Friday, 28 January 2022

NOCTURNA - Daughters of the Night (Scarlet Records)

Something a little different for the weekend as another record arrives from Italy but this band Nocturna actually hail from the Lebanon which can't have been an easy place to form and perform a death metal band. However this debut album proves that metal in all it's forms can appeal to everyone around the world.

  • Grace Darkling - lead vocals 
  • Rehn Stillnight - lead vocals 
  • Antares - bass 
  • Hedon - guitar Deimos - drums
You can find out more about the band from their 

Thursday, 27 January 2022

Open letter to Gwent Police ‘How is quantifying men’s fatal violence against women offensive?’

According to Gwent Police these anti-domestic violence stickers are offensive. Since when has campaigning against male violence bee offensive given not just the wide spread scale of it but also the increase during the lock-down. One wonders about the motives of whoever made any complaint in the current climate whereby there has been bullying and censorship against women activists and their organisations.

This is a story that not only raises concern about women's rights but everyone's right to free speech. Saying women suffer from domestic violence would only be offensive to the perpetrators one would think.

Femicide Census have sent the following letter to Gwent policed and have raised a legal team to fight their corner

Dear Chief Constable Pam Kelly and Superintendent Vicki Townsend,

We write from the Femicide Census, the UK’s only resource documenting the number of women killed by men. Our research has been used by the Home Office and the police, for example, when state bodies need to cite data on women killed by men. This is because the UK government and state agencies fail to collate this data.

On 25 January 2022 we were alerted via Twitter to an incident where we understand a woman was arrested by Gwent police for ‘displaying threatening or abusive writing likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress’ after putting up posters, referred to by Superintendent Vicki Townsend as ‘offensive material’. In particular our attention was drawn to one poster that read ‘3+ KILLED BY MEN EACH WEEK – DOMESTIC VIOLENCE KILLS.’

It is unclear from communications from Gwent police why that particular poster that contains this statement constitutes ‘offensive material’ or is ‘threatening or abusive writing likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress’. However, it is of great concern to us if this statement has led to an arrest, both for the woman concerned and as well as our organisation and all the journalists and other bodies that use our data, which effectively states the same thing: that women are killed by men.

Femicide is internationally recognised, and although definitions vary, all are based on the premise that a woman is killed because she is a woman, and the killing in most cases is perpetrated by a man or men.

Within the UK we have used the term over the 8 years that the Femicide Census project has been in existence and used it within numerous reports and countless newspaper articles and interviews. Our research has shown that over a ten-year period a woman was killed by a man every 3 days. This includes women killed by current or former partners, sons, other family members, acquaintances and strangers.

This statistic was repeated by DCC Maggie Blyth, the National Police Chief’s Council Lead for Violence Against Women and Girls in the Foreword to Policing Violence Against Women and Girls – National Framework for Delivery: Year 1 “In the UK, a woman was killed by a man every three days on average between 2009 and 2019”. We understand this framework sets out how all police forces, including Gwent, are expected to combat men’s violence against women and girls.

While we do not use the statistic ‘3+ women a week are killed by men’ as used in one of the apparently ‘offensive’ stickers, this is because our data relies upon convictions for killing, or where otherwise men are held legally responsible and takes an average from data collated over a 12-year period. However, our figures fluctuate each year so in 2010, and 2011 and 2018 for example over 3 women a week were killed by men from our own data. In addition, the statistic used by the woman you have arrested could include a number of different variables which would make the statement factually correct every year: where there is a body but no perpetrator has been arrested, or where the woman is missing presumed dead. There are also ‘hidden homicides’ where suicides, falls from heights or overdoses, for example, mask intentional killings. Given that statistically women commit far fewer murders than men, and even less murders of other women, there is a near certainty that these other women were killed by men.

All of our data is based on FOI requests to every police force in the country including your own. Gwent police have responded to our request every time. This is why we know that 85 women were killed by men in Wales from 2009 – 2020, 53 killed by a partner or former partner and at least 16 women were killed by men in the area covered by Gwent police alone. We should also point out that thankfully, not one trans person has been killed in Wales over the past 12 years since our data set began.

We are at a loss to understand why the true nature of men’s fatal violence against women could constitute ‘offensive material’ by stating facts of that violence. And particularly given these facts have been used nationally by the College of Policing and the National Police Chiefs’ Council in its own violence against women and girls delivery framework that Gwent police itself should be implementing.

It is crucial that women identify and name the violence than men perpetrate against us. It is women mobilising against men’s violence against women who have led the global movement against sexual and domestic violence and abuse, including prostitution, FGM, stalking, image-based abuse and femicide. Men’s violence against women includes harassment and causes alarm and distress to women. We ask you to focus your attention on the perpetrators of men’s violence against women rather than the women who campaign against it.  

Further info: 

Twitter:  FemicideCensus

Wednesday, 26 January 2022

Labour Party NEC Report: Luke Akehurst (Labour First)


Note to readers: When I make an error it's always best to own up to it and not try to cover up anything. In a rush to get out news about Labour's National Executive Committee I didn't check the re-post of Ann Black's report which in fact referred to the NEC meeting last November. 

I apologise unreservedly to readers and if Ann Black does produce a report I will make sure it is posted with an explanation of my error.

Luke Akehurst: NEC Report – 25th January 2022

The January NEC meeting was mercifully short compared to some recent ones, at “just” five and a quarter hours.

Keir and Angela had to send their apologies due to the urgent statement about Ukraine in the House of Commons.

There was a poignant moment at the beginning of the meeting when obituaries to recently deceased comrades included former party Treasurer and Unite Deputy General Secretary Jack Dromey and Leo Beckett, much-loved husband and adviser to our NEC colleague Margaret and a formidable political operator in his own right.

We heard an update on implementation of the EHRC report. The new Independent Review Board, which reviews NEC disciplinary decisions, is now set up, but the recruitment process for the new Independent Complaints Board (ICB) is still being finalised. The new independent disciplinary process will therefore be up and running in March. The EHRC has moved Labour from monthly to quarterly reporting, and if all goes well the final monitoring point will be December 2022.

Anneliese Dodds updated us on work she is leading on tackling Islamophobia.

David Evans apologised that the Forde Report had been delayed again. A letter from Martin Forde states clearly that there has been no political interference and the delay is because the report is still being written. We were told it has been very nearly finalised.

Tom Webb, Director of Policy and Research, introduced a paper on The National Policy Forum (NPF) – pathway to the manifesto. This set out the framework and timetable for NPF activity in 2022 and 2023. There will be elections for new NPF reps in the summer. The September NEC will agree procedural guidelines for the final stage NPF meeting, which will be held in Q4 if a May 2023 election looks on the cards, or in summer 2023 if a later election seems more likely. A decision on this date will be taken in May. Six new policy commissions are being set up, to reflect the six themes of the Stronger Together policy review. These are listed below with their co-convenors:

1. Better jobs and better work – Rachel Reeves MP and Andy Kerr

2. Safe and secure communities – Yvette Cooper MP and James Asser

3. Public services that work from the start –Wes Streeting MP and Mark Ferguson

4. A green and digital future – Ed Miliband MP and Margaret Beckett

5. A future where families comes first – Bridget Phillipson MP and Diana Holland

6. Britain in the world – David Lammy MP and Michael Wheeler

Gavin Sibthorpe of the GMB was elected as the new Co-Convenor of the Joint Policy Committee.

David Evans gave his General Secretary’s report and made the obvious point that everything the party did was focused on the marginal constituencies needed to get us to 326 seats in the Commons. For the May elections there were target local authorities that aligned with parliamentary marginals. These would be challenging elections with a difficult base line for Labour. Pleasingly, more people are out campaigning and making more canvassing contacts than in recent years. Membership is now 434,000. That’s similar to late 2019 and not the haemorrhaging being speculated about on social media. In fact, membership has had an uptick in recent weeks due to the bad news afflicting the Tories. The cyber incident meant Member Centre is down so staff have had to develop work arounds and manual processes. A large number of join requests are being processed manually.

David reported that the Organise to Win restructuring had achieved 66% of the cuts in spending required to balance the budget. Staffing had been reduced by a net 60 posts (some new posts had been created in the regional hubs), without any compulsory redundancies. Non-staff costs were being reduced. The Party was on track for a balanced budget and a war chest for the General Election campaign.

A strong technical submission had been made to the Boundary Commission on the new parliamentary boundaries. Reselection trigger ballots had started, and six MPs had already been reselected, with another 50 processes underway. 350 people were being trained by the Future Candidates Programme. The new selections paper would deliver excellent candidates.

The party was implementing an action plan on diversity and inclusion.

Work on implementing the Liverpool Report is progressing well, led by Sheila Murphy, who is working to set up campaign structures and improve governance and probity measures in the City Council Labour Group. The number of complaints about members in Liverpool is falling.

I asked for a clear statement that we would have nothing to do with pacts, deals or alliances and that we were focused on winning a Labour majority government. I was pleased that both David and Shabana Mahmood, the National Campaign Coordinator, confirmed that and said there would be no deals with any other party and we would stand in every seat. Decisions about targeting resources would be driven by our own priority of getting a majority Labour government, not what other parties were up to.

After David’s report, we dealt with the papers on the new system for parliamentary selections. The NEC will longlist candidates in each constituency, in order to both increase diversity and help underrepresented groups get a shot at standing, and to carry out due diligence and remove unsuitable candidates before the process, rather than have to get people to stand down once they are selected and the media exposes things from their past. There will be a spending cap (£1,000 in the smallest CLPs up to £3,500 in the largest) for the first time, and a far shorter process, lasting only five weeks. Both measures are aimed at making the process more accessible to people with less money and time.

A range of amendments had been tabled. Some were withdrawn, and many others accepted by the staff. Ann Black wanted an even lower spending cap of £500 but didn’t persuade any of the rest of us of this. However, Ann’s proposal to limit nomination rights on the party, as opposed to affiliate side, to geographical branches, and not allow the new equalities branches (Women’s branches etc) to nominate was passed by 19 votes to 13. There was a unanimous vote to require a minimum of 50% women to each shortlist, rather than the “gender balanced” shortlist proposed in the original paper, which would have reserved half the places on the shortlist for men. We couldn’t reach a consensus on whether membership lists should be provided to all longlisted candidates or only to those who have been shortlisted, so this will be resolved after the meeting.

We then heard a report on elections from Elections Director Morgan McSweeney. He warned that the Tories could swap leader and call a very early General Election. He had been interviewing the Labour directors and campaign coordinators of every General Election campaign from 1987 to 2019 to learn what had worked and what hadn't. But he said the nature of the competition had changed dramatically. In the 1960s 87% of voters stayed with the same party in every General Election. In the 1980s 79% still did. But in the four General Elections from 2005-2017 only 40% of voters stayed with the same party in all four. Volatility has become huge, so whereas campaigns used to be focused on turnout they now have to be focused on persuasion. The party has invested in dashboards so that data can be tracked very closely, and in a big overhaul of digital campaigning. The local elections are only 100 days away, but Morgan elaborated on David’s figures about doorstep activity and said canvassing stats showed higher activity than in any year since records had started being kept in the same format in 2016. He concluded that this was encouraging but there was a lot more to do, with Saturday's national campaign day on the cost of living being a key member mobilisation date.

Chief Whip Alan Campbell MP then joined us to report on Jeremy Corbyn’s suspension from the PLP. He said Jeremy had been suspended on 18th November 2020 regarding a breach of the PLP Code of Conduct regarding his remarks following the publication of the EHRC Report on antisemitism. Alan’s predecessor Nick Brown had written to Jeremy on 23rd November 2020 and published the letter due to the intense public interest in the case. The letter asked Jeremy to

1) Unequivocally apologise for his comments about the EHRC report

2) Comply with a request to remove or edit his Facebook post about the EHRC report

3) Agree to cooperate fully on the party’s implementation of the EHRC recommendations

As yet, Jeremy has not done any of these three things. Alan said he was happy to meet Jeremy to receive his answers.

Ian Murray of the FBU and Nadia Jama then moved a motion calling on the on the Chief Whip to review his decision and arrange for the Parliamentary whip to be immediately restored to Jeremy Corbyn. This was defeated by 23 votes to 14 with one abstention.

Laura Pidcock and Nadia Jama then moved a motion trying to reopen the question of the four organisations proscribed in July 2021 and to re-examine what constitutes “support” for these organisations and to cease the “retrospective application of this rule”. Executive Director of Legal Affairs Alex Barros-Curtis said the principles of natural justice were applied to these cases. Members were served with a notice of allegations and their response to these allegations was considered by the NEC panels looking at these cases. On 20th July 2021 four organisations had been deemed to be in contravention of Labour’s rules and support for them was deemed incompatible with Labour’s aims and values. The party is entitled legally to disassociate itself from organisations and people it considers inimical to its aims and values. The motion was defeated by 20 votes to 14 and the meeting came to an end.

Tuesday, 25 January 2022

Labour To Win: Vote for these NEC Candidates!

Our NEC members, Luke Akehurst, Johanna Baxter and Gurinder Singh Josan have been working hard for you on Labour's National Executive Committee. With the Labour Party's best interests in mind, and eyes focused on delivering an accountable and winning Labour Party, they have ensured that their work is responsive to the needs of mainstream members and focused on a smooth-running NEC. Abdi Duale and Jane Thomas are standing alongside them as experienced Labour Party campaigners who are passionate about making sure Labour wins in every region and nation.

  • Luke Akehurst is a current NEC member, and is a Co-Director of Labour to Win and Secretary of Labour First. He is a party activist in Oxford and and was previously a Councillor for 12 years and Chief Whip in Hackney, and a parliamentary candidate in Aldershot and Castle Point. He is an experienced NEC member, having topped the poll in the 2020 NEC ballot and previously served on the NEC from 2010 to 2012.
  • Johanna Baxter is a current NEC member and lives in Scotland. She is a proud trade unionist and works at one of Labour's affiliated unions leading the negotitions for local government workers across Scotland. She is an experienced and energetic NEC member and the current Vice Chair. She has sat on the NEC since 2020, and before that from 2010 to 2016. She has also been a CLP representative on the Scottish Executive Committee since 2016.
  • Gurinder Singh Josan from the West Midlands, is a current member of the NEC. He has sat on the NEC since 2020 and was recently elected as Chair of the NEC's important Disputes Panel. He is a Director and Trustee of the anti-extremism charity HOPE not HATE and is a founder of Sikhs for Labour.
  • Abdi Duale is a former Labour Party organiser and a member in London. He works in housing for a Local Authority and is on the GMB Young Workers Committee.
  • Jane Thomas, from Yorkshire, is formerly Chair of Sheffield Hallam CLP, and was previously a member of Labour's Yorkshire Regional Board and the National Policy Forum. She has been a parliamentary candidate in Keighley. She was also a Director of South Yorkshire Women's Development Trust, a former university lecturer and has more recently been involved in pro-European and Devolution campaigning.
  • Re-elect Luke Akehurst, Johanna Baxter and Gurinder Singh Josan, and elect Abdi Duale and Jane Thomas for an experienced NEC that will put Labour back on the path to power.

Monday, 24 January 2022

Stop the War Coalition backs Russian Aggression.


Last week as the crisis in the Ukraine deepened and it looked like Russia was preparing a second invasion of their neighbour (Putin previously invaded and annexed Crimea) I posted a comment to the leader of the StWC Lyndsey German. It was a very simple and I would have though uncontroversial request about when the anti-war movement would be organising a demonstration outside the Russian Embassy.

I got no reply not that I expected one. When I queried the actual Stop the War Facebook and Twitter accounts as to whether both Lyndsey German and John Rees their leaders still worked for the gay hanging clerics TV Channel Press TV I got blocked. You can read from that what you will....

However given that  the thoroughly misnamed Stop the War Coalition failed to organise demos against Russian bombing of Syrian civilians or even against Assad's brutal dictatorship outside the Syrian embassy one has to seriously consider whether these people are actually against war at all.

Their Leaders German and Rees are not pacifists in any shape or from. After being expelled from the far-left Socialist Workers Party they set up the albeit tiny Counterfire organisation which promotes Lenin's violent revolutionary politics.

In yet another mealy mouthed statement they blame the West for daring to allow an independent country like Ukraine to choose who it wishes to ally with and Britain (who have 100 soldiers in country) as warmongering when  The Russia and have lined up 100,000 troops plus thousands of fighting vehicles on the border.

I'm not sure whether to compare these people to Chamberlain or Lord Haw Haw, perhaps they are a bit of both but the StWC is only against the West defending itself and their allies. Russian Imperialism and expansionism is excused along with Iranian aggression. They are not to be trusted.

Saturday, 22 January 2022

BATTLE BEAST - Circus of Doom (Nuclear Blast)

The Finnish Metal band Battle Beast have just released their sixth studio album Circus Of Doom on Nuclear Blast records.  A powerful album with solid vocals from lead singer Noora Louhimo who joined the band back in 2012 after the original lead singer left.

Battle Beast never fail to disappoint with their professionalism and there are plenty of entertaining videos featuring their music to be found on You Tube if you are not familiar with them. They are one of the few European bands that seem to get airplay of stations like Planet Rock during the day time.

This is the third of their albums I have picked up and highly recommend this and Battle Beast's previous three albums which I either have or listened to. These albums can be obtained via Amazon in the UK.

The current line up is:
  • Juuso Soinio – (rhythm guitar)
  • Pyry Vikki – (drums) 
  • Eero Sipilä – (bass, backing vocals) 
  • Janne Björkroth – (keytar, backing vocals) 
  • Noora Louhimo – (lead vocals) 
  • Joona Björkroth - (lead guitar, backing vocals )
There are a lot of good bands on the European Metal scene and it's worth exploring their output on You Tube.


Nuclear Blast Records page: