A recession is a good time to start a business and a trade union…

Legal Eagle 

Image © Roger Blackwell

The recent comment by Lord Young, an adviser to the Prime Minister, is worth considering, especially if you happen to be looking for work at the moment. Although, his report written for the Prime Minister`s Cabinet of millionaires, may not be that useful to the average job seeker. However, just in case you’re interested, the current recession we are told, has an optimistic aspect, making it conducive to business and entrepreneurial activity. This is because of the prevalence of low wage levels and other factors. It seems, it`s an ill wind that doesn’t do someone some good at sometime. At last the Coalition of millionaires has a rationale for following its stringent austerity programme. Sadly, this gives working people few reasons to be cheerful. So, if you’re looking for a job with a living wage your quest may be a disappointing one. Not that anyone in David Cameron`s Cabinet need worry about this – although they may be looking for work soon enough. Read more of this post

BME progression and the TUC – and our survey said – “not known”…

Legal Eagle 

Image © Mehmet Karatay

The Middlesex University Study into Irish Teachers is a unique opportunity to gauge the professional progress of a large ethnic minority group in Britain. If the study is to be a success, it must access as many Irish Teachers as possible. In order to reach this cohort it will need the help of the teaching unions, a fact seemingly recognised by Professor Louise Ryan last week. The Irish have been identified as a racial category since the 2001 British Census and trade unions appear to be ideally placed to locate UK Black Minority Ethnic teachers. But how much do UK unions know about their BME membership? In a study conducted by the Labour Research Department last year, twenty-nine unions were surveyed in an effort to map the leadership progress of BME trade union members. The survey, was then written up by the LRD but it`s the data provided without commentary, that offers the most illuminating insight into the relationship between BME membership and UK unions. Read more of this post

Scottish Independence plenty of questions but few answers…

Image © The Laird of Oldham

James Withnail-Woolf

The progressive case for and against Scottish Independence was made on May 13 by Gordon Brown and Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. Both speeches encapsulate the divisions on the left over the future of the Union.

According to Gordon Brown the British Isles are stronger when resources are combined; economic strength allows equitable distribution and social justice for all. Brown has explored these issues recently which explains why his ad lib lines are well rehearsed. He paid deference to the Scottish Parliament, and then placed his case against independence firmly within Labours hinterland. Although, Tony Blair could not have made such a speech, one doubts if he is aware of John Wheatley or James Maxton. Brown has been acknowledging the heroes of the Scottish left since the 1970s when he edited the Red Paper on Scotland. Read more of this post

Ireland, the land of scholars…

Left Central interview Professor Louise Ryan

Image © Alegri, Romania.

In the years since the collapse of the Celtic Tiger economy there has been a significant increase in Irish migration to Britain. However, little is known about the experiences of these ‘post-Celtic tiger’, ‘post-Peace Agreement’ migrants.  How might their experiences differ from earlier waves of Irish migrants to Britain?  There is some anecdotal evidence that more Irish people are arriving in Britain to take up professional occupations.

In an attempt to gain a deeper insight into the experiences of migrants who have arrived since 2008 a study is to be carried out by the Social Policy Research Centre, at Middlesex University, in partnership with the Federation of the Irish Societies. This study will focus on teachers. Irish teachers in Britain are an under-researched group but there is some anecdotal evidence that their numbers are increasing (Irish Post newspaper, 26.02.13).

Through an on-line survey, in-depth interviews and a focus group this project aims:

To examine the needs, attitudes and experiences of this group – in particular their sense of Irishness, connections to Ireland, involvement in Irish networks and/ or organisations in Britain including cultural engagement, their migration trajectories, career aspiration, family strategies and future plans for settlement or return

The findings of the study will be published in a report and other academic papers and will be used to inform the policy initiatives and funding applications of the Federation of Irish Societies.

The project has been given ethical approval by the Middlesex University Ethics Committee.  All participants will be anonymized and all materials will be stored on a password protected computer to safeguard confidentiality. In order to gain further information about this study Professor Ryan kindly agreed to answer a few questions about the forthcoming study. Read more of this post

The Wind That Shakes The Barley…Directed by Ken Loach.

Image © Terence wiki

Nora Connolly

I first saw this movie in 2006 and recall people leaving the cinema in tears. A powerful film directed by a master of the craft, Ken Loach. The last fifteen minutes deeply moving, as Teddy O’Donovan (Padraic Delaney) fails to persuade his brother and former brother-in-arms Damien (Cillian Murphy) to join the ranks of the pro-Treaty forces and give up his anti-Treaty comrades. Teddy O`Donovan orders Damien`s execution, granting the condemned man time to write a letter to Sinead (Orla Fitzgerald). In the early hours Damien meets his death, Teddy O`Donovan dressed in his Free State uniform, commands the firing squad to kill his brother. A scene of betrayal realistically portrayed. We then see Teddy go to Sinead with the letter; Sinead breaks down (a beautiful performance by Fitzgerald) and orders O`Donovan off her land. Sinead becomes a metaphor for Ireland, the Cathleen ni Houlihan of the film (TWTSTB has more in common with O`Casey than Yeats). It deserved its critical acclaim but as a piece of history it`s flawed. Read more of this post

Land and Freedom (1995) Dir. Ken Loach

Image © NordNordWest

Red Lester

This film looks at the Spanish Civil War through the eyes of David Carr, an unemployed man from Liverpool. A member of the Communist Party, he is inspired to join the fight against Franco’s attempt to overthrow the elected government of Spain. The story follows his initial involvement with POUM, the Spanish Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification, his decision to join the Communist Party approved International Brigade, his political disillusionment with them and his return to his comrades in the POUM unit, only to witness their enforced disbandment.

We see the war through David’s eyes and Loach’s sympathies are clearly with POUM and the anarchists. Reviews have been written which disagree strongly with the images of POUM and the Communist Party portrayed; others agree and unsurprisingly these opinions divide politically between ex members of the International Brigade and ex members of POUM. Other reviews point out the film’s resemblance to George Orwell’s book ‘Homage to Catalonia’, although the main character, rather than an Old Etonian, is an unemployed docker.  Read more of this post

Dreaming of One Nation – Labour, multiculturalism and race

Image © Alexander Kachkaev

Robin Richardson

Review of The British Dream: successes and failures of post-war immigration by David Goodhart, Atlantic Books 2013, 381 pp, £20

David Goodhart hopes there will be a Labour government, or a Labour-led coalition, from 2015 onwards. He himself belongs, he says, to the ‘political tribe of north London liberals’ and is ‘a journalist of leftish sympathies’. His subject-matter in this book is immigration policy, and the extent to which Britain can be a multicultural One Nation. It is possible to imagine Britain, he mentions, ‘little by little becoming a less civil, ever more unequal and ethnically divided country – as harsh and violent as the United States’. In such a Britain the welfare state will have largely withered away, for white British people will be increasingly unwilling to pay taxes to support people who belong to (one of Goodhart’s favourite (phrases) ‘visible minorities’. He sees his book as a wake-up call to prevent such a dystopia. Read more of this post

As mad as Hell: UKIP’s political success

Frederick Cowell 

Image© IndependentThinkerUK

Nigel Farage is the most dangerous man in British politics. Why?  He leads a party with no MPs and his party’s most well known policy, a referendum to leave the EU, is so popular among Conservative MP’s that should they win the 2015 election they’re offering their own version of it.  On TV he often comes across as a charming pub bore, the sort of chap who begins an argument midway through the second round saying “look, I’m saying what we’re all thinking here”. Yet as they manage to gain a quarter of all votes cast in this month’s local elections they are turning into a fourth force in UK politics and a real political headache. Even before the May election their influence on UK politics, outside of a vehicle of protest against the EU, had been growing steadily; at both the Eastliegh and South Shields by-elections they came second and since the start of 2013 have been absorbing defections of councillors from the Tories at the rate of one a week  Read more of this post