The BBC & the 1970 Equal Pay Act

In Uncategorized on July 20, 2017 by kmflett

The BBC & the 1970 Equal Pay Act

The 1970 Equal Pay Act made it the law for men and women who do the same job at work, or work that is the same or of equal value to be paid equally. While one often hears the mantra that there are no ‘no go areas’ for law and order strangely this is one law that numbers of employer’s flout.

The publication of pay figures for top BBC ‘talent’ on 20th July underlines the point. Men are paid a great deal more than women, yet they are all part of the same ‘talent’ pool doing if not the same jobs, jobs of equal value.

Efforts have been made to address that. To their credit the LibDems had a reasonable idea before 2010 of introducing Fair Pay Audits at work. This would underline the level of unequal pay and hopefully lead to it being addressed.

In Government, with the Tories, a U-Turn was done, and the idea was dropped. We don’t know but it’s likely that the pressure to drop it came not from Lynne Featherstone the LibDem Minister then responsible but from Theresa May.

After 2015 David Cameron took action on equal pay audits:

Clearly the BBC, and no doubt other large employers, did not feel too concerned.

The point is that the failure to address unequal pay both underwrites a continuing material inequality at work between women and sends a wider message. That message is: women are not equal so it will be OK to discriminate against them, not just at work but socially too.

These attitudes exist in various ways in all the main parties and indeed on the left too. I suspect in UKIP and the wilder shores of the Tory Party they are seen as unexceptional.

The pressure of bourgeois society and the attitudes it finds acceptable can weigh very heavily on the minds even of people who are trying to change society.

The reality is that while there is a layer of people in society who think sexism is OK there is another layer of people who will not put up with it, excuses for it and inaction about it under any circumstances.

They are to be found in women’s groups, political parties and perhaps most of all trade unions. Despite the 1970 Act, equal pay still needs to be fought for. Labour’s 2017 manifesto ‘For the many, not the few’ pledged to address the gender pay gap. It is work of increasing urgency.


Will golf finally ditch its clean-shaven image at Royal Birkdale?

In Uncategorized on July 20, 2017 by kmflett

Beard Liberation Front
Media release 20th July
Contact Keith Flett 07803 167266

Will golf finally ditch its clean-shaven image at Royal Birkdale?

The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers, has said that all eyes are on the Open golf at Royal Birkdale over the next few days to see if the sport can finally ditch its clean-shaven Establishment image.

While most major sports including football, cricket and even tennis, have embraced the beard, golf has been much slower with some leading players even looking as if they shave between holes.

On Thursday the usually hirsute Ian Poulter was sporting a trimmed down version of his normal beard and Danny Willett could be seen with proto-hipster style facial hair.

The BLF has a special team of beard monitors watching Royal Birkdale to judge hirsuteness levels.

BLF Organiser Keith Flett said, golf has struggled to accept in some cases that women should play on equal terms so perhaps it is no surprise that it’s also tended towards the pogonophobic. However we hope that Royal Birkdale will point the way to the age of the beard in golf.


Theresa May’s Government July 2017: class, wealth & death

In Uncategorized on July 20, 2017 by kmflett

Class, wealth & death

It is that time of year when official society shuts down for a bit- Parliament rises for the summer recess on 21st July- and before that come a stream of official announcements.

First Sir Michael Marmot, a leading authority in health and life expectancy, released figures suggesting that a steady increase in life expectancy had stalled from around 2010 and this might well be due to the impact of austerity:

The Government then, perhaps in reaction, released the news that the State pension age would rise much earlier than expected.
From 2039 you’ll need to be 68 to get a State pension. As the TUC noted this means that numbers will be not well enough to work but not old enough to get a pension,

Finally because there must be circuses as well as bread, the BBC revealed the salaries of its top earners.

Unsurprisingly there were more men than women:

That said, while a few on the left fumed, it was the right that understood the purpose of this exercise. By revealing how much BBC ‘talent’ is paid, the Tories friend Rupert Murdoch can offer them more and undermine public service broadcasting further.
Perhaps it would be a good idea to spend the summer planning how to get rid of this Tory Government.



Is BBC pogonophobic after top earners list underlines preference for clean shaven men in suits

In Uncategorized on July 19, 2017 by kmflett

Beard Liberation Front
19th July

The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers, has said that the BBC’s list of top earners underlines a preference for clean shaven men in suits.

The list has few women and just a handful of beard wearers including Gary Lineker, Graham Norton, Steve Wright and executive Alan Yentob.

The campaigners say that serious doubts continue as to whether the BBC is pogonophobic, prejudiced against the hirsute. The gender bias is obvious

BLF Organiser Keith Flett said, in the summer of 2013 former Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman grew a beard and claimed that the BBC’s attitude  to it at senior levels was pogonophobic. It doesn’t look like things have changed.


The Tolpuddle Martyrs, Joseph Arch, the vote & allotments

In Uncategorized on July 19, 2017 by kmflett

The Tolpuddle Martyrs, Joseph Arch, the Vote and Allotments

The story of the Tolpuddle Martyrs formation of a trade union to address low wages, their subsequent persecution and transportation and the campaign that was built around that is the stuff of labour movement history.

The wider picture of strategies to improve the conditions of the agricultural labourer, ‘Hodge’ as he was insulting known, are documented but not much analysed.

The Tolpuddle union was a relatively rare attempt to address rural distress, where in many other places riot and destruction of machinery, sometimes under the banner of Captain Swing, was preferred. Tolpuddle stands out because it was an effort at disciplined organisation of the kind that became familiar and in due course successful in the labour movement as it grew.

Yet if the campaign to bring the Tolpuddle men back to England met with success no real improvement was made in the conditions of Dorset farm workers.

A couple of generations had to go by before renewed efforts were made around the formation of the Agricultural Workers Union led by Joseph Arch in 1872 and 1873. These unions were often local and short lived, coming together to try and force a wage increase through pressure on employers or, where that failed, strikes. In Dorset there was activity to the east around Blandford.

Win, or mostly, lose the union membership usually fell away again after a short period.

This begged the question of what strategy could achieve more permanent change for the better.

Joseph Arch’s solution was the vote.

The 1867 Reform Act, 150 years ago this May, had widened the franchise for working men by almost a million. However it had done so primarily in urban Boroughs, leaving many agricultural workers still without the vote.

Arch, who associated himself with the Liberal Party, was a campaigner for what became the 1884 Reform Act. This widened the franchise much more considerably than in 1867, adding 1.7m voters, including numbers of agricultural workers.

For Arch himself the changes worked well. He was elected twice as a Liberal MP for a Norfolk seat where farm workers were a significant part of the electorate. However according to his entry in the Dictionary of Labour Biography he was not regarded as being an effective Parliamentary performer, his stump style, influenced by Methodism, not fitting well. He grew increasingly detached from the perspectives of those he was elected to represent.

In West Dorset certainly the strategy of winning the vote did not work particularly well. The constituency was formed as part of the 1884 reforms. In every election since then, beginning in 1885 to the one held in June 2017, it has elected a Tory MP. In that time there have been only six of them.

However the increase in the rural vote meant Parliament now had to address the land question.

The attraction of allotments to agricultural labourers stretched back to issues around the enclosure of common land and the schemes of the Chartist Land Company in the 1840s.

The demand which was raised by Arch had a more industrial focus. His view was that holding an allotment provided a degree of independence from the employer to the worker, as did, in other ways membership of a trade union.

The allotment was a fall back that allowed the labourer and their family to subsist in terms of unemployment or when on strike.
The matter was debated in Parliament leading eventually to the 1887 Allotment Act.

The irony was that Arch opposed the Act, speaking against it, not because it was without value to farm workers but because it was proposed by a Tory and he was a Liberal.

There were possibilities and limits to the Parliamentary route to changing things for the better.


The mood of Tolpuddle 2017: things have changed

In Uncategorized on July 18, 2017 by kmflett

The mood of Tolpuddle 2017: things have changed

I’ve been going to the South-West TUC Tolpuddle festival for more years than I can remember.

Originally I resided in a tent on site with my partner Megan but I’m over 60 now and despite an apparently well-known twitter exchange with Jeremy Corbyn on the joys of camping (his joy not mine) these days we stay in the Premier Inn in Dorchester. Suffice to say that when we first went to Tolpuddle the Premier Inn was not built.

The festival which in modern times has extended over 3 days, has its ups and down in terms of attendance and mood.

A couple of months ago I’m not sure many expected 2017 to be one of the greatest Tolpuddles ever but as Dylan noted, things have changed.

The weather last weekend was not great but there was no real rain. It was dry underfoot (that’s important when you’re in fields in Dorset). It was according to the organisers probably the biggest ever. Certainly there seemed to be lots more tents, lots more people and on the Sunday for the rally lots more cars, weekend public transport in such a rural area having long since been abolished by the Tories. I even heard locals in Dorchester on the Saturday night talking about attending to hear (of course) Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn, who had a rural upbringing, has been attending Tolpuddle for ever. Until recently no one paid much attention. To his credit now he is Leader, he is still attending true as ever to his roots.

To see Corbyn speak together with Frances O’Grady TUC GS, was a reminder that the labour movement is back where it belongs: unions and Party together.

Of course there is work to be done (there always is). There was denunciation of the 1% pay cap but, er, not support (yet) for the People’s Assembly demo at the Tory Conference in Manchester on 1st October.

The mood though was upbeat. Of course some veteran attenders are grumpy about Corbyn but let’s recall Dylan again: things have changed.


England lose by 340 runs: is the Test Match draw in decline?

In Uncategorized on July 17, 2017 by kmflett

England lose by 340 runs: is the Test Match draw in decline?

England’s performance against South Africa in the 2nd Test at Trent Bridge which saw them lose by 340 runs before tea on the 4th day, may be a one-off. We’ll know more later in the summer.

If you were listening to Test Match Special (and if not why not), you’ll have heard Geoffrey Boycott and others ponder whether batsman these days have the mental capacity to ‘dig-in’ and play long innings.

Well they would, wouldn’t they but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a point on this occasion.

The amount of various kinds of limited over cricket at international level may be leading to a mindset amongst batsmen inparticular that if they are not scoring then they are losing. The idea of blocking balls, playing for a draw and so on may be fading.

Limited overs games of course may not produce a definitive outcome. The weather may dictate a no result or there may be a tie, but not a draw.

If the draw is on the way out at Test level so may be 5 day Test matches, since it’s not likely that a Test will be drawn in less than 5 days (unless of course weather intervenes).

However it doesn’t take too much research to grasp that the claim is a] not new and b] not entirely correct.

For example as recently as November 2016 the first Test between India and England was drawn over 5 days.

Moreover as a 2008 paper by Liam Lenten indicates the issue of the reducing number of draws in Test is not a new one:

Lenten suggests that the numbers of draws are in decline, but they still exist in numbers.

The wider issue is whether a drawn Test over 5 days is somehow ‘boring’. Clearly it could be and I vaguely recall attending one or two over the years. That said a one-sided Test that finishes in 3 days without much of a real contest is hardly much of a spectacle either.

As often, it’s a matter of balance. The Test Match draw is not dead but it’s worth keeping the matter under review.