Archives for posts with tag: the Brummie

Time-pressed residents of Birmingham, Solihull, Cannock, Dudley, Coventry, Lichfield, Sandwell, South Staffs, Tamworth, Walsall and Wolverhampton who regularly scan their section of the Brummie site, appreciate the free service it gives, whatever their interests. Main news items covered, include a range of locally run websites, music and the arts, sport and business.

Links to them give those sites a wider readership than would otherwise have been possible. Until the final few months Mark was a helpful and courteous correspondent and this later lack of response was ascribed to pressure of other work, which involved travelling abroad. We now can see that there may have been health concerns claiming priority.

Three of many interests served: Our Birmingham, West Midlands Producers and Localise West Midlands thank him and hope that a way will be found to maintain the Brummie.






pinn moral missions

A former aide to Iain Duncan Smith, Tim Montgomerie, writes in The Times, “You do not have to believe that Mr Duncan Smith’s motives were pure to recognise the letter’s political power”. He then gives four compelling ‘killer facts’ about the government’s fiscal strategy (reordered):

  1. Big decisions on cuts, with far-reaching consequences for vulnerable households, should not be rushed to fund gimmicky announcements that the Treasury hopes might win a few good headlines in one day’s newspapers.
  2. Some of the lowest income families, already working very long hours to make ends meet, are bearing too large a share of Tory spending cuts.
  3. Richer pensioners shouldn’t continue receiving expensive perks while vulnerable groups such as the disabled lose entitlements.
  4. If difficult , are necessary they should fund reductions in the historically large deficit rather than finance tax cuts for the better off, as happened in last week’s budget.

Were ‘Mr Duncan Smith’s motives pure’ or pragmatic: linked via The Brummie, Steve Beauchampé writes in the Birmingham Press (see punning title if you can bear it):

“It may be that not only are a significant number of the electorate becoming tired of Osborne’s perpetual austerity at a time when many economic indices are going south, but that voters have increasingly had it with the continual raids on the income of the disabled and the working poor, worse that they are overseen by millionaire Ministers such as David Cameron, George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith.

atos fit to rule tests

“Yet even without the link to tax reductions that Osborne’s intervention allowed to ferment, Iain Duncan Smith may well have discovered that his plans to reduce PIP payments for the disabled would have courted widespread unpopularity”.

Was this high-profile resignation primarily a matter of principle, or a move towards ‘facilitating the erstwhile Work and Pensions Secretary a swift return to front line politics’ (Beauchampé)? We shall see . . .


The writer tried to ignore the news, cynically announced as the public prepares for Christmas festivities, that – on ‘trash day’ – a total of 36 written ministerial statements and 424 government documents were published, as Parliament rose for the Christmas recess. Consequences:

govt 2 announcements

But, via the Brummie, the words of a Walsall blogger made it impossible.


“Clearly, lots of time, effort and thought has been devoted to the black arts by the Conservative Party, their corporate backers and a sympathetic media. It seems a shame that they are unwilling to turn their expertise to reducing the national debt, securing public services, ensuring that no child goes hungry and made some effort to unite the nation and not divide it for the sake of short-term electoral advantage”.

plastic hippoHippo asserts, tongue in cheek, that the British public owes a huge debt of gratitude to clever Conservative spooks who tell David Cameron what to do, think and say: “The Machiavellian undermining of political opponents by Tory Party strategists is as good if not better than a John Le Carré novel”; he continues:

“The clever manoeuvring began on day one of the coalition government . . . Within weeks, Liberal Democrat lightweights with ideas above their station were quickly neutralised by a quiet word to the Standards Committee and the Essex constabulary . . . Vince Cable vowed to take on Murdoch over BSkyB but the old fool fell for an elaborate sting involving a couple of young lovelies working for Murdock . . .

As informed political debate goes, all this was a reminder that informed political debate is dead . . .

“With the enthusiastic cooperation of a feral right-wing media, Tory spymasters set about Ed Miliband with the ferocity of fox-hounds after Reynard or possibly Rennard the Liberal Democrat lord. The best that quality journalism and profound political thinking could come up with was that Miliband has two kitchens, his father “hated” Britain and that he looks a bit odd when eating a bacon sandwich . . .

JC standing“Duly elected with a considerable majority, the systematic destruction of Corbyn began. Unfortunately, Comrade Corbyn seems able to ignore the increasingly hysterical attacks and even a casual observer might be impressed with his dignity under such savage provocation.

“He regularly wipes the floor with David Cameron at the dispatch box leaving the Prime Minister red in the face unable to answer reasonable questions and shouting at the opposition benches that everything is the fault of a party last in power five and a half years ago. Tory activists will be asking for their three quid back . . .”

Fortunately the general public is increasing aware of these machinations peddled by mainstream media and careerist politicians – and despite their best efforts continue to applaud and support Corbyn.

Read Plastic Hippo’s article in full here.

First published by Political Concern.

The Brummie aggregator site selected a thoughtful article by Matt Capaldi in Redbrick, ‘the student publication of the University of Birmingham’:


“As the Labour leadership battle comes to a head, Matt Capaldi assesses its favourite candidate, Jeremy Corbyn, and his chances to reinstate a Labour leadership in 2020 as the head of the party”.

He points out that the Scandinavian countries prove that left-wing policies can be very effective if done properly – the real problems perceived lie with gaining public trust. The writer argues that indications are that he has done this – even his most ardent opponents across the political spectrum agree that he is a kindly, honest and principled man.

More difficult will be winning over fearful colleagues in the Labour Party who place getting elected above all else and – to that end – trim their sails to the prevailing wind, convincing no-one. As Capaldi says:

“If Corbyn wins the election, there will be attempts to oust him from the inside. But, despite these difficulties, isn’t it worth a shot?”

“Corbyn could really rally up some passionate support with a more left leaning policy set, and it could be just what the Labour Party needs.

Could? He has already done this

Even if he does not win the leadership, it seems most likely that the social movement he seeks will develop . For the first time voters across the board see a hope of a change for the better – a change which is not possible with either of the mainstream parties in their present condition – and they will not lightly abandon this quest. As Capaldi ends:

“ . . . he is the only one who, in my opinion, could really do something spectacular and be the nation’s first choice, not just the least bad option. Yes, it is a risk, but I think it is one the Labour Party should take. If he can pull it off, Corbyn could win a landslide in 2020”.

adrian cadbury 2Reading several ‘devolutionary’ articles highlighted in the Brummie aggregator site has prompted a reader to recall a 2002 address at the Birmingham and Midland Institute, given by Sir Adrian Cadbury at the first meeting of the Thomas Attwood Group.

After saying that he shared Attwood’s belief that decisions need to be taken as near as possible to where their impact would be made, Adrian Cadbury recalled the findings of the Aston Democracy Commission, which he chaired.

The Aston Commission worked for two years seeking to find ways of promoting inner city regeneration in the ward – with consultation undertaken from the ‘bottom up’ rather than from the ‘top down’. It came to reflect Thomas Attwood’s belief that Birmingham people could manage the city’s affairs better than a London-based government.

attwood header

In an electorate generally perceived as being apathetic because of the low level of voting, a lively concern was expressed about the poor delivery of municipal services such as waste disposal, street cleaning and policing. The Commission found that the low voting rates reflect realistic attitudes rather than apathy. Voters believed that in all likelihood their vote would make no difference to the quality of the service they were getting.

Part of the remedy for this, Adrian Cadbury felt, would be to change the current situation in which central government has assumed control of 80% of the city’s budget, determining not only its size but the precise disposition of these funds, leaving little scope for local government.

He believes that Westminster ought to loosen its grip on spending and decision-making, and local government to devolve decision-making to those closest to the issues. Another important aspect of restoring an active democracy, he said, was to build up the capacities of local people to make decisions.

European precedents were touched on, including the devolutionary steps taken by the French thirty years ago. A passing reference was made to the extent of the responsibilities exercised by the mayors of Lille and Barcelona. Adrian Cadbury ended by saying that constitutional means must be found to reverse centralism – one being the move toward regional government: “We all have a responsibility to encourage this and say that we shall place our votes with those supporting such policies”.

Earlier this month, a poll commissioned by the BBC suggested some 80% of people in England supported having more powers devolved to local areas. Now, it is reported that the leaders of 119 English councils – 65 controlled by Labour, 40 by Conservatives and 10 by Liberal Democrats – have called on Chancellor Osborne, to use Wednesday’s Autumn Statement to outline a “new settlement for England” which devolves power from Westminster and shares tax and spending across the UK “on a fair basis”.

The most recent Brummie lead on devolution was to an article on the Chamberlain Forum website by Paul (Dale?), which warned:

“We need to agree whether we talking about devolution that will tip cities over into being almost entirely the agents of central government, or the kind of devolution that will reverse that trend and give rise to a new sort of accountable municipalism and vigour based on an increased proportion of the money which pays for government as a whole being collected locally”.

john hemming plus brummieA link in The Brummie, the most useful West Midlands aggregator site, led to an article in this week’s Post by Jonathan Walker  with a promising title: ‘MP John Hemming is often a beacon of truth’.

Overlooking the patronising introductory jibes, Mr Walker rightly said that John Hemming, Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham Yardley, ‘marches to the beat of a different drum’. More should join him.

Some of his campaigns are described:

School holidays: Mr Hemming is chairman of a campaign group called Parents Want a Say, which opposes the increasing fines for term-time absence following the law introduced in September 2013; headteachers are now to receive new guidance on when they are allowed to authorise pupil absence. Jonathan Walker misleadingly describes John Hemming’s campaign on the school holiday issue as asserting ‘that parents should have the right to fly their children off for a fortnight in Malaga during term time’. He failed to list serious implications for parents – one being that many have work commitments which do not permit them to take a holiday between school terms.

Family law courts: at first this MP’s claims about family law courts were dismissed; he charged that these courts were making decisions in secret about child welfare – often taking children away from parents, with parents denied proper representation and without the welfare of the child properly taken into account. However, in 2009 the Labour government announced family courts across England and Wales were being opened up to journalists as part of a government bid to boost public confidence in the system. Furthermore, in January 2014 rules were changed so that judgments in the family courts and the Court of Protection were to be be publicised unless there are “compelling reasons” not to do so. John Hemming chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group on Family Law and The Court of Protection set up to address the concerns raised by the public and professionals working within the family justice system.

Highlighting massive electoral fraud: as a councillor, when he warned that electoral fraud was taking place in Birmingham, West Midlands Police named the inquiry into his complaints “Operation Gripe”. But he was right. In 2005, election Court Judge Richard Mawrey found six councillors guilty of carrying out “massive, systematic and organised” postal voting fraud – one had the finding reversed on appeal.

Energy security: he was a lone voice in parliament, highlighting the fact that the UK lacked sufficient gas storage facilities – and could actually run out of gas in a cold winter. Later, Malcolm Wicks, Energy Minister at the time, admitted the UK’s winter gas supply was “uncomfortably tight”.

appg peak oil and gas

As chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Peak Oil and Gas, he commented on the All Party Parliamentary Group on Peak Oil’s report into TEQs (Tradable Energy Quotas), co-authored by Shaun Chamberlin: “We urgently need to have a system in place to mitigate the economic and social consequences of peak oil. I believe TEQs provide the fairest and most productive way to deal with the oil crisis and to simultaneously guarantee reductions in fossil fuel use to meet climate change targets.”

John Hemming’s role in promoting global environmental welfare, which might well prove to be the most important of all our concerns, deserves far wider recognition.

cuts demo council house

The prime minister of Italy, Enrico Letta appears to be extending Police Commissioner Bob Jones’ concern about high unemployment reported in the Chamberlain Files by Paul Dale. 

Letta wrote in the Financial Times – focussing on the unemployed below the age of 30”Unemployment in the early stages of a career leaves permanent scars on future opportunities and earnings. The loss of human capital related to unemployment poses a threat to growth potential . . . “

So far so true – but then he continued with the true reasons for his concern:

“and, with the rise of populism, raises questions about the sustainability of our social model and the stability of our democratic systems. It is for these reasons that the issue is now high on the agenda of EU leaders”.

But of course these questions must be raised, because it is the unsustainability of our economic model and our huge democratic deficit which has led to this and other problems now faced.

Kara Moses reports: “This movement has seen hundreds of people mobilising, new local groups being formed across the city and previously insular groups uniting to work together . . .”

The only question many would ask about populism – as it surfaces in The Brummie via ‘Communities against Cuts’ – is: “Why did it take so long?”




Yesterday, via the Brummie, Reyhana Patel was the third voicing a common theme.


After sharing Andrew Alexander’s insight on another website a link was sent to an article by Joe Glenton who – as Reyhana wrote – refused to return to Afghanistan and fought a 12-month battle for simply airing his concerns on what he saw while serving in the country.

andrew alexander journalistIn the often appalling Daily Mail there is the occasional gem of exploration, investigation and today – welcome commonsense and humanity. Andrew Alexander – ranked 6th in Total Politics 2011 rankings and author of America and the Imperialism of Ignorance: US Foreign Policy since 1945, writes:

There are two ways to react to the brutal horror of the Woolwich murder.

“One is sheer anger and disgust plus a demand for tougher controls, even empowering the Government to eavesdrop on every citizen’s phone calls and email messages.

The other is to use our brains and our imagination to understand why young Muslims can be easily ‘radicalised’, ie, turned into murderers.

The spectacle at Woolwich may have been utterly disgusting. But was it any more appalling, Islamists can ask, than the spectacle of an Afghan child with its limbs blown off — and all because a CIA agent in Virginia had hit the ‘Go’ button for his drone to fire without being 100 per cent certain that the targeted gathering was a Taliban gang not a wedding party”.


joe glentonJoe Glenton agrees in the Guardian that “while nothing can justify the savage killing in Woolwich yesterday of a man since confirmed to have been a serving British soldier, it should not be hard to explain why the murder happened”. Like Rehana, Joe points out that “rejection of and opposition to the toxic wars that informed yesterday’s attacks is by no means a “Muslim” trait. Vast swathes of the British population also stand in opposition to these wars, including many veterans of the wars like myself and Ross, as well as serving soldiers I speak to who cannot be named here for fear of persecution”.

reyhana patelReyhana, like Andrew Alexander, dares to raise the possibility that UK foreign policy may be the real issue that’s ignored when tackling extremism in the UKShe believes thatwe need an open discussion on foreign policy where no one should be silenced for disagreeing or agreeing with mainstream political views and asks:

  • Will Afghans be better off when the troops withdraw?

  • Was going into Iraq a mistake?

  • Why is there still large-scale suffering.

  • Who is being held accountable for the killing of civilians?

Joe’s conclusions will reflect those of many readers:

If there is collective responsibility for the killings, it belongs to the hawks whose policies have caused bloodbaths – directly, as in Afghanistan and Iraq, and indirectly in places as far apart as Woolwich and Boston, which in turn have created political space for the far right to peddle their hatred, as we saw in the immediate aftermath of the Woolwich attack.

“What we must do now is straightforward enough. Our own responsibilities are first of all to make sure innocents are not subject to blanket punishment for things that they did not do, and to force our government – safe in their houses – to put an end to Britain’s involvement in the vicious foreign occupations that have again created bloodshed in London”.


As long ago as January 2008 concerns were raised about a particular aspect of police behaviour – see the Stirrer archives, hosted by the Birmingham Press. On the Today programme, John Humphrys had asked Commander Steve Allen why the police had gone in ‘mob handed’ at dawn, having arranged for cameras to be present, in Slough.

police battering doorIt was disturbing to read that so many years later, Birmingham police are still practising these abuses. A link from the Brummie led to an article in the Birmingham Mail which reported that a Billesley couple’s front door was smashed in at dawn by police acting on a (malicious?) tip-off that weapons were hidden at the address – but they found nothing.

For years, due to mistaken identity or merely getting the wrong address, the doors of many people who have never been under suspicion have been battered down & their houses entered by armed police – usually well after midnight or at dawn. This practice should be strictly questioned:

  • more care taken to check identities;
  • addresses and locations should be verified;
  • camera usage should be limited to the search for evidence not used for Rambo-style publicity;
  • repairs should be promptly organised and paid for and,
  • in cases where no criminal charges follow, generous compensation should follow a profound, well-publicised apology for causing fear and stress.

West Midlands police have a duty to local residents as well as informers

West Midlands police said they had a duty to act on tip-offs, but when dealing with members of the public who have no criminal record – taking the reasonable precaution to cover the back door – they should knock on the front door in the usual way, during social hours.