An alternative view to the Brighton and Hove Independent 100

The Brighton and Hove Independent last week (30th May) published a list of the “100 people who make our city what it is”. The Editorial Director, Greg Hadfield has said he “expects – and even hopes – that almost everyone will disagree” with the list.

Let me be the first. There are the predictable names but it is who Greg has missed that demands comment. For example, why is your Humble Blogger not included? No politician can hope for recognition and success without endorsement from this awesome blog.

It is all very well to have Martin Harris from the bus company, but what about former Mayor, Brian Fitch, who singlehandedly, in a career stretching back to when Methuselah was a boy in short trousers, has saved bus route after bus route, most recently the Number 5, from being callously axed without a second thought to those isolated on our estates. What hope is there for them now that Brian has moved to Eastbourne?

More seriously, in the media section, there is no mention of anyone from the Brighton Argus. I just can’t imagine why not! Adam Trimingham, at least, should be there.

Three politicians from each of the main political parties are listed although the Green, Major Druitt, is listed because of his business influence, and Katy Bourne appears to have transcended her party political affiliations to be listed under Public Services.

But how does one make a judgement on who has made a contribution to make our city what it is. When reviewing the list, I was hard pressed to say for over half of them one thing they have done to make or change the City. Merely holding a position, elected or otherwise, doesn’t mean that you have helped to shape a place.

A better list would be who, over the last 25 years or more, has helped to make Brighton and Hove what it is today. Who is the modern day Herbert Carden, Margaret Hardy, Lewis Cohen, Dorothy Stringer, John Morley, Denis Hobden, Tony Hewison, Asa Briggs, or Richard Attenborough? Their influence on the City remains even though they are no longer with us.

I could mention people like Linda Pointing, Dani Ahrens and Melita Dennett, who (amongst others) were pioneers in the movement for lesbian and gay rights and recognition, and opposition to Section 28. Or Shirley West who was, for many years, the backbone of the Women’s Centre. Jess Wood from Allsorts continues this work, particularly with children and young people.

For fifty years Patricia Norman was central to the Friends Centre and to its adult education arm. Into her nineties she continued with a group for pensioners run from the Friends Centre, as well as being involved in the work of Brighton Housing Trust for over 45 years, most recently as its Life President.

Kate Page has been at the Resources Centre for almost 35 years, helping countless community organisations shape their communities. And Faith Matyszak provided the backbone of BME services throughout the 1980’s, 90’s and noughties.

Local domestic violence services were saved by a group including the above-mentioned Shirley West and Jean Calder, who subsequently became the first Director of the Women’s Refuge Project (now Rise). Jean later led the successful campaign to save St Peters Church as a place of worship, alongside Janet King, Isabel Turner and others. (Jean now has the honour to be a regular contributor to this esteemed blog.)

Interfaith activities were championed by Tehm Framroze, and now by Anthea Ballam. They should be on the list. Andrew Manson-Brailsford and Ian Chisnall continue to make the Church relevant in the community. Rabbi Elli Sarah does likewise for Progressive Jewish community.

While he will no doubt write a strongly worded letter against his inclusion, Tony Greenstein should be included for being a public irritant of gargantuan proportions but, more so, for being one of the most consistent anti-fascist in Brighton and Hove.

What about the campaigners who helped to close down the Dolphinarium? Or Duncan Blinkhorn and Mark Strong for getting the needs of cyclists acknowledged.

Mushtaq Ahmed was pivotal in establishing Sussex CCC as a force to be reckoned with. Dick Knight could represent all those who helped secure a stadium fit for the 21st century at Falmer.

Michael Chowen, a local businessman and employer, has been a philanthropist with a particular commitment to women’s services. Peter Field has had a long history in charitable work, not least in nurturing and developing housing services for homeless people.

I could go on and on, and I usually do, but those named above would be 25 of my 100.

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Immigration and British Citizens by Jean Calder


I’ve been interested to read responses to one of my recent blogs, Labour Fails to Listen. 

In his comment, Jim Grozier disagreed with what I’d said about immigration. He wrote: “I have a major problem with one paragraph, and one phrase in particular – “the rights of British people” – sent a shiver down my spine.” He added “Surely the only rights British people have are *human* rights – the same rights that the immigrants have – so why should British people be favoured over non-British people?”

I find these ideas fascinating. I am an immigrant. I remain immensely grateful to the UK for taking me in in 1972 and for providing me with a better and safer life than I would have had in South Africa. I’ve worked hard since I’ve been here and, like most immigrants,  have tried to give something back. However, back in the 1970s I never for one moment thought I had a right to the same services and benefits as British-born people. It simply would never have occurred to me, given that neither my parents nor I had contributed, by our work or our taxes.  

I worked for three years in order to gain what was then called ‘resident status’ and then went to Sussex University as a mature student on a full grant. I will always be grateful for this. However, if the government of the time had decided that immigrants like me needed to work for  five or seven years rather than three, because British born people needed the places or because the country couldn’t afford it, I would have accepted it. I wouldn’t have liked it, but it would have seemed to me fair and completely reasonable that the country should look after its own young people first. I’ve never had any difficulty with this notion, though I would expect that after a certain period of legal residence and contribution, rights would equalise.

It seems strange to suggest that British citizenship should bring with it no rights other than basic human rights. As Britons, we don’t live in a supranational European state or a world without borders. The nation state still exists and so long as it does, continues to confer particular rights and responsibilities on its citizens. This is true in all countries, not just our own. It seems to me absurd to suggest that national governments should, in all circumstances, give equal weight to the well being of visitors or settlers, whatever the hardship this may cause to the people of the host nation. 

Tony Greenstein commented that apparent concern about immigrants’ undercutting wages “has been the staple argument of racists for over 120 years.” He is right, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t in some cases true. My point is that, over several years, an unscrupulous political elite in the UK developed a deliberate strategy of bringing in workers for the purpose of undercutting wages and conditions and undermining unionised labour. Unskilled jobs which could have been carried out by British people were, quite legally, advertised abroad rather than in the UK. Skill shortages were not addressed by a state education and training establishment, which, over decades, failed to prepare indigenous workers for key trades and professions, for example in building, nursing and medicine. One result is an NHS staffed by low-paid agency workers with poor English – and well-paid doctors from abroad, who could perhaps have better served their countries by working at home.  

Jim ended his comment by recalling MP Dennis Skinner’s Commons speech in which he attacked UKIP MPs and referred to what he called his “United Nations heart bypass” operation. He said: “..it was done by a Syrian cardiologist, a Malaysian surgeon, a Dutch doctor, a Nigerian registrar, and these two people here talk about sending them back from whence they came. And if they did that in the hospitals in London, half of London would be dead in six months.”

It was a moving and amusing speech and a wonderful piece of polemic, but Skinner should surely also have asked why our very wealthy country fails to train enough people to staff its NHS. After all, tiny cash-strapped Cuba manages to produce enough doctors and nurses to meet its own needs and has for decades been able to export them, as required, to war zones and disaster areas around the world. I have to ask, if they can do it, why can’t we?

I’ll respond to Tony’s comments about Lutfur Rahman and islamophobia, Ireland and feminism at a later date.

Brighton at its best: united against fascism, against the ‘March for England’, and against the English Defence League

Today the centre Brighton came to a standstill as thousands of anti-fascist demonstrators gave the few hundred on the so-called “March for England” a really hard time. Most people know that the March for England is nothing but a front for the English Defence League (EDL).

From reports on Twitter, it sounds as though there were street fights in Church Road and police horse charges in Queens Road. From reports from those on the counter-demonstration it seems as though the police may have lost control for a short while and were heavy-handed, resorting to baton charges and the use of pepper spray. All this on a glorious spring Sunday afternoon in Brighton!

Brighton has a proud record of opposing all attempts by extreme right-wing groups from marching and meeting here. A new book by the veteran anti-Nazi campaigner, Tony Greenstein, catalogues this opposition.

I understand that both the Green Member of Parliament for Brighton Pavilion, Caroline Lucas, and the Green Leader of Brighton and Hove City Council, Bill Randall, were on the counter-demonstration. I understand that this was probably the first time in Brighton’s history that both the leader of the council and one of the local MPs have been on such a demonstration. After the appalling massacre in Norway, all anti-fascists, on the left and right, should have been on this demonstration. I’m sure that there were other councillors there and I would have hoped that both Conservative MPs would have realised the importance of taking a stand by being there in order to protect Brighton and Hove’s reputation as a cosmopolitan, inclusive City.

Perhaps readers could let me know which other leading politicians were there today. They, Unite Against Fascism, and the several thousand of other counter-demonstrators deserve our thanks.

The fringe candidates in this May’s local elections in Brighton and Hove

In the last couple of days I have commented on the independent candidates standing in Wish (Mr and Mrs Jenny Barnard-Langston), Hangleton and Knoll (Jo Heard) and North Portslade (Theo Child). But there are other fringe candidates standing,and I don’t mean the LibDems or UKIP. If you read between the lines of what I have written about those parties you may have gained the impression, I can’t think why, that they are not my cup of team (forexample, “I’d rather stick pins in my eyes than vote for UKIP”).

The most spoken about Independent this May is former mayor, former Lib Dem and sitting councillor David Wakins who is hoping to defend his seat in Brunswick and Adelaide. His candidature could be characterised as the Mr Angry Candidate, not that David is the angry sort, but his treatment by the Lib Dems has not been kind and his is a spoiling campaign designed to undermine support for the Lib Dems in their last remaining area of representation.

Trade Unionists and Socialists Against the Cuts may have worthy intentions, but they are likely to mobilise no more than a few dozen votes. Standing for TUSAC are an uninspiring bunch who have failed to rally the working classes time and time again. There was a song, can’t member who by, that went “As soon as this pub closes, as soon as this pub closes, as soon as this pub closes, the revolution starts”. The chorus was sung by an increasingly drunk singer. The final chorus went “As soon as this pub closes, as soon as this pub closes, as soon as this pub closes, ……… I think ….. I’m gonna ….. be sick”.

Now I’m not suggesting that any of the TUSAC candidates are partial to a drink or two, but they are a mixture of uninspiring individuals (Bill North standing in East Brighton) and more enthusiastic, less cynical types such as Jon Redford (Hanover and Elm Grove). He is active in the Stop the Cuts Coalition and, at least, has some get up and go about him. At just 23 Jon is one of the younger breed of candidates and he has been part of the campaign against cuts in Education Maintenance Allowances.

Also standing for TUSAC in Hollingdean and Stanmer are Phil Clarke, Tony Greenstein (how is it that he hasn’t yet been expelled from TUSAC – he has been expelled from evey other fringe group on the left) and the Peter Stringfellow of Brighton politics, Professor Dave Hill. Dave Bangs is standing for TUSAC in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean.

What is touching, yet quite sad about this bunch, is that unlike Don Quixote who charged at imaginary enemies, this lot have real enemies yet they tend to focus on others on the left and fail to mobilise real opposition against the Tories. They just don’t know how to organise an effective coalition. Their handful of votes could just let the Tories in in very close contests. One wonders if this is what they hope for …..

Gerald O’Brien is standing in St Peters and North Laine. He has stood in more elections than the number of comments left on this blog by the Legend that is Christopher Hawtree. He is yet to top 100 votes and even being most generous, is unlikely to win in this seat, the safest Green seat in the country.

Mohammed Asaduzzaman is standing as an Independent in Queens Park. A respected local businessman, concerned with crime, he has stood before but has little chance of making more than a ripple on the result in Queens Park.

And finally we have Yuri Borgmann-Prebil (Preston Park) and Susan Collard (St Peters and North Laine) standing for the European Citizens Party. Now for many weeks I have been collating comprehensive files on both Yuri and the European Citizens Party. In fact I have focused on little else …. zzzzzzzzz

The Left fiddles while the ConDems burn Britain

There was standing room only for stirring speeches by Caroline Lucas MP, the ever-youthful firebrand of the left Tony Greenstein, and others.  The campaign against the cuts got off to a great start last night at the Friends Meeting House.  Or did it?

There must have been 250 present.  A very respectful turnout, and there was concern about fire regulations due to overcrowding. But why weren’t there people queuing down Ship Street demanding to get in?  Faced with unprecedented cuts in public services, mass redundancies (800 announced today alone), there should have been a much greater turnout.

So why is the left in Brighton so incapable of mobilising really big numbers.  The simple answer is that it is too sectarian and too divided.  Passions were high in the run up to the meeting.  This was not because of the scale of the cuts being considered but because of divisions over the involvement of the Labour Party.  And that issue was not even whether a Labour representative should be on the panel.  No, it was about whether the Party should merely be invited to the meeting.

There are a few in the vanguard of the revolution who have ever quite emerged from their days as student union activists, but enthusiasm and passion has been replaced by demoralisation and bitterness.  But never fear, they are big ducks in their little pond, splashing about and making what is for them a big noise as they try to keep the little Labour ducks from getting into the water.

Meanwhile, the ConDems are planning massive cuts and redundancies, and the lives of ordinary people will be blighted for a generation. The Left fiddles while the ConDems burn Britain.