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Wednesday, 28 October 2020

SMK Campaigner Awards 2020

 Sheila McKechnie Campaigner Awards Ceremony 2020 on youtube

The video is 1:30:36 in full, but you can safely click on to the start point at about the 15:20 mark.

I would advise those thinking of getting into the youtube video that the output is very loud, especially if you are listening via headphones. Thus it would be best if you turn the volume slide on your computer down quite low, like this:


Youtube volume control is at bottom left of online video

Main contents headings:

  • SMK National Campaigner Awards 2020 virtual ceremony. Do you want to feel inspired? Introduction
  • Best Digital Campaign
  • Best Use of Law
  • Best Consumer Campaign
  • Best Coalition
  • Amplifying Unheard Voices
  • Tweets about the award ceremony
  • Message from Gordon Brown as founder-sponsor of Sheila McKechnie Foundation
  • Best Community Campaign
  • David & Goliath
  • Young Persons Award
  • Outstanding Leadership
  • Long-Term Achievement Award


Outlining by Alan Wheatley

Neoliberal timeline: food poverty UK

On Wednesday, Oct 21, “a majority of MPs [including Herefordshire’s MPs] voted against [the ‘sticking plaster’ of] directly funding free school meals over the school holidays until Easter 2021,”(1) and yet on Wednesday, Oct 14, the Express had written, “Benefits are important to millions of people right across the country. However, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is set to take action which could mean the bank accounts and social media of claimants are monitored” (2).

All very convenient at this time for a vindictive government that penalises poor people while such monitoring goes against the General Data Protection Register (an EU regulation) and non-declaration of income can be regarded as a claimant’s DIY ‘sticking plaster’ in desperate times. I offer the following timeline to outline what neoliberal government does not want us to know.

In November 2006, welfare rights adviser Neil Bateman reported on the impact of 21m phone calls (44% of all incoming calls to Jobcentre Plus helplines) going unanswered in 2004-5 (“Delays in processing claims and changes of circumstances – six weeks is common – leaving people destitute….”);(3) and in May 2007 of a rise in charities providing food to poor families [under Tony ‘Tea with Margaret Thatcher’ Blair’s government].(4)

In October 2007, David Cameron as Leader of the Opposition ignored the destitution caused by Jobcentre Plus failings and declared that ‘tougher sanctions’ against benefit claimants’ would help create a fairer economy.(5)

Post 2010 General Election and during David Cameron’s national leadership, and Universal Credit’s statutory delays, how did ‘tougher sanctions’ impact on society? In January 2015, Glasgow U. Law Professor Dr David Webster reported that:

  • Sanctions imposed on benefit claimants by the DWP exceed the number of fines imposed by the courts
  • sanctioned claimants are treated much worse than those fined in the courts with much harsher penalties
  • decisions are made by officials who have no independent responsibility to act lawfully; since the Social Security Act 1998 they have been mere agents of the Secretary of State
  • ‘Mandatory Reconsideration’ is a major barrier to tribunal justice. 

He concluded:

“Sanctions undermine physical and mental health, cause hardship for family and friends, damage relationships, create homelessness and drive people to Food Banks and payday lenders, and to crime. They also often make it harder to look for work. Taking these negatives into account, they cannot be justified.

“Benefit sanctions are an amateurish, secret penal system which is more severe than the mainstream judicial system, but lacks its safeguards. It is time for everyone concerned for the rights of the citizen to demand their abolition.”(6)

Now, Charlie Spring in the November-December 2020 issue of New Internationalist magazine reports: “[T]he UK has long seen patchworked food assistance, especially within faith communities. But foodbank provision rose steeply following the recession of 2008 and the austerity that followed. In 2011 major food-aid network The Trussel Trust reported nearly 130,000 instances of people receiving food. By 2015 this had jumped to 1.1 million and by March 2020, the annual figure sat at 1.9 million.”(7)

What will News Forwards from Alan Wheatley readers do about these injustices? What drove Florence Nightingale to accomplish what she did? She answered quite simply, “Rage.”(8)

Driven by rage and love

Alan Wheatley


  7. New Internationalist magazine November-December 2020 issue print edition is available through good newsagents and/or by subscription via

Monday, 26 October 2020

Parliamentary constituents making news


They Work For You website notes how MPs voted
TheyWorkForYou website record of how our MPs voted on
Free school Meals During School Holidays

Letter to Hereford Times

Daily Mirror reports that a Lancashire shop has banned the local Tory MP after he voted against free school meals, while Yorkshire Live reports that Rishi Sunak and all Tory MPs have been banned from a North Yorkshire pub for the same stance against poor families.(1)(2)

What actions will Hereford Times readers take against Herefordshire MPs Jesse Norman and Bill Wiggin for also helping defeat the extension of free school meals, particularly as Jesse Norman is First Secretary of the Treasury and Bill Wiggin has links with offshore finance?(3)

In 2017, Bill Wiggin responded to "a front page story in the Hereford Times outlining his position as managing director of an offshore financial company by stating that the article was 'not news'."(3)

As the Daily Mirror and YorkshireLive stories emphasise, constituents can help to make the news, whereas my experience of Jesse Norman MP is that he tends to 'note' my views while voting against them, and the top-ups to Bill Wiggin's basic MP salary could pay for several school meals.

Alan Wheatley



Saturday, 24 October 2020

The truth about Zane Gbangbola

 Guest blog post, by Nigel Gilbert of Betrayed By Their [NHS] Trust


Ingra and I joined over 200 other people last night in a Zoom meeting organised by the parents of the late Zane Gbangbola, who would have been 14 yesterday had he lived.. 

Zane died due to flood water entering the basement of the family home by the Thames in early 2014 and releasing Hydrogen Cyanide. Since then the bereaved parents have been compelled to fight a campaign to obtain the truth from a corrupt establishment of many agencies which stand shoulder to shoulder denying justice to them.

The basic facts are that the fire services detected Hydrogen Cyanide at the home. Matt Wrack leader of the Fire Brigades Union spoke last night to confirm this. Yet right from the start there was denial. It was claimed that the death was caused by Carbon Monoxide caused by a faulty generator in the house. No such generator was running. It was denied that there was ever a landfill site behind the house. The inquest ruled accidental death caused by Carbon Monoxide poisoning. 

Since then it has been established that there was a landfill site perfectly well known to the authorities, who allowed houses to be built. It was even recognised four years before Zane's death that it posed a threat to life. But the only reaction of the authorities was to provide gas protection to their own properties. 

At the inquest Zane's parents faced a phalanx of lawyers, but they themselves were denied legal aid.

Professor Phil Scraton, who was involved in the Hillsboro inquiry and wrote a book on it, drew parallels with the corrupt response to that disaster. Multiple agencies denied the truth. 

The meeting last night called for an inquiry panel with full disclosure. Damningly this inquiry must be independent of the state and need look at documents only. This implies the abject corruption of the state.

Those of us involved in BBTT will be unsurprised by any of this. We are used to the denials of multiple agencies, the corruption of inquests etc.

The Labour Party is very supportive. Richard Burgon and David Lammy spoke last night. Starmer and Burnham have also been supportive. But you will recall that justice for Zane was specified in Corbyn's manifesto. His successors will get the credit but I wonder whether they will attend to the issue of widespread corruption or just treat the case as a one-off. 


Reverse cuts to union learning


To: Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education

Reverse the cuts to union learning

The government's plans to cut the Union Learning Fund in England means hundreds of thousands of workers will miss out on skills and training.

Sign the petition calling on the government to reverse cuts to union learning and ensure working people can access education and skills training.

More at

Shahrar Ali wins vs Jewish Chronicle

BREAKING NEWS: SHAHRAR ALI WINS IPSO RULING AGAINST JEWISH CHRONICLE ANTISEMITISM SMEARS! Press Regulator forces to publish retraction of its false statements made about Green Party Home Affairs spokesperson during 2019 General Election!


Why Alan says 'No' to 1200 new 'homes' at Three Elms, Hereford

  I have just submitted the following Planning Objection re Planning Application to build at Three Elms (P162920) to

The prospective car-dependency impact of this development would worsen Herefordshire Council's prospects for carbon neutrality by 2030, and in day time this is currently a great area for walking in in daytime that I frequently encounter in walking from Belmont to Grandstand Road Co-op, Bobblestock.

    The prospective car-dependency impact of this development would worsen Herefordshire Council's prospects for carbon neutrality by 2030, and in day time this is currently a great area for walking in in that I frequently encounter in walking from Belmont to Grandstand Road Co-op, Bobblestock. This currently allows pedestrians ability to use road as an extension of pavement for 'social distancing', but burgeoning car-dependency in that area would worsen realities for existing locals.

    Further, the inclusion of a community centre in the revised proposals are devoid of viability. Lockdown realities restrict accesss to community centres, and worsen residents' experience of being 'caged in' in living spaces that have got progressively smaller over the past century as developers and planners operate on the basis that THEY THEMSELVES will never have to live in the spaces that they design.

    Overcrowding only increases their profits and social inequalities, their aloofness. Lockdown has led at least one community centre to file for bankruptcy due to lost booking revenues, as I wrote recently in Hereford Times published letter, citing Kingsgate Community Association, London NW6.

    Developers' detachment from local realities also reflects on the poor targeting of the site in terms of hydro-geology. So I urge the planning regulators to say a resounding NO to the developers' proposals for what could not really be called 'homes'. As land owners, perhaps the Church Commissioners concerned are more like the money lenders Christ threw out of the temple than they are followers of His doctrines?

Alan Wheatley

Further reading available at