly there to get a top eight finish but there are clearly some dressing room issues that need resolution.

Most will be sad to see Bilic go, he’s an honest man, who never hid when things were going wrong. He has been let down big time by the players. Hopefully, he will go on to better things elsewhere.

The owners of West Ham have given the manager longer than many would in the crazy world of football these days but no doubt saw the need to act as the team seemed to be drifting toward the relegation trap door. The boardroom though need to take a look at itself, cut out the social media activity in favour of the old fashioned idea of direct one to one communication. They also need to put their money where their mouths are. West Ham’s ambitions have always been high but at the moment they maybe getting 57,000 crowds but the net transfer outlay (£20 million in the summer) is more in line with an aspiring Championship side.

Nor are the club bringing through the young players in the way they used to or other clubs like Spurs continue to do today. This is another source of constant irritation for the fans, who want to see local lads playing for the club.

David Moyes has a golden opportunity to revive his own career and reputation. The players also have the chance to make amends for the way they let down Bilic. Some of the players who were in with Bilic will no doubt not be Moyes favourites, whilst  others on the Croatian’s periphery could come into the fold with the new manager. Opportunities abound.
The owners can also see the club move in the right direction if they back their new manager in all ways, including providing the funds he will need in the January transfer window. West Ham are not in the position Sunderland were last year, they are skirting with relegation, a decent run of results would put them in the top 10 of the Premiership. The money is there, so if Moyes doesn’t make it happen at the London Stadium then there has to be doubt whether he can make it anywhere anymore.

published 8/11/2017 Morning Star - "Moyes and West Ham could be the perfect fit"

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Vultures circle around West Ham manager Slaven Bilic after latest Liverpool defeat

West Ham 1-4 Liverpool

West Ham manager Slaven Bilic looked like the next likely victim of the sack a manager merry go round that appears part and parcel of the Premiership scene.

After this defeat it looks odds on that Bilic will become the next Premiership casualty, joining Frank de Boer (Crystal Palace), Craig Shakespeare (Leicester City) and Ronald Koeman (Everton) on the managerial scrap heap.

The beleaguered manager once again accepted responsibility for this latest lack lustre display from his team. “Ofcourse I believe in myself, my work, my staff and my players. I don’t feel a broken man, I feel very strong,” said Bilic, whilst admitting “the situation for West Ham is not good.”

“We are conceding too many goals. We are working hard, it is nothing to do with effort ,” said Bilic. “Are we playing well , no we are not playing well. I am taking responsibility for the situation and face the consequences.”

The sombre mood suggests  swirling discontent in the background at West Ham betrayed by the references in the club programme to last week’s draw at Crystal Palace drawn as though it were a defeat.

In this game, the home side began brightly matching the visitors for effort and invention. As early as the eighth minute striker Andre Ayew got through but saw his effort hit the side netting.

But once again come the 21st minute the concentration of the West Ham players faltered. A West Ham corner was picked up by the excellent Mohamed Salah, who ran three quarters of the length of the pitch, exchanging passes with Sadio Mane before finishing with aplomb past Joe Hart.

Two minutes later, sloppy defending saw a low driven corner bounce off Mark Noble, forcing Hart into a save which rebounded for Joel Matip to drive home.

West Ham got a goal back through Manuel Lanzini but the differential was quickly restored with Alex Oxlade Chamberlain finishing a move that began from the kick off.

The rout was completed by another Sane-Saleh combination, with the latter once again finishing clinically.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was full of praise for his players, particularly Sane, who had just returned from injury. “It’s been a fantastic week, the boys wanted to fight back after Tottenham (1-4 defeat),” said Klopp.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Left needs to take ownership of the idea of a Universal Basic Income

The Universal Basic Income (UBI) is an idea that has been picking up support over recent years but it is one over which the Left needs to assert ownership.

The UBI is a radical idea that has drawn supporters on the left like John Kenneth Galbraith and Milton Friedman on the right.

The idea appealed on the left on the grounds of redistribution of wealth for the good of all, equality and egalitarianism. The appeal to the right is in cutting the power of the coercive state, reducing welfare and “promoting freedom.”

The driving forces for the idea now come with the increasing levels of automation going on worldwide and the need to find solutions to welfare provision.

The idea resonates with the outlook in the 1970s, when it was predicted that in the future there would be shorter working weeks, more leisure time and earlier retirement ages. These predictions remember existed long before the internet came along.

Then came Margaret Thatcher with the neoliberal model, which promptly saw the opposite occur with longer working weeks, less pay and an ever more distant retirement age.

However, despite the damage caused over the past 30 years by the neoliberal model, the underlying motors of development foreseen in the 1970s have continued to grow.

Ironically, it has been some of the features of neoliberalism that have helped accelerate the demand for the UBI today.

So the neoliberal model has led to a very polarised society with “the 1 per cent” at the top, with fewer and fewer people coming to hold most of the wealth.

The wealthy don’t spend money in the same way that the poor do, they often store it away or place it offshore — so demand in the economy falters.

This problem will be exacerbated in a world where there is a growing population but fewer jobs due to automation.

In the future, many ask where will the money come from to create that demand to keep the wheels of market capitalism turning?

In Britain, the recognition of the crisis in capitalism has seen the tentative efforts to raise the minimum wage to a living level and extend personal tax allowances, taking many people out of tax.

Many questions remain of course. Such as what would be the motivation for people to work if they were receiving UBI?

The level would inevitably be low so many would want to work anyway. On this point there are concerns from unions that UBI could be set too low, thereby cutting welfare, while not providing adequate compensation via payment.

UBI though is gaining support.

The Finnish government is experimenting with the idea, making tax-free monthly payments of £300 to a random sample of 10,000 adults of working age, as part of a two-year experiment. Some 20 municipalities in the Netherlands are conducting similar experiments.

Ironically, it would seem the advance of capitalism in its present form seems likely to make UBI inevitable in the medium to long term. There simply will not be the jobs and subsequently demand for products.

Funding for the UBI is likely in the main to come from general taxation, with the sums no doubt taking some balancing.

However, the idea is an exciting one, brought about in many ways by the ongoing contradictions of the capitalist market system model. It is an idea of which that the left needs to take ownership. In that respect, it has been good to see Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and several unions, including Unite, giving support to the idea Not all though are convinced with Labour MP Jon Cruddas a vehement critic.

 There is though much to be resolved before a Labour government could adopt such an idea, which is why the debate needs to be taking place now.