The Ramblings of My Brain

Leave a comment

Musicians Union EC Has Disbanded The Equalities Committee

The EC has disbanded the Equalities Committee.

All members were sent a written letter today. Me, Jackie Clifton, and Elena Piras were not sent a copy (as we had resigned in protest at the last meeting on Thursday 3rd Nov 2016 over the Union’s constant stonewalling of the Equalities Committee work).

MU General Secretary John Smith’s letter is below.

I’ve heard from other Equalities Committee members who are also deeply unhappy with the decision.

Not least, the letter contains factually inaccurate information.

Chief of these is the idea that me, Jackie, and Elena resigned due to a ‘mistaken premise of [the Equalities Committee’s] role and status’.

This is simply untrue; we resigned because the EC had overturned several key, long standing pieces of work that the Equalities Committee had done.

Second is the accusation that the Equalities Committee was meddling with the work of the Sections – I can only assume this accusation is related to our discussion about the EC overturning the will of Conference about the Sections motion from Conference 2015, which was in actual fact written by Equalities Committee member Elena Piras (as an Equalities Committee initiative) thru the Scotland & Northern Ireland Region.

This Motion was argued successfully at Conference on the firm understanding that the spirit of the motion also included the Equalities Committee (and that the word ‘Sections’ had been deliberately used because that’s how the Equalities Committee had been officially classified up to that point). We won the vote.

Aside from the factual inaccuracies contained in John Smith’s letter, the chief concern is that the EC is simply now ‘reclaiming’ the Equalities Committee as a sub committee and ‘appointing’ members in order to have more control over it (and thereby avoid having to deal with awkward, legitimate requests from the existing committee that the EC has no intention of allowing).
Deeply deeply deeply troubled by this. Not because the EC doesn’t have the remit to move committees around as it sees fit, but the accusation that the Equalities Committee wasn’t ‘functioning’ correctly – the thing is, every legitimate thing we have asked for, and been denied over the 8 years or so, has a solid evidential paper trail – from Equalities Committee Minutes thru to redacted EC Minutes which all demonstrate repeated rebuttals and sidelining of the Equalities Committee work over its whole lifetime (including during its original inception as a sub committee of the EC).

The idea that the Equalities Committee cannot ‘function’ independently, and can only ‘function’ properly as a sub committee of the EC is, quite frankly, ludicrous. As stated above, the EC was denying exactly the same Equalities Committee recommendations when it WAS a sub committee before. To infer that this decision is somehow a disciplinary decision is unbelievable, and simply doesn’t hold water.

The MU has been using the Equalities Committee for lip service. We resigned from the committee on that basis.

Far from the apparent assurances at the bottom of the letter that the Union will ‘continue to give high priority’ to the work of fighting discrimination, we resigned because it HASN’T been.

Sadly, I have no reason to believe this will change without a sea change from the EC on the matter of Equalities.

MU Rule 2h states that the MU’s objects are to promote equality for all including through: (i) collective bargaining, publicity material and campaigning, representation, Union organisation and structures, education and training, organising and recruitment, the provision of all other services and benefits and all other activities; (ii) The Union’s own employment practices. 

The Union has been negligent on following these objects; notably:

  • The absence of reasonable diversity among staff recruitment or any apparent plan to address this
  • The ongoing denial of reasonable requests by the Equalities Committee that the MU provide all MU staff, officers and officials, and MU committee members with basic Equalities Training
  • The ongoing refusal to take appropriate recommended steps to address the CHRONIC lack of BAME members on MU regional and other committees, and as Conference Delegates
  • Despite repeated requests over several years, the Musician magazine is not available to VI members until some weeks after sighted members receive a physical copy (and physical copies of the magazine are still sent out to blind and VI members) the recommendation has been that an accessible version is made available digitally but the MU insists on only making it available as an audio recording (there are several inherent problems with this format) 
  • The refusal of several requests by the Equalities Committee to remedy long standing audibility issues in the MU HQ Conference room with suitable sound treatment
  • A simple request to install appropriate handrails to the front of the building to help VI, and disabled members and visitors get safely up the steps has not been implemented 
  • A simple request that the front steps are kept clear of leaves in Winter to help VI, and disabled members and visitors get safely up the steps has not been kept up
  • The ongoing failure to set up a cohesive program to monitor membership makeup following the successful 2013 Conference Motion (which itself came about after several repeated recommendations to the EC to do this were denied over several years)
  • The EC’s overturning of 2015 Conference Motion 1 requesting Equalities Committee and Section Committee delegations and motions at the MU’s biennial Conference – this motion was written to address the lack of Equalities representation at Conference – we were informed at the last Equalities Committee Meeting that this was not being allowed (although no proper reasons for the EC overturning the will of Conference were given or forthcoming) This decision is in contravention of MU Rule V.1
  • A Communications Advisory Group was set up, and then pulled while in the middle of taking evidence for their report on Monitoring. The Advisory Group was set up to make recommendations as to MU website accessibility, to address said long term refusal (and then foot dragging) over introduction of membership monitoring, and to advise on the MU’s general communications. This after 3-4 years of MU sidelining, stonewalling, and ultimately refusal of an Equalities Committee recommendation that there should be VI input into the design and checking process prior to the new MU website going live; this never happened. This then led to embarrassed apologies being made at the 2015 Conference from the General Secretary and Chair of the EC along with other senior members of the EC, and  subsequently other senior members of staff. Subsequent discussions led to a commitment from senior MU staff to remedy the MU’s previous stonewalling in these areas by setting up the Advisory Group
  • The Advisory Group’s subsequent report on accessibility of the MU website was sat on for a year and then practically all recommendations were denied
  • Despite repeated recommendations over the past 4 years or so, the Union has been very reticent, and very slow, to develop publicity materials promoting equality for all (this has however finally begun to slowly change as of this past year)
  • The disbanding of an independent, member led Equalities Committee in place of an EC appointed sub committee – thereby losing all the expertise, and indpendence that has been built up in the committee over the past 8 years or so
  • To suggest that the current Equalities Committee is ‘not functioning’ is simply not true and smacks of an attempt to reign in, and effectively punish it for making recommendations that the EC, Secretariat, and staff do not agree with, do not understand, or refuse to allow. That there was no discussion of this with the Equalities Committee, and that nobody from the MU reached out to the three of us who resigned underlines how the EC has been treating Equalities as a chore to be managed as opposed to an OBJECT to be proactively promoted. 

Leave a comment

#AngelaEagle Addressees An Unhappy Crowd At 2013 #TUCLGBT Conference – Angela Eagle Is A Farce 

In 2013 I was a Delegate for the Musicians Union (MU) at the TUC LGBT Conference. Angela Eagle addressed us. An angry conference demanded to know why Labour MPs were not challenging Tory Lies and disinformation: ‘you have to trust us’, she said, ‘we can’t fall into Tory traps’.

Labour MPs then went on to support Tory Welfare Cuts and adopted #UKIP/Tory anti immigration messages in a desperate (badly advised) attempt at harnessing the UKIP vote. They sang along with the Tories ‘skivers versus strivers’ rhetoric and underlined the Austerity narrative.

Despite the fact the Tories LIED in saying ‘Labour were responsible for the 2008 Crash’, some Labour MPs APOLOGISED for it – others went to the Press to say ‘we got it wrong on immigration’ when we didn’t.
They then lost the 2015 GE and promptly claimed it was because they were ‘too Left wing’ and blamed a woefully hindered Miliband for doing what they told him to do.

The Parliamentary Labour Party is deluded; so busy running around like headless chickens repeating ‘we must win at all costs’ that they actually forget what they’re winning for…and what those costs might be…

Becoming an outsourced wing of the Tory Party is not a price worth paying.

Democracy is not ‘about winning’ – it’s about REPRESENTING the Country – it’s about standing up for what’s RIGHT – not THE Right – it’s about standing up FOR Rights – not the FAR Right. Democracy is about ENCOURAGING Activists, not spending all your Party’s resources on SQUASHING them.

Angela Eagle is a farce

Leave a comment

PLP Jeremy Corbyn Coup Fiasco

I am writing to you to express, in the strongest possible terms, my utter disgust at the recent PLP attacks on Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn following the Referendum.

That the Parliamentary Labour Party would be using recent events to launch a long planned and undemocratic coup against our democratically elected Leader is dispicable.

I am a member of the Musicians Union and an affiliate member of Labour. I, along with many, many others voted for Jeremy in last year’s Leadership contest. He won with an overwhelming majority. He retains my full support.  

Despite a desperate, and decidedly obvious, campaign of propaganda and disinformation being pumped out into the mainstream media on a daily basis by the PLP, Corbyn clearly has the support of most of the Membership, a sizeable chunk of PLP, 90% of CLP Chairs, a growing number of newly joined members, much of informed Social Media users, and the Country as a whole.

During Jeremy’s relatively short term in Office, Labour has begun to once more stand up for the poor, weak, and vulnerable. Prior to his Leadership, I, along with many others, had all but given up any hope in Labour following the illegal Iraq War, disastrous experiments with PFI, and 5 years of apeing Tory Austerity and UKIP Immigration polices. I am furious with Angela Eagle (and many others).

At the TUC LGBT Conference back in 2013, Angela Eagle addressed angry concerns from the floor. Angry Conference attendees asked her when Labour was going to finally stand up for the interests of the poor and the vulnerable; when it was going to challenge the Tory lies that Labour was responsible for the crash in 2008; that Labour had ‘spent all the money’ and bankrupted the country. Angela’s answer was ‘you have to trust us – we cannot fall into Tory traps’.

Labour subsequently went on to vote to support Tory Welfare Cuts, and Labour MPs went on record as ‘apologising for Labour ‘getting it wrong’ on Immigration, and Welfare, and the Economy: We didn’t…

I recall the unedifying spectacle of Labour MPs UNDERLINING the Tory Austerity narrative, and reinforcing Tory scapegoating of the unemployed, and the poor. The 2015 election was lost by Labour adopting UKIP and Tory dogwhistle anti immigration rhetoric. I, along with many others, was wholeheartedly sickened that Labour created anti immigration coffee mugs as merchandise for sale on their website.

I had arguments on twitter with Sunny Hundal who I understand was advising Labour that it was not possible to contest Tory lies without thereby reinforcing them. That single idiotic idea inspired those very same Labour MPs who were going out on National Television and Radio to ‘apologise’ for things we hadn’t actually done in order to somehow (God knows how) persuade people to trust Labour…??

This, in addition to several other, longstanding issues of incompetence in Scottish Labour, of course had the effect of completely destroying Labour’s base in Scotland, and we thereby lost our chance to regain power.

The recent coup was long documented in the Press before even taking place; it was planned to take place on several other occasions imagined to show Corbyn as ‘unelectable’ which then backfired as by-elections were WON by Labour Candidates with mostly increasing majorities, and Local Council elections were good for Labour despite negative briefings later on the BBC and in the Papers. The data however speaks for itself.

The PLP has been colluding with the Press and Mainstream Media to bash Corbyn at every available opportunity. The lies they’ve pumped out are unbecoming of anyone who purports to represent our Party. At their worst, they bring the Labour Party into disrepute, and surely constitute a disciplinary action.

The idea that Corbyn is ‘unelectable’ is laughable. Aside from anything else, this lie has been bandied about by those MPs who’s own preferred Leadership Candidates underwhelmingly LOST to Corbyn during the Leadership Contest.

The idea that the Membership doesn’t know anything about anything is disgraceful. The idea that MPs have apparently started calling those new supporters ‘£3ers’ is disgusting.

CLPs up and down the country have begun speaking out on the disgraceful way that PLP MPs have been treating Corbyn, and the appalling, undignified way they have been selling themselves to the right wing Press to do so.

I need not remind you that Brexit represents the single most catastrophic event in the UK’s history. The Social, Financial, Economic, Political, and HUMAN costs of this disastrous outcome will probably send us into a recession that we cannot spin our way out of.

The Tory Party has been on its knees, trillions of dollars wiped off the Global Economy, UK and EU Citizens are being attacked on our streets like some laterday 1930s Nazi Germany. The Country is in DESPERATE need, and instead of stepping up to fill that void, the PLP decides to launch an undemocratic, and long planned coup against the Labour Party’s overwhelmingly democratically mandated Leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

This sickens me.

Now is the time for the Labour Party to be standing UP for the weak, the poor, the vulnerable – not tearing itself apart for the sake of petty, careerist powertrips.

I reiterate – Jeremy Corbyn has my full, and continuing support.

I urge you to get behind our democratically elected Leader and urge fellow Labour MPs and the PLP to get down to the actual business of helping the Country find a solution to the TORY mess of Austerity, Poverty, Inequality, Xenophobia, and Brexit.


1 Comment

EU Referendum – Divisive Yes, Decisive No

I, along with much of the Country, was appalled and devastated by the outcome of Thursday’s Referendum on our membership of the EU. 
While there were doubtless some Leave supporters who had the best of intentions, I fear the vast majority were manipulated into voting Leave for spurious, dubious, and factually incorrect reasons. In effect, they were bamboozled.

I did not see one credible reason being put forward by the Leave Campaign as to why we should leave. Their xenophobic campaign was based on lies and disinformation, deliberately trying to appeal to a little Englander mentality. 

On the basis that the information delivered to the Electorate was not legitimate, I would argue that the legitimacy of a 52-48 Vote outcome is also moot. 

Equally, such a close result cannot be said to be the decisive outcome that we should require of such a monumental decision.

The Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011 requires the support of 2/3 of the House in order to call for a General Election outside of the otherwise fixed 5 year term. I would argue that something equally (if not more) important to the Nation’s Democracy like an In/Out Referendum on our membership to the EU requires a similarly high benchmark to demonstrate a decisive majority is in favour.

On that basis, I have joined with some 3.5 million other UK Citizens in signing a petition on the Government’s website calling for a further referendum in the event of a less than 60% outcome of 75% turnout (

Even Nigel Farage himself claimed pre Referendum that ‘in a 52-48 referendum this will be unfinished business by a long way. If the remain campaign win two-thirds to one-third that ends it’.

While I understand that a Referendum is not legally binding on Government (which in itself strikes me as odd), I also understand that any such Referendum will (quite rightly) place enormous political pressure on them to adopt the outcome. 

In light of the hugely devastating affect this Referendum has already had on our Economy in just a few days, and the human costs to our society with the escalated,  xenophobic scapegoating of Citizens deemed to be ‘immigrants’, I would ask you to urge the Government to very carefully consider the effects of blindly following the result.

I understand that any Trade Agreement reached with the EU outside of membership is likely to have similar costs attached to those we already pay, alongside equal requirements for Freedom of Travel for EU Citizens. So what exactly is the point and/or difference to us being outside of the EU as opposed to inside it?

Boris Johnson this evening wrote a very odd, conciliatory article in the Telegraph outlining his vision of this (–and-alw/).

His considered opinion seems to be that the only actual difference would be in us removing ourselves from the requirements to follow EU Law. Given the Tories’ ongoing desire to diminish and revoke Human Rights and Trade Union Laws, this strikes me as deeply worrying.

It transpires that neither the Leave Campaign, nor (bizarrely) No 10 had made any plans AT ALL for what would happen after a vote in favour of Brexit.

Please call for another Referendum as soon as possible in order to clarify the position before Article 50 has been invoked (article 50 notifies notifies the EU of a member state’s desire to leave the Union (NB this has never been done before)). 

Please call for that Referendum to have suitably robust requirements for what constitutes a ‘win’ (preferably as per the Government website petition sited above – which I believe is based on standard EU Referendum requirements).

Leave a comment

Oppression fucks people up

Oppression fucks people up​.

There are three ways to tackle oppression, three ways we can play a part in ending it and resolving it:
1. We can become conscious of own oppression, and by recognising it, we empower ourselves to make change in the way we otherwise allow ourselves to oppress and hurt others with our own oppression 

2. We can help others to become conscious of their own oppression by naming it when it happens, by refusing to act as a scapegoat for others’ ill behaviour which emanates from their pain and by offering a helping hand when they are ready and willing to seek ways to curtail its negative outcomes and heal themselves; ready to block the well from pouring forth its toxic waves.

3. We can work to bring about positive social change in order to ensure we do not create future oppressed people in the first place. We do this by working together to ensure Equality for all, to counter and challenge misinformation and prejudice wherever it rears its ugly heads, and provide the necessary resources to help those who have been oppressed to heal.

Leave a comment

Vote Of No Confidence in Conservative Government

The current Conservative Government led by David Cameron and accounted for by George Osborne and a coterie of other angels of doom has repeatedly demonstrated their refusal to listen to the electorate & has reneged on many promises made in their Manifestos.

They are arrogantly pushing ahead with ill-advised & often dangerous reforms in Education, NHS, Welfare/Benefits, the Civil Service, and countless other structural public services; all of which have considerable opposition from respected professionals & the public.

They are taking financial actions which are resulting in considerably worse fiscal conditions, fudging projected outcomes & refusing to take responsibility.

They have done little to force the Banking Industry to atone for its irresponsible actions & yet are actively pursuing a campaign of scapegoating the very weakest members of our society with little regard for the devastating effect their extreme actions will have on communities, families & children.

They have shown themselves to be incompetent & incapable of representing.

We therefore call for a vote of no confidence in their ability to govern and make a call for them to be stripped of office immediately.

Leave a comment

2013 / 2014 / 2015 – My one long year of L&Q hell

And the repeated need to use the word ‘subsequently’

L&Q – creating places where people no longer want to live

About 9:30pm on Xmas Eve 2013 I walked into my living room to have a phone conversation with a friend prior to wrapping some presents. I had not been in the living room for a few days as I’d been busy getting ready for Christmas. My neighbours had reported water damage in their living room but I had believed I hadn’t been affected.

As I took off my flip-flops to sit down and chat to Vincent on the phone, I noticed the carpet was wet underfoot. I soon realised that about 1/3 of the carpet was soaking wet. Cardboard boxes I had against the outside wall had collapsed having soaked up the water that was all over the carpet. I was distraught. It was too late to get any help, given it was so late on Xmas Eve. I ended up single handedly moving all my furniture around to avoid the wall where the water was congregating. The most distressing thing at that point was that I had no way of knowing where the water was coming in, nor how much more was likely to appear. It later transpired that the water was coming in thru the external wall and seeping into the carpet and into the room.

It took me about 3-4 hours to move all the furniture and boxes and music equipment and instruments as far away as possible from the wet carpet end of the room. I had no idea whether even that was going to be safe for them. I had to remove several cardboard boxes which had soaked up water and collapsed under their own weight. A futon floor cushion was so sodden that it took about 1-2 weeks to dry out, subsequently sat permanently outside my front door, draped over a large wooden chair in an effort to allow it to air. The cushion ended up being permanently water stained where the rain water and salts had dried out. The outer cover was damaged by the wet cushion inside bleeding dye.

The only safe place to put paperwork and boxes containing valuable and fragile files and computer data was on top of the futon sofa in an effort to keep it off the floor as I didn’t know how much more water was likely come in, or where or when. The futon sofa is made of wood and has legs which sit some 6-8 inches off the floor so I figured that was the only sure-fire safe spot for the most valuable and fragile items.

L&Q Surveyor, James Lisle had already been tasked with coming out to visit my neighbours Mary and Mick Lait to inspect the damage on Christmas Eve. He didn’t show up. I then emailed his line manager, Nick Tighe on Xmas Eve who subsequently tasked James to visit. Once again he didn’t. I then spoke to James on the day before New Year’s Eve and instead of making a plan to visit to inspect, he put it onto the newest member of the Surveyor team, Jack Plummer. Jack wasn’t able to attend until 2nd Jan. I subsequently made a complaint to a Nick Tighe about James Lisle’s appallingly unprofessional behaviour. Nick apologised and asked me to leave the matter with him as opposed to taking out a formal complaint, he promised me James would apologise to me. I’m still waiting over a year later.

Christmas Day was subsequently ruined. I was tired, stressed, and anxious. I can’t have been any kind of company for my parents and left relatively early due to the stress of not knowing what I was going to find when I arrived home.

On Christmas Day evening, I borrowed a carpet cleaner from my parents in an effort to soak up some of the water from the carpet and spent the next day or so vacuuming up water. The smell was like old cabbages when I got home.

I had peeled the carpet back from the wall in order to let it dry and air. Over the next weeks, every time it rained I would jump up to make sure no water was coming in. It often was. In fact several times over the next few weeks to a month, the water would come in so much that the only way I could stop it overnight was to roll up towels into long sausages and put them by the wall to soak it up. Every morning I would then have to boil wash the towels and tumble dry them. It got so bad that in the middle of the night I would jump up and run into the living room every time I thought I could hear rain to check the water wasn’t coming in.

Later in January, Jack Plummer arranged for a dehumidifier to be delivered which I left on pretty much 24hrs a day for a few weeks in order to help dry out the room, constantly emptying the water tray every few hours in order to dry the room. Jack made sure I was compensated for Gas and Electricity as I was also turning the heat up and leaving the balcony door and windows open to air the room following the awful smell on Christmas Day.

Mould was spreading on the wall paper. I was worried that the spores might get onto my carpet, my futon and my books and paperwork. Jack Plummer offered to have a contractor come to strip the wallpaper. This didn’t happen until 7th Feb.

The contractor found the walls to be really wet underneath along with various spots in the ceiling where water had presumably seeped thru from upstairs’ floor. I assumed that once the walls were dry, my living room would be back to normal within a month or so and that they would come to re paper the walls. As of 12th January 2015, I am still waiting. Provisionally this is set to go ahead on 26th January 2015.

It was my friend’s 65th birthday on 1st Feb 2014 and we had previously planned for him to stay at my flat so we could go out to see a play to celebrate. There is no way it would have been possible for him to stay at mine given the damp, the mould and the lack of space. We had to make alternative arrangements. Similarly he was supposed to stay with me on New Year’s Eve. Obviously that was not possible and he had to make alternative arrangements.

I have been living without proper access to my living room since Xmas Eve 2013. Eventually the room had dried out enough for me to allow my friend to stay on 20th June 2014. It was then that I was able to move the boxes, files and paperwork that had been sitting on the sofa for safety away from the water and wet carpet. As such the futon mattress has been squashed from the constant weight over those months while I waited for the rain to stop, the room to dry out and L&Q to step up to the mark and do the necessary repairs to remedy the situation.

I still wasn’t able to properly use the living room and still can’t. The walls and wallpaper are still awaiting repair. I’m still waiting on redecoration and compensation.

The external waterproofing work didn’t start until end of August 2014. It is still ongoing although they finished waterproofing our side of the building some 6 weeks or so later.

My neighbour, Mick Lait has subsequently had a massive stroke following several months of trying to get L&Q to step up to the plate and actually DO something. After Jack Plummer had handed over his and Martin Arnold’s reports, the whole situation went into limbo. Mick Lait was never able to find anyone inside L&Q who either knew about the situation, or was able to pass him onto somebody who did. Various members of staff promised they would call back with further information and never did. In the months and weeks leading up to his stroke, he spent HOURS on the phone trying to get a considered response. In the weeks before his stroke, he was getting angrier and angrier at the way L&Q were treating us and avoiding taking care of their responsibilities to us and their building. As of writing this, Mick is now left without the use of his right hand and still unable to talk. He used to be our Estate Champion and sat on the steering group that oversaw the stock transfer of Lewisham Park to L&Q. Given the appalling treatment we’ve all had this year, he subsequently told me he wished they’d all elected to go with Hyde Housing instead of L&Q.

Subsequently I have been living in hell since Xmas Eve 2013. The stress of living in a one bedroom flat with no proper access to a living room is immense. I spent most of this past year living in the bedroom. We expected that the internal refurb would be completed before Mick came out of hospital and another tenant had had her baby. I said I was happy for them to be prioritised. This hasn’t however happened. I have no idea why this is the case. I suspect this is due to underestimating the time needed to complete a tendering and contract process.

Given the hell I’ve been living with for the past year, I expect some compensation for not being able to use my living room for such an indecently (and unreasonably) long time. This is in keeping with L&Q’s promises in their offer document.

I am also seeking compensation for a replacement futon mattress, the futon floor cushion and a set of 6 bath towels.