Tories in Crisis as ‘Laugh-Along with Boris’ Finally Turns Sour over Covid Booze Parties

Wednesday, 12 January 20221 Reply
Boris Johnson The cracks start to appear in Tory ranks

The Tories are finally in freefall as Labour, rising in the polls, has gone on the offensive accusing Boris Johnson of lying about a series of Downing Street  “bring your own booze parties” in the gardens of power during 2020 at the height of the Covid pandemic where 1,000s of ordinary people were under tough lockdown conditions which included the banning of groups from meeting socially outdoors. At one stage more than 100 Downing Street employees were invited to a knees up. Leader of Labour controlled Bridgwater Town Council Brian Smedley (Bridgwater Westover) said “Same old Tory, one rule for us and another for them. 70,000 people died of Covid in 2020. 458 of them were across Somerset and whilst 108 people died here in Sedgemoor a similar number were invited to a Downing Street drinks party in clear violation of the rules that everyone else was abiding by. What blatant contempt. People have stopped laughing along with Boris, now every time he opens his mouth they just laugh AT what comes out.”

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Labour Lives: No 7 DAVE BUSBY

Tuesday, 11 January 20221 Reply
Dave Busby 1938-2021

For several glorious years at the turn of the last century the Labour Party ran Sedgemoor District and Somerset County Councils -admittedly within an arrangement with the Lib Dems. And one of the key players in both of those authorities was Dave Busby. Sadly, Dave died in December 2021, but he leaves behind him a legacy of what Labour can do with a hand on power plus a record of public service, democratic socialism and community activism. Dave was a Labour Somerset County Councillor from 2001-2008 (Bridgwater East & Bawdrip) during which he was ‘Vice Chair’. From 1995-99 he represented Sydenham on Sedgemoor District Council and was the Chair of Planning during the Lib-Lab pact. From 1999-2003 he represented the new District ward of Bower and again from 2007-2010. Dave  was a Charter Trustee from 1995 to 2003. These were the days before Bridgwater Town Council was revived and meant that the councillors elected for Sedgemoor for Bridgwater wards took on this ‘parish’ role. One such role was Mayor of the town and he was straight in the history books as the ‘Millennium Mayor’ for the year 2000 . He was instrumental in making the case for the new Town Council and was one of its first town councillors representing Bower ward in 2003 until 2010.

County Labour Leader

Dave as Mayor of Bridgwater 2000 welcome Czech guests. Betty 2nd left.

When Dave was elected to Somerset County Council  he became leader of the County Labour Group. Along with Bridgwater South Labour Councillor Pat Parker he was on the Executive as part of the control arrangement agreed with the Lib Dems. Pat, who specialised in ‘early years’ , remembers “The Lib Dems needed Labour to vote with them to get their policies through. We agreed to do certain things but not where we didn’t agree. But at the same time we wouldn’t score political points. In fact because there was a Labour Government Nationally it was just the Libs carrying out Labour policies locally – things like ‘Sure Start’ or increased funding for Education.” This was Labour managing to make a real difference both in Government and locally .

The lib Lab Period. Labour councillors Smedley and Parker and between them some Lib Dems including Marilyn Wallace and Robin Bush

Pat recalls “On County, Dave was a good and regular speaker. At every meeting, on every issue he was up on his feet and always spoke well. For the second term it was Lib Dem Alan Gloak who was county Chairman. And so popular was Dave that even came out and delivered election leaflets for him . Dave was Well known in Bawdrip – and he worked hard.  Duncan McGinty stood against him for the Tories at one point and allegedly told people if they voted for David  he ‘would be a good councillor’. And on County it’s true that he was well respected by all parties. In many ways he was a Member of the ‘common sense party’. “

Pat also remembers what became known as ‘Busbyisms’, “ if something was spelt wrong he’d pull them up on it. He was certainly ‘pedantic’ and he didn’t suffer fools gladly.  Once he got an entire meeting cancelled because of an error in the agenda. But at the same time he got a lot of influence for Labour.  Building Schools for the   Future was a major Labour policy and one which the Tories eventually got rid of.”

Cockney Origins

a very young Councillor Busby

Dave was from  London and in fact was on his local Council at the age of 21 . Starting in Uxbridge, he actually notched up 50 years as a councillor,  in London, in Edenbridge, Kent and later in Bridgwater. He was also a Magistrate .

Dave Busby was born on 14 July 1938 . Bastille day. In a Hospital next to Bow station.

His mother Laura was an activist in YCL and the influential pre war Communist Party .   “He went round canvassing and polling from the age of 10!” remembers his sons.

In his early years Dave was a very active socialist. His eldest son Buzz remembers growing up in pushchairs at various Aldermaston marches. “Dad was always out at meetings. He loved meetings.  He was on Hillingdon & Hayes council and was greatly influenced by the socialist Arthur Skeffington, Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington.  He was born in East London and then lived in Ealing, although he was evacuated to Huddersfield during the Blitz . He married Betty in 1968 and they got a council flat in Heathcoat way, West Drayton. One of his first campaigns was getting these massive Prefab concrete slabs removed. He became a super activist . He got on the council, he became a magistrate. He was also a councillor in Edenbridge in Kent.  In fact everywhere he went!”

A Socialist Youth

Dave on a CND demo in Edenbridge

As a youth David did a lot of camping. He was a member of that Young Socialist institution the Woodcraft Folk. But he was equally happy with guitars around the fire and the music of Pete Seeger and the Clancy Brothers as he was with Classical music. Buzz also recalls “He also collected stamps, and coins, and books. He had some 3000 books.”

In London Dave worked at Heathrow for British Airways Cargo and one of his passions was the Middlesex Show, of which he was the Chairman. Kevin remembers “Dave and Betty would volunteer for anything. Then they were dragged into organising the annual county show – the Middlesex Show. This was extremely big. Took 6 weeks of hard work. AND the sons were volunteered too! This was an annual Busby family diary piece for some 10-15 years.”

Living Life to the Full

So what made Dave Busby tick? The most common answer from people who knew him was ‘a glass of red wine’. But Dave was also a big fan of Classical music, Cricket and Rugby. On top of this he was an atheist -and didn’t want a funeral to commemorate him . Although he was also a pragmatist and when second wife Betty died, because she was a believer, he organised a religious service with all the trimmings.

Another passion of Dave’s was France.  Buzz remembers “He had a love affair with France. He loved the idea, the style, the joie de vivre, the wine, the cheese. He used to say ‘it takes quite a lot of good living to get this stomach’.  3 times with Betty and once with Asha they tried to move to France, eventually buying a house in the Dordogne”

On the Move

So what brought him to Somerset? Eldest son Buzz recalls “His good friend Richard Hanson moved to Somerset on doctor’s advice for the health of his wife. Richard was the Chief Planning Officer at Hillingdon Council.  They were friends for 47 years, both magistrates and both started on the Bench together”. Pat adds “He was also a member of the Horticultural society and when he came to Bridgwater he was a key organiser of the Sydenham flower show”

David Busby married three times -Valerie, Betty and Asha. When he married Asha in 2008 and in his retirement, he chose to spend time travelling. Together they visited Canada, Australia, Thailand, Kazakhstan, China, Azerbaijan, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa and finally India where they settled

Final Curtain

Dave Busby- 50 years a councillor

Dave’s illness hit him hard. Pat remembers that he talked to him in  India and noticed that he’d lost a lot of his conversation. “He had Alzheimers  and he lost it a bit. With cricket he could quote innings for years gone by, but then suddenly he couldn’t give a hoot.”

Dave was living in Bangalore with Asha and when she died of heart problems he decided to return home. Three weeks later he was back in England. That was 11th November 2021 and soon he became ill himself with Covid. He died on Friday 17th December in Somerset.

Dave’s politics were reflected in his socialist upbringing “It was right to care and it was right to do something about it”.

Labour Lives: No 6 JIM MUNN

Monday, 10 January 2022Leave a reply
Jim Munn 1957-2021

Just before Christmas 2021 former Labour Councillor Jim Munn died. Jim was councillor for the old Sydenham ward from 2003 until 2011, winning 2 elections there. He was also on the first Bridgwater Town Council. In recent years he worked for Royal Mail and was a  CWU Rep from 1990 to 2007. Jim was the son of Bill and Mary Munn. Bill Munn was twice Labour Mayor of Bridgwater and Jim was Deputy Mayor one year but the first one in living memory to turn down the offer of actually being Mayor. Jim was also in the Royal Navy which included time in the Falklands war back in 1982  as a leading seaman on HMS Broadsword. He specialized in radar and shared a mess with a group of 4 Bridgwater lads on that ship. His Funeral on 17 December was so well attended that the queues stretched around the Crematorium building.

Jim’s sister Heather spoke on the day about her brother and we include that eulogy in full below.

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2022 is Election Year!!

Saturday, 11 December 2021

Somerset’s new Unitary Authority now has a date for its first elections.  Thursday May 5th 2022 will see not only the elections for the new ‘One Somerset’ county unitary council, elected on the current county divisions but with 2 members each instead of 1 , but also Town & Parish elections, again elected on existing boundaries. Leader of Sedgemoor Labour group & Bridgwater Town Council, Cllr Brian Smedley (Labour, Bridgwater Westover) said “With the new ‘all powerful’ Unitary system people will be electing paid councillors with greater powers than ever before. We believe, however, that these will be too remote and the county is far too big to sustain localism in such a system. However, we have to engage with it otherwise people will be unrepresented. And a positive development is the fact that Towns and Parishes powers are also likely to be increased as the ’District’ layer of local government will be abolished. This gives us the opportunity to step up and take back control of our communities. Here in Bridgwater, Labour runs the Town Council and with more powers rescued from the outgoing Sedgemoor that we can stop falling into the hands of the County Unitary, we can regain a proper level of local government for us and really change the fortunes of our town. This could be reflected across the county and is the one glimmer of light in this new system which no-one asked for and so naturally the government has thrust upon us.”

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Yeovil Labour supporters collect for local food banks

Tuesday, 7 December 2021
Yeovil Labour food bank collection

Hearing that local food banks were short of Christmas treats, worried Yeovil Labour Party supporters leapt into action to help bring some festive cheer to people who are feeling the pinch. An emergency collection was held at Yeovil Labour Club last weekend. Donations from Labour supporters filled the collecting tables in just two hours.  The festive fayre was  delivered to local foodbanks this week. The food banks told the Labour team that that they need more treats for kids in the run up to Christmas. They also said that they are short of some yule-tide  favourites that most of us simply take for granted, including tinned fruit, boxes of chocolates and Christmas cards Yeovil Labour also want to encourage people to donate directly to the four food banks in  Yeovil, Crewkerne, Chard and Ilminster, which are all charities.

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Clarks Dispute Ends in Victory

Wednesday, 1 December 2021
Community Union ‘pleased that resolution has been reached’

An agreement has been reached between the trade union Community and the shoe manufacturer Clarks, ending the industrial action that has taken place over the last two months. The agreement sees the pay of workers protected after previous threats of reduction.  Workers at the Street distribution centre had been on strike since 4th October over the discredited ‘Fire and Rehire’  tactic which had been brought in when Clarks was taken over by Hong Kong based private equity firm LionRock Capital. Trades unionists, Labour Party members and the wider community from around Somerset had rallied around the striking workers and a major march through the streets of Street took place as the dispute escalated. The settlement, involving a major input of new money and achieved in the run up to Christmas, has been welcomed by workers and supporters.

COMMUNITY UNION & CLARKS STATEMENT ON THE RESOLUTION OF INDUSTRIAL ACTION AT WESTWAY DISTRIBUTION CENTRE

Recent demo in Street;- Picture: Kate Pearce13/11/2021

Community and Clarks announce that following a process of mediation with Acas, an agreement has been reached in respect of the industrial dispute at the Clarks Westway Distribution Centre.

We are pleased that a resolution has been reached that works in everybody’s interests, protects Community members’ livelihoods, and recognises their loyalty to Clarks.

Following an indicative ballot of Community members it is confirmed that normal working has now resumed.

Community and Clarks express their thanks to Acas for its support and look forward to close co-operation as we move on from the dispute and commit to positive industrial relations in the future.

Statement from Mendip TUC

‘Somerset leads the way’

Dave Chapple, Secretary of Mendip Trades Union Council said “In a Community Union statement today, introducing its joint media release with C& J Clark International, the end of the two-month long strike has been described as “Fire and Rehire Defeated!” It certainly has! In fact, the Fire and Rehire proposal, which would have reduced most hourly rates from £1l.16p and hour to £9.50p an  hour, has been smashed to pieces! Even the small minority of ‘New World Contract’ staff have achieved  a 5.4% pay rise! While some concessions were made during the ACAS-brokered negotiations, there are three reasons why the negotiated settlement of the longest all-out strike in Somerset for 35 years was overwhelmingly accepted by the strikers:

in future collective bargaining will be the norm” Dave Chapple Mendip TUC

1. “Fire and Rehire”  was withdrawn.

2. Clarks have accepted, not only that they needed to recognise, meet with, and negotiate with Community, they have accepted that in the future collective bargaining with the union, on all terms and conditions with the Community Representatives of the Clarks warehouse workers, will be the norm. 
3. The basic hourly rate of £11.16 remains!
On behalf of Mendip Trades Union Council, I would like to congratulate first, and foremost, the Clarks Westway Warehouse Community Union Strikers; second, the local, regional and national Community Union Reps and Officials; third, all those unions and union branches who donated huge sums of money to the strike fund; fourthly, all those who visited the daily picket lines; and last but not least, all those wo attended the magnificent 400-strong march and rally at Street on Saturday November 13th, two days after which, Clarks asked for ACAS-led negotiations!
“In the striking order of the day, Somerset leads the way!”

MPs Should Put Constituents First says Yeovil Labour Party

Monday, 22 November 2021
Labour Leader Keir Starmer -‘a plan to clean up politics’

The public outrage caused by former Conservative  MP Owen Paterson’s  paid lobbying of parliament is shared by local people, says Yeovil Constituency Labour Party. The Paterson affair has also fuelled calls for tighter rules on  MPs taking second jobs. Terry Ledlie, Chair of Yeovil  Constituency Labour Party, says that the current rules are way out of line with public expectations. “Talking to local people, its clear that they feel that being an MP should generally be a full-time job. They rightly expect that their  MP should spend all of their time representing them in parliament and  helping local people with their problems. There is a strong distaste for those  who are seen to use their parliamentary  role  as a  way of furthering  their own business interests. Of course, MPs should still lobby strongly to promote the interests of their constituency, but that is already part of their job and they should not expect to be paid twice for doing so. My view is that there should be only a handful of exceptions to a general ban on MPs taking second jobs. The tests should be about whether their work contributes to the broader public good. Generally,  we should have a right to  expect that our representatives will put all their energy into helping us”.

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Somerset NHS Waiting Lists up 40% in a Year!

Wednesday, 17 November 2021
waiting…….and waiting….and…

43,178 people are now on NHS waiting lists across Somerset NHS Trusts . That’s up 40% in a year. There are now 31,705 people on the waiting list at Somerset NHS Foundation Trust and 11,473 people on the waiting list at Yeovil District Hospital NHS Foundation Trust according to the latest figures – that’s a combined increase of 40% in a year. Across both Trusts there are 2,288 people that have been waiting for more than a year for an appointment and 66 people had been waiting more than 2 years. Across the country there have never been more people on the waiting list – more than 5.8 million are currently waiting. Nationally, the standard of 92% of people seen within 18 weeks of a referral has not been met since 2016. Just over 1 in 10 people in England are on the NHS waiting list (10.3 per cent). Nationally, the NHS is short of 100,000 staff, including 7,000 doctors and 40,000 nurses. In the Budget last month, the Chancellor did not set out a plan to recruit, train, and retain the staff needed to solve this waiting list crisis.

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Hundreds March to Support Clarks Strikers

Sunday, 14 November 2021
Clarks Strikers are now in their seventh week of action
Picture: Kate Pearce 13/11/2021

Striking Clarks workers protesting the ‘Fire and Rehire’ tactics of their bosses have held a major demonstration through the streets of Street joined by supporters from the wider Labour movement and the general public. The members of the Community Union have been on strike since October 4th. Strikers say they’re not just having a pay cut, but that other terms and conditions on sick pay, redundancy and everything else is also being slashed and so they’re basically being offered the same job on much worse money and conditions.  Eva Bryckowski from Wells Labour Party & Mendip Trades Council said “The demo was incredible with the strikers leading from the front. Hundreds from the Labour Party and Trades Unions came from different parts of the county to show solidarity. Shoppers on the High street clapped and cheered. The strikers are into their 7th week now and are still solid. Fire and rehire is happening everywhere and nationally some Unions are winning. If it isn’t defeated YOU will be next.”

Crowds gather at the demo
Picture: Kate Pearce 13/11/2021

The demo was joined by some national figures. Paul Nowak the Deputy General Secretary of the TUC, said “We’re here today to show solidarity with the striking Clarks workers who are standing up to the dreadful tactics of their employer using ‘fire and rehire’. So we’re standing up for decent pay, standing up for decent conditions and standing up for a Union voice at Clarks. I’m angry and frustrated that the Government doesn’t stop this fire and rehire right now. “

We Need to make a Stand

Community rep and striker Trevor Stephens said “We’ve been left with no option but to do this. If they’re going to do fire and rehire it’s awful for anyone in the country. We need to make a stand. We’ve got to keep growing and stay strong.”

Trevor Stephens rallies the crowd
Picture: Kate Pearce 13/11/2021

Roy Rickhaus, General Secretary of Community, said “We’re here to send a message to Clarks. Take Fire and Rehire off the table. Do not treat your workers in this way. Get back round the table, talk to your unions and lets have a sensible negotiation. But you MUST end Fire and Rehire!”

The Clarks workers have been out on strike now for 6 weeks and the Trade union movement has increased it’s solidarity during this time. Speakers from Unison, Usdaw, Unite and the various local Trades Union Councils joined the protest

Never Been Prouder

red flags on the green Somerset skyline

Dave Chapple, secretary of Mendip Trades Council  said “I’ve walked the streets of Somerset for 35 years as a delivery postman but I’ve never been prouder to walk the streets of a Somerset town than I have today walking through Street High Street. It’s been an absolute privilege.”

Labour Party’s from across the county also joined the demo. Jon Falkingham, Treasurer of Bridgwater Branch Labour Party, said “Represented today by two of their elected officers, alongside other members, Bridgwater Labour Party visited the Somerset town of Street with their banner. This was to show our solidarity and support for the strikers of the Clarks Distribution Warehouse, who’re facing an attack on their working conditions through the despicable practice of Fire & Rehire. The turnout was impressive.”

Bridgwater Labour Party Branch officers fly the flag for the strikers

There were Trades Union & Labour Party representatives from across the South West, and even some from further afield. Jon added “The march was slow starting, but once moving it carried an insatiable motion, geed along by horns blaring from passing cars on the Westway and applause in support from the shop workers on the High Street. The traffic of Street’s streets was slowed and held up, and the drivers and passengers, for the most part, met us with smiles and support. When passing the Clark’s Head Office building, there was an eerie quietness – deserted for the weekend, perhaps, but nonetheless poignant.  Once out of the town the march returned along the Westway and crossed through the underpass to gather in Woods Batch Park. Refreshments were served, and the speaker called us in closer to the stage. A modern nervousness in proximity to others had caused the gathering to fan out across the park, but there is a stoic sense of resoluteness from standing close with those you have common cause and solidarity – it gave the words spoken from stage greater resolve and purpose. There were speakers from the shop stewards leading the strike, from TUC leaders, and from various regional reps in solidarity. The more experienced public speakers truly made themselves known, rousing the crowd to rolling applause. Every word fell on welcoming ears though, and to hear the quieter voices empowered through a loudspeaker for the first time is what Unionism should be about and aspire to improve on.”

People can make their own private donations directly to   the Community Clarks Strike Fund: Sort code 60  83  01   Account number  34042733  Name: Community: Reference: Clarks Strike Pay

Film of the day

Pictures from the day of action