Bashing the Bishop ““ But was the “ËœArch’ Right

I have loved the continuous coverage of the war of words between the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams and the Prime Minister David Cameron ably supported by a legion of right wing press reporters and bloggers. It’s true to say that there has been a fair amount of bishop bashing today.

Some say that religion is the cause of many a conflict, this one was started by an article the Archbishop wrote for the left leaning New Statesman magazine.

In it he questions the Conservative, Liberal Democrat coalition government, saying quite rightly, that no individuals voted for the policies that have been adopted.

Dr Williams wrote that the coalition was causing “Ëœwidespread suspicion’ and was creating “Ëœanxiety and anger’ in the country by introducing reforms without sufficient debate.

He accused the coalition of imposing their health and education policies at “Ëœremarkable speed’.

I don’t think anyone who has read the article can be in any doubt that the Archbishop has little time for David Cameron & Nick Cleggs policies and is perhaps a little left leaning in his political outlook.

Not since Robert Runcie’s numerous sparring contests with Margret Thatcher has an Archbishop dived head first into the politics of the country.

When you look back in history, there is a long tradition of the church commenting on political issues. Indeed some Archbishops have played key roles in not just politics but the monarchy before parliament was formed.

But in a modern day society, should the head of the Church of England be wading into party politics criticising the government of the day.

Leaders of minority religions aren’t afraid of speaking out. Muslim leaders are often in the news giving their opinions on a wide range of topics, so for me it was good to see the leader of the Church of England give his two penneth.

I was heartened by David Cameron’s response though, the dummy didn’t fly out, he came back with exactly the right comments when he said that the archbishop was entirely free to express “political views” and make “political interventions”. But he added: “I profoundly disagree with many of the views that he has expressed, particularly on issues like debt and welfare and education.”

Whether we agree with his point of view, or like David Cameron, profoundly disagree with it, there has been a precedent set now so I expect it will not be the last time Dr Williams speaks out and criticises the government of the day.

Other CofE leaders have leapt to the defence in the wake of today’s [Friday] public Bishop bashing.

The Bishop of Guildford said Dr Williams’s comments were “Ëœentirely reasonable’ – he said: “Government cannot at any stage simply abrogate its responsibility. One of the prime, core functions of government is the care of all in society, especially those at the bottom.”

I think the tone of the Archbishop’s article took government ministers by surprise. They have responded to Dr Williams’s comments with Liam Fox and Vince Cable defending the claims that the government do not have a mandate to impose sever austerity measures.

I also think that Dr Williams, as a left wing sympathiser, is struggling with the concept that the Lib Dem’s went into the last general election even further to the left than the Labour Party and then jumped into bed with a party way to the right of the Labour Party.

Mind you, they say that opposites attract don’t they?

I admit to being quite surprised by the Archbishops political intervention.

When he has made a speech I’ve always thought that he was a bit wishy washy and as assertive as a field mouse.

He has hardly set the world alight with his insights into the moral’s of a modern day society.

In a society where there is often a breakdown in family values, communities that are blighted by anti-social behaviour and a monumental surge toward materialism, I can’t remember seeing one single hard hitting interview either broadcast or written where he has spoken out on the challenges that meet a progressive society.

He saved his biggest and harshest dig at the “ËœBig Society’ and yet if done correctly, this could restore some of the values that have been lost over recent generations. I think we could do with some of the good old fashioned “ËœDunkirk Spirit’ in a nation that is being ravaged by cuts and many normal Joe and Joanne’s are being left jobless. And a culture shift where the public sector is being disseminated like a game of Jenga.

It looks like politics could be his new game. Maybe he has given up the traditional role as being our moral compass?

So, in summary, I’m saying to Dr Williams yes get involved in the political scene. Represent the views of your flock, be the voice of those that are the most vulnerable in our society, here I do believe that there is a cross over between religion and the state.

But have a go at putting your own house in order first eh? The Church of England is still stuck in the dark ages. There is a bloody battle being fought in an organisation that is institutional sexist, women are fighting for equality. And where gay people are afraid to declare their sexuality.

Churches are losing their flocks in large numbers. The only churches that are booming are those with an ethos like the Breathe City Church here in Stoke-on-Trent.

They are supporting, helping and fixing communities. They are inclusive of gender and sexual orientation. They have progressive and moral leaders. Their numbers are shooting through the roof mostly at the expense of the traditional churches.

So you have a bit of a job on there Dr Williams, there is work to be done in your own palaces, cathedrals and churches before you march upon Westminster.

Cherie Booth QC Backs the Stoke-on-Trent S.O.C.C Campaign

Stoke-on-Trent’s nationally recognised Save Our Children Centre’s campaign have managed to enlist the support of Cherie Booth QC.

Ms Booth, the wife of former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair, has personally written to parents offering her support as the campaign to halt a 30% reduction in funding heads for a judicial review.

The Save Our Children’s Centres campaigners have also enlisted the services of the same solicitors that the Hampshire S.O.C.C are using to further their claim against budget reductions.

Sure Start children centres were described by Tony Blair as “Ëœone of New Labour’s greatest achievements’.

Originally opened in 1999, there are now approximately 3500 Sure Start Children Centres across the country. The key objectives of these centres are:

“¢ In centres in the 30% most disadvantaged areas: integrated early learning and childcare (early years provision) for a minimum of 10 hours a day, five days a week, 48 weeks a year; and support for a childminder network
“¢ In centres in the 70% least disadvantaged areas, which do not elect to offer early years provision: drop-in activity sessions for children, such as stay and play sessions
“¢ Family Support, including support and advice on parenting, information about services available in the area and access to specialist, targeted services; and Parental Outreach
“¢ Child and Family Health Services, such as antenatal and postnatal support, information and guidance on breastfeeding, health and nutrition, smoking cessation support, and speech and language therapy and other specialist support
“¢ Links with Jobcentre Plus to encourage and support parents and carers who wish to consider training and employment
“¢ Quick and easy access to wider services

Authorities are proposing closing or reducing the budgets of the Children Centres as a measure of tackling the reduction in funding handed out to Council’s across the country following the governments Comprehensive Spending Review which was completed last autumn.

There are fears that up to 250 Sure Start Children’s Centres could close across the country in the next 12 months.

Mr Anthony Withers, a Stoke-on-Trent S.O.C.C campaigner and father of seven contacted Cherie Booth QC through a professional social networking site and was delighted to receive a very quick response from her offering her support.

“ We are so passionate for the future of our children and so disappointed that 30% of services are being taken away from families- we did not want it to come to this but we feel that we have to fight for our children”.

Please listen to the full audio interview with Mr Withers below:

Prime Minister David Cameron in Stoke-on-Trent

Prime Minister David Cameron was in Stoke-on-Trent yesterday [Thursday] to celebrate Portmerion Potteries fantastic performance and to help boost the Conservative Party local election campaign.

Mr Cameron also gave assurances that Stoke-on-Trent would have the benefit of being in an enterprise zone, which could bring thousands of jobs to the city.

The Prime Minister also rejected the suggestion that Stoke-on-Trent had been treated unfairly despite having government funding cut by 8.1%.

He gave hope to the S.O.C.C campaign by insisting that the local authority did not have to cut the funding to Sure Start centres in order to make savings and that other areas had been successful in protecting this vital service.

“It’s not about who’s dominant politically, but one of the reasons I wanted to come is because I think Stoke-on-Trent has faced particular challenges.

“Obviously economic challenges with the demise of some of the pottery industry and great political challenges with the fact that the BNP has done well here.

“I think that makes it very important that mainstream politicians come here for themselves.

“How can we help economically, how can we help politically and how can we help regenerate Stoke-on-Trent?

“It’s an area I care about a great deal.

“I cut my political teeth in Stafford and it’s good to see a business here at Portmeirion that’s doing very well, that has brought some of the great pottery brands together and that is expanding, investing, exporting and actually currently bringing production back onshore, making more things in Stoke-on-Trent.

“So to those people who say Britain doesn’t make anything any more ““ actually we do and we do better than that. Manufacturing is up and exports are up. We need to rebalance the economy and we need businesses that make things.”

“We made sure that nobody had to reduce their budget by more than 8.8 per cent, so Stoke-on-Trent came in below that level. Obviously there are difficult decisions that have to be made.

“But when you look at the funding that comes in per head in Stoke-on-Trent it still comes in at £555, more than twice the amount in some other areas, so the money is coming in. And there is also additional backing coming from the Government for things like social care, which has benefits for Council Tax rates.”

Mr Cameron added: “I have visited councils up and down the country and the Conservative-led councils have been able to cut back on these back office costs and not cut front line services.

“And they are doing that in different ways. Things like sharing the chief executive with the neighbouring council and removing layers of senior management.

“These are the sorts of changes that can be made without cutting things like Sure Start services and many councils are doing this successfully.”

“I accept it’s difficult and hard work, but we are all in this situation because of the deficit left by Labour.”

Mindful of the fact that Pits n Pots have reported and interview four shadow ministerial visits to Stoke-on-Trent, every effort was made to get an interview with the Prime Minister.

Mr Cameron’s press team tried to make time for us to do a quick audio interview with him but due to the pressure of his schedule, this was not possible.

Although we appreciate that No10′s press team know of and respect this site and made every effort to facilitate our request, it was disappointing that we did not get the opportunity to put a couple of questions about the upcoming elections to the Prime Minister given the Conservative’s endorsement of new media.

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi was due in the city yesterday but was cancelled because of the ministerial visit.

Arrangements had been made for us to interview her about the local elections.

Party Political Broadcasts For The May 5 Election

We are slowly finding out what the local candidates are saying for the 5 May Local Elections but what is being said by the party leaders?

How does what the party is saying fit in with what the local candidates are saying in their campaigns?

Have a look at the videos below from the Tories, Labour & Lib Dems and tell us what you think.

If you know of any more PPB videos please let us know so we can add.

Rob Flello Seeks Clarification on Stoke-on-Trent BSF Funding

Stoke-on-Trent South MP Rob Flello quizzed Prime Minister David Cameron on whether Stoke-on-Trent will receive enough Building Schools for the Future funding to complete the construction of the planned secondary schools.

Mr Flello took the opportunity during yesterday’s [Wednesday] Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons.

The Prime Minister will be aware that by 7 July the Education Secretary would have already understood the financial situation and the “state of the books”, as the Prime Minister is so keen to keep stating, so why on 7 July, in this House, did the Education Secretary say:

“One announcement that I was able to make on Monday was that Stoke-on-Trent, as a local authority that has reached financial close, will see all the schools under Building Schools for the Future rebuilt”

Is there some confusion between the Prime Minister and the Education Secretary?

The Prime Minister was in no mood to reassure the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South.

We were left a complete mess in terms of Building Schools for the Future. Here was a programme that took up three years and hundreds of millions of pounds before a single brick was laid. The cost of building those schools was twice what it should have been, so we have scrapped that programme and made available £15 billion for the next four years. That means that school building will be higher under this Government than it was under the Labour Government starting in 1997.

The recent announcement by Michael Gove that those school building schemes spared, are now facing cuts in funding of 40%, despite their being given the green light when he reduced Labour’s Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme in July.

This will effect some 600 and will realise potential savings of £6bn. The announcement now throws the building of the so called “sample schools” specifically given the thumbs up by the Department for Education back in August.

Just how this latest announcement will impact on Stoke-on-Trent remains unclear.

It may well throw the future of the Discovery Academy into doubt.

The controversial school was to be sited on the Willfield Community Centre location.

The Community Schools Action Group, who are campaigning for a school to be retained on the Mitchell High School site, will be watching developments very closely indeed.
Joan Walley MP for Stoke-on-Trent North has also raised the issue about BSF funding in Parliament today.

She called for an urgent debate on the issue and was met with a noncommittal response.

Council to sign Petition to mark Anti-Slavery Day

Stoke-on-Trent City Council on 21 October at a full council meeting will make a Chairman’s Announcement and sign the petition in support of Anti-Slavery Day which is to be marked nationally on 18 October 2010.

In March this year, the Anti-Slavery Day Bill was introduced in Parliament as a Private Members’ Bill and became law just before the General Election.

In July, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced that Anti-Slavery Day would fall on 18 October every year. This date coincides with the European Union’s Anti-Trafficking Day.

ECPAT UK will be using the first observance of Anti-Slavery Day to draw attention to the plight of child victims of trafficking in the UK Anti-Slavery Day provides a great opportunity to shine a light on a largely hidden yet cruel crime being committed against adults and children in the UK and overseas today.

“People may think slavery is a thing of the past but it clearly isn’t. Adults and children in the UK and overseas are subject to human trafficking for exploitation on a daily basis. The council felt this day should be suitably marked and public awareness raised about this very emotive and brutal issue.”

Stoke-on-Trent City Council will support ECPAT UK petition to help provide greater protection for child victims of trafficking by signing up to its petition on 18 October 2010. The petition was launched by ECPAT UK asking the Government to introduce a system of guardianship for child victims of trafficking. More information and a specific briefing on guardianship can be found on their website at www.ecpat.org.uk.

Human trafficking is the third largest criminal industry in the world and it is thought that 1.2 million children and young people are trafficked every year for sexual exploitation and cheap labour.

Raoul Moat And Class Pride

As if the world needs one, it’s time for another Raoul Moat post.

Since his expiration on a rain soaked bank in the early hours of Saturday morning, the surreal media circus surrounding Moat’s pursuit and stand off will not let him rest.

Moat the man is dead, but his ghost is very much abroad. You can’t move for tabloid tales about his failed relationships, his separation from his kids, and how he had developed paranoid tendencies. Every aspect of his life has been picked over, chewed up and spat out as lurid copy. Editorials rhapsodise about his misogyny and condemn him for his actions, but gleefully perform necromantic rites over his life to feed the insatiable demand for more, a demand they cynically contrived in the first place for ratings and paper sales. But when people outside the Fleet Street bubble take the media’s lead and voice positive things about Moat on the internet, bewilderment strikes followed by hypocritical denunciation.

And so it is with the defunct Facebook page, ‘RIP Raoul Moat you Legend’. I’m sure everyone’s familiar with the story by now. A page expressing sympathy for Moat appears, it attracts some 35,000 people who “likes this”. Some of them pay tribute, and a media shit storm ensues. This prompted the intervention of the PM who rang up Facebook to voice his displeasure. He then was quoted by various media outlets saying he couldn’t understand why anyone would sympathise with a “callous murderer”. Well Dave, it’s the same reason why many Tories got the hump over General Augusto Pinochet’s arrest in 2000 while the rest of us were bemused. It’s because it’s a class thing.

I’m not about to argue Raoul Moat is some sort of working class hero. He was a misogynistic social inadequate whose inability to deal with a lifetime’s accumulation of disappointment and failure saw him lash out violently. True, there are suggestions of psychological problems and drug abuse but no one is suggesting he was mad or didn’t realise what he was doing. While questions must be asked about the extent to which the authorities suspected Moat was dangerous, and if the three shootings could have been avoided by early interventions, Moat was still conscious of his actions. He set out in the early hours of a week last Saturday with the intention to kill.

How the hunt for Moat was framed during his week on the run was crucial for him going viral as a glamorous outlaw. We found out Moat had sent a long letter to the police that said “The public need not fear me but the police should as I won’t stop till I’m dead.” This was a serous media management faux pas because it allowed the portrayal of Moat to assume a folky aspect. Rather than being a manhunt for a dangerous killer, coverage of the operation degenerated into a Smokey and the Bandit-style farce. With a Facebook following, Twitter spoofs and a range of T-Shirts feeding off the frenzy it was only a matter of time before the half-sympathetic media profiles of Moat elicited support from some quarters. And no, this time it wasn’t bleeding heart liberals: it came from a small layer of the white working class.

For the people who joined the Facebook tribute pages and left flowers outside Moat’s house, the sentiments expressed in his letters and recordings condense a confused but widespread consciousness common among the more deprived sections of our class. It’s a barely coherent sense of dislocation, frustration, and despair that impotently kicks against ‘official’ society. It is the social reservoir from which the BNP and EDL fish, that gave us Kerry Katona and Jade Goody. They are the dangerous class that keep politicians awake at night, repulse the arbiters of good taste, and earn the ire of ever-so-superior middle class columnists. It doesn’t matter that Moat killed someone. He had been abandoned by society and left to rot like so many others, and for a brief moment he was the lightning rod for lumpen anger and defiance. He is their Taxi Driver, the man who couldn’t take any more.

The sympathy for Moat does seem perverse, but it is rooted in that section of the working class the rest of society loves to bash. The publicity around Siobhan O’Dowd’s Facebook group is an unwelcome reminder of the social refuse British capitalism produces generation after generation. But that this strata exists without prospects or hope is the real perversion, not some daft commentary on the internet.

Brown To Step Down!

Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour Party Gordon Brown has announced that he is to step down.

He is to ask the Labour Party to initiate the process for a leadership election and confirmed he will not stand or intervene.

The news comes following a request by Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg for talks between the two parties.

Mr Brown said that a hung parliament suggested that there was no one leader or party that had the support to govern alone.

Speaking outside No10 Downing Street, he said:

“The reason that we have a hung parliament is that no single party or single leader was able to win support.

“As leader of my party I must accept that that is a judgement on me,”

“I therefore intend to ask the Labour Party to set in train the processes needed for its own leadership election.

“I would hope that it would be completed in time for the new leader to be in post by the time of the Labour Party conference.

“I will play no part in that contest, I will back no individual candidate.”

Negotiators from both Labour and the Liberal Democrats will now hold talks on whether the two parties cam come to an agreement.

It is rumoured that Mr Brown would himself have been a barrier to any agreement between Labour and the Lib Dems.

There had been some calls from Labour MPs for Gordon Brown to step down following the party’s performance at the General Election.

The Labour Party – In The Dock? [UPDATED 26/2]

Amidst all the goings on of the last few days, all the accusations of Institutionalised Bullying, the latest being today – this time the victim Chancellor Alistair Darling

Reports are reaching Pits n Pots HQ that three key Labour members in the Stoke Central CLP are to take legal action against their Party on discriminatory grounds.

We can exclusively reveal that one of the petitioners is Stoke Central CLP Secretary Gary Elsby, the other two are thought to be Mick Williams and ex-council leader Barry Stockley, although this has not been confirmed.

The legal action is to be taken against a very high ranking officer of the National Party on behalf of the Labour Party. Mr Elsby has confirmed that his court papers have been filed and there will be a summons issued in the next week or so.

Mr Elsby is said to be incensed at the accusation that he lacks political judgement and that he has no aims and values and he his committed to proving his worth.

We can also reveal that last Friday’s Stoke Central CLP AGM has been declared null and void by the paid enforcers of the National Executive.

At that AGM a new Treasurer was voted in as the previous incumbent had stepped down.

It is alleged that the former Treasurer is refusing to hand over the accounts and claims that it is under the instruction of a paid Regional Officer.

It is thought that Mark Fisher MP is furious at being denied access to the funds he needs for his election campaign.

You can not help but think that this storm is gathering in force and one wonders if it is just a matter of time before a number of those that are deemed as hostile are suspended from the party they have served for a vast number of years.

When I wrote my previous blog posing the question of if there is Institutionalised Bullying within the Labour Party I had no idea that the Alistair Darling story was about to break.

Mr Darling claims the ‘forces of hell’ were unleashed against him following his forecast in 2008 that the country was heading for the deepest recession for over 60 years. When he was asked if these forces were from within No 10 he replied ‘as well as the Tories’.

With the reports of bullying locally and nationally, are we wrong to question whether there is a culture of bullying within the labour party ranks?

I talked to former Labour Group Leaders Mick Salih & Mike Barnes and asked them if they thought there was a culture of bullying in the party locally, regionally and nationally.

Listen to the Audio Interviews Below…

Prime Minister gives top marks to Stoke school

A Stoke-on-Trent head teacher will be flying the flag for the city next week when she attends a reception at 10 Downing Street.

Pauline Bloor, head at St John’s CE (A) Primary School in Trent Vale will be joining head teachers from primary and secondary schools throughout the country who have been invited to meet Prime Minister Gordon Brown at a reception to honour some of the “most improved” schools in the country. The reception will be held next Monday, January 11th.

Mrs Bloor, who has been head at the school since it opened four years ago, said: “I thought it was wind up when I first opened the email, but I checked with Downing Street and the invitation certainly is genuine. I think it’s a terrific honour for the school, staff, pupils and of course parents and carers. It’s also a tribute to the local community which has been so supportive of the school since it opened. We have a very dedicated team here and it’s just a pity we couldn’t all go. Still, I’m delighted to be invited and looking forward to stepping into the corridors of power!”

Cabinet member for children and young people’s services, Councillor Ian Mitchell, said: “I would like to congratulate Pauline and everyone at St John’s. This is an acknowledgement of the hard work and dedication of everyone at the school and I hope Pauline thoroughly enjoys her time in Downing Street.”

The £3m school opened in September 2005 following the amalgamation of Springfield and Trent Vale primary schools and has 262 pupils and 25 staff.