magog_83: (Wearing Badges is not enough)
Another step forward for women today with the announcement that Frances O'Grady is to be the new General Secretary of the TUC (Trade Union Congress - the umbrella organisation for the Trade Union movement) here in the UK.


This is the first time that a woman has been head of the TUC since its creation in the 1860s. According to the press release, Ms. O'Grady's grandfather was a founder member of the Transport and General Worker's Union in Ireland, and her father was a shop steward for British Leyland - so it sounds like she has the trade union movement in her blood. After graduating from Manchester University (incidentally, Manchester was the site of the first ever TUC meeting), she was active in various unions before she started working for the TUC in the mid-1990s and was appointed Deputy General Secretary in 2003 (the first woman to be appointed to the role). Since Deputy General Secretaries are expected to move on to the top job in the TUC, it was widely assumed she would take over, but it still had to be put to discussion.

Here she is in 2009 talking about why she considers herself left-wing...

I want a more equal and democratic society. I believe that no one is "born to rule" and that everyone should pay fair taxes. It is not natural or inevitable that half the world goes hungry; that the freedom of markets trumps protection of the planet; or that citizens' rights come second to those of corporations. I think governments can and must intervene in the market, and that common ownership has a role to play. I cherish the creation of public space and services, especially health, housing and the comprehensive education system which dared to give so many of us ideas "above our station". And I know that, because the relationship between employers and workers is a fundamentally unequal one, strong trade unions are an essential force for fairness in any healthy democracy.

Congratulations to her! I look forward to seeing those on the Right try to use their usual trade union or shrill feminist stereotypes against someone who is, by the accounts of those who work with her, friendly, charming and yet extremely persistent and with a 'backbone of iron' (my dad's observation).
magog_83: (Wearing Badges is not enough)
As you know, I try not to bring my politics into my journal, but today I really really want to urge any UK people who follow me to PLEASE sign this emergency petition regarding proposed changes to the National Health Service. It takes all of 30 seconds. The internet campaign group 38 Degrees have done so much great work for the campaign (and others like it). This is a petition that will get delivered in person, as they have with past NHS petitions, and they really do make a difference.

Tomorrow the hugely controversial and un-democratic Health and Social Care Bill will be debated by the House of Lords and it is our last chance to call a halt or at least have it referred to committee so certain aspects can be properly scrutinised, in particular the frightening abdication of responsibility by the Secretary of State for Health to provide a free comprehensive health service. Once this is gone, the government can farm health services out to whoever they want and have no accountability when quality of care inevitably suffers.

The Health and Social Care Bill is opposed by the British Medical Association (the umbrella organisation for UK doctors and medical professionals), it is opposed by the Royal College of Nurses, by the healthcare trusts, the Trade Unions (including the main public sector union with over a million members), and this morning The Daily Telegraph (not exactly a left wing publication) is reporting that the medical Royal Colleges have now joined opposition to the bill, making the opposition clear from top to bottom.

Professor Sir Neil Douglas, Chairman of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, said: “Across the medical profession there are continuing concerns that the Health and Social Care Bill could damage patient care. All the Medical Royal Colleges and Faculties representing the whole medical profession have come together to support this clear statement of our anxieties.

Today 60 leading clinicians also wrote to The Independent newspaper to express their opposition. This is in addition to the 400 public health experts who wrote to the Daily Telegraph last week to say that the reforms would cause the NHS "irreparable harm".

When the NHS was founded in 1948, one of its founders, Nye Bevan, famously said that "the NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it". I think if there was ever a time to fight for it, it is now. The NHS is not for sale. Please sign and make your voice heard when the Lords debate the future of our Health Service tomorrow.

Nye Bevan opens Park Hospital in Manchester in 1948. The first 'free' NHS hospital
magog_83: (Default)
I spent the afternoon in Dorset today, at the Tolpuddle Martyr's Rally, an annual trade union festival organised to commemorate the six farm labourers from the village, who in 1834 were transported to Australia for forming a friendly society to protest against the lowering of agricultural wages. At the time, their treatment created such controversy that 100,000 people marched through London to protest, organised by the fledging trade union movement, and the men were eventually pardoned.

Nowadays, the TUC (Trade Union Congress) keeps the tradition going with a festival featuring bands and singers from all over the world, political speakers, plays, stalls for all sorts of causes and lots of activities with a free rally on the Sunday (when my family usually go). It's always a great day out, very family friendly and the Sunday rally has a march through the village with all the unions proudly displaying their banners and brass bands playing, and then the General Secretary of the TUC usually speaks, along with the legendary Tony Benn (who gets a standing ovation every time) and music from Billy Bragg to finish. The festival is getting bigger and bigger every year, I think there were an estimated 10,000 people this year.

Anyway, here are some of my pictures from today, featuring Billy Bragg, some of the great banners and a funny t-shirt :D

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