John Street’s Diary

Written By: John Street
Published: December 17, 2016 Last modified: December 17, 2016

An apple a day
Party Leaders normally distributes bottles of whiskey or champagne to their favoured ones at this time of year. Jeremy Corbyn has been sending his core supporters in the Commons signed apples from his garden in the run-up to Christmas. Enough said.

TV times
Chief Executive David Abrahams’ note to staff criticising government interference in Channel 4 drew an instant political reaction. Tom Watson, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, said: “Staff at Channel 4 have every right to wonder what on earth is going on. The rejection by Culture Minister Karen Bradley of a qualified candidate for the Channel 4 board is just the latest example of the Government interfering with Channel 4’s independence and failing to guarantee its future. It’s now well over a year since we learned that the Government is considering options for Channel 4’s future including privatisation. It’s high time they dropped their misguided privatisation plans and removed the uncertainty hanging over not just Channel 4 but the creative industries it works with.”

Trump towie
Joey Essex from TV’s TOWIE, after an American tour, said: “To be completely honest I didn’t learn much about the US election. I tried to learn but it was so hard to understand. I can’t wait until it’s been done and I never hear Trump’s name again.” To be fair, he was never renowned for the brilliance of his political analysis or the accuracy of his forecasts.

Sniffin’ glue
The director of a Port Talbot furniture factory and three of its managers/shareholders have received suspended prison sentences for ongoing health and safety failings. Swansea Crown Court heard how the factory of Margam Hall Upholstery Limited in Henshaw Street, Port Talbot was included in the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) programme of visits to woodworking premises, which are considered a high risk industry because of dangerous machines and hazardous substances including wood dust and glues. The visit highlighted a number of health and safety concerns at the factory in early 2015 including poor control of wood dust, no maintenance of work equipment including fume and dust extraction and noisy conditions. There were inadequate toilet and washing facilities. Ten Improvement Notices were served on the company in February 2015, and despite ongoing intervention by the HSE, there was little progress and conditions remained poor. Seven of the Improvement Notices were not complied with. Judge Geraint Walters said: “The operation the four of you were engaged in was nothing short of a ticking time bomb in relation to the health and safety of employees.” All four were given 10-month suspended prison sentences, fined £2,500 each and disqualified from being a company director for five years.

Sacked Zac
Blogging immediately after the Richmond Park byelection, Chris Key wrote on politics.co.uk: “This by-election is significant in so many ways. Firstly, because it shows that a person who has not been a life-long political animal, like Sarah Olney, can become an MP. She has been a party member for just 18 months and has real world experience which is so vital to ensure the Commons stays in touch with the concerns of people. Zac by contrast had only previously edited an ecology magazine; a role which was handed to him. It also showed that the place I have called home for 15 years, is tolerant and cares about the wider world. A group of us in local politics including myself, the Green PPC for Richmond and a Labour councillor wrote a few months ago to our MP, Tania Mathias, to persuade her to vote for child refugees to be taken in by this country. She listened and voted courageously against the government. The Greens took things further by standing down and supporting Sarah Olney to defeat Goldsmith in a symbol of what can be achieved if progressive politicians work together.”

Mixed message
On the same website, Benjamin Craig blogged: “In the days following Fidel Castro’s death, the same old tired arguments have been fought as they have for decades. What has struck me is not the radical left’s blind spot over Castro’s crimes, but their veneration of his military struggle, often in stark contrast to their own politics. The truth is that Castroism lasted because it successfully married an ideology to a nationalist liberation struggle, using patriotism as a vehicle for his political and economic experiment. Without placing Cuban nationalism at the centre of his project, his revolution would have failed. There is irony in radical leftists such as Jeremy Corbyn lauding Castro as an internationalist and a champion of social justice. He was of course first and foremost a nationalist figure, in a similar vein to Ho Chi Minh and Mao
Tse-tung. Tellingly, his hero was not Lenin but José Martí, the Cuban nationalist and poet, who died in 1895 fighting for Cuba’s independence. Once again, the British left has got itself into the peculiar situation where it is comfortable advocating and celebrating nationalist liberation
movements across the globe, but looking and feeling uncomfortable whenever nationalism rears its head at home. More poignantly, compromises are often made abroad, accepting Castro’s appalling record on LGBT rights, for instance, but refusing to sing the national anthem as a point of principal.”

No relation
Albert Ernest Stubbs (1877–1962) was a  socialist firebrand who championed agricultural workers. A printing machinist, in 1919 he became full-time District Officer of the Workers’ Union for Cambridgeshire. When that union amalgamated with the Transport and General, he became its district officer.  He was a Labour member of the county council for almost 30 years and was Cambridgeshire’s Labour MP for five years from 1945. Why the potted history? Because his great-grandson succeeded David Cameron as Tory MP for Whitney. Clearly social mobility can be a two-edged sword.

Hipsters not welcome
The first houses to be sold through a Turner Prize-winning renovation scheme have been given “anti-gentrification” clauses so locals can afford them. Design group Assemble won the art award in 2015 for their work regenerating derelict houses in Toxteth, Liverpool. Three houses have been sold for £90,000 each, with locals given priority and a condition added saying they must always be sold at an “affordable” price. Assemble have completed work on eight houses owned by the Granby Four Streets Community Land Trust so far, with five let out and three sold. A covenant on those three houses, which are on Cairns Street, means that if they are sold on in the future, it must be at below market value, as calculated using average wages in the
area. The average house price in Liverpool is £121,000.

About John Street

John Street is Tribune’s diary columnist.