"You may say that I am a dreamer/But I am not the only one" John Lennon: "Imagine"

"So come brothers and sisters/For the struggle carries on" Billy Bragg: "The Internationale"

Elizannie has a reading room at 'Clarice's Book Page' http://www.villiersroad.blogspot.com/

Saturday 18 September 2010

The real story of 'Made In Dagenham'

I was born in the Dagenham area and most of my family worked for Ford. I am not old enough to remember all the details of the strike of the women sewing machinists at Ford in 1968 - although I do remember it as I also remember so many bitter strikes in those years with so many of the family sharing so that none would go without during hard times - but I have plenty of older relatives who can tell the real stories of the strikes. All were in the trade unions and one was a trade union official so I know their stories are the real stories.

I have been looking forward to the forthcoming film 'Made in Dagenham' - the semi-fictionalised account of the Ford women sewing machinists strike in 1968, which was not only important to the women taking part but became symbolic and a test case for the equal pay movement for women, ultimately leading to the Equal Pay Acto of 1970. It seems that the film is not really going to show the issues as they really were, it is all a bit too 'comfortable' and f'r instance the trade union character that Bob Hoskins plays is fictionalised and not at all a portrait of the wonderful Bernie Passingham who was the real union hero of that strike. Similarly the 'lead' female character, Rita, played by Sally Hawkins is a fictionalised being. Perhaps the fact that the film is made by the makers of 'Calendar Girls' gives the clue that it will be more 'feel good' than a true reflection of the political and personal upheavals of the times.

In 1968 the women sewing machinists at Ford on the 'women's rate' [no skilled or unskilled rates for women then, just that one rate] were getting 87% of the 'unskilled male' rate. There was also a 'skilled male' rate. However the sewing machinists job had been judged to be a skilled job. The women's working conditions were also appalling [*See below] After an inquiry ordered by Barbara Castle and led by Jack Scamp [one of many he carried out into the motor industry] the women eventually won their case.

But the end of the film is not the end of the story. In 1984 there was another strike within Ford over 'grading' issues when it was revealed that the male/female pay divide still operated when women were assigned lower grades for jobs that were the equal of higher paid graded jobs for men*.

In 1985 the design of the seat/covers was changed so that they were no longer made in the same way and the women lost their jobs to redundancy or transferred to other jobs elsewhere when production was outsourced [for a lower cost]

Apparently the film has some sweaty love interest which will probably eclipse the realy nitty gritty of the political situation of the time and what the women achieved over and above their own pay increase - i.e. the chance of equal pay for all working women.

Last week The Guardian gave the film a rather poor review which can be read here:
but I cannot resist the following quote from the article:
Nonetheless, this remains a film for knee-jerk feminists and the soft in the head. A promising opportunity has been squandered.

A book containing a lot of info on pay and conditions over the years in Ford is:
Working For Ford by Huw Benyon

*For a good precis of the strike by the women and subsequent 1984 action go to: http://www.workersliberty.org/story/2008/07/14/we-brought-ford-empire-its-knees

Photograph of the women sewing machinists in 1968 courtesy of The Socialist Worker

Saturday 11 September 2010

September the 11th and a 'Bridge Too Far'

Dedicated to all who have died or suffered as a result of all wars and violence everywhere.

Say the words 'Twin Towers' and most people will remember exactly where they were on September the 11th, 2001 as the news started filtering through about the attack on the Twin Towers in New York. I had just finished teaching the last class of the day in a comprehensive school and was in my office with a colleague when her husband - also a teacher - rushed in and told us about the first attack. We ran down to the staff room just in time to see the second 'plane fly into the second tower and amid silence joined the other staff watching in disbelief. After about 40 minutes I drove home, still in disbelief listening to radio 4. Arrived home, turned the TV on - sitting stunned in front of it - soon joined by Youngest Child [then a teenager]and Other Half who came home early from work on hearing the news. We sat like this for hours - occasionally taking and making 'phone calls when we heard that offices in London had been evacuated/'locked down' to find friends and relatives. An awful night.

Ironically I was teaching history at the time, and this was only the second week of term. I had been doing 'the importance of dates' with the new intake classes and in trying to get them to 'identify' with the whole concept of history being 'built' I would fire dates at them: '1066', '1812', '3rd September 1939'asking if anyone knew what had happened then and would always add in a more recent date. That week for a laugh I had added 8th September 2001 because there had been a big football game on that day and England had won something [for the life of me I can't remember what] The next time I had to teach that lesson, on September the 12th I just couldn't do it in a lighthearted manner. I just told the children that they had witnessed something so momentous and dreadful that they must surely know without any more explanation how history was 'made'.

Why am I talking about this and not paying tribute to those who died or the brave individuals of the emergency services or offering sympathy to the victims and their families? Because all that has to be a given, as my dedication 'headline' should tell you. War and violence are so bad that every day we should all remember all victims if the same mistakes are not to be made again. Teaching history is part of that remembering and just as this month has seen and heard many TV and radio programmes remembering the Blitz of 70 years ago here in the UK, September is also the month of the commemorations in Holland of 'Operation Market Garden', the subject of the book [by Cornelius Ryan] and film A Bridge Too Far about the battle for the bridge at Arnhem in World War Two. My Beloved Uncle [mentioned in the Ryan book] was in this battle, shot, taken prisoner and fortunately survived to tell the tale which his son put into a book so that we could all remember and not forget. If you would like to read more about these commemorations in Holland click on the title above to take you to the link.

Take care of all your memories. For you cannot relive them.
Bob Dylan

Tuesday 7 September 2010

What to do?

Does anyone else remember the scene in 'Bambi' when Thumper, quoting his father, says
If you can't say something nice... don't say nothing at all

Well someone I am acquainted with has written something evil on the internet about their relative [no, nothing to do with the Milliband brothers!!] Now, do I tell that relative - a really good friend of mine? Or do I take Thumper's father's advice and 'don't say nothing at all'? My friend already has a low opinion of her relative so probably anything I say can't make her opinion worse but could add to the hurt said relative has already inflicted on her. So I think I will stick to Thumper's advice.

So why am I telling you this story when it seems I have already made a decision? It is because I see a minor parallel between all the spiteful blogs and political memoirs that have been in the news over the past few weeks. Unless it is really in the public interest can't we all stick with Thumper's father's advice? The 'cult of celebrity' that has grown over the past few years seems to think we collectively want to examine the dirty washing of every public figure - do we really?

Monday 6 September 2010

Who should I vote for?

Well,the question above is really rhetorical as I came to a decision about my vote for the new leader for the Labour Party some time ago. I had changed my mind a couple of times in the early weeks as the nominations were announced but once the hustings started and serious thought was started [and serious discussions across the dining table with Other Half] my choice was really pretty clear. In the end I felt I had to decide the following points [not necessarily in order of priority]:

Who do I believe will be strong enough to carry out his/her ideals?

Who will be the best person to unify the Party?

Who will the electorate [not just the Party membership] trust?

And so I made my choice. My decision for which candidate to vote for Party Treasurer was easily made. Those to select for the National Executive Committee and the National Policy Forum and NPF youth candidates as always took a bit longer as there were some 'new' names in the list from whom to select - but there again it was easier than usual as there were some friends and acquaintances amongst these names which made the choice easier than I expected!

The ballot is secret and my votes are sealed in the envelope and ready to post. For the 'big one' the only clue I will give is that I have voted for someone called Ed who hasn't got a brother standing for election as well.

And no the above photograph is not at some mass demonstration. It is of me - somewhere in that crowd, somewhere in the West, sometime in August - being awfully silly and doing the 'Hokey Cokey'. Life is also for having fun, not always worrying about the big things!

Thursday 2 September 2010

Political memoirs and disquieting rumours

I feel as if I am the only person who really does not care whether or not William Hague is gay, straight or bi-sexual. On the other hand I do think it is desperately sad that he felt he had to reveal the private tragedy of his and Ffion's struggle to have a family in order to help put an end to the disquieting rumours about his private life.

Whilst of course public figures should know that their private lives will always be under public scrutinty, the sort of prurience that means that really personal stuff should be laid bare is horrible. One remembers the paparazzi trying to get 'good shots' of Gordon and Sarah Brown leaving hospital after the death of their first child, Jennifer, who was born prematurely. Surely the public don't really want to witness such private grief and should collectively boycott media showing such intrusive pictures - maybe then the editors would get the message and not send out the 'snappers' to intrude at such times.

Onto the publication of political memoirs - not such a big leap really....

Having listened to the various precis and reviews of Tony Blair's memoirs I really do not think I will be rushing out to buy them even though the profits are going to charity. I will wait until the book appears in a charity shop and benefit charity in that way. One political memoir that does sound quite interesting is the second volume of Chris Mullin's diaries [Mullin is of course the former Labour MP for Sunderland South]
Decline and Fall: Diaries 2005-2010
This is currently being serialised on BBC radio 4 and although obviously abridged is very entertaining. Maybe because Mullin is a journalist and author - his previous books include the first volume of his diaries, "A View From the Foothills" He was also the writer of the book and TV thriller, "A Very British Coup". As he was a minister in three departments there is quite a lot of name dropping for the interested!

Arrived home from the West yesterday to find my ballot papers for the Labour leadership on the doormat. Will fill them in and return forwith. And today my birthday present from all my children arrived - a Kindle. I am looking forward to playing with this, I already have a Sony e-Reader which is a means of transporting lots of books about ina small space and also helps with my neuro problems and the Kindle has lots of extra features too...

And now that I am home and can add photographs again to this blog here is one of myself looking contemplative across Bridgwater Bay!