Plenty to campaign on then. I’ll say ‘Roll on May’ in the hope of a change of control in the Council, in the fond hope of a change of direction and priorities. What you say about pushing changes through – a scorched earth policy? – is a worrying situation. Maybe they won’t joke about having spent all the money!

Birmingham Against The Cuts

Today from 2pm, Birmingham City Council meet to debate and vote on the budget for 2012/13. Over the last 6 months, consultations have been ignored or sidelined by the ConDem coalition locally, in favour of rushing through as many cuts as possible before they lose control of the council at the local elections in May.
With over 200 pages and £100m of cuts being made, we’re not going to list everything here. The complete budget is available here. If anyone wants to tell us about a particular cut that is going to affect you, or that you are aware of, please do so, either by email ( or by commenting on this post.
Many of the cuts announced still have consultation processes to go through or complete. Through the consultation process and alongside lobbying, demonstrations and where applicable strikes, with the support of the people who need the…

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On Class

MY VIRTUAL DAUGHTER recently posted on Facebook a definition of the word ‘snob’ and this set my mind racing to the sketch originally broadcast on ‘The Frost Report’ (but since rebroadcast many times) featuring John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett.
The three men talking about class has bubbled to the surface of my consciousness on a number of occasions as a result of conversations in which I have been involved recently, snippets of the satire suggesting themselves as exemplars and descriptors of current issues.
We do appear to be living in one of those periods where the British obsession with class, status and socio-economic labels are under discussion, undergoing analysis and are being heavily employed, by some, as explanators of the ills, misfortunes and injustices perceived in ‘society’ – by many as the reason for those negativities, while others will insist they describe much that is good in society and reflect qualities which will be our salvation.

People can – will – argue until the cows come home about this, there is nothing new in that activity. The British class system proves remarkably resistant to change, although I feel we may be near to a tipping point where, not for the first time in British history, the zeitgeist for those who are well-off tends to call time on some of the more blatantly unfair and exploitative practices of certain of their more embarrassing peers.
Look back in 10 years’ time and see if I am right.

For those who like British social satire at its best, I reproduce below the text of the sketch, with acknowledgement to the estates of the late John Law, the late Marty Feldman, and to the late Ronnie Barker, John Cleese and Ronnie Corbett.


(image reproduced with acknowledgement to the BBC.)

Class Sketch (The Frost Report, 1966)


(In bowler hat, black jacket and pinstriped trousers)
I look down on him (Indicates Barker) because I am upper-class.


(Pork-pie hat and raincoat) I look up to him (Cleese) because he is upper-class; but I look down on him (Corbett) because he is lower-class. I am middle-class.


(Cloth cap and muffler) I know my place. I look up to them both. But I don’t look up to him (Barker) as much as I look up to him (Cleese), because he has got innate breeding.


I have got innate breeding, but I have not got any money. So sometimes I look up (bends knees, does so) to him (Barker).


I still look up to him (Cleese) because although I have money, I am vulgar. But I am not as vulgar as him (Corbett) so I still look down on him (Corbett).


I know my place. I look up to them both; but while I am poor, I am honest, industrious and trustworthy. Had I the inclination, I could look down on them. But I don’t.


We all know our place, but what do we get out of it?


I get a feeling of superiority over them.


I get a feeling of inferiority from him, (Cleese), but a feeling of superiority over him (Corbett).


I get a pain in the back of my neck.

I sourced the script from to whom I am grateful.

A raft of BBC comedy sketches on the subject of class, including the above, may be viewed here:

All that is set out here is true. However one feels bound to ask why the story goes quiet between 1974 and the present. Where is the NUM now, where, in fact is the NCB and the entire UK mining industry?
The real truth is that the struggle of capital and labour continues, it is the common thread in the lives of the working classes. We won. And eased the passage of Thatcherism into the world. Would the eighties have been any easier for us had the Unions failed to engage in ’74? I doubt it. So we lose, either way, because our great hope – a Labour Government fails so often to deliver.

Birmingham Against The Cuts

Since their election in 2010 the ConDem government have driven through a dramatic series of cuts, privatisation and attacks on working conditions.

The NHS is the most visible drive towards privatisation, with education not far behind. The cuts sweeping local government are not simply the effect of the recession, but an attempt to abolish large areas of public services.

The restructuring of public sector pensions has seen significant resistance, with 750,000 on strike on June 30th and 2,500,000 on November 30th. These 2 days of strikes forced some concessions from
the government, and some unions seized the opportunity to withdraw from future action while negotiations continue. Meanwhile the NUT, PCS and UCU have called a strike on March 28th which will see approaching 1,000,000 on strike.

A serious debate is raging in the trade union movement – how far can we go in resisting the government? Will strikes win further…

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A voice heard over the whistling of the wind through the sagebrush and the rumbling of the tumbleweed in the Google + wilderness…

Lifelong Learning Matters

Thanks to the twenty or so people who have responded to the last blog by submitting comments or emailing me directly. It’s good to find out more about people’s opinions and ideas. Although relatively few in number, replies have come from students, tutors, branch volunteers, regional voluntary officers, field staff, managers, a Trustee and an administrator. Some additional exchanges have also taken place on social media.

The WEA is a networked and democratic organisation and it’s good to know that there’s an increasing appetite to use digital technology in our day-to-day practice. Making the most of contemporary networks and links should be second nature to us as our traditions are based firmly on the idea of collective learning within community-based settings.

Varying definitions of the word ‘Association’ capture some of the WEA’s characteristics and the importance of making connections:

Association (noun)

1. a group of people organised for a joint…

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Boycott Workfare Meeting March 29th



It would be the permanent nightshift, of course. If it were the chief executive or human resources manager we’d be talking internship, presumably, rather than workfare.
Well, high time to deal with the spam emails Tesco have been sending me and give them a piece of my mind.
Hmmm, they do say that the customer is always right.*
(* I’ve never heard a store manager actually say this.)

Image reproduced from ‘The ConDem Effect’ – follow this link to the Facebook page The ConDem Effect!

Birmingham Against The Cuts

We were planning to wait until we had confirmed speakers, but with the storm that has blown up around the Tesco permanent nightshift workfare position advertised, we thought it best to make the event announcement now.

Thursday 29th March

Unite the Union
Transport House
211 Broad Street
B15 1AY

Boycott Workfare public meeting, in association with Birmingham Trades Council, Birmingham Against the Cuts,IWW West Midlands, Right to Work, Occupy Birmingham, DPAC and Youth Fight for Jobs
Speakers invited from Boycott Workfare, Public Interest Lawyers and USDAW.

With particular thanks to Unite and the lovely people who work there, who have accomdated us, after we decided that the room at the council house would be too small (it was booked before this became a national news story), and other rooms were not available. Carrs Lane was also considered before someone pointed out that the upstairs rooms are not…

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I read something of this yesterday and didn’t quite believe it. Well done UNISON, Charlie Friel and those rank and file employees in the Connexions service who had the temerity to tell the deputy leader of the council, amongst others, exactly what these closures would really mean to the vulnerable people using the service – and by extension to the council budget. We have seen the 40th anniversary of that great pyrrhic victory at Saltley Gate.
Celebrate this great turnaround of Feb 2012, for it may in time, prove more meaningful still.

Birmingham Against The Cuts

Over 100 staff at Connexions had good news yesterday after hearing that Birmingham City Council have backed down and withdrawn the threat of redundancies, stating that there will not be any more cuts to this vital service in the coming financial year. We hope that whoever is in power following the council elections in May will provide a continued commitment to Connexions.

Connexions gives help and advice to young people who are unemployed and are looking for work, college or training. They also help young homeless people, pregnant teenage girls and teenage parents.

UNISON argued all along that to make cuts to this service when youth unemployment is at an all-time high and still rising was morally wrong, reckless and irresponsible and finally Birmingham City Council have listened.

UNISON Convenor Charlie Friel said

This is really good news for our members who been put the emotional wringer by this council…

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Birmingham Against The Cuts

There are a few different names for this – a financial transactions tax (FTT), a Tobin tax or more commonly in the last couple of years a Robin Hood tax.

The Robin Hood of old stole from the rich to give to the poor, and his name has been appropriated for a tax that would take from the banks and give to the people, a reversal of the fiscal policy of austerity where the people have given to the banks, and continue to pay for the crisis they caused.

An FTT would put a small amount of tax on risky financial transactions. A tax of 0.05% would raise £20bn each year in the UK, and around £125bn globally – and it would want to be implemented globally (or at least in all the major financial centres of the world), since these are electronic transactions, it would be relatively simple to…

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