Wilkos: A Worrying Development and a Presentation.

The Wilkinson’s campaign reaches some sort of head tomorrow evening, as the petition is handed into Broxtowe Borough Full Council and the issue debated in the chamber. If you can make it, do. Show your support and lets fill the public benches to show the Council how much the store means to Beeston, and show support for the 56 workers with a highly uncertain future.
 
The debate will be taking place beneath a cloud, sadly. The latest news on Wilkinson’s return and the protection of staff jobs is pretty miserable, and it’s hard not to think that Wilko’s Head Office, despite repeated protestations to the contrary, care little for anything but profit.

Despite our campaign, and 3,000+ signatures on the petition, Wilkinsons still hasn’t got together a new site. This is despite repeated promises that they are ‘fully committed’ to Beeston. Now it appears that what was once described to be ‘a brief pause in trading’ -several months, say- is now more likely anything up to 5 years. A five year absence is another way of saying ‘never’, as nature abhors a vacuum, other stores will rush to fill the gap in the market generated, and they’ll struggle to return. Tesco’s must be wetting their pants.

While Wilkinson’s are happy to pick up a large compensation package for vacating in april – they asked for a frankly astronomical figure sources tell me was just shy of £40 million, though got far less- the treatment of their loyal workforce has been appalling.

Staff have been offered paltry redundancy packages unless they are willing to relocate. If relocated, they are automatically demoted to a lower position, have to agree to a three-year pay-freeze and stump up the expenses incurred in travelling to the five branches that they will be absorbed into themselves. This is totally unfair. Why such tight-fistedness to staff famous in Beeston for being friendly, helpful and fine ambassadors of the brand?

It’s not like Wilkos is in any sort of finacial strait. Turnover is well over £1.5 billion,  Profits are soaring, £65 million in 2010, and when the 2011 figures are released, expect to see that exceeded considerably. The economic downturn suits Wilkos business model well, as shoppers become more concious of bargains on the high street. Each worker generates on average £3,000 pure profit for the company, more than most large retailers.

The highest paid director took home a salary of £1.3 million in 2010, approximately 93 times the salary of the average Wilkinson’s employee. As the coffers swell, this renumeration will probably swell as well. But not for the relocated staff. Three years of reduced, frozen pay-packets await, with the cost of getting to work each day soaring.

Wilkos has, over it’s 82 years of existence, built a brand image many stores would die for. Friendly, community-centred and annually donates 1% of it’s profits to charity. I love the place, as you all seem to, judgoing by the near-unanimous approval of the petition. Yet they are now squandering this goodwill by shoddy treatment of the workers, and by dragging their feet on relocation, shoddy treatment of all Beestonians.

This needs to be challenged. Come along tomorrow, the meeting starts on the dot at 7pm, so arrive some time before at the Town Hall at the top of Foster Road. Just up from Wilkos, fittingly.

Beestonian updates: Petition to hit the Council, Fearless Baiter of Politicians (and Dimbleby), Soubs Nose to Grow Larger?

Wilkos

Another busy week beckons. On Wednesday, at 7pm, the Wilkos petition will be presented to a full meeting of Broxtowe Borough Council. As it has been such a success, now in excess of 3,000 signatures, it’s automatically triggered a debate in the chamber. This is good news, and if you can, come and join me on the public benches to see what your elected representative intends to do about it. I’m going to publish an article about the present situation tomorrow, and it’s going to make you very irate if you care about Wilkinsons continued presence in Beeston and the fate of the workers who face looming redundancy.

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Hindu Temple

Until then, a few updates. I appeared on BBC Radio Nottingham last Sunday morning, talking to Sarah Julian show, in an interview about the Hindu Temple campaign. Hopefully it triggered more cards, but I can’t thank you enough for what you did in response to my appeal.  They’ll be more news leading up to the opening of the temple, and I for one can’t wait to see it when it’s completed. Until then, let’s hope the miserable specimens who smashed their windows get pulled in by the police, or at least realise that bigoted small-minded hate is not welcome in Beeston.

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Question Time

After a couple of appearances on radio and the local press, it was only natural I further my new career as a media tart by getting on the telly. So when Question Time came to the Djanogly Academy in Sherwood Rise, I got myself an invite, put on a nice shirt and toddled along.

We were put in a holding pen for an hour, with free tea and biscuits. Suddenly, a hushed murmer swept the room: Dimbleby had entered the room.

He was as suavely debonair and urbanely avuncular as you’d expect, and we were putty in his hands. He explained the set-up of the show, complimented Nottingham on the quality of his shoe-shops and the whole room really wished he was their uncle.

We headed to the studio, and took our seats. Unfortunately, these were at the back of the auditorium so when the recording began, only my knees made it on-screen. Still, it’s a start. I’ve been asked if my thighs want to audition for a slot on The Daily Politics.

The panelists were a split between the seasoned: Prescott, Ken Clarke and Baroness Kramer; and the novice: Julie Meyer, Founder & Chief Executive of Ariadne capital, Investment Firm, apparently,and the very youthful looking Owen Jones, author of the class-polemic ‘Chavs’. 

Meyer was awful, seeming to think that every problem in Britain could be solved with more ‘digital entrepreneurs’ (cos I’ve always though we just don’t have enough Nathan Barley-esque half-wits in stupid wooly hats banging on about their plan to design an app for other idiots with iPhones to bore the rest of us with), described the NHS as a ‘Multi-billion pound industry’ (errr, isn’t it a service? That’s an ‘S’ in NHS, isn’t it, or have I misread it for years and it’s NHI?). As her contributions delved deeper into the pits of banality, bafflement turned to bemusement turned to amusement and she was laughed out of the debate. Remember, people like Meyer are exactly the people Cameron is pinning his hopes of economic recovery on. If they’re all like Meyer, we’ll be grubbing for roots by 2014.

The recording concluded after an hour of hearty, generally good-natured debate, and we filed out. The set was being swiftly dismantled, but I managed to get myself mugging at a camera before we were politely invited by the crew to getoutandletthemdotheirbleedingjob:

Walking out towards the car-park, we unwittingly took a wrong term, and to my horror strolled into the guests makeshift Green Room, where Prezza was holding court to a tired looking Ken Clarke and a wide-eyed Owen Jones, while a very pissed-off Julie Meyer skulked in the corner, probably planning to activate her army of androids she’s been amassing over the years. I backed out, apologising, to find I was standing next to a grey-haired bloke in an odd tie and white shirt, clutching a glass of red wine. It was Dimblebum. The man himself. The nation’s favourite political referee, the ice-cool moderator of national debate, the MAN himself.

I couldn’t get this close without proof. If I was to tell anyone I’d been this close to him they’d roll their eyes, mockingly scratch an imaginary itch on their chins and intone sceptically ‘Oh yeah?’

So I suddenly heard my mouth say ‘Hi David, I’m a big fan, can I grab a quick picture with you?’ By all rights he could have told me to leave him alone, how dare a mere mortal come in such proximity to the Dimblelord? But no, he smiled with that twinkly-eyed face he does and …..

For some reason, I’m pulling a face that inspired one wag to ask ‘Are you having a stroke?’ which I could only reply that despite my excitement at the situation, my non-Dimbleby gripping hand was behaving itself.

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SoubryWatch

There are so many things I have to get over about Soubry that soon, when other stuff quieten down a bit, I need to get out. For now though, I’m sure you’ll not be suprised that our redoubtable MP voted to keep the NHS Risk Register out of the public eye.

I put out a request on Twitter to see what local politicians think: I personally find it incredible that such a document can be kept secret, but thought a good reason might exist that I hadn’t thought at.

Both Cllr. David Watts and Cllr. Steve Carr, Lib Dems (well, Carr resigned the whip a while back, but that’s a different story) agreed that it should be made public, with Watts pointing out ‘I’m amazed that this isn’t published routinely. How can MPs vote without knowing the risks?’ Indeed. So why did Soubry vote to stop us finding out what dangers reforms hold?

‘Every GP in my constituency strongly support the NHS bill’ she told BBC Radio 5 Live. Really Anna?? Every one? According to Dr Ben Goldacre, editor of Bad Science 

GPs rejected the NHS bill 42:1 this month. If you see a politician claim GPs support it, you know what they are, and why that’s bad.

 So unless Broxtowe is a hot bed of Tory radicalism totally out of kilter with the rest of the UK, Anna appears to have a loose grip on truthfulness. Here, she has form. Remember 14 months ago, when she told the Commons that all the postal workers in her constituency supported privatisation? That triggered the biggest march Beeston has seen for over a century, a giant postcard being sent to her office and a weasel-worded explanation that she ‘hadn’t seen’ the piles of DON’T PRIVATISE THE ROYAL MAIL letters sent to her from disgruntled posties.
Anna’s burgeoning campaign to get a front bench position before she gets booted out in 2015 doesn’t let anything troublesome like truth stand in it’s way.
And if you think that’s bad, just wait till you hear about an utterly huge whopper of an untruth she’s recently told a constituency…stay tuned, good Beestonians.

A Visit To The Temple; Beestonia on the Radio (again).

It’s been quite a week. I started a new job, had a big redesign of The Beestonian (cheers Tamar) and went on telly, more of which I’ll tell you about tomorrow. I was expecting a quiet weekend, but when it was offered, I couldn’t pass up on an offer to take a trip down the Rylands to see the Hindu Temple for the first time.

It’s far off being finished, but from what I’ve seen so  far we’re in for a treat. Intricate beautiful carvings, crafted by South Indian artisans will be on show, with a fantastic array of colours and styles. I took a heap of pictures, which I’ll load up when I get a chance. When they are finished and put in place, there will be an utterly visual feast for your eyes to snack on.

The temple will be opening in April and I heartily recommend that you go down there to take a look for yourself. Sharmini, who showed me round, explained they wanted the Temple to also serve as a community hub for all Beestonians, there is a large room behind the main temple area perfect for all sorts of events, meetings and suchlike. It’s great that a formally derelict building, which could so easily have slipped further into decay before its inevitable demolition to make room for, well, probably another Tesco, has instead been turned into an exciting, vibrant place. Hinduism is a very open, welcome religion, and I hope those of all faiths, as well as those with none, take time to visit.

I also saw something you lot have done, something that has totally restored my faith in the wonderfulness of the town I live in. Some of the cards you’ve sent across were on display, again I’ll put a photo up when less busy. I read a few, with messages from people, some simply saying ‘WELCOME!’, others with long messages of support, offers of help, and suchlike. After reading a few, I felt my eyes get prickly and water, and a lump form in my throat. It may have been the brick dust, but I suspect it was seeing how simple honest goodness beats cynical, lazy, ignorant anger every time.

Sharmini presented me with a lovely thank you card as I left, but really you lot deserve it. Thank you again, Beestonians,  you have made the world a happier place.

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I will be live on BBC Radio Nottingham tomorrow, chatting to Sarah Julian on the breakfast show at around 8.40am. Tune in!

 

Beestonia: Now On TV!

A quick note: all I have time for since every iota of my spare time has been devoted to carving out Issue 6 of The Beestonian (now with added design specialist to make it look a bit more polished), but I’ll be soon updating on Wilkos, reporting more on the Hindu Temple and more nuggets of NG9 joy.

However, for those who must get a fix of Beestonia before that, turn on your telly tonight and you’ll see me with Ken Clarke, John Prescott, the hugely talented Owen Jones a token Lib Dem and some american businesswoman whose favourite word is ‘synergy’ (possibly).

Yes, I’m on BBC Question Time, but sadly just as an audience member, not on the actual panel. Yet I may be asking a question, and as I presently have a bit of a cold I’ll sound like Melvyn Bragg snorting cotton wool.

I also swear here that I shall refrain from referring to the Right Honorable Member for Rushcliffe as ‘Aren’t you that bloke who sells kiddies ciggies in Asia?’ , or doing ANYTHING to provoke ‘Two Jabs’ Prescott.

Tune in. To a different channel, preferably.

Hindu Temple: A Brief Update and Thank You.

You lot really are great: I haven’t been down there myself to have a look but word is the Hindu Temple has been inundated with welcome cards from you, big hearted Beestonians. If you haven’t sent one yet, please do so when you get  a moment. I received this comment from Dr Sharmini Krishanand from the Temple:

“Firstly, we, the members of the Beeston Hindu temple, would like to express our heartfelt thanks to all the people that have supported us recently. We have received beautiful cards, encouraging emails and many personal messages of support from within the community of Beeston and also nationwide. It is encouraging to receive so many from local residents who live in the Rylands.

When we first set up the btemple, we aimed for the Beeston Hindu temple to be a focal point within the community, acting as a meeting point for worshippers of all faiths. We also hope that all members of the community will benefit from using its facilities. Hinduism welcomes everybody.

Our opening ceremony is on Sunday 8th April 2012, an auspicious date based on the lunar calendar which also coincides with Easter Sunday, another important holy day. It will be an exciting time for everyone and we would like to cordially invite you all to join us in the grand opening of The Sri Thurkkai Amman Temple. If you do drive, may we, out of consideration for our neighbours ask you to park further afield? There is a bus service to close to our temple.”

Beeston Reichlands? Nein Danke!

It’s not really my policy to write about a meeting I didn’t attend, but for very good reasons I’ll make an exception for this post.

I was planning to go to the Beeston Rylands  Hindu Temple meeting last week, a community meeting organised to introduce the new temple to residents and address any concerns that they might have. Unfortunately I had otr commitments at the time, and reasoning it would probably be fairly low-key and pass off without much event to report on, I’d give it a miss. It turned out to be anything but uneventful.

A bit of background first: the Hindu temple  has been created out of an unused church hall on West Crescent. As the site already had planning permission to be used for religious purpose, and would have otherwise fell into dereliction, it seemed a sensible choice. There were concerns regarding parking (and, bizarrely, fireworks), so provision was made to assuage these fears. Provisional plans were drawn up for the larger (approx 70 people) events to be serviced by a minibus; for smaller gatherings, various sites were looked into that would greatly mitigate any impact on local parking.

Thus the meeting should have gone without a hitch, with residents worried about parking listened to and responded to, and served as an introduction to Rylands residents to their new neighbours. So far, so simple. A previous CAT meeting had passed off without a hitch when the issue was raised, and concluded with a round of applause when one of the Temple Elders expressed gratitude for being made so welcome.

Yet the meeting last thursday wasn’t graced with anything like this goodwill. A small but highly-vocal portion of the room tried, and succeeded to dominate proceedings by shouting down others, and, according to my source at the event, showing their true colours by shouting ‘Get back to your own country’, while the Labour councillors that serve Rylands   told that ‘It’s your fault for letting these people come here’. Ah, the unmistakable whiff of fascism, as potent as sulphur and brimstone but less pleasant.

Yes, it looks like the scummy BNP managed to infiltrate and hijack the meeting.  The bigoted views are not representative of Beeston, which is by far Broxtowes most multi-cultural centre, and one which has embraced and benefited from the influence of other cultures, notably East Asian. The BNP managed to lose their deposit at the last general election (cheers for the cash, knuckleheads!) and keep well away from local politics. The hilarious yet depressing case of Sadie Graham has been well documented here (she got elected to the borough council for the BNP several years ago, got kicked out for failing to attend meetings then launched an attack on Nick Griffin in that amusingly predictable paranoid way the far-right does so well; with her partner leaking the complete membership online).

I don’t doubt there are sympathisers here, but they are by far a tiny minority. So who were these people at the meeting?

Want to feel like you need to soak in Dettol for hours and have your computer fumigated? Then do what I did the other day, and have a trawl round some of the nastier, paranoid and outrightly rabid reaches of the internet where the far-right message boards wallow in their own filth. It’s a depressing thing to do, but do it I did, and it doesn’t take long to see that the Hindu temple has been an issue there, and a BNP-affiliated website has been keeping it on the agenda for some time. It seems like they organised to infiltrate the meeting and use it as a paranoid platform. It’s traditionally Islam the BNP focus on, but maybe they feel affronted that Hinduism has original dabs on the swastika as a peaceful sign, rather than there arm-band of choice. This style of infiltration is a common tactic of the far-right: they are too cowardly to admit there allegiance so attempt to pretend they are merely ‘concerned citizens’, despite not being local or at all representative of the community they attempt to cuckold.

Its depressing to think that this happens. Its even more depressing to hear that the stained glass windows of the temple were recently smashed in what could well have been a pointedly racist act of vandalism. Yet, there is hope, and there is a way to beat this, and show our new neighbours that they are welcome, that we are only intolerant  of small-minded, gimlet-eyed right-wing idiots who demonstrate the irony of believing they are the Master Race while struggling to walk without significant damage to their knuckles.

Heres what to do- it’ll take five minutes. Send the Temple a ‘Welcome to Beeston’ card. Grab a card, tell them that you have no problem with them being here, and beat the nazis with simple goodwill.  Go on, do it now. You’re bound to have a card knocking about somewhere that will be fine, pen a greeting, bang it in an envelope and address it to

The Sri Thurkkai Amman Temple

West Crescent 

Beeston Rylands

NG9 1QE 

Drop it in a postbox and know that in a  small but significant way that you have pushed a bit of hate out of the world. Then tell your friends to do the same via Twitter, Facebook, or, if you’re one of the local politicians who read this, via your newsletters. Beeston is a place of tolerance and freedom, lets prove it on a scale that shows the small-minded bigots they may be loud, but we are louder.

Oxjam to Return; Sensible Soubry is All Heart…

A big thank you to start with: the response to my request for someone to give up their house to a film company for a few days was answered by a few of you, and now filming will convene at a loyal Beestonians house. The director reckons it will be shown at a fair few film festivals, nationally and abroad, and Beeston will rightfully take its place in film-location legend.

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More encouraging news pops into my inbox: Oxjam 2012 will once again be held in Beeston this year, after its overwhelming success last year. It’s not until October, so very few details so far, but I’ve been appointed Marketing Co-ordinator so will be making sure you don’t forget, by social media, blogging, and standing in Beeston Square with a loudhailer for six months.

The organisers are also looking for a Production Coordinator/ Artist Coordinator. We need people willing to dedicate their time for free to assist in the booking of artists/PA rigs, etc; then running round the venues on the day making sure everything works, acts gets on at the right time and lots of other jobs that require a strong sense of organisation/ability not to collapse in the street in floods of tears  when the smoke machine for the prog rock band you’ve got booked to play a set breaks down. Let me know at mattgoold23@ hotmail.com if you’re interested, and I’ll pass your details on.

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Soubry is once again appearing all over the media in her relentless campaign to be noticed by the Cabinet and invited in.  Her latest scheme is a cracker of political cynicism: along with Erewash MP  Jessica Lee she’s a key member of the newly formed ‘301 Group’. This is a group of Tory backbenchers, predominantly of the 2010 intake, who are desperate for re-election in 2015 -hence the name, the ‘301’ being the figure needed for a tory majority, not the swing needed to depose Soubry (though that is just 79 more). So desperate, in fact, they want to drop all ideology that sniffs of controversy, so Europe, the biggest threat to a schism in the blue party, gets slung on the back-burner and Europhobic MPS such as Bill Cash get told to shut up until 2015.

Pragmatism overriding ideology is far from a new idea in politics: former left-wing firebrands tore up Clause 4 after the 1992 election defeat to ensure ‘New’ Labour would take power in ’97. In the run-up to the last election, Cameron himself tried to detoxify the ‘Nasty PARTY’ brand by riding with huskies, professing a love for jangly indie music and patting any passing nurses on the head. He even promised to hug hoodies and even met- and talked! – to ‘a black man in Portsmouth’ to show what a lovely man he is.

So Soubry’s latest attempt to curry favour is to paint herself blander-than-thou, show her party to be united behind Dave  and pretend the effects of the cuts and the demonisation of the poor isn’t happening. Then, come 2015, she’ll be voted in with an overwhelming majority,given a hugely important front bench role and then take off the sheep clothing that allowed all that and announce the NHS and all Northern cities are being sold to Bahrain, with the proceeds to go to buying huge diamonds all residents of the Home Counties. You read it here first.

Chances are, however, it’s all in vain. The long established and long entrenched 1922 Committee of right wing, Brussels-baiting Tory MPs hold great influence and know that Cameron is terrified to piss them off too much less they march over to Nigel Farage’s house. Soubry is already seen as an annoyingly ambitious upstart amongst Tory ranks, as this infamous article showed: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2008199/The-cruel-hounding-Mark-Pritchard-shows-Tories-failed-clean-politics.html where she was described by some anonymous colleague as:

“From the day Anna arrived in Parliament, her zealous enthusiasm for every dot and comma of Cameron’s Tory modernisation programme has been painfully obvious. A female MP told me rather harshly it doesn’t help that Anna ‘looks as if she is sucking on a lemon’.Anna seemed to blame Mark for effectively putting Tory MPs on the spot in a Commons vote on banning animals in circuses. Mark is passionate about animal welfare. But Cameron couldn’t stomach the thought of a backbencher having influence over Government policy, even one as minor as circus animals – though a ban has 92 per cent public support. The word went out from No 10: ‘Kill Mark.’ Perhaps it is sheer coincidence that Anna is Parliamentary Private Secretary to Simon Burns MP, Minister of State for Health, who is a close personal friend of Chief Whip Patrick McLoughlin and was also a long-serving whip prior to becoming a Minister’

It’s going to be a tough call for Anna to get that particular commentator on board. At least she didn’t plump for the original name for the group, the utterly cringe-worthy but rather brilliant ‘Sensible Tories’, anyone?

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Soubry popped up again yesterday afternoon to throw her two-bits into the Benefit Cap debate, and her contribution is utterly astounding. Apparently, she’s asked all of us in her constituency what we think of the cap and being bleeding-heart liberals, we, errr, think it’s a compassionate gesture:

I can assure the right hon. Gentleman, following conversations with my constituents in Broxtowe, that hard-working people overwhelmingly take the view that the long-term unemployed should no longer be better off on benefit than in work. That is not only for the sake of the public purse; it is a result of the compassion that we feel—[ Laughter. ] Hon. Members should not laugh; they should know better. In the real world, some of the people I used to represent as a criminal barrister were third-generation unemployed. It is for the sake of them and their children that they should be back in work, and that is what these measures have at their heart.

She’s all heart! And scapegoating the least powerful, the poorest, the incapacitated while turning a blind eye to bonus culture and corporate tax-avoidance is not a cynical, nasty act but a loving, caring measure that will ensure anyone trapped on benefits to take up one of those millions of jobs presently available. Thanks, Anna, and hope your own unemployment in May 2015 is the lucrative pleasure-fest she imagines it to be.

(thanks to Alan for tip off)