Local election analysis – Harborne

On what was a fairly mixed but still relatively drama-free day of local election results for Labour in the second city there are a couple of contests that really stand out.

 

The Greens winning comfortably in Druids Heath to get their first ever councillor in Birmingham was of course the one that has generated the most headlines, but the results in Acocks Green and Harborne are also noteworthy as in both cases these two member wards had successful candidates from two parties. 

 

AG

 

I won’t dwell too much on Acocks Green but the 700+ vote gap between John O’Shea and Fiona Williams that allowed the Liberal Democrat Roger Harmer in is on the face of it highly unusual. Hopefully at some stage we will get an explanation, although clearly the two sitting councillors being re-elected, regardless of their party affiliation, may go some way in that regard.

 

I will concentrate here on Harborne, where one of the protagonists was none other than Sundip Meghani, a figure of some notoriety for those familiar with goings-on in Labour politics in the South of the city. He was beaten by both of the Tory candidates and thus finished fourth, nearly 600 votes behind sitting councillor Jayne Francis, the one sitting councillor standing in the ward. The other successful candidate was the Tory Peter Fowler, who has held elected office elsewhere in the region but I believe has not stood in Birmingham before. He beat Meghani by nearly 500 votes. 

 

H1.1 

It would be remiss to not begin with the tortuous process that led MeghanI being the second Labour candidate in the first place. It took an oft-reported three attempts (and a further meeting that had to be cancelled at the last minute following an NEC intervention across the city) after numerous irregularities were alleged. These have, to the best of my knowledge and that of my sources in the ward, not been disproven. A huge amount of avoidable political and PR damage was done which could have been avoided if the rulebook had just been stuck to rigorously.  

 

And while Meghani won a comfortable majority at the third and final run of the shortlisting and selection meeting on December 13th 2017 when all the candidates were given access to the membership list that he had somehow managed to get his hands on before the second attempt, I’m told that most of the people who voted for him were then conspicuous by their absence during the campaign.

 

So what other factors may have come in play?

 

One of course does notice the fact that the two white candidates standing for the major parties have been elected and the two Asian candidates have not. However Akaal Sidhu is less than 150 votes behind his counterpart Fowler, which is a pretty normal gap between two candidates of the same party (see the Acocks Green result for the Lib Dems), but Meghani is nearly 600 behind Francis and over 300 behind Sidhu. Clearly something else was going on.  

 

Speaking to Labour members in the ward they tell me that the Tories hammered the ward with literature and it was one of their main priorities across the city. Sidhu and Fowler appeared all over the place and clearly did the groundwork.

 

Labour’s first campaign leaflet (which appeared very quickly after the first disputed selection meeting) made no mention of the inclusion of the ward of the Welsh House Farm estate, which has been moved over from Quinton. Considering this is the most deprived part of what is in places a pretty affluent ward, this was a huge miscalculation almost designed to be a kick in the teeth. An incumbent with a pretty strong track record of being a conscientious councillor (which Francis has) can get away with something like that. A new candidate probably less so.

 

A look through Meghani’s Twitter account also provides some clues. 

 

 SM1

 

 SM 2.1.jpg

 

What’s interesting going through it as the weeks go by is that at no stage does he ever really talk about or engage with the key local issues with any specifics. If there is any commentary it invariably takes the form of generality, which is very surprising in a CLP like Edgbaston that I’m told focuses relentlessly on local matters. And the embarrassing hashtag #LoveHarborne comes across as painfully insincere.   

 

 SM 3.1.jpg

 

This one in particular is really embarrassing. Pretty much every week of the campaign Meghani announces a guest, uniformly on the hard right of the party, from outside of the CLP. So he cannot really talk about “outside help” without looking like a massive hypocrite.   

The other note-worthy theme, repeated to the point of cliché, is his invocation to voters to “reject the Tory hard-Brexit austerity agenda”. This mantra, I can only assume, is a tactic designed to appeal to the narrowly remain-voting electorate in the Edgbaston constituency. If so it is incredibly clumsy.

 

Brexit played no role in the local elections in Birmingham and to use the rejection of it as a tactic to win votes betrays a huge misunderstanding of the electorate – and is in fact hugely patronising. There is nothing that Meghani could do to stop the “Tory hard-Brexit austerity agenda” inside the council chamber and that isn’t what he is being elected to do anyway. The idea that voters in places like Welsh House Farm will respond to something like that is just silly, and a bizarrely rookie error from someone who stood a number of times for various types of elected office in Leicester.

 

Hopefully lessons will be learnt for 2022 and a repeat avoided. There is no reason why wards like Harborne shouldn’t be returning two Labour candidates – as Preet Gill’s thumping majority across the whole constituency in 2017 showed, there is a massive Labour vote in the area. The basics need to be got right and roots sunk in the local communities, especially Welsh House Farm, starting now. It is impossible to know if an alternative candidate to Meghani would have won – but either way things need to be done very differently next time.   

 

MW

 

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Conservative Councillor Peter Douglas Osborn’s offensive comments prove the Nasty Party never went away

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(Re-posted from https://francisclarke.org/)

On Thursday evening, I attended the local elections hustings event for Bournville & Cotteridge Ward, arranged and hosted by the ever civic-minded The Cotteridge Church.

 

As a Labour activist, I came along to support our two excellent candidates, Councillor Liz Clements and Fred Grindrod, and to speak up for the socialist policies in Birmingham Labour’s manifesto, Building a better Birmingham. I did not, however, expect, to have to challenge the Conservative candidate, Councillor Peter Douglas Osborn, over his use of the offensive terms “tinker” and “coloured”, and to hear him framing the dramatic increase in demand for our local B30 Foodbank by quoting the Bible and describing ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ people in need.

 

Sadly, my first close-up encounter with Peter Douglas Obsborn brought home to be me the harsh reality that, despite their best efforts to soften their public image, the Conservatives are still the “Nasty Party” of British politics.

 

No shows from Tory Rob Sealey and the Greens

 

The hustings started off predictably enough, with each of the candidates introducing themselves and setting out their respective stalls. In addition to Labour candidates Councillor Liz Clements and Fred  Grindrod and the Tory Peter Douglas Osborn, we also got to hear from the Lib Dem candidate David Radcliffe as well as Clive Walder, an affable person representing the left-wing Trade Union & Socialist Alliance. Sadly, the two Green candidates standing in Bournville & Cotteridge gave their apologies. A seat and a name sign were left for another Conservative candidate, Rob Sealey, but unfortunately he never turned up (we were told he was flying back to Brum that evening so he may well have been held up along the way).

 

Peter Douglas Osborn: back from the USSR

 

In retrospect, I should have picked up from Peter Douglas Osborn’s opening remarks that things were going to take a turn for the worse.

 

Whereas Liz presented a clear case for how the Tories’ politically motivated programme of austerity, driven by their ideological obsession with shrinking the state, was directly responsible for the social and economic problems facing Bournville & Cotteridge, Peter Douglas Osborne’s opening statement was somewhat more, well, ‘idiosyncratic’.

 

Peter Douglas Osborn started off by on a somewhat rambling account of a trip he’d made to the USSR 40 or so years ago. On this trip, we were told, Peter learned about how Soviet authorities took a dim view on religion and churches playing a role in political life. He then remarked on how great it was that we live in a country with religious and political freedoms that mean a church can host elections hustings.

 

As someone who specialised in Russian history at university, I actually quite enjoyed Peter Douglas Osborn’s story but I must confess I struggled to see how it was relevant to a local election campaign and the very severe challenges facing our community and city. In fact, the closest he got to even talking about Bournville & Cotteridge was when he recalled his days playing rugby in our local playing fields many years ago. And even this choice of anecdote was somewhat ill-advised, given the fact that we’ve only recently lost our park keeper thanks to the Tory austerity cuts our Labour-run city council has had to implement.

Question Time

 

Our host, Reverend Mike Claridge, then proceeded to read out a series of questions members of the public had sent him on a range of topics, including the impact of spending cuts, how to improve congestion and parking in Cotteridge. For me, what was striking was the way that both the Lib Dem candidate, David Radcliffe, and the Tory Peter Douglas Osborn, both conveniently overlooked the direct role both their parties have played in creating the austerity agenda the Labour-led Birmingham City Council is being forced to implement. This reached its zenith when Peter spoke up in favour of more public transport for school children. Did he forget that under the Tories bus budgets have been slashed by 40% since 2010?

 

“The poor will always be with us”

 

So far, so relatively harmless. That was until Reverend Michael Claridge asked each candidate for their thoughts on what’s behind the dramatic increase in local people accessing the B30 Foodbank, which is based out of The Cotteridge Church  (demand is estimated to have roughly doubled between 2016 and 2017).

 

Whereas Liz presented a convincing case for how the Tories’ politically motivated programme of austerity and dismantling the welfare state, combined with the rise of zero-hours contracts, has driven local people to crisis point, Peter Douglas Osborn took an altogether less analytical approach.

 

Rather than give a straight answer, he opted to quote the Bible: “for you have the poor always with you”, effectively dismissing the huge rise in demand as something beyond anyone’s control, let alone anything our politicians should seek to tackle. He also heavily implied people were motivated by the prospect of being able to obtain free food, rather than because they were experiencing genuine hardship.

 

Unconcerned with what he’d said about foodbank users, Peter Douglas Osborn then proceeded to spend the rest of his allotted time talking about his strong commitment to helping the people in our community who he felt deserved help, notably people with mental health difficulties, whose welfare he actually seemed quite concerned about.

 

Fortunately, the other candidates and members of The Cotteridge Church didn’t let Peter Douglas Osborn’s ignorant opinions go unchallenged. When Fred challenged Peter for essentially saying that the rise in foodbank usage was down to ‘scroungers’, Peter said in response that “people didn’t want to hear the truth”.

I’m pleased to say Reverend Roger Collins, who runs the B30 Foodbank, was also on hand to calmly present the candidates and members of the public with the statistics they collect on their service users. These clearly showed how changes to benefits, including the recent roll-out of Universal Credit, together with precarious work, was driving demandThings take a turn for the offensive

 

After thinking things couldn’t get any worse, Peter Douglas Osborn somehow managed to plumb new depths. In response to a simple question about the recycling service in Birmingham (something the Labour, Lib Dems and Trade Union & Socialist Alliance all agreed we as a city need to get better at), he again chose to take us on a trip down memory lane, this time talking about how, in years gone by, the “tinkers” would pick up items people had left out for them.

 

As an Irish person, I take issue with the ethnic slur”tinker”, although I appreciate some people use it without realising its true meaning. Here’s the Wikipedia definition for the avoidance of doubt:

 

Wikipedia defintion of tinker

 

As a former local government equality officer, I am well aware of the sensitivities which exist around language. I am also conscious of the fact that people can often unknowingly use offensive language and so I feel it’s important to give people a second chance when they do. This is what really troubles me about what happened next.

 

A case of ‘political correctness gone mad’ or simply treating everyone with respect?

 

After each of the candidates had finished making their statements, I expressed my concern over the language Peter Douglas Osborn had just used, explaining that I felt it was completely unacceptable for anyone, let alone a public servant, to be using such offensive language in Birmingham in 2018. Peter seemed surprised and annoyed that I had challenged him but not apologetic.

 

In order to test his true intent, I followed up with a question, “would you use the term ‘coloured’?”. Shockingly, he said yes he would and proceeded to say the words “tinker” and “coloured” back to me and the room. Seeing the expressions of disbelief in my face and the faces of the other candidates, he continued to talk. Instead of apologising, he criticised me for caring so much, saying words to the effect of “you can get upset as much as you like”. He then followed this up by dismissing  wider social concerns over offensive language and political correctness as being a “manufactured” upset, echoing the ‘political correctness gone mad’ attitude which is sometimes expressed. 25 years after the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence and with the Windrush scandal showing no signs of easing, I was disturbed by Peter Douglas Obsborn’s comments, especially given that he currently sits on the West Midlands Police and Crime Panel, and so exercises influence over policing in our region.

 

Holding Peter Douglas Osborn and the Conservatives to account

 

After my encounter with Peter Douglas Osborn, I concentrated on simply getting through the remainder of the hustings without further incident. It was only afterwards, as I made my way home and told my wife about the evening, that I began to truly comprehend how unpleasantly the Conservative candidate for Bournville & Cotteridge had behaved.

 

If anything good has come out of my encounter with Peter Douglas Osborn, it’s that it has made more people realise what’s at stake when Birmingham goes to the polls this Thursday. The election here in Bournville & Cotteridge is not only a choice between Labour candidates  who will do everything they can to protect the most vulnerable in our community versus Conservative candiates who will happily go along with the austerity programme being orchestrated by the Tories in Westminster.

 

At a more basic level, it’s a choice between decent human beings (everyone on the panel bar PDO, it would seem) who believe we should look out for each other and someone who casually dismisses concerns over racial slurs and the very real hardship an ever increasing number of people in our local community are experiencing.

 

I’m pleased to report that the Labour candidates Councillor Liz Clements and candidate Fred Grindrod have written to the Conservative West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street and the leader of the Conservative Group on Birmingham City Council, Robert Alden, asking them to condemn the remarks made by Peter Douglas Osborn. I’m also heartened by the amount of support both Bournville & Cotteridge and I have received online and offline from people throughout Birmingham and beyond.

 

I hope the Conservatives will condemn and distance themselves from Peter Douglas Osborn’s unpleasant attitudes, otherwise I believe  this incident will only serve to conjure up memories of the Conservatives as the ‘Nasty Party’ of British politics.

 

I’ll aim to write an update post after the local elections are over. In the meantime, you can keep up-to-date with the latest developments by following me on Twitter @francisclarke. You also follow Bournville & Cotteridge Labour @LabBournville if you’d like to find out more about our campaign.

Francis Clarke

Standing up for the Homeless in Harborne

A poorly attended Harborne Labour Party branch meeting saw members vote down a motion that resolved to oppose the criminalisation of homelessness. The motion attempted to bring local homelessness policy into line with the national manifesto. It fell by one vote.

After consultation, West Midlands Police sent out a survey that introduced the possibility of a Public Space Protection Order on Harborne High Street, directed against “rough sleeping” and “aggressive begging”. A PSPO is an order in a given geographical area that would legally penalise non-criminal acts. If you breach a PSPO you are fined and you get a criminal record. Rough sleepers are the very poorest in our society. Fining them and giving them a criminal record only makes their lives far more difficult than they already are. The solutions to the problems of abject poverty are not to be found in criminalising homelessness.

The proposer referenced a recent tweet from Dudley MP, Ian Austin, responding to a Tory Councillor on the same issue. It read:

“This Tory councillor thinks the problem with begging is catching people.

I think it’s poverty, homelessness, addiction and benefit changes.”

Mr Austin clearly knows that criminalising homelessness only serves to further damage the lives of the most vulnerable. We should take this advice, and follow our national manifesto pledge to end rough sleeping within the next parliament. PSPOs directed at rough sleepers are not compatible with our national plan on homelessness.

Despite the attempt to show support for the homeless in Harborne, opponents of the motion pointed to an increase in drug dealing on the High Street. Police already have the powers to arrest drug dealers. The law already covers it. The fundamental and obvious issues for rough sleepers are a lack of housing, poverty and extreme vulnerability. A PSPO does nothing to tackle these problems.

One member highlighted stark differences of opinion in the party, speaking against the motion, stating: “I could not vote for a motion that publicly reaffirm(s) our complete opposition to any attempt to criminalise homelessness or rough sleeping.”

The meeting was poorly attended and far too short. However, the issues were discussed in a comradely fashion much thanks to the chair who did a fantastic job. It is, nonetheless, awfully disappointing that the party is keeping the option of criminalising homelessness on the table. We should always be looking to help the poorest in society. This was an easy opportunity to put acres of political space between us and the Tories, and we have not taken it.

The positives from the meeting were that the motion received 6 votes and there were about 5 new members there. Hopefully they will come to more meetings and join in the campaign to support the homeless across the city.

MSB statement on the selection of Labour’s new General Secretary.

It is a testament to how far we have come since September 2015 that there is even a debate about two left-wing candidates for the post of General Secretary and that both are outstanding.

Momentum South Birmingham owes its existence to Jon Lansman and there is little doubt that his role over the years, of firstly keeping the flame burning of socialism in the Labour Party despite defeat after defeat, and then being so central to the astonishing progress that the left has made since the election of Jeremy Corbyn, has been a key one and will continue to be key. Without Momentum, and Jon Lansman, it is very clear that the Corbyn project would have been strangled at birth and we should never, ever forget that.

Jon would make an exceptional general secretary and his motivations for standing are we are sure unquestionably good and democratic ones; but MSB members, after a decisive vote at our 4th March branch meeting, are of the view that Jenny Formby should be the next general secretary of the Labour Party.

Jenny has shown over the years an exceptional aptitude for this kind of role and it is high time we had a woman in a senior party position. Her politics are clearly and consistently of the radical left and it is right that Unite, the biggest affiliated union, plays a major role in the future direction of the party of the organised working class.

The stakes right now could not be higher. We have an historic opportunity to make permanent changes to the party and build a mass movement rooted in workplaces and communities, and takes office with a plan to transform society on socialist principles. But we must not assume that the left’s current ascendancy is permanent or anything more than fragile. As we know in the West Midlands, the task of changing the party at every level is enormous. Just modest improvements have taken protracted and draining struggle and we have not been able to relax for even a moment.

We will only succeed in our mission of party and socialist transformation if the Labour left is united and right now there is no room for complacency – and sadly having two left candidates competing for the role is not an indulgence we can afford. If the right were thoroughly routed and we had an enormous majority on the NEC then we could consider a selection of candidates. We are not in that position yet. And while the rules may allow for an exhaustive NEC ballot the signal that a single left candidate would send is a strong and positive one.

The media stories about a Momentum/Unite split fill MSB members with horror, particularly as many of us are proud members of both organisations. The future of the project hinges on ensuring that any split is firmly nipped in the bud and we have seen over and over again locally the importance of Momentum’s relationship with the union. To take one prosaic example, we took the decision to endorse Jenny in the Unite offices in Birmingham.

MSB seeks to retain its comradely relationship with the Momentum national office and Jon Lansman, and we would be diminished without that. But the power of friendship is the ability to tell a friend when they are making a mistake, and we believe Jon’s candidacy at this moment is a mistake. The left needs to unite behind one candidate and that candidate should be Jenny Formby.

We offer her our full support and urge Jon Lansman to re-consider his decision to stand.

In solidarity

MSB

Down at the picket line with the UCU

On a bright cold morning outside Aston University campus, members of the University and College Union formed a picket line in defense of their pensions. They were joined by local activists and supporters, all angry at the bosses who are trying to force the UCU members to pay the price for failures caused by capitalism. Despite the cold weather, around 100 members and supporters joined the picket line, including members of our group, South Birmingham Momentum. We spoke to those on the front line.

Graeme, a UCU rep, explained that the cause of the dispute was the bosses attempts to change the final pensions scheme entirely. He said that the proposed switch from a defined benefits system to a defined contributions system would cost the average lecturer around £10,000 a year. This is, quite simply, a wage cut. Pensions are not a bonus, nor an added extra. They are deferred wages that should allow workers to retire without financial worry. A defined benefits system means that workers pay into a pension pot and know what they will be getting in retirement. A defined contributions system is where workers pay into a pension pot and don’t know what they will be getting in retirement. Workers are being told to gamble with their future, taking on more of the risks from their pension investments. In Aston, 68% of UCU members turned out to vote in the ballot, smashing the 50% threshold that the Tory government introduced during their last round of anti-worker, union-bashing legislation. Of these, over 89%, voted in favour of strike action, just slightly higher than the national figure of 88%. Across at the University of Birmingham, the ballot returned a result of over 84% of members in favour of strike action. Annoyingly, this was on a turnout of 48% – 2% below the government threshold – meaning that they were not able to strike. Apply this same “threshold” to the council elections this coming May…….. we would never elect a council, and barely a Tory one. But, the working-class knows only too well: its one rule for the capitalist class, and a completely different set of rules for the rest of us. But, the huge support across the country shows that workers are not taking this lying down, and are determined to win this dispute.

Christina, a reader in Psychology, said that slashing pensions will worsen the quality of Further and Higher education. Bosses must pay reasonable pensions – which, we must remember, are deferred wages – for the fantastic work that is done. Instead, bosses want to reduce their own contribution and increase the worker’s contribution. As the UCU leaflet slightly understated: “University employers want to end guaranteed pensions and reduce retirement income for all.” Eventually employers will want to get rid of retirement income altogether and their friends in Parliament, who support the political ideas of the ruling class, will bend over backwards to help them achieve this by forcing workers to accept rotten pension schemes or, as has happened before, by increasing the retirement age. Workers need to stand up to this attack on there livelihoods before we get to this situation. Bosses are always looking for ways to make more profits by exploiting the workforce. We should always be fighting for better terms. As the late, great Bob Crow would remind us of the slogan of the RMT – “NEVER ON OUR KNEES!”

Given the huge support for the strike action, the workers are in a powerful position and the bosses would be wise to get back to the negotiating table and withdraw these attacks on the UCU members. There are a total of fourteen days of strike action planned, with two pauses in between, giving the bosses the opportunity to rip up their own proposals and halt the mayhem that this action will, no doubt, bring.

Dates for future activities are available on the UCU website – the next one is on Monday 26/02/2018 from 730am outside Aston University campus. Momentum South Birmingham encourages as many of our members to wrap up warm and get down to show solidarity with our class.

If you are in the Labour Party but you are not a member or a supporter of Momentum South Birmingham, please raise these important issues at your branch meetings and policy discussion groups (if you don’t know what these are, come to a Momentum South Birmingham branch meeting and we’ll make sure that your CLP starts having them!) and let’s show support for all workers who face savage attacks from the bosses. The Labour Party should be more than a talking shop about the problems of dog excrement, parking, and how difficult a decision it is to sack 120 refuse workers (a battle that the workers WON! VICTORY TO THE BIRMINGHAM BIN WORKERS!)

If you’re neither in the Labour Party or Momentum….. it’s about time you got involved.

Let’s defend ALL of our workers, ALL of the

time.

Join the Labour Party.

Join Momentum.

VICTORY TO THE UCU!

Vote Garnham, Dar and Lansman

It’s the last few days of an absolutely crucial NEC ballot and we cannot forget what is at stake.

We have an historic opportunity to have a left, pro-democracy majority on the party’s ruling body. One that can oversee a serious overhaul of the party structures, and, you never know, pay some attention to a few of the issues in the West Midlands covered on the pages of this blog and on social media over the last few months.

Clearly, there were issues with the decision-making process that led to us having Rachel Garnham, Yasmine Dar and John Lansman (or as we like to call him in Birmingham, John Lemon) on the Momentum/CLGA slate. The candidacy of Lansman/Lemon in particular has been identified as the weak link by Labour First and Progress, who are backing the LF slate that dare not speak its name of Eddie Izzard, Johanna Baxter and Gurinder Singh Josan.

Many of us would have been happy with those three if it had been put to the membership of Momentum and we had been offered a vote, so it was unfortunate that we didn’t have that vote or a way for grassroots views to feed into the decision-making process. Let’s hope it isn’t repeated next time round.

But we are where we are and the decision, in my mind, is a pretty straightforward one. Either the left will have a majority or Labour First/Progress will, and all the signs are that many of the people in those two organisations, who are not the same but are getting closer and closer the more desperate they get, have learnt nothing in the last couple of years, and many are still unreconciled to a Corbyn leadership, whatever they may say publicly. Just have a read through the recent Daily Mail article that focused heavily on Birmingham if you can stomach it and you will see the real agenda, which was about undermining the left in the NEC election. Or have a read through the Twitter feed of someone like Richard Angell, which makes you feel like you’re Alice, in Wonderland.    

We have seen in Birmingham what happens when these people have control and it isn’t pretty. A left majority will give us a chance to change things permanently for the better and give members the power over what happens – and right now a left majority will ensure that all members, whether on the right or left, pro- or anti-Corbyn, will have more rights and more of a say.  

The members know what they are doing and what is necessary, and the kind of party we need to have an historic, game-changingly successful Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn and not repeat some of the mistakes of the Blair/Brown years.

So please, if you haven’t already, vote Rachel Garnham, Yasmine Dar and John Lansman/Lemon!

Momentum South Birmingham newsletter 02 01 2018

Welcome to the latest Momentum South Birmingham newsletter – your unmissable weekly digest of all the interesting things going on politically in our area and beyond.

Welcome to the first edition of 2018. With the local elections just 4 months away you won’t be surprised to hear that campaigning is kicking off in many wards already and MSB members will be out in force. We were also out in force this morning for campaigning on rail fares across many stations on our patch – check out our social media to see some pictures of Labour members braving the cold to talk to the public about the issue and argue for renationalisation!

We have our first branch meeting of the year this Sunday and it looks like it’s going to be a busy one- we are planning on having a couple of speakers and it will be great to touch base and start talking about our plans for the upcoming year.

Also please don’t forget to cast your NEC ballot if you haven’t already – full details below!

Enjoy this week’s edition and if there is content you want featuring in future editions do drop us a line.

Next KONPB meeting – Jan 3rd
Keep Our NHS Public Birmingham do a huge amount of brilliant work and a number of Momentum activists are already involved in meetings and activity, but they are always in need of more help. For those who are interested in supporting and/or joining KONP and contributing to campaigns their contact details are btuchcc@hotmail.com.

Currently KONPB have campaigns on the proposed NHS “Transformation” plans (cuts and privatisation) in Brum/Solihull and Black Country; the privately-financed Midland Metropolitan Hospital in Smethwick (PFI/2) and have recently set up a ‘Mental Health Interest Group’, which is planning to do some more work on the mental health arrangements for young people 0-25 years in Birmingham – currently ‘red risk’.
Meetings are 1st Wednesday of every month (except August), so people can drop in any time at The Wellington, 37 Bennetts Hill, Birmingham, B2 5SN at 7:30pm. The next meeting is tomorrow, Wednesday the 3rd January.

They have also established a bank account if you want to make either regular (by standing order) or ‘one-off’ donations the money will be put to good use. KONP’s bank details, should you wish to make a bank transfer/set up a standing order (monthly or annually) the Co-Op Bank account number is 65823280 and the sort code is 08- 92-99. Please get involved in, and support, KONPB in any way you can!

Next MSB branch meeting: 7th January
Our first MSB meeting of the new year is this Sunday, the 7th January, 3pm, at the Highbury Pub in Stirchley (Dad’s Lane, Stirchley, Birmingham B13 8PQ).
Please join us to discuss many of the campaigns we are involved in and causes we are supporting and also the forthcoming local elections – campaigning will be starting very soon. We are planning on having several speakers from ongoing campaigns and workers disputes.
We are also once again welcoming anyone from Yardley CLP who wishes to join us.
The usual rules apply – you are welcome to join us as long as you aren’t a supporter of a party that isn’t Labour – and if we have any votes you’ll need to be a Momentum member to participate 😊
Hope to see you there!

‘Knights of the Raj’ exhibition at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery: until 7th Jan 2018

Birmingham is home to hundreds of so-called Indian restaurants. However, many are unaware that it is the Bangladeshi community that pioneered this industry, laying the foundations for Britain’s ‘curry culture’. Soul City Arts, working in partnership with Future Seed CIC, have captured the untold stories of those pioneers, tracing the origins of the Birmingham curry trade back to the 1940s. This three-month long exhibition features rare photographs, unique artefacts, videos, interactive displays and oral histories that tell the fascinating story of the much-loved British Curry.
This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to immerse yourself in the history of Birmingham and Britain’s Indian restaurants. The exhibition runs at BM&AG until the 7th Jan 2018. More details here.

BCC Budget consultation, 10th Jan 2018.
Every year Birmingham City Council consults the people of the city about what the budget priorities are for the coming year. This takes the form of public meetings and an online consultation which you can access here. Usually there are a number of public meetings but sadly there is only one this year, which is desperately disappointing when the cuts are as savage as they are. It’s on Wednesday 10 January 2018, 6.00pm to 8.00pm in the Council House Victoria Square Birmingham B1 1BB. More information can be found here.

Sparkhill campaigning afternoon for Nicky Brennan – weekend of 13th and 14th January
As you will no doubt have spotted in previous editions one of our hardest working members, Nicky Brennan, is standing in Sparkhill for Labour I the forcoming local elections. Her first big campaigning event are leafletting sessions on Saturday 13th and Sunday the 14th January, both at 1pm.
• Saturday – meeting at the junction of Witton Road and Stoney Lane B12 8AJ
• Sunday – meeting at the junction of Formans Road and Knowle Road B11 3AW
Any questions please drop sparkhilllabour@gmail.com a line!

MSB campaigns and social/fundraising committees joint meeting – 17th January
The next Stalls/Campaigning and Social/Fundraising meeting will be held at 11am on Wednesday 17th January in Loco Lounge in Kings Heath. The two committees have again decided to join forces! All are welcome. They would love to hear feedback and suggestions for the year ahead as if it’s anything like the last couple of years it’s going to be another busy one!

Next MSB Book Club, 23rd Jan 2018
The MSB Book Club is now meeting (nearly) every month – they are having December off! However, the next meeting is already organised and it will be The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist on 23rd January 2018, at The Loco Lounge Kings Heath High Street, with a 7.30pm start.

BTUC meeting, Thurs 1st Feb: “The future of work in an age of rapid technological change – and how workers can take control of it.”

Technology is not a neutral force that can only go one way with the question being simply who benefits financially from the results of technological innovation. Values are embedded in technology and choices – and therefore the exercise of power is made at every point. The key questions therefore are can workers control the design of technology and the purposes for which it is designed? Does automation have to lead to the destruction of all jobs; the skilled, the useful as well as the boring, the degrading and the useless?
With these questions in mind, Hilary Wainwight will explore the options facing the labour movement over automation. She will draw on her experience of the Lucas Aerospace workers alternative plan for socially useful production, to suggest that with the prospect of a radical Labour Government committed to economic democracy, there is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the labour movement to wrest control over the future design and direction of technology from capital and subject it to democratic control to meet social need. Through this we could realise William Morris’ dream of ‘useful labour rather than useless toil’. But this will involve radical changes in the trade union movement so that it becomes an agent of social transformation rather than a defender of an increasingly precarious status quo. Hilary will open a discussion of what these changes might be.
The meeting is Thursday 1st Feb, 7:30pm, Committee Rooms 3+4, Council House, Victoria Square, B11BB.

Unison launch of their manifesto for Birmingham City Council elections, 9th Feb

Unison are holding an event to launch their manifesto for Birmingham City Council elections on Friday 9th February. The Leader of Birmingham City Council, Cllr Ian Ward will join them for his responses to UNISON key asks of the Birmingham Labour manifesto. UNISON will also be sharing it’s calls for an Activist Council. Deputy Leader Cllr Brigid Jones will be speaking on Labour’s election strategy, and senior figures from UNISON – Regional Secretary Ravi Subramanian and Regional Head of Local Government Claire Campbell will be making contributions too. For more details and to reserve your spot click here.

Northfield constituency dates for your diary
• Northfield CLP all-member meeting, Friday 2nd February, from 7pm at Northfield Quaker Meeting House.

Edgbaston constituency dates for your diary
• Quinton ward meeting – 10th Jan, 7.15pm Quinborne Centre, Ridgacre Road, Quinton
• Edgbaston ward local election campaigning: 13th Jan, 10am, full details to be confirmed.
• Edgbaston ward meeting: Tues 16th Jan or 23rd Jan (we’ve been given both dates and will try and confirm as soon as possible) @ 7pm, Edgbaston Community Centre 40 Woodview Drive, Birmingham, B15 2HU. The plan is to couple the meeting with a social event where members can swap unwanted Christmas presents and as a ‘meet the new candidates meeting’.
• Harborne branch meeting: Thursday January 18th 2018, 7pm to 8:30pm at the Quinborne Centre, Ridgacre Road.

Hall Green constituency dates for your diary
• Sparkhill campaigning, weekend of 13th and 14th January – details above.

Selly Oak constituency dates for your diary
• Nothing in the diary this week!

NEC elections
Following Labour Party Conference in Brighton there will now be all member elections for three additional CLP representatives on the National Executive Committee.
Momentum nationally will be campaigning for the following candidates, all of whom are supported by the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance, fully support the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, and will campaign for a socialist Labour Government:
• Yasmine Dar – Yasmine is a councillor in Moston, Manchester, ran for selection in the Manchester Gorton by-election and is a qualified social worker.
• Rachel Garnham – Rachel is a member of the Nation Policy Forum and CLP secretary for Mid Bedfordshire.
• Jon Lansman – Jon is a co-founder of Momentum, chair of the National Coordinating Group and previously worked for Michael Meacher MP
The ballot will be distributed to party members via email and post and will close on 12th Jan.

Momentum South Birmingham standing orders
From our Treasurer Cheryl Hedges:
“The Labour Party and Trade Unions don’t have the big backers of the Conservatives. This has the advantage that we are a responsive and campaigning organisation. However there is a down side, and that is we often subsidise the work of Momentum from our own pockets. Contributions are always generous at meetings, however most of this money goes to cover the cost of room hire. I think we have at least 100 supporters of MSB and if everyone gave just £1 per month it would mean a big difference in our ability to campaign, buy Momentum and Labour Party merchandise, publish leaflets and support other activists. We have made contributions to local campaigns such as the striking bin workers and KONP. We would like to continue this activity. If you would like to make a regular donation or even just a one off then please do.”
Bank: Lloyds, Kings Heath
Sort code: 30 94 74
Account number: 27819460
Labour Lives
One thing that many Labour Party members in Birmingham will testify is that information is hard to come by. Members just aren’t told what is going on and that is deliberate and longstanding. Fortunately organisations like MSB are there to keep the West Midlands Regional Office on their toes, and there are plenty of others ensuring members are kept in the loop. Labour Lives performs an excellent job in keeping party members informed – they are definitely worth a follow if you’re on Twitter. They find out some extremely interesting tidbits on a virtually daily basis…………

MSB campaigns and stalls committee
Our recently re-elected stalls co-ordinator Chris Kuriata is always on the lookout for new people to join her committee. Stalls and campaigning have been crucial to the development of the group. You might even get your picture taken with John McDonnell! Email Chriskuriata@live.co.uk for more info.

School cuts
The NUT have set up a school cuts website providing information on what is going on and the likely effects. You can email your MP through the website, it only takes a minute. Please click here. Since the New Year a number of parents groups have sprung up across the country to fight for more funding for our schools. It is an important development that parents have started to organise because Governments cross parents at their peril. Please visit their website.

New to the Labour Party?
Many of us are fairly new to the party and it can be quite an intimidating environment with labyrinthine rules and procedures that are at times baffling – with all the different abbreviations and structures it can be like learning a new language! Momentum Sheffield (who look almost as amazing as MSB…..) have produced a very helpful guide for newcomers that explains the structures, rules, terms and puts things in day-to-day language. It’s worth a read even if you are an experienced old hand! A link to the document is here.

Ward and CLP meetings
If you want the group to publicise upcoming local Labour Party activities and branch (ward)/CLP meetings to encourage attendance, please let us know either by emailing me direct or the group account below; our wonderful social media managers Lucy, Nicky, Ayden and Michael will do the rest!

 

https://www.facebook.com/momentumbirminghamsouth/

https://momentumsbham.wordpress.com/

https://twitter.com/@MomentumSBham/

MomentumbhamSouth@hotmail.com

http://www.leftwardtendency.co.uk/momentum-south-birmingham

http://www.leftwardtendency.co.uk/wall-of-fame

To join Momentum: https://join.peoplesmomentum.com/