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Conrad Landin

Conrad LandinConrad Landin is the Morning Star’s Scotland editor.

From The Blog
9 January 2019

On Christmas Eve 2011, I was laid off as a seasonal sales assistant at HMV. I’d been employed just a few weeks before for the Christmas rush at the chain’s flagship Oxford Circus store, and expected to work until January or beyond. But in December 2011 the company reported losses of £40 million, and ‘extra capacity’ was now considered superfluous. As a ‘special’ gesture, the manager told me, I could work until 31 December. Other casuals – many were migrant workers hoping for a permanent post – got no notice at all: a young Frenchwoman was told she could take an ‘extended holiday’ from the following day.

From The Blog
15 December 2017

‘Online intimidation of Tories brings call to curb Momentum,’ a headline in the Timessaid on Wednesday. The article was about a new report by the Committee on Standards in Public Life, which ‘contains detailed criticism of “fringe groups” that have a big impact on the tone of political debate’. The report doesn’t name Momentum, but the Times is confident the left-wing Labour group is its target. But what about the right-wing press? Yesterday, the Daily Mail attacked a number of Conservative MPs on its front page for voting to give Parliament a say on any final Brexit deal. Most of them were among those branded ‘mutineers’ by the Telegraph last month. Some of them have since received death threats.

From The Blog
28 July 2017

The Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that employment tribunal fees are unlawful. They were cancelled immediately, and the government will have to pay back every claimant charged since fees were introduced in 2013. There are different estimates as to how much this could cost, but Unison, the public sector union which brought the litigation, puts it at £27 million.

From The Blog
16 December 2016

At the High Court last week, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), the parent company of Southern rail, failed to secure an injunction against Aslef, the train drivers’ union. On Monday they took the case to the Court of Appeal, which also dismissed it, allowing the first drivers’ strike in the company to go ahead on Tuesday.

From The Blog
7 March 2016

In the House of Commons last Monday, the business secretary Sajid Javid said Britain’s steel industry had experienced an ‘absolutely devastating’ few months. ‘Punitive tariffs and sky-high duties always seem like a nice, easy solution,’ he went on, ‘but the truth is that excessive, protectionist trade tariffs simply do not work.’ Conservative MPs voted down Labour’s motion, which called for tougher penalties on the dumping of Chinese steel in Europe, by 288 votes to 239.

From The Blog
11 December 2015

In 2002 the first national firefighters’ strike in 25 years was called to demand a 40 per cent pay rise, which would have seen their salaries go up to £30,000 a year. Tony Blair compared the Fire Brigades Union’s leader, Andy Gilchrist, to Arthur Scargill; the local government minister Nick Raynsford said strikers were 'criminally irresponsible' for refusing to co-operate with an independent pay review. The dispute was eventually settled with a compromise pay rise of 16 per cent, tied to changes in working practices. In 2004, not long after the RMT union was expelled from the Labour Party for supporting candidates to the left of Labour in Scotland and Wales, the FBU cut its longstanding link with the party. Gilchrist was ousted as general secretary in 2005. Last month the FBU held a recall conference in Blackpool to decide whether or not to reaffiliate to Labour. The overwhelming vote in favour was heralded by Jeremy Corbyn as a ‘milestone in the building of our new politics and our labour movement’.

From The Blog
24 October 2015

In March, Theresa May announced that Christopher Pitchford, a serving lord justice of appeal, would lead an inquiry into undercover policing. It followed a series of revelations about members of the Met’s disbanded Special Demonstration Squad, who infiltrated protest groups and in some cases had long-term sexual relationships with their targets. Just after Pitchford was appointed, a former SDS officer revealed he had spied on members of four trade unions; another officer posed as a joiner to infiltrate the builders’ union Ucatt. The most prominent trade unionist known to have been targeted by undercover police is Matt Wrack, the leader of the Fire Brigades’ Union.

From The Blog
14 September 2015

As soon as Ed Miliband was elected Labour leader in 2010, political commentators argued he had only won because of the 'union vote'. (In the final round of voting, Miliband won 46.6 per cent of MPs’ votes, 45.6 per cent of party members, and 59.8 per cent of affiliated union members.) The line was repeated over and over by Tory frontbenchers. In 2013, David Cameron told Miliband that the unions 'own you, lock, stock and block vote', even though John Smith had abolished the union block vote in 1993.

From The Blog
29 July 2015

After Ed Miliband resigned, the acting Labour leader Harriet Harman said the system for electing his replacement would ‘let the public in’ to the debate: This is the first time a political party in this country has opened up its leadership contest in this way and I think there will be a real appetite for it out there... We should not be afraid of differences. We should thrash them out.

From The Blog
17 June 2015

A few weeks ago, it seemed impossible that a socialist would be in the running for the Labour leadership. The former miners’ leader Ian Lavery had ruled himself out and supported Andy Burnham; Lisa Nandy had resisted attempts to ‘draft’ her into the race. The debate was firmly anchored to the right, with Ed Miliband under attack for being ‘anti-business’ and focusing on the disenfranchised.

From The Blog
3 March 2015

Many of the rooms at the National Gallery were closed last week. More than 200 staff were on their second five-day strike over plans to outsource security and visitor services. In the rooms that were open, the remaining attendants were hovering awkwardly near their chairs. CIS, the private contractor brought in to staff the recent Rembrandt exhibition, bans its employees from sitting down. I asked one of them how he felt about the arrangement. ‘I honestly don’t know why they’ve put chairs here,' he said. 'But I like walking around, it means I can speak to people. If I was sat down nobody would speak to me.’

From The Blog
6 February 2015

There was an emergency conference on North Sea oil in Aberdeen on Monday. More than a thousand jobs have been lost since the global oil price collapsed from $110 dollars a barrel to under $50. Two men I met in the lounge car of the Caledonian Sleeper on Sunday evening – strangers to each other – had both held senior positions at major oil companies. They had different axes to grind, but agreed that the North Sea was no longer a profitable option for the major firms, who would pull out altogether before long.

From The Blog
31 December 2014

Last year, students at Cambridge campaigning for a living wage for staff were told by a senior official that their college was ‘a business first, a home second’. A few months later, King’s College hosted George Osborne and others at an international economics conference. Students were hauled before the dean for singing a protest song as Osborne walked past them in the bar. One of the things they were angry about was that the conference had taken over the student coffee shop – part of their home – for its corporate hospitality.

From The Blog
21 November 2014

When the business secretary Vince Cable announced the sale of Royal Mail shares last autumn, his Labour counterpart Chuka Umunna, rather than focusing on the principle of a publicly owned postal service, complained that taxpayers were being ripped off. Royal Mail shares soared by 38 per cent in 24 hours. A parliamentary select committee said the group had been undervalued by £1 billion, in part because ministers had failed to account for the expanding parcels trade. They also appeared to have forgotten the company owned three major development sites in inner London, including Mount Pleasant, where several Christmases ago I sorted parcels – mainly Amazon deliveries.

From The Blog
30 September 2014

Tuesday morning's session at the Labour Party Conference last week went totally unreported. On BBC Parliament, the titles said: 'Delegates are taking part in a debate about conference arrangements' – in other words, 'don't watch this'. But it was the most eventful discussion of the week.

From The Blog
11 September 2014

When the Bank of England governor, Mark Carney, addressed the Trades Union Congress on Tuesday, the press bench at the side of Liverpool’s BT Convention Centre was full. Some national papers had several journalists in the hall, dividing their efforts between shorthand notes, tweets and other tasks. But as soon as Carney moved onto questions from the gathered delegates, reporters began to put their notebooks away and leave. It was a neat illustration of the link between the decline of industrial reporting and the surge in attention afforded to the City.

From The Blog
12 August 2014

Rembrandt: The Late Works will open at the National Gallery on 15 October. It has been described as the first major show focused on the artist’s later years. The curators say it will 'illuminate his versatile mastery by dividing paintings, drawings and prints thematically in order to examine the ideas that preoccupied him'. The gallery’s workforce meanwhile are preoccupied by plans to outsource security and visitor services to a private company.

From The Blog
23 June 2014

Earlier this month, Labour’s general secretary, Iain McNicol, wrote to the national committee of the party’s youth wing, Young Labour, ordering them not to send a delegation to the International Union of Socialist Youth’s summer camp in Malta. The camp is hosted annually by either IUSY or the Young European Socialists (YES). The Labour Party has taken part for many years. This August, though, McNicol said he would rather young members ‘focused their efforts on campaigning in the run up to the general election’. Labour is not currently ‘engaged with IUSY in a meaningful way’.

From The Blog
9 January 2014

At the 1993 Labour Conference, a young delegate called Tom Watson proposed a motion to establish a new youth wing for the party: Young Labour. It would replace the Labour Party Young Socialists, which had long been dominated by the Trotskyist Militant tendency. New Young Labour would be loyal to the leadership. Twenty years on, the youth wing is still dominated by the playing-it-safe brigade. I was elected to the Young Labour national committee last year. At a meeting last month, I tabled a motion on ‘defending the right to protest’. After we had discussed it, one of my colleagues proposed that ‘the motion should not be discussed’. The majority then rejected it on the grounds that matters of policy should only be raised at Young Labour’s biennial policy conference.

From The Blog
19 November 2013

Cambridge University promises its students ‘a supportive environment’ and ‘specialist assistance should you need it’. ‘Students who are struggling with a particular problem or feeling a bit lost won’t go unnoticed,’ it reassures us. ‘Don’t worry.’ But when the Guardianrevealed last week that Cambridgeshire police have attempted to infiltrate student activist groups and record the names and details of protesters, the university declined to comment, saying the case was a matter for the police.

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