Sunday 16 August 2015

Lies, damn lies, and newspaper headlines...

Today's Daily Mail / Mail on Sunday article on coffee, which unjustifiably attacked Laura Alvarez the wife of Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn, serves to highlight two of the many things which are wrong with the current system. Namely (1) that the global price of commodities is fixed by the stock market not by the producer, and (2) newspapers think they have the right to sling mud at innocent people and get away with it.  

Coffee is the 2nd largest commodity market in the world!

(1)  Coffee is one of many things that is traded on what is called the commodities market. The price then set by the brokers often bears little relation to the actual cost of production incurred by the coffee growers, it's all about the brokers. In years where the harvest does well the commodity price drops, in years where there is a poor harvest then it rises. None of this takes account of the needs of the sole farmer growing his crop and facing local issues such as weather conditions, diseases, labour costs, living expenses, etc. 

To read an interesting article on how the commodities price for coffee works see here:
and to see which other commodities are priced in the same way, see the NASDAQ page here:

Fair Trade coffee sets a floor, or base price, below which the price paid to farmers must not fall, but even that can leave huge discrepancies in income versus production costs for the farmers themselves because it is still based on the commodities system. The only way to improve things is to do away with the commodities market and set up a better system that actually benefits those who produce the product (i.e. farmer and workers) rather than those dealers on the stock markets.

The Mail headline claims that Cafe Mam is Laura Alvarez' business. 


(2) Ms Alvarez's business is called Mexica Products Ltd, which, according to DueDil, "was founded on 17 Jun 2013. The organisation's status is listed as "Active" and it currently has one director. Its founding director was Ms Laura Alvarez Tonis.  Mexica Products Ltd does not have any subsidiaries."  The company is listed as a Wholesaler of Coffee, Tea, Cocoa and Spices. Ms Alvarez is not listed as an owner or a staff member of Cafe Mam! 

Cafe Mam is an American business, base in Eugene, Oregon. The history and ownership of  Cafe Mam is given on their own website as follows,
This story begins in 1982, when a group of farmers in Mexico read a magazine article in the Co-evolution Quarterly about New Growth Forestry, a worker-owned cooperative pioneering in stream restoration work in northern California. They were interested in learning how to teach erosion control in Mexico. This group of farmers invited one of New Growth’s members, Dahinda Meda (Café Mam founder), to visit them in Tlascala, Mexico, and teach classes on erosion control. In 1987, two of Dahinda’s students from that class, Jose and Marta, became advisors on organic techniques to the recently formed coffee cooperative, ISMAM (Indigenas de la Sierra Madre de Motozintla).

In 1989, ISMAM harvested its first certified organic crop of coffee, and because of the connection with Jose and Marta, Dahinda purchased the first 37,500-pound container of coffee from ISMAM (invoice # 0001). Thus, Café Mam was born.
If you want to know more about the coffee market, and Fair Trade principles, this is well-worth a read:

The dirty tricks brigade!

The reason that Ms Alvarez has been singled out for this unjustified attack is that she is the wife of the man whom that newspaper does not want to become the next leader of the Labour Party!  So, if they cannot denigrate him and his policies they will attack his family. Next will be his ex-wives, his children, his parents, and possibly even his grand-parents! 

It is a shame that journalists sink to such depths, but it also demonstrates just how rattled the established media is by the prospect of Jeremy Corbyn being elected leader of the Labour Party.  

Meanwhile, it remains to be seen whether or not the Daily Mail will apologise for its error in the same large print in which the allegation appeared, or even if it will apologise at all!

Saturday 15 August 2015

Re-awakening the sleeping dragon...

Are we nearing the end of Labour Party?  If you read some of the doom-sayers and fear-mongerers in the mainstream media you might think that the party, nay the whole world, might implode if the Labour leadership election is won by Jeremy Corbyn rather than one of the other three candidates.  But the astonishing support at his rallies throughout the country has reawakened the sleeping dragon in the heart of the Labour Party.

Ordinary members of the party who, for far too long, have felt distanced from policy making, or who have been disillusioned by austerity politics, have come alive with all the fervour of missionaries and are determined to bring the Labour Party back to government as the party which represents and cares about people.

The Party needs to stand together and bring those who have drifted to the right, or who been seduced by the politics of austerity, back into the fold.  Remember that many of them have only known a Labour Party run by Blairites, and if they do not know the party's history and what it (and we) stand for, then of course they are going to disagree.

Remember too that we have years of press and media brainwashing, of those within and outside of the party, to counter, which has drawn a picture of benefits' claimants as scroungers and workshy, painted immigrants as dangerous terrorists, and the old, sick and disabled as being a drain on the public purse.  This is what we have to reverse! 

Our task will be to help people to understand what Labour values are all about. To have a Labour government we need to garner the trust of the people across the political spectrum and persuade them to vote Labour rather than Green, UKIP or LibDem. There are members of other parties agreeing with some of the policies that Jeremy has put forward, so we need to build on that, and try and create a better society. We also need to convince those who did not vote at the last election, or who have never voted, that they should vote for a Labour government.

We want to be able to build a more caring and compassionate society, where we do not have people living in fear of benefits cuts and sanctions, or of being made homeless or struggling to afford their home due to the bedroom tax. We need to explain that a hard decision for many in today's society is not choosing between a holiday at Disneyworld or one in Marbella, it is having to make the choice between feeding their children or paying their rent.  That the sheer effort of getting through from day to day, or week to week, puts an enormous strain on the physical and mental health of families and individuals struggling to cope, and that we all, as a civilised society in a first world country, have a duty of care and compassion to others.

There are some within the party who will never agree with us, the Blairs and the Mandelsons of this world, but they are few and we are many. When Jeremy wins the leadership we will have the opportunity to make change happen. We need to stay strong and focused and spread the word that a better time will come.

Friday 14 August 2015

Disparaging other candidates: playground behaviour or grown up debate?

I am truly shocked at reading the attacks on Jeremy Corbyn by the other candidates,  Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall, as reported widely on the BBC and in other media.

Mr Burnham, Ms Kendall and Ms Cooper need to take note that under the Code of Conduct for the Leadership Election, to which they agreed by standing, no candidate or any member of their campaign team is permitted to "to disparage or brief against any other candidate". *

And the Code also says in respect of the election process, "This does not preclude candidates undertaking press, Radio or TV interviews, though under no circumstances should any candidate disparage any other aspiring candidate." **

This is a grown up leadership election and candidates should not be name-calling like children in the schoolyard. If candidates cannot behave like decent human beings then they are not worthy of the support of party members and are guilty of bringing both the Labour Party and the election process into disrepute. 

Source: C. Elections for Leader and Deputy Leader 2015 - Candidate Code of Conduct
* Para 3   ** Para 13    Issued by the Labour Party.

"Why on earth is he suddenly the bloody messiah?"

A friend of a friend on Facebook made the following comment about Labour leadership candidate, Jeremy Corbyn, "He's made no impact in 22 years as an MP apart from campaigning to ban the importation of foie gras. Why on earth is he suddenly the bloody messiah?"

Overlooking the inaccuracy of  the remark "in 22 years as an MP" (he has actually been there for 32 years, maiden speech 1st July, 1983),  I have to say that there is much more to Jeremy Corbyn than just an aversion to pate!

He has one of the highest levels of support from voters in any constituency in the country, and in the recent election managed to increase his majority to around 21,000,  an increase of almost 6% on 2010.  Not many Labour MP's managed that, did they?

He is very aware that the money he spends as an MP on his office, staff and expenses comes from our taxes, and he is as careful with it as he can be, which is why he has one of the lowest expenses records of all 650 Westminster MPs.  He is often seen travelling around London on his bicycle or on the bus, as this is both economical and environmentally friendly.  How many MPs do you meet on the bus?  

His strong advocacy for the rights of women, LGBT persons, and ethnic groups has been in evidence since his arrival in Parliament, and his support for maintaining a publicly funded NHS that provides the best service available free at the point of use goes has its origins in his days as a NUPE full time official. 

He has campaigned on behalf of many victims of miscarriages of justice, and is passionate about protecting the poor, the vulnerable, and our human rights.  Just recently, as one of the 48 Labour MPs who really understand that the opposition party's role is to oppose and not to abstain, he voted against the Tory's Welfare Reform Bill, when the official party line was to abstain.

He has been travelling around to rallies (around 70 of them so far in a matter of 7 weeks), attracting crowds of up to 2,000 people in (and sometimes outside of!) huge venues all round the country,  all of whom are wanting to hear him speak, because what he says resonates with them.

He is connecting with and inspiring people who had walked away from the Party under the Kinnock, Blair, Brown, Miliband leaderships,  and bringing them back to the party, but more than that, he is inspiring a whole generation of youngsters who have not seen anything worth voting for in recent elections and who felt that politics wasn't relevant to them as no-one listened to their points of view anyhow.  He listens.

Thousands of new members have flocked to join, or return to, the Labour Party as full members, registered supporters or as trade union member supporters as they re-engage with the political process, so that the number eligible to vote in the Leadership election is now over 610,000.

Come 12th September the final result will be in, and the party will have a new leader.  Until then, just watch and wait, and take notice of how many people are actually talking about politics again, is this something we can call "the Jeremy effect"? 

Sunday 9 August 2015

Do you feel the other political parties don't represent you?

Or are you a lapsed and disillusioned Labour supporter?  

If either is the case, and you want to support a movement to bring politics back to the people then why not support Jeremy Corbyn's campaign for Leadership of the Labour Party?  Jeremy has been speaking to packed venues throughout the country over the past 6 weeks or so. 

His message is simple: austerity does not work, people deserve better, we can make a difference.  If you agree with him then why not join the campaign for Jeremy for Leader?  If you are on Facebook you can join the support group I'm backing Jeremy Corbyn or follow / support the campaign on Twitter

Simply follow this link to sign up as a supporter of the Labour Party
or here to join as a full member

Being a supporter will cost you just  £3 (minimum - you can pay more if you want). That's less than the cost of a high street coffee in most places!  Full membership rates vary depending on age, and whether or not you are working, retuired, unwaged, etc...  

Being either a supporter or a full member will give you a vote in the leadership & deputy leadership elections, and for London Mayor Labour candidate if you live in London. But you must sign up before 12 noon on Wednesday 12th August to ensure you have a vote.

If you care about this country and want to help make a difference, then it makes sense to add your voice to the 140,000+ supporters who have joined Labour since the leadership campaign began.

Saturday 8 August 2015

Being a left-wing nuisance is necessary and desirable

Becoming involved once more in the politics of the Labour Party, and the election for its new leader has given me much to think about over the past weeks. Coming from a trades union background (USDAW), serving on trades councils, and being appointed as a national officer for BTOG at, what was then, a very young age for such a job (26) I met and worked with many committed trades unionists who were considerably older than I was. Indeed, many were old enough to be my parent or even grand-parent, in some instances! 

Having that experience helped me to learn such a lot about the history of the Labour Party, from those involved, and what it stood for, and what it had achieved in the years before I was born. I enjoyed long chats with people who had been on the Aldermaston Marches, with people who had been involved with the NHS at its inception, and with those who had been involved with various labour disputes over the decades. It was, for me, where I honed my political beliefs, beliefs which I had first heard at the knee of my lifelong Socialist grandfather, who died when I was 10 years old.

One of the women with whom I had contact whilst working at USDAW was the late Audrey Wise (1935-2000), former MP for Coventry South West (1974-1979) and Preston (1987-2000). Audrey Wise teamed up with Jeff Rooker to draw up the Rooker-Wise  Amendment to the then Chancellor Denis Healey's 1977 finance bill. The Rooker-Wise Amendment "introduced retrospective inflation-proofing on tax allowances, which led to £450m being handed back to taxpayers." That was quite an achievement - two backbench MPs managing to over ride the plans of the Labour government's own Chancellor for the people. It made me realise that ordinary people could make changes happen if they stand up for what they believe in.

Audrey was a huge inspiration to me. She was never afraid to say what she thought, she spoke her mind, and stood firm for her principles. According to her obituary in The Guardian, "At Westminster in the 1970s she was regarded as something of a left-wing nuisance, a state of affairs that she viewed as necessary and desirable." In many ways Jeremy Corbyn reminds me of Audrey: firm in his beliefs, principled, straight talking, able to inspire people and to make them believe that they can make changes happen.  It's also what I believe in.

Thursday 6 August 2015

Less than a week to go... have you done it yet?

It is the final week for anyone to register as a supporter of, or to join as a member of, the Labour Party and have a vote in the forthcoming leadership and deputy leadership election. So if you are a supporter of the Party and want to have your say but have not got round to it yet, now is the time to do it!  The closing date is Wednesday 12th August, 2015, 12 noon. 
All fully paid up members, affiliated and registered supporters who have submitted their applications by noon on 12th August 2015 are eligible to vote. You can become the Labour Party’s newest member at and you can sign up as a registered supporter by heading to
Signing up as a supporter will cost you just a measly £3, full membership costs around £3.88 per month, with reduced rates for juniors, retired, unwaged, and trades union members.  For your support / membership you will be able to vote for 
  • Leader of the Party
  • Deputy Leader of the Party
  • London Mayor (if you live in London)

If you care about the Labour Party's future and share its values then why not add your support?  You can read more about the various membership options here:

Straight on for Jeremy Corbyn!

There is one candidate who has said the same thing from the outset, one man who set out his stall and has stuck to his word all the way through, which is why he has been speaking to packed rallies up and down the country, why thousands of people have been queuing to hear him speak, why thousands more have watched him live online, and why his support has been growing at a remarkable pace over the past weeks.

There is one man to lead the Labour Party: Jeremy Corbyn for Leader. 

Can you believe it!

Andy Burnham is to pledge that Labour will promise to axe university tuition fees if he becomes the party's leader.
So says the BBC, in another comment on the slippery road to political party leadership. 

This announcement looks like a desperate bid by Burnham to counter the support being given to fellow leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn, who has always opposed such tuition fees,  and who voted against their introduction from the outset!

Witch-hunting in the Party

A report on the BBC website states,
Harriet Harman has written to all Labour MPs asking them to check new members are not trying to skew the party's leadership contest.
Each MP has been sent a list of new members from their constituency so they can check for suspicious names.
If I had been told this casually I would have dismissed it as more media rubbish, but here on the BBC is the astonishing claim that Labour MPs are to vet new members and supporters to make sure they are genuine and not loony-lefties or Commies or other infiltrators.

It beggars belief that Ms Harman thinks this is a good idea - but then her last good idea was to recommend that Labour MPs abstain on the Tory's Welfare Bill vote - an idea so good that 48 Labour MPs who disagreed actually voted against her advice. Well done to them! 

So, Labour MPs are presumably to spend their Summer break whizzing around their constituency checking up on new signups. That will be fun for them!  Picture the scene... a knock at the door, householder opens the door to find Labour MP clutching a list and demanding to know if the householder is a Trotsky-ite, or a Communist, or a member of UKIP trying to undermine the leadership election process.  I can imagine what some of the responses would be to such an enquiry!  But seriously, how can it be proven?  And what happens in areas like mine, where there is no Labour MP?  Who is the poor muppet who gets sent to check then?  It is hardly going to endear the Labour Party to electors if it starts acting like the Witchfinder General! 

It is important to welcome new members and supporters into the party and to encourage participation in politics and policy making. Traditional Labour values are not redundant, despite the apparent shift away from them by a majority of current Labour MPs. There is a huge resurgence of interest in politics, more so than for the last two decades, and if the Labour Party temporary leader makes the wrong calls now she will be directly responsible for causing great damage to the Party. I would hope she would not want that on her conscience.

Same old, same old... blah blah blah

I keep reading comments, from various Labour MPs, that they will not serve in a Cabinet under Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister.  Personally, I think that's incredibly foolish of them to say so, and assumes that they are going to be asked to so serve!

The earliest that a GE should happen would be 2020 and those Labour MPs who are currently griping may lose their seats then, if the voters in their constituencies are as disillusioned with their performance as appears to be the case in many areas. Perhaps if I say Welfare Reform Bill and abstention, it might prick a few consciences!

But something else I have not heard mentioned anywhere is that, with the current resurgence in politics, amongst both the young and the not-so-young, disillusioned electorate, there is a strong chance that there will be a raft of new candidates standing on a traditional Labour values platform, who do win seats and who would be more than pleased to serve in a Corbyn-led Cabinet.

The pinky-blue Labour MPs need to think long and hard about where their true allegiances lie, about the harm they are doing to the people of this country, and whether they are truly representative of Labour values.

Sunday 2 August 2015

If Labour is not seen as an effective opposition, why will voters believe it will form an effective government?

Something that struck me just now is that Jeremy Corbyn, as the oldest of the 4 leadership candidates, experienced the Labour Party pre-Blair, as did I.  We were there during the Wilson years and the Foot years, we listened to Tony Benn, Ian Mikado and Dennis Skinner, and then we saw the rise of  Neil Kinnock and the arrival of Tony Blair and his cronies. At the time some thought that supporting Blair was the correct thing to do - he was young, charismatic and personable, the opposite of John Major, the grey man, and an antidote to the severely formidable Margaret Thatcher. Many thought that Blair was the new leader that the Party needed, that he would bring Labour values back to politics and lead the Party to the Promised Land. How wrong that turned out to be! 

Over the three terms of their government, Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson, Gordon Brown and their teams moved the Party further away from the core values of the Labour Party. To be fair, for the first 3 years Blair's administration did some good work:  it brought in the National Minimum Wage Act, the Human Rights Act and the Freedom of Information Act. It was the architect of the devolved Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales, and the Northern Ireland Assembly after the Good Friday Agreement.  They did not, however, rescind the anti-trades union legislation brought in by the previous Conservative government, but they did bring in changes in student fees,  welfare payments, and increased police powers of arrest and dispersal, and the taking and retaining of DNA samples. It can be argued that those areas indicate Blair's shifting to the right, politically speaking.

Blair's involvement in bringing peace to Northern Ireland needs to be recognised as a significant achievement, but his administration's subsequent meddling in Afghanistan and Iraq, in cahoots with the Bush administration in the USA, was nothing short of a disaster which has helped to destabilise the political situation in those countries and led to the deaths of far too many military personnel and civilians both there and in the subsequent terrorist attacks on British and American soil.

That their first landslide victory in 1997 (winning 418 out of a total of 659 seats) showed huge support for Tony Blair's policies and manifesto is not in dispute. He was hugely popular, and seen as the saviour of the nation by many. His second term as Prime Minister (2001 - winning 413 seats), which started with the invasion of Afghanistan and later of Iraq alongside the Americans, brought huge opposition from the public to the use of British troops and to the interference in the affairs of another nation state in effectively invading both countries. The third election which Labour won under Tony Blair in 2005 (with 355 seats), was the start of the real decline of Labour, and that opposition to war dented Blair's popularity and brought about his subsequent stepping down as Leader in 2007, when he was succeeded by Gordon Brown, formerly Blair's Chancellor.

If anyone was destined not to be PM it would be Gordon Brown. He, like Michael Foot before him, has a brilliant mind and is a most able man, but he did not inspire the country to suppport him. In many ways he inherited a poisoned chalice, as the tide had already turned against the Labour Party and he was too closely identified with the policies brought in under Blair. The public were disillusioned with policies which were only marginally less-Tory than those of the Conservatives themselves, and what were perceived as attacks on working people, whilst the Labour Party politicians themselves were viewed as political fatcats taking advantage of MPs expenses, allowances for housing, subsidised food and alcohol in the Palace of Westminster, and a host of other cosy benefits that made being an MP such a pleasant and lucrative occupation. Meanwhile, the very people whom the Labour Party professed to represent were suffering reduced incomes and increased housing and educational costs. Was it any wonder that Labour lost the next election in 2010?

Losing 91 seats in 2010 (down to 258 out of 650 after constituency boundary changes)  mainly to the Conservatives, should have been a wake up call to the Labour Party, but it wasn't. The reason being that many of the new intakes of MPs under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were of the same ilk, despite the change of leader to Ed Milliband.  They were not true Socialists, but were what has come to be referred to as pinky-blue Labour MPs. Much more to the right of the party, some being so-much so that questions have been asked as to why they ever joined the Labour Party in the first place! These MPs continued to support the Tory-lite policies of austerity, without providing an effective opposition to the new Conservative / Liberal Democratic coalition government. The removal of policy making from the Party conference to the Parliamentary Labour Party was an indicative of a schism between the members and its MPs, but this was apparently air-brushed over - something which was to lead to the catastrophic loss of seats in the 2015 General Election, where Labour lost all but one seat in Scotland, and dropped to a mere 232 seats overall out of the total of 650. 

This defeat triggered yet another leadership election, this time with three candidates who have been described as being from the pinky-blue group, and one lifelong left-wing Socialist, in the form of Jeremy Corbyn. Unlike Jeremy, the other three candidates have only ever known a Party run under Blairite lines. They are too young to have known pre-Blair Labour, so cannot really be blamed for the pinky-blue stance they have taken. But, and it is a huge but, if Labour is to regain its credibility with the people of this country and have a chance of once again forming a government it needs to move away from the pinky-blues. It needs to establish that it is a credible opposition, that it is not the Tories or Lib Dems under another name.  It is not enough to abstain when the Government introduces a measure which Labour disagrees with, it must oppose the measure with every means at its disposal.  It must fight to reverse the damaging measures which are being brought in by the current government: the welfare cuts, the privatisation of health services, the cutbacks in education, the slashing of public services. If Labour is not seen as an effective opposition, why will voters believe it will form an effective government?

It is my view, and here I am nailing my colours to the mast, that the only leadership candidate who has any hope of bringing the party back into credibility and gain the support of ordinary people in this country is Jeremy Corbyn. We need a Leader who is seen to be honest, open, genuine, credible, and ethical. What we do not need is another cloned Westminster bubble politician on the same gravy train as the other lot.

If you agree, please support Jeremy Corbyn's campaign here: