Archive for January, 2013

@Number10gov @ITF_Forum How about colour coding for traffic lanes on roads?

January 30, 2013

I get really annoyed by road markings like this:ROAD NAMINGBarely visible, until too late and you’re in the wrong lane.

Impossible to read with a lorry parked over them.

This is on Haydock roundabout but it’s just as bad with lane markings on rterial roads, where junctions have two lanes. Locals know which have a left turn/ahead only/right turn combo but visitor’s suddenly find themselves subject to abuse from frustrated driver’s, who they’ve had to cut up.

I’d like to see a new user-friendly system in place and here’s my suggestion.

We have plenty of colour schemes on roads, let’s have another.

The example below needs slimming down a bit. In my example the A580 (East Lancashire Road) is painted yellow. In practice a colour coded road sign and a yellow stripe marking the route through the roundabout would be a constantly visible and reassuring guide, understandable by anyone.


For arterial roads there could be standardised stripes leading up to the lanes.

Red for right turn, Green for ahead and blue for left.

So if the nearside lane has a blue and a green stripe, you know that you will be able to turn left or go straight ahead. If it’s just blue then you need to change to the offside lane (no green stripes means it’s a no-entry ahead)

Think tanks waste public money on third rate suggestions

January 28, 2013

I sent this to the Daily Express, which published the original story.

I think that, sometimes, these stories are planted to test public reaction, whic is why we should respond by letters to Newspapers.

I think columnists often get their topic’s from these letter’s, so, again, worthwhile.

My dad used to say that the nobility put the idiot son’s in the church. I suspect they get position’s as member’s of think-tanks.

These useless organisations are paid good money for coming up with idea’s that occur to the more intelligent but which are as quickly discarded, by them.

The latest about making Chinese takeaway’s reduce portion sizes and have their use of salt and sugar policed is pathetic.

Ignore the fact that many will have already minimised portion sizes, to avoid price increases, at a time of mass redundancies and rising food prices.

What would happen in balmier times? Customer’s would either desert take-outs, or would supplement their order with cheaper starchy substitutes i.e, an extra portion of chips or boiled rice.

Salt and sugar are added for flavour. Reduce them and change the flavour. Again customer’s would desert them, or would demand salt and ketchup dispenser’s on the counter.

An interesting aspect is that, whilst policing such a policy would be expensive, it would be far easier to control products such as Heinz tomato ketchup, which I believe is one-third sugar.

Remove the sugar and Heinz would be trying, unsuccessfully, to sell passata. That’s a form of political suicide that not even a think tank would contemplate trying to sell to their bosses.

The last is an oblique reference to my estimation that this attack is aimed at small businesses, rather than big political donors such as McDonalds

@EricPickles Make Councils more accountable by levelling paid for canvassing material

January 28, 2013

If you want local democracy, make councillor campaigning, for local candidates, a level playing field.

At present well-funded ( a source of concern itself ) political parties swamp voters with glossier, more readily distributed campaign material, whilst independent candidates have to dip into their own resources to produce and deliver their B&W A4 leaflets.

When Building Societies etc. have elections, the candidates are limited to a common proforma, which is delivered simultaneously to all voters.

No other canvassing takes place.

The cost is born by the organisation in charge.

Candidates can still “meet and greet” and get the views of the electorate.

Obviously this could also apply at National level but would this really be a worry with your ease of access to the Media?

(it’d also reduce the amount of  land refill needed)

@DrEoinCl @BBCDailyPolitics IPSA is an armslength quango but it’s still attached at the shoulder.

January 22, 2013

In response to the item about MP’s calling for large payrises, I emailed my MP , through ,  and asked her if she intended to vote for this “obscene pay rise”

I didn’t find her response appealing:

Dear Mr Shale

 Thank you for your email dated 14th January and the link to a news story on the BBC website entitled ‘MPs call for 32% salary increase’.

 The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) is the body created by Parliament to independently oversee and regulate MPs’ expenses.

 IPSA was created in 2009 by the Parliamentary Standards Act following the scandal surrounding MPs expenses. New rules governing MPs’ expenses were introduced on 7 May 2010, immediately following the general election by the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act.

 IPSA has two main roles: they regulate the expenses system and also administer and pay MPs’ expenses and their salaries.

 IPSA is a clean break from the old system of allowances. It is independent of parliament, government and of political parties. As a result MPs no longer have the power to vote on their pay and conditions.

 As a new Member of Parliament, elected in May 2010, my pay, pension and expenses are now subject to the rules laid down by IPSA.

 Last week, IPSA published a report, upon which the BBC article to which you refer in your email was based, The report can be viewed online at the link below;

http// wing%20MPs%27%2OPay%20and%2OPensions%20%20A%2OFirst%2OReport.pdf

 I did not participate in the survey referred to in the BBC article as I believe that the matter is for IPSA to determine, although I have no objection to MPs being consulted on the matter in the same way that public sector employees are consulted on pay and conditions.

 However, the primary issue for me is that MPs should not be able to determine their pay and pension arrangements and I will abide by whatever decision IPSA determines to be appropriate when it publishes its final recommendations later this year.

 IPSA have already determined that MPs pay will rise by 1% in 2013/14 and 1% in 2014/15. MPs’ pay has been subject to a pay freeze since April 2010.

 I further understand that any decisions arising from IPSA’s current review of pay and pension arrangements will take effect in the parliament elected following the next general election.

 For your information you can view my expenses online at the link below;

 Yours sincerely, Yvonne Fovargue, Labour Member for Makerfield

I read this as:

“I don’t have to vote for it but I won’t reject it when the quango that we set up to decide our pay, forces me to accept it.”

As she is now a member of the Labour whip, I assume that this is in accord with the leader’s recommended response.


Near to revolution: Liverpool and the 1911 General Transport Strike #occupy

January 12, 2013

This is straight theft (sans pix) from an on-line document but I’m assuming that the authors would rather have it re-broadcast than suppressed

This a truly back to the future scenario…………………………………

The 1911 General Strike in Liverpool by transport workers has gone down in the annals of labour movement history.

Against a background of economic decline, increases in the cost of living and massive wage cuts; Liverpool emerged as the centre of worker unrest, beginning one of the most serious and prolonged disputes Britain has ever seen, with tidal waves of interconnected industrial action involving a huge range of transport workers. Liverpool commerce was paralysed for most of the summer of 1911 as rank and file solidarity spread, under the strike committee leadership of Tom Mann. Liverpool was “as near to a revolution” as anyone had ever seen.

The response from the authorities was predictable, sending in troops, massive police reinforcements and gunboats on the Mersey, before baton charging thousands of peaceful demonstrators outside St Georges Hall in the notorious ‘Bloody Sunday’. The waves of unrest culminated in troops shooting dead two demonstrators in the Vauxhall Road area and industrial action being triggered all over the country.

The government was forced to relent and force the employers to sue for peace in the face of the combined solidarity of working people, whose might succeeded in winning significant material gains and transforming trade unionism on Merseyside and beyond as general trade unions were able to establish themselves on a permanent footing and become genuine mass organisations of the movement.

As working people today face the consequences of economic decline, rising living costs and wage cuts, one lesson is obvious: solidarity is strength. Working people benefit when they stand, and struggle, together.

The North West TUC is delighted to produce this short account by Sam Davies, Professor of History and Ron Noon, Senior Lecturer in History (retired), from Liverpool John Moores University about one of the most tumultuous periods in Liverpool’s labour history.

It serves both as a commemoration, but also as an important contribution to the understanding of our history so as to be better able to shape our future.

Alan Manning Regional Secretary, North West TUC

Half a century ago Harold Hikins, an eminent local librarian and historian analysed the “complicated and tremendous movement which convulsed Merseyside” in June, July and August of 1911, “an interwoven complex of several strikes involving at one time or another every section of transport workers in the port and culminating in a general strike of all sections”. [1] In this brief introduction to the most seminal year in Liverpool trade union and labour history, the intention is not to detail the chronology and causes of that unrest, but to highlight this comprehensive fact. Seamen, ships’ stewards, catering staff, dock labourers, carters, tugboatmen, coalheavers, cold storage men, boiler scalers, railwaymen, tramwaymen, electric power station workers and scavengers were all involved in actions that placed class solidarities above sectional and indeed sectarian loyalties. Women as well were involved – women workers at Mayfield sugar works, tailoresses, workers at the rubber works in Walton that was to become Dunlops, all went on strike in 1911, and the National Union of Women Workers succeeded in organising increasing numbers of women throughout the year.

It would be distressing to think that in a year indelibly stained by government obsession with Comprehensive Spending Reviews and reducing the deficit through cuts in public expenditure, that no major efforts are made by public historians and labour activists to interrogate and publicise the many lessons in worker solidarity that made 1911 a coruscating example of how “The Union makes us strong”.

It was a year of industrial conflagration which according to the journalist Phillip Gibbs saw “Liverpool as near to a revolution as anything I had seen in England”. As Eric Taplin brings to light in a book bearing that title, the efforts of the Strike Committee set up in June and chaired by the eloquent socialist Tom Mann, but inspired by rank and file activism and spontaneity, were an undeniable success and “all except the tramwaymen secured concessions, some of a significant nature”.[2]

It was not simply major increases in union membership that resulted, but also the extent to which they registered amongst the previously unorganised and unrecognised. This chagrined the hard-nosed shipping employers who hitherto preferred the lockout and the strategically positioned “depot ships” full of scabs, to defeat the seamens’ and dockers’ efforts to improve work conditions and pay. The latter two groups were the heart and soul of the Liverpool working class and Margaret Simey’s comment that “this was a port, a great port, and ominously nothing but a port” made Liverpool such a particular place in its culture and ethos, as well as its employment statistics. Tony Lane suggests this was “almost as true in 1961…as it had been in 1901”, stressing a recurring theme of “Liverpool exceptionalism” and a far from parochial labour and trade union history. Liverpool’s merchandise was never just about commodities and the contents of ships’ holds, but about people and ideas, about music and movement and the cosmopolitan exchange of cultures as well as things. Fifty years ago when Hikins was himself looking back half a century to Liverpool’s waterfront struggles, the links with the sea and “other places” were very much part of our city’s “social character mask”, a fact that “four mop tops” were keenly aware of in forging their own groundbreaking musicality, a year before the release of “Love me Do”!

Invariably there has been a national and international dimension to Liverpool history and what happened in 1911 was one of the most serious and prolonged disputes of Britain’s pre-First World war labour unrest, provoking the civil authorities to bring in police reinforcements and for the Home Secretary Winston Churchill to send in troops and position the gunboat HMS Antrim in the Mersey! Although this strike action was part of a national wave of unrest in the transport industry, the degree of bitterness and the intensity of the conflict especially after August 13th and “Bloody Sunday”, was without parallel elsewhere. A remarkable socialist stonemason and poet, Fred Bower, had his autobiography published in 1936, (a remarkable achievement in itself), providing an excellent contemporary view of what really happened on Sunday August 13th 1911 on St George’s Plateau, when the police baton-charged a mass union meeting. It also contained an enigmatic chapter entitled “The Secret in the Foundation Stone” which is no secret anymore and which we argue resonates loudly not only in relation to a growing sense of resentment amongst working people because of the ostentation and conspicuous consumption of the rich in the Edwardian period, but also in today’s world of generalised insecurity for the have-nots and largesse for the haves who are getting richer faster than the poor are getting less poor!

Regrettably, there are too many people going around the streets and bars of our former European Capital of Culture, fully conscious of the legacy of the Beatles but deeply unconscious of the inspirational stories of 1911 and of what Fred Bower buried under the massive Anglican Cathedral’s foundation stone in June 1904. It was a time capsule and in it he articulated socialist hopes and ambitions for a better tomorrow. Fred and his pal Jim Larkin, (earlier, in their “infantile ignorance” they had tried to kill each other over religion), were aware that “no more than a stone’s throw away” from the cathedral site were slums “not fit for swine” and decided to conduct their own covert ceremony three weeks before the King and Queen and 7,000 other Liverpool dignitaries orchestrated the official foundation stone ceremony. They placed a letter addressed to a future socialist society, (signed “A wage slave”), along with copies of the Clarion and Labour Leader in a biscuit tin, “bent over the ends and edges to make it as air tight as possible” and then positioned it “between two courses of bricks”. Fred laid it in the foundations on June 27th, and two days later he “sailed from Liverpool on the White Star liner Baltic on her first trip across the Atlantic, and on July 19th1904, King Edward VII duly did his bit, and laid the foundation stone over my documents”.

In reconstructing Bower’s life and times, (born in Boston Massachusetts in 1871 but reared in Liverpool), the essential context is of two parallel worlds reflecting polarised inequalities of income and wealth, a tale of two Liverpools, the famous metropolis described as “the New York of Europe”, spawning more millionaires than any other city outside of London, and the tarnished former Slave city, that contained slums and underground dwellings, more like Gateways to Hell for the brutalised and casualised poor that inhabited them. On top of that, religious sectarianism and “intra-class conflict” was more bitter and chronic than anywhere else except Belfast.

So it was unsurprising that Liverpool was described by a union official as “an organiser’s graveyard” and bouts of under-employment and unemployment were structured into the very fabric of work and community life. The blight of casualism and hiring and firing practices that treated men like sheep, was rife here because Port employers secured only “marginal advantages from regularity, reliability, sobriety, or other virtues of work discipline”, precisely the kind of advantages, regular and constant employment made obtainable in the great rival city of Manchester. A cheap and elastic supply of unskilled labour had its obvious advantages to Liverpool employers with their strong anti-trade union sentiments, but long standing grievances of low pay and irregular work make it easy to understand how the passion of workers was so aroused by 1911. (Flexible or “contingent” labour are the euphemistic terms used today to camouflage the fact that the blight of low quality irregular employment persists.) That passion and resentment was first manifested by seamen in June when both of their hitherto very weak unions, Havelock Wilson’s National Sailors and Fireman’s Union and Joe Cotter’s Union of Ships’ Stewards, Cooks, Bakers and Butchers, acted in concert, and with the sympathetic support of dockers and other port workers, helped bloody the Shipping Federation’s nose. Dockers followed their lead in the battle for recognition of Jim Sexton’s National Union of Dock Labour and by early August not only had the two seafarers unions been recognised and wages enhanced but so too had the NUDL, helped by sympathy strikes of seamen.

There was a national context of unrest on the railways but it was the railwaymen of Liverpool, inspired by the successes of the waterfront workers, who took the initiative in pursuit of national demands for increased wages and reduced hours. Their strike on August 7th was given added clout by co-option onto the local strike committee and the commitment made that all transport workers would lend their support to them. The Liverpool virus of sympathetic action was alarming to the authorities both locally and nationally and when Tom Mann’s strike committee planned a monster demonstration at St George’s Plateau in support of the railwaymen, troops and extra police were rapidly drafted into the city. Although it was a peaceful sunny day in a very hot Summer, the ratcheting up of worker resentment to the police particularly those drafted in from Birmingham and Leeds was potentially explosive. This is what Fred reports from “my wagon, facing the great St George’s Hall”:

August 13th, 1911 was an eventful day in the history of Liverpool…On this Sunday…as the gaily decked banners, carried aloft by brawny arms, led each contingent of workers from the outskirts of the city, with their union buttons up and headed by their local officials with music, it seemed good to be alive…From Orange Garston, Everton and Toxteth Park, from Roman Catholic Bootle and the Scotland Road area, they came. Forgotten were their religious feuds, disregarded the dictum of some of their clericals on both sides who affirmed the strike was an atheist stunt. The Garston band had walked five miles and their drum-major proudly whirled his sceptre twined with orange and green ribbons as he led his contingent band, half out of the Roman Catholic, half out of the local Orange band…What matter to them that all the railway stations in the town showed boarded up gates? What matter to them, that from the windows and roof of St George’s Hall opposite, could now and again be seen the caps of a British Tommy? Never in the history of this or any other country had the majority and might of the humble toiler been so displayed. A wonderful spirit of humour and friendliness permeated the atmosphere. It was glorious weather…All was going well, no signs of trouble, when a well organized mass…ranged round the Plateau and surrounding approaches, all in their Sunday best, and many of them with their women folk with them, were set upon and brutally battered.

186 people were hospitalised as a result of the police charge, and 95 were arrested in the disturbances that followed on the streets of north Liverpool that night. Fred’s eye witness account is all the more important because police brutality and overreaction to what had been planned as a peaceful protest was brushed under the carpet by deliberate censorship and excision of records:

At one end of the Plateau during the meeting the Pathe picture people had set up a machine and the operator was busy taking a moving picture of the monster demonstration. When the police started the bother and the crowd were hurrying to escape the batons, the operator kept on working. When the crowd dispersed he got away with his negatives. Had they been publicly exposed there would have been an outcry of indignation throughout the land at the brutality displayed. The Plateau resembled a battlefield, disabled and wounded men, women and children, lying singly and in heaps over a vast area. The picture was privately shown to a few of the prominent Labour leaders and speakers but the Liverpool authorities and the Government warned the Pathe people that they were not to show the picture in public, ‘or else’.

In the week following Bloody Sunday, Liverpool and the whole of Britain was poised on the edge of catastrophe. The railway strike, which had been started by rank and file action in Liverpool, had been declared official by four of the five railway unions, the first national railway strike in history (the Railway Clerks Association had an official no-strike policy at the time, but its members still refused to cover any work of the strikers). The docks had been closed after the employers had declared a lock-out. Movement of goods across the country was almost impossible without police or military intervention. Even within cities, goods could not be moved as carters went on strike, and permits issued by Strike Committees were the only guarantee of the peaceful movement of food and other essential supplies. The government response was to pledge unprecedented police and military reinforcements in support of the rail owners, to try and keep the rail system moving. More than 50,000 troops were mobilised across the country, and police were despatched wherever the Home Secretary, Winston Churchill, thought they were most needed. Brutal force was employed. In Liverpool, troops opened fire on civilians in Great Homer Street after rioting spread through the north end of the city on the evening of Bloody Sunday. Similar shootings took place the following night, and then on Tuesday, August 15th, the most tragic events occurred.

That Tuesday evening, a convoy of vans, containing prisoners who had been arrested on Bloody Sunday, was despatched to Walton Gaol. It was accompanied by thirty-two soldiers of the 18th Hussars, on horseback and fully armed with rifles (loaded with live ammunition), bayonets, pistols and sabres, as well as a magistrate carrying a copy of the Riot Act, and a number of mounted police. A disturbance occurred on Vauxhall Road and, before the Riot Act had even been read, the troops opened fire, injuring five civilians, two fatally. John W. Sutcliffe, a twenty year old Catholic carter, was shot twice in the head virtually on his own doorstep, on the corner of Hopwood Street. Michael Prendergast, a twenty-nine year old Catholic docker, was shot twice in the chest a short time later, on the corner of Lamb Street. This might aptly be described as Liverpool’s “Bloody Tuesday”. Five days later, on Saturday 19th August, two more unarmed civilians were shot by troops in Llanelli. These are the last occasions in history when British soldiers have killed civilians on the streets of mainland Britain.

As with the events of Bloody Sunday, there was a determined effort by Churchill and the government to whitewash these events. No public enquiry was held, despite widespread calls for one from people in Liverpool and Llanelli, and from the TUC and the wider labour movement. Parliament adjourned on the 22nd of August, despite the protests of Labour MPs, so further questions could not be raised there while the events were still fresh in everyone’s mind. Churchill himself personally ensured, as Home Office files reveal, that minimum publicity was given to the court-martial of one soldier in Llanelli who had refused to open fire on the civilian crowd and had deserted on the spot. Very little attention has been given since to these outrageous state-sponsored killings, and one of the aims of the centenary events is to redress this injustice. The events in Llanelli have now been belatedly highlighted there, and in Liverpool a commemoration of the fatal shootings, sponsored by the North-West TUC, will be held on August 15th, 2011.

It is also worth noting how critical the situation had become by the end of that bloody week in August 1911. The police and military forces were stretched to the limit, not only in Liverpool but across the country. The Birmingham policemen who had earlier been despatched to Liverpool, for instance, were now urgently required in their home town as the strike intensified there. With the ports closed and the railways severely curtailed, it was getting increasingly hard to move soldiers or policemen around the country. When troops arrived in Birmingham, they had been forced to march 40 miles to get to a train that could move them into the city. Aside from the fatal shootings, rioting broke out across the country as police and troops tried to move goods, in Chesterfield, Lincoln, Stafford, Sheffield and many other towns. When soldiers were beginning to desert rather than shooting their fellow-workers, the government’s control of the situation was truly shaken. Churchill himself, in parliament on August 22nd, stated that “a continuation of the railway strike would have produced a swift and certain degeneration of all the means, of all the structure, social and economic, on which the life of the people depend.” It was in the context of this growing crisis, “near to revolution” indeed, that Lloyd George persuaded Churchill and the Prime Minister, Asquith, to do an abrupt about-face and call in the railway owners to force them to come to a swift settlement with the railway unions.

Finally, one of the lessons for 2011 and hopefully a way of redressing the historical amnesia referred to earlier would be to take a fresh look around St Georges Hall, the Parthenon of Northern Europe, and let our historical imaginations run free. It was after all, here on this site in 1911 that the events described by Fred Bower happened and people like you and I lived and breathed. Just like today they had their own grievances, dreams and ambitions and to paraphrase a famous nineteenth-century historian, once on that very familiar Plateau “walked other men and women as actual as we are today, thinking their own thoughts, swayed by their own passions, but now all gone like ghosts at cockcrow”.


The chronology of the strike is complex but Eric Taplin gives a clear outline:

June 14 to August 4 – the seamen came out on strike followed by catering staff and stewards. That unity amongst the two seamens’ unions National Seaman’s and Fireman’s Union (NSFU) and the union formed in 1909, the National Union of Ships’ Stewards, Cooks, Bakers and Butchers to represent the stewards, was impressive. (The throwing away of that “sectionalism” was even commented upon in the Daily Post.

“Hitherto stewards had been inclined to draw a certain social distinction between themselves and the men at work on the deck and in the stokehold…This condition of things has, however, been revolutionised in twenty four hours, and for the first time in the history of the Port of Liverpool, yesterday saw ‘all hands’ throwing sectionalism to the winds and joining hand in hand for the furtherance of a common cause. It was a remarkable – even an historic – event in trade union progress.”)

A strike committee was formed chaired by Tom Mann, consisting of representatives of the unions involved and of the Liverpool Trades Council.

The North End non-union dockers now demanded recognition of the NUDL and union rates of pay and conditions. They flocked to join up and the coalheavers who had their own unions followed suit. To help overcome the Shipping Companies reluctance the seafarers struck again in sympathy with the dockers. Employees were permitted to wear union badges and a conference was arranged to hammer out a permanent settlement with the union culminating with the publication of the White Book Agreement on August 4th.

It was a major victory for the union and “the dockers union – and the two searfarers’ unions – were fully recognised and wages were enhanced”. The “victory” in respect of dockers and seamen was a little different in that the latter’s was less complete, but “the stranglehold exercised by the Shipping Federation was broken and some of its more objectionable practices abandoned”. The sting in the tail for the dockers was the NUDL now having to agree continuity of work while any dispute was being resolved.

August 7-25 This next phase had a great deal to do with the railwaymen of Liverpool who struck on August 7th demanding reduced hours and increased wages. There was of course a national context of unrest on the railways but now locally railwaymen were co-opted onto the strike committee and it was agreed that all transport workers would support them through sympathetic action.

This was when the shipping employers lost all patience with the dockers, especially only a few days after the White Book agreement had been signed and consequently they demanded that its terms be honoured and that union members would remain at work. If not all cargo operations in the Port of Liverpool would cease on August the 14th and the men would be locked out.

Matters were brought to a head on August 13th when a monster demonstration took place at St George’s Plateau, organised by the strike committee in support of the railwaymen. Up until then violence had been minimal which given the huge numbers of workers involved and numbers of police was impressive, but from this Bloody Sunday onwards, after the authorities had panicked and allowed police to baton charge the crowds to clear the Plateau, attitudes hardened and the relationship between the police and public deteriorated. Bloody Sunday was “a symbol of the intolerance of an apprehensive civil authority towards peaceful mass demonstrations”.

No one had been killed but 350 people were treated in hospital and the resentment towards the imported police from Leeds and Birmingham was considerable. The growing tension had already resulted in the movement of soldiers of the 2nd Warwickshire Regiment to Seaforth Barracks.

So after Bloody Sunday Liverpool came to a standstill, two thousand more troops were rushed to the city and the shipowners carried out their threat to close down cargo operations. That affected 15000 men and the strike committee called for a General Strike. According to the Daily Post and Mercury (15th August) some 66,000 workers responded. From this time on goods could only be transported under heavy military escort and it was the strike committee that decided on the carriage of goods by the issue of permits.

A national railwaymens’ strike began on the 17th and lasted three days before the railway companies were persuaded to meet union representatives to discuss grievances. Also on August 17th the tramwaymen struck work followed by Corporation electric power station workers and scavengers. That said it was the resolution of the railwaymen’s dispute at national level that heralded the end of the local transport strike and the dockers finally returned to work on the 25th following negotiations between the NUDL and the shipping companies.

The tramwaymen had been dismissed for striking and it was only when the strike committee threatened to bring out all transport workers again that the Corporation Tramways Committee agreed to reinstatement. That tardy process was not finally completed until December.



 Fred’s memorial stone in St Peter’s Church Heswall and his letter to a better world.

 Fred’s memorial stone in St Peter’s Church Heswall.

Fred’s account of his letter to a better world:

I visited my pal, the long, raw-boned boy, now a man, Jim Larkin at his house. We who wanted to kill each other in our infantile ignorance had both joined the local Socialist Party and were the best of comrades. He got a piece of tin and compressed a copy each of the Clarion and the Labour Leader of June 24th, 1904, into it. I wrote the following short hurried note:

‘To the Finders, Hail!’

‘We, the wage slaves employed on the erection of this cathedral, to be dedicated to the worship of the unemployed Jewish carpenter, hail ye! Within a stone’s throw from here, human beings are housed in slums not fit for swine. This message, written on trust-produced paper with trust-produced ink, is to tell ye how we of today are at the mercy of the trusts. Building fabrics, clothing, food, fuel, transport, are all in the hands of money mad soul destroying trusts. We can only sell our labour power, as wage slaves, on their terms. The money trusts today own us. In our own day, you will, thanks to the efforts of past and present agitators for economic freedom, own the trusts. Yours will indeed, compared to ours of today, be a happier existence. See to it, therefore, that ye, too, work for the betterment of all , and so justify your existence by leaving the world the better for your having lived in it. Thus and thus only shall come about the Kingdom of “God” or “Good” on Earth. Hail, Comrades, and – Farewell.

Yours sincerely,

‘A Wage Slave’

“You may say he’s a dreamer” but he was not the only one then, and he’s not the only one, now, as this comment from Paul Mason makes very clear:

“That message still lies where it was buried. It was addressed to the kids in combat trousers protesting outside a Nike store in Seattle, to the rake-thin teenagers sewing trainers in Cambodian sweatshops and to migrant cleaners resting their exhausted heads against bus windows as dawn breaks in London. Few of us can imagine what that message cost to write, in terms of hardship and self-sacrifice. Or the joy experienced on those rare days when the downtrodden people of the world were allowed to stand up and breathe free.”

Live Working or Die Fighting:: How the Working Class went Global (2008) p.xv.


After their covert ceremony Fred “sailed from Liverpool on the White Star liner Baltic on her first trip across the Atlantic, and on July 19th 1904, King Edward VII duly did his bit, and laid the foundation stone over my documents”.

The extract below is from a copy of Fred’s autobiography Rolling Stonemason (1936), given to us by local artist David Jones and given to him by Herbert Tyson Smith. It vividly illustrates Fred’s fascinating encounter on the SS Baltic with a banker who was the owner of one of the biggest ‘money trusts’ of the day, a man who formed the United States Steel Corporation, the first billion dollar company in the world. The baggage of John Pierpont Morgan was in different quarters to Fred’s, who relished the opportunity to elaborate on a “Ragged Trousered Philanthropists” theme!

… should receive our attentions. You, and your likes, belonging to our class are the people who, by their votes and actions make it possible for Morgan and his ilk to dominate practically the peoples of the world.’ But now I had to leave him, with his god, Morgan, to see to my baggage.”



“On the 14th of June 1911, at the North End docks in Liverpool, 500 firemen refused to ‘sign on’ for the Canadian Pacific Railway (C.P.R.) boat Empress of Ireland, and the White Star’s Teutonic and Baltic.” Harold Hikin p.172.

Margaret Postgate was 18 in 1911, and recalls in her autobiography Growing Up into Revolution (1949), a “broiling August” with “the stench of the unscavenged streets…truckloads of vegetables rotting at Edge Hill Station” and “American tourists decanted from the Baltic, sitting at Pier Head on their Saratoga trunks with no porters to carry them away”.

27 years after the Baltic’s first crossing to New York, there was a headline in the Liverpool Daily Post.

“STAMPEDE FOR WORK: 2,000 men for 500 jobs at Mersey Dock”

More than 2000 workers stampeded for work at the Gladstone dock yesterday when the White Star liner Baltic was the first big liner with a huge cargo to arrive for more than a week, and the prospect that additional overtime would be required to enable the vessel to make a quick turn around so that she would be able to leave on Saturday attracted a record number of dockers. The men began to form up before the vessel reached the landing stage and by one o’clock about 2,000 dockers waited to be picked up for duty. Only about 500 were required, however, and when the foreman appeared and called out certain men, the crowd stampeded. Police reinforcements were called and the stand was reformed while a further batch of men was chosen, but the ranks broke again and the foremen postponed the signing on till later in the day when the men were taken on and the work proceeded.”


The playwright Dennis Potter suggested that the trouble with words is that “you will not always know whose mouths they have been in before”! What ought we to make of a modern variation on “the blight of casualism”, Flexible labour? To paraphrase an academic expert on Globalisation, Zygmunt Bauman, “The idea of ‘flexible labour’ denies in practice what it asserts in theory…In order to implement what it recommends it must deprive workers and their unions of that agility and versatility which it exhorts them to acquire, so as to raise the enterprise’s profits and productivity”. People are made subaltern to profit and “Employer flexibility” often means “rigidity” for workers and their families. In this era of public expenditure cuts, downsizing, out-sourcing, leveraged buyouts, and contingent or flexible employment, workers and their unions must never relinquish “the power to be truly ‘flexible’” in pursuit of our own collective and solidaristic goals. That is the real lesson and inspiration of 1911 when masses of workers stood up proud and breathed free “for the betterment of all”.

[1] H.R.Hikins, “The Liverpool General Transport Strike 1911”,

Historic Society of Lancashire & Cheshire, Vol: 113, p.169

[2] Eric Taplin, Near to Revolution: The Liverpool General Transport Strike of 1911 (1994)

#occupy with IT and robots becoming more advanced, are the 99% redundant?

January 8, 2013

I came across this:

It is a decade late

(Gov’t knew in 1980 that this was coming, that’s why we’ve all been made to chase meaningless qualifications for jobs that don’t need them. e.g. fork lift truck driver or B.A. in soap opera)

My main bone of contention with this piece is that it places the darker aspects, as being in the future.

The darker aspects are here, now.

The 1% have already asked what they need the plebs for. The answer is that they only need consumers, guinea pigs and spare parts

But how many consumers and what to do with the surplus population.

We are in the process of being Victorianised.

In Victorian times, the average height of British males was under 5 ft.


Smaller people are easier to police (compare sizes of G.I.’s and Japs in WWII). You just need a stock of well fed people to do the policing; a sort of latter-day S.S.

Smaller people can survive on less food, leaving more food for the remainder and more open land for the leisure pursuits of the 1%.

Smaller people can be used for spare parts. It doesn’t matter if organs are smaller, as some will grow in the right body and others can always be doubled up.  Limbs are a problem but cloning technology might be effective here.

Drug trials etc. would be no problem with a (slave) population eager for better vittles

The better vittles aspect is redolent of the Upstairs/Downstairs cum Downton Abbey culture, in which young girls, in service, were often used by the young man of the house and then sacked as a “fallen woman”. Of course, in The Southern states of America, they had indoor slaves that served the same purpose but without the hypocrisy of Victorian England.

The Global population is 7 Billion, at present. China gave up on its one child policy, as too difficult to manage, little people weakened by poor nutrition, will be more susceptible to attrition by disease and I’m sure that this aspect will be under consideration, along with means to limit any epidemics that might arise.

wiganshale’s almanac

January 7, 2013

fact: The Army is being very sharply pruned and all its reserve stores (including heavy armaments) are being sold off.

fact: private companies have been given lucrative contracts to augment security services in Afghanistan, hiring sacked soldiers. (it’s handy that they’ve had a few unnecessary wars to hone their skills)

fact: The Police Force is being very sharply pruned and all its reserve stores are being sold off.

fact: there is no logical reason for not flying the National flag in Belfast (unless it’s to ensure that the loyalists continue to riot and provide an excuse to bring in harsher policing methods)

fact: private companies have been given lucrative contracts to run prisons

fact: private companies have been given lucrative contracts to run hospitals and orher parts of the dying NHS

fact: private companies have been given lucrative contracts to run schools, whilst Ofsted reports that despite overkill by decades of Ofsted franchisees. there are still just as many bad schools and bad teachers. (the GTC quango has only removed a score or so of these bad teachers but has supplied well paid sinecures political placemen of the main parties)

fact: there are certain preferred companies, which are soaking up most government service contracts: D4S, Serco, Capita (

fact: The Government warning , that the price of shares can go down as well as up, doesn’t apply to our privatised utilities or the banks.

fact: plans to privatise the more lucrative roads, which are all now in good repair at public expense, have been dusted off and will be fully implemmented by the next General election

prediction: Most state services and facilities will be privatised by the next General Election

prediction: the next general Election will be a landslide for Labour with UKIP in second place

prediction: Ed Miliband will lament that we are committed to these millstone contracts, because of Tory contracts and Tory debts.

prediction: Dave will gain many lucrative contracts, lecture tours and directorships (not of the privatised compamies but the companies, which own them).

prediction: Ed Miliband will, when he retires, receive almost as good a set of incomes and probably be ennobled.

prediction: The Peterloo Massacre will be re-enacted, within a decade.



Earth’s total seismic activity seems to be quite consistent.

January 5, 2013

I was intrigued by stories of multiple large earthquakes, around the Pacific Rim, plus the report of a new tectonic fracture, off India / Australasia.

I googled up the recorded details of the last decade

large quakes

As the scale is logarithmic, I multiplied number of quakes at a value rang, by  ten to the power of the mid-value of that range, to get a rough value for the energy released (arbitrary units).

When graphed, it seems, to me, to show that, ignoring the really large quakes, the seismic energy seems to be fairly constant.

To an extent, this is quite reassuring, as it indicates that apart from the odd big quakes, such as 2007, the Earth, as a whole, is quite stable.

facebook identity disclosure. Seriously considering booting the creeps into touch.

January 3, 2013
I just got this off a friend on Facebook.  Obviously now it has been sold as a money making venture, morality has gone out of the window and our privacy is up for sale, when I, for one, do not want criminals stealing my identity etc.
Hello, my FB friends: I want to stay PRIVATELY connected with you. I post shots of my family and friends that I don’t want strangers to have access to. However, with the recent changes in FB, the “public” can now see activities in ANY wall. This happens when our friend hits “like” or “comment” ~ automatically, their friends would see our posts too. Unfortunately, we can not change this setting by ourselves because Facebook has configured it this way. PLEASE place your mouse over my name above (DO NOT CLICK), a window will appear, now move the mouse on “FRIENDS” (also without clicking), then down to “Settings”, click here and a list will appear. REMOVE the CHECK on “COMMENTS & LIKE” and also “PHOTOS”. By doing this, my activity among my friends and family will no longer become public. Now, copy and paste this on your wall. Once I see this posted on your page I will do the same, please write “done” after doing so. Thanks

I may leave Facebook, if I have to keep defending myself from them.

I reckon snowflakes can be identical

January 1, 2013

I was watching a program about the Arctic and that bit about no two identical snowdrops popped up.

I was once more caught up in the reasoning for the six fold symmetry (how do water molecules, on one branch, “know” what the molecules on other branches are doing?)

Having my laptop to hand, I Googled up a plausible hypothesis that the orientation of the seeding molecule affected the orientation of its neighbours; similar to the way magnetic domains self-arrange in a piece of Iron.

This being the case then there are a limited number of ways that a seed molecule of water can set up the crystal:

Possible number of snowflake designs must be limited by possible orientations of seed molecule.

Diameter of Hydrogen nucleus = 2r  =  1.75×10−15 m    ,,,,,,,,,,,, r = 8.75 x 10-14 m

Length of Hydroxyl bond = l = 9.6 x 10-11 m        ,,,,,,,,,,,,      l2 = 9.2 x 10-21 m2

c-s of H atom = pi  r2

solid angle of bond = pi   r2/l 

possible orientations = 4 (l/r)2 = 4 x (  9.6 x 10-11 m    /  8.75 x 10-14 m)  2  = 1.2 x 106

Just over a million could be a valid answer, as I doubt if anyone has looked at a million snow flakes to find out.

However, there must be some room for variation in each successive addition of molecules. The previous calculation is tenuous but the next is nebulous.

Assume the room for variation of each Hydrogen is to move by half its diameter in any direction. Then we have doubled the effective diameter of the Hydrogen and quadrupled the effective c-s area.

Taking a perfect snowdrop to be about 1 cm across,

then we have 0.5 x 10-2 / 8.6 x 10-11  =  6 x 107 layers

factor in the fourfold area and we have 4 x 6 x 107 x 1.2 x 1012 = 3 x 1020  possible different snowflake patterns.

The Assumptions may not be great but the conclusion, that the initial assertion of non-identical snowflakes is false, satisfies me.