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Split personality?

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magnifico
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Joined: 29-11-05
Jun 27 2006 13:56
Split personality?

OK, I had this thread saved on my computer from before libcom was hacked, and after some pressure from various members of Northampton Socialist Forum I have reluctantly agreed to put this entire thread back up. The reasons I would have liked to remove my comments at the beginning of this thread are:-

1. It is bad politics. By making the tone too personal I implied that attacks on the living standards of council tenants are down to character flaws in individual politicians, rather than the nature of the capitalist system. This is not my position. I believe that anyone who was a councillor in Northampton would be under the same economic and political pressures, and by presenting it in this way I don't think I increased anyone's understanding of the situation. The clear implication of the 'article' is that if Lee Barron was replaced with someone nicer then everything would be OK. I don't believe that this is the case, rather power relations within society would have to be altered on a far more fundamental level. That is not to say that those who front the system (particularly those who cultivate a radical image while supporting attacks on working people) are blameless or shouldn't be criticised, but the way it was phrased was far too simplistic.

2. It is bad tactics. The personal nature of the criticisms allowed the Labour group and others in favour of council housing sell-offs to use them to attack groups for which I voiced support, particularly DCH and the Socialist Forum. This is a pretty obscure webspace and if they had just ignored it it would have blown over very quickly, the fact that they were emailing the link all over the place, sending people to our meetings, asking for official responses to it from various local unions and trying to paint it as an attack on the local CWU (which it clearly isn't) tells me that they saw it as an opportunity to score political points against their critics. Now that it is back up they will be able to continue doing this, in my opinion to the detriment of council tenants in Northampton. These kinds of criticisms do need to be made, but the way in which I did it ended up being something of an own goal in my opinion.

Anyway, here it is:-

magnifico wrote:
Northampton Councillor and CWU branch secretary Lee Barron has has revealed himself to be living a bizarre double life after brazenly criticising his New Labour masters at the recent Communication Workers' Union conference in Bournemouth. Barron, a staunch supporter of the New Labour project, must have got carried away by the sea air into a rare fit of militancy, exclaiming his support for a motion that called for the union to cut its funding to New Labour if the government continues its plans to further open the Royal Mail up to privatisation.
Socialist Worker wrote:
Lee Barron, branch secretary of Northamptonshire CWU, is a leading supporter of maintaining the union’s links with Labour. But he backed the motion, saying, “If Labour lets the shares go ahead then I don’t see much future for this organisation in that organisation."

Full article here:- http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/article.php?article_id=8899

By day Barron is branch secretary of the local CWU branch, claiming to stand up for his members' livelihoods against intransigent management and a government-backed privatisation agenda in a local campaign that saw Northants postal workers bravely wildcat strike last summer when bosses tried to impose new working conditions on staff. But as darkness falls he metamorphoses into a servile Blairite stooge in his role as local Labour councillor, happily following his beloved leader's agenda and failing to speak out on the privatisation of health and education that his party is inflicting on the working class people of Northampton that he claims to represent. And that's not the worst of it - when faced with a popular, well-supported campaign by local council tenants to prevent the privatisation of their homes he responded with no support whatsoever, even going as far as to vote against a proposal for council tenants' rents to be spent on council housing rather than being sent off to central government, which would allow low-cost council housing to be economically self-sufficient and even improve its standards! He'd rather be schmoozing with the developers of yuppie flats like he was at the recent ceremonial opening of the 'New Life' (sic) flats in Spring Boroughs estate, former council properties sold to the moneymen for one pound (no that's not a joke!) by Barron and his corrupt cronies. Lee Barron can often be seen paying lip-service to the admirable fighting spirit of the Northampton postal workers with left-wing rhetoric with one of his faces whilst selling out the working people of Northampton as a local councillor with the other. It's time his members and his constituents recognised that he is not to be trusted.

magnifico wrote:
I notice from an angry personal message and a huge number of viewings this morning that the above comments have come to the attention of the Northampton Labour party. Note that unlike criticisms made of politicians in a newspaper or suchlike (which I would have thought would be considered part of the job) this is an open discussion forum and you are free to post replies if you feel that the issues have been misrepresented, and we can have a discussion. My intention was to draw attention to what I perceive to be the inconsistency of opposing privatisation in the postal service whilst working towards it in other areas, particularly the act of calling on Northamptonians to support the CWU (a request I nevertheless support) given Mr. Barron and the local Labour party's lack of solidarity with council tenants engaged in the same struggle. However, as I say you are free to disagree.
the button wrote:
magnifico wrote:
I notice from an angry personal message and a huge number of viewings this morning that the above comments have come to the attention of the Northampton Labour party.

Nice one grin

And to our new readers, fuck off you parasites angry

This sounds like a job for Private Eye. I take it you still have the PM?

BOMB wrote:
magnifico wrote:
this is an open discussion forum and you are free to post replies if you feel that the issues have been misrepresented, and we can have a discussion.

An open discussion would be too democratic for the Labour Party. magnifico wrote:

failing to speak out on the privatisation of health and education that his party is inflicting on the working class people of Northampton that he claims to represent.

but, but, the Labour Party will never privatise the NHS, surely???? Isn't being two faced & willing to suck up to whoever you perceive as having power a prerequisite for any politician. Come on Labourites, where's your defence? Or are you as lame at defending yourselves as you are at defending workers' rights to decent housing, health care, and democracy?

Pat wrote:
I'll be the first to admit it if I'm wrong, but I think Magnifico's post could be a bit of an own-goal for Northampton Socialist Forum. The fact is - and it is a fact - that Lee Barron does not limit himself to 'claiming to stand up for his members' livelihoods...' or 'paying lip-service to the admirable fighting spirit of the Northampton postal service..' - No, in recent years, Lee has probably led more strikes in the postal service than anyone else (with one or two exceptions maybe) has anywhere else. And the hard fact is - if I were active in the CWU, regardless of any political differences I had with Lee, I would be forgiven for rallying round Lee in the face of what will be portrayed as an anonymous personal attack on this website. No doubt someone will now accuse me of being a 'lame Labourite' (cue BOMB?) - No, I don't defend New Labour politics any more than I defend Thatcherism - but there's more than one way to skin a cat. Of course, Magnifico's post reflected an individual view. Northampton Socialist Forum is not an organisation, and it doesn't have a 'line'. But let's be realistic here. The next time, eg, the DCH in N'ton mobilises for a protest against New Labour's plans for housing, some will use this issue to attempt to marginalise us. Indeed, I'm sure the process has already begun. A quick comment on the other posts: As far as I am aware, neither 'the button' nor 'bomb' are active in N'ton Socialist forum. The button's contribution was just offensive. Why new readers are 'parasites' is beyond me. Pat
the button wrote:
Pat wrote:
The button's contribution was just offensive. Why new readers are 'parasites' is beyond me. Pat

The parasites I had in mind were trade union bureaucrats and their cheerleaders. Like you, it would seem.

magnifico wrote:
Pat wrote:
I'll be the first to admit it if I'm wrong, but I think Magnifico's post could be a bit of an own-goal for Northampton Socialist Forum.

Yes, you may be right. I wrote it in the context of a pretty obscure internet discussion board used by only 5 or 6 people, that is almost impossible to find unless you are looking for it. If I'd known that somebody would be mailing the link to god knows how many people then I would have taken more time to think about it and almost certainly phrased it differently. It wasn't really meant as a public attack, more a topic of semi-private discussion, though I guess I might have expected this to happen.

Pat wrote:
The fact is - and it is a fact - that Lee Barron does not limit himself to 'claiming to stand up for his members' livelihoods...' or 'paying lip-service to the admirable fighting spirit of the Northampton postal service..' - No, in recent years, Lee has probably led more strikes in the postal service than anyone else (with one or two exceptions maybe) has anywhere else.

My post wasn't really supposed to be criticising his record as CWU official, more the divergence between this and his record as a councillor. I admit I did imply that his militancy as a union official is not entirely sincere, as I don't understand how he can call for support for workers faced with privatisation in one area while offering no support for housing workers and tenants resisting privatisation in another area over which he could have had a fair amount of influence. I would also argue that the kind of industrial action that we have seen in the Northampton postal service is not the result of one man 'leading' a strike, but of collective decisions and activity by the workforce as a whole. It could be argued that a branch secretary who does not go along with his militant membership is in danger of losing control of them, or of being replaced. At the end of the day, we are socialists and he is a prominent local Blairite politician. A few months ago he was at an event celebrating the sale of the twin towers in Spring Boroughs to yuppie flat developers for £1, for fuck's sake. It is hardly suprising that he should receive criticism from the left, in fact I'm sure he expects it - I am a bit suprised that this seems to have been made into such a big issue and suspect that it is largely a result of shit stirring that I have had nothing to do with. Having said that, you are right there is more than one way to skin a cat and if I had known it would be blowing up like this and had thought more about it I would have made the comments less of a personal attack and more about the issues involved. Pat is also right to say that the views expressed were purely personal and not the views of any group. I'll certainly take what you say on board.

Dave Green wrote:
The argument has been made that our opponents will attempt to marginalise us by pointing to ‘personal attacks’ on the local New Labour leadership. Now I will agree that personal and especially ‘over the top attacks’ are usually counter productive but we are in danger of ignoring the role of New Labour careerists in their disgraceful role of promoting tory, pro privatisation and anti working class policies. Anyone who has been involved in the Defend Council Housing campaign will know that at the tens of public meetings held around the town to argue against sell offs not a single new labour councillor or supporter argued for or supported DCH policies. At the council meetings that DCH supporters addressed we were treated to the spectacle of seeing New Labour vote with the Tories against DCH policies and defend sell offs. Only after a year long DCH campaign when they saw they had little support among tenants for privatisation did New Labour reluctantly (along with their tory friends) accept retention of the housing stock. The slanderous public attacks against the DCH by leading New Labourites (MPs and councillors) and the setting up of a New Labour committee to fight the DCH also give a flavour of how far these people sank. But this pro privatisation agenda for housing is just a part of a long list of right wing policies and actions which should not be forgotten. It was these same people who implemented the rebuilding of all the towns schools with a huge PFI project and who sold off of playing fields to pay the speculators. They and their friends at the county council have privatised old peoples homes, leisure facilities and other public services while expressing mock horror at the latest round of cuts by the tories who’ve replaced them. Measures to restrict public access to council meetings and committees have also been fulsomely supported while joint work with Tories on Recovery Boards and unelected Development Corporations (at good rates of pay running into 10s of £housands, of course) has been gladly accepted. So those in the DCH and others who have witnessed these sorry events are entitled to ask questions of councillors as to how they square support for the all of the above while arguing against the privatisation of their own workplaces. And as for being marginalised, we’ll see. After all, they’re the ones who have to defend their support of more privatisation and of continuing the true blue policy of under funding public services.
Pat wrote:
Dave Green wrote:
but we are in danger of ignoring the role of New Labour careerists in their disgraceful role of promoting tory, pro privatisation and anti working class policies.

Are we? Given the fact that we come up against New Labour politics on a daily basis, I would argue that it is virtually impossible to ignore. You can add to the list of tory policies the Education and Inspections Bill - which will be a mortal blow to comprehensive education, as well as attack the working conditions of teachers - supported by Sally Keeble, Labour MP for Northampton North. Pat

cwu wrote:
I am writing in respect of postings left on this website ref: Cllr Lee Barron: split personality? magnifico. The individual makes personal attacks on the Branch Secretary of my Branch of the CWU which I believe are untrue and tantamount to harassment. Whilst I am also personally opposed to some of the policies introduced by the Labour Party I feel that it is wrong for individuals to personally attack individuals whom I know far better and doing so under an anonymous guise. I am sure that you will agree that it does nothing to further the debate regarding privatisation indeed it dilutes the legitimate opposition and the hard work carried out by members of Libcom and other activists. In a democracy we are all entitled to views and opinions without the fear of enduring personal and unproffesional attacks on the internet or otherwise. Can I please request that you withdraw the postings and contact Councillors via the Guildhall, Northampton in relation to political matters. If members wish to raise issues relating to CWU matters they can contact the local Branch or Billy Hayes at CWU Headquarters, 150 The Broadway, Wimbledon, London, SW19 1RX Unlike the author of these postings I will attach my contact details if you wish to contact me further regarding this matter. I would also be willing to arrange a meeting with local activists and the CWU at a local venue if it would be useful. This type of attack is certainly not what I consider to be Trade Unionist or Socialism. Thank you in anticipation of your assistance Regards Mick Fitzmaurice CWU Lead Representative Room 1.41 Royal Mail National Distribution Centre Danes Way DIRFT East Northamptonshire NN6 7DD
magnifico wrote:
Thankyou for your contribution, Mick. As I have explained, my intention was not to attack Mr. Barron's record as your branch secretary, but his record as a leading local politician. You will, I'm sure, agree that politicians are criticised personally all the time, however unlike the many of criticisms of politicians that we see in the newspapers every day, mine were entirely concerned with Mr. Barron's policies and political actions, not his personal life. They were also done in a forum that allows Mr. Barron and his supporters the right of reply. My view is that Mr. Barron takes part in attacks on workers and tenants in his role as a politician in a way that is inconsistent with his role as a trade unionist, and his comments at the recent CWU conference. You have said that these claims are untrue and 'tantamount to harassment' - if you can explain in what way these claims are untrue then I will gladly consider removing them. How well you, I or anyone else knows Mr. Barron is irrelevant, what is being debated are his actions in office and in particular his lack of solidarity with the borough council Unison branch and DCH campaign in their struggle against the privatisation of homes and housing jobs. Whilst as I have said if I had known that these comments would be so widely distributed I would have phrased them differently, I would dispute the idea that public criticism of a politician is 'tantamount to harassment', in fact I think that it is very important that it is allowed. Mr. Barron and his New Labour cronies have recently raised my retirement age, brought about massive cuts and sell-offs in my local health service through underfunding and privatisation, are trying to sell off the only chance I and my friends currently have of affordable housing, are pawning out the schools my children will go to to the moneymen, are selling off or closing the leisure facilities I enjoy now and the care homes I may need when I grow old, yet have found billions to spend on murdering people just like me in Iraq. Don't be fooled into thinking my criticisms are unprovoked - Mr. Barron has attacked me personally - he's just done it to lots of other people at the same time. It is my opinion that one of the main reasons the government and its wealthy backers is being able to get away with so many attacks on working conditions at the moment (attacks that I'm sure you are very personally aware of) is that working people still have a misplaced faith in the labour party as the party that will stand up for their interests, when in fact it is doing the opposite. I think therefore that it is important to highlight the anti-working class policies of labour both locally and nationally, which is what I have done in my comments above. As for me not giving my details, I'm sure you are aware of the threat of blacklisting etc. of people who express the view that we should be fighting attempts by management and their labour party representatives to reduce our standard of living - I choose not to make their job any easier by handing them my details on a plate. It's a personal choice but it does not mean that my criticisms are unanswerable - you have used your right to reply and others are also free to do so. One final point re your contact details for the local councillors or Billy Hayes - I am not interested in talking to new labour politicians or trade union bureaucrats, I know what side they are on and I am far more concerned with getting the message over to the rank-and-file that the time has come to fight back. As has been pointed out these comments may not have been phrased in the best way to accomplish that but you've all seen them already so what's done is done. Best of luck in your ongoing anti-privatisation campaigning and in your struggles against management locally. If you have any information regarding these activities or any information you would like users of this board to help spread in Northamptonshire then feel free to post it up here as a new topic. Regards, magnifico
the button wrote:
OK, this is definitely a job for Private Eye now. grin
BOMB wrote:
So, is the CWU saying Lee Barron isn't a New Labour Blairite? Which principles is he selling out, his Tory New Labour council one, or his millitant CWU antiprivatisation ones? I feel harrassed by New Labour's policies, and I think attacking supporters of these policies is perfectly legitimate. Personally, if I was in the CWU, and was aware of Mr Baron's record as New Labour Councillor, I would wonder if I could trust him. But then, I wonder if I can trust any elected representatives. Council or trade union.
magnifico wrote:
Following a conversation with some CWU comrades I'd like to make a couple of points. Firstly the comments above were and are not an attack on Northants CWU or its members in any way, shape or form. You are leading the way for workers in Northamptonshire in your willingness to stand up to management and the government, and you have my full support. Neither were they an attack on anything Mr. Barron has done as branch secretary of Northants CWU. The CWU was mentioned only because Mr. Barron's opposition to attacks on CWU workers is inconsistent with his lack of opposition to attacks on other workers and council tenants. Secondly, when I first posted the comments they were more personal and more insulting. This original version was written in the heat of the moment and was only up for a few hours overnight, before I thought better of it and changed it to the current version. I wasn't aware that Mr. Barron or his supporters had seen the original version, they had so little time to do so, but it seems someone (not me) was very keen to email it to them. I'd like to make it clear that I take back the insulting terms which have been removed, and that I apologise to Mr. Barron for using them in the first place.
Mikel wrote:
I have been asked by the Joint Trade Unions, UNISON and GMB at Northampton Borough Council to put the record straight following the criticism of Cllr Lee Barron. We have enjoyed an excellent working relationship with Cllr Barron who has always been prepared to work with us for the benefit of employees and the people of Northampton. It is rare for people to work for the benefit of others or to stand up for what is right, I consider Cllr Barron to be one of that rare breed. I cannot comprehend the thought processes of those who criticise him. I am also disappointed that there seems to be a connection with DCH, who together with the Joint Trade Unions and the Labour Group successfully fought to retain our Council Houses. We worked together then, lets please continue that approach and we can really achieve great things! Mike Littlewood UNISON Assistant Branch Secretary Dave Labrum GMB and TU Side Secretary