Wakefield Council Votes to Oppose Fracking

Socialist Party members & Frack Free Wakefield District campaigners leafletting outside the council meeting - Photo Wakefield SP

Socialist Party members & Frack Free Wakefield District campaigners leafletting outside the council meeting – Photo Wakefield SP

Wakefield and Pontefract Socialist party comrades teamed up with Frack Free Wakefield District to Lobby Wakefield District councillors before a full council meeting. The Council was scheduled to debate housing and fracking. The result was that the council voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion, which we have been calling for,  to oppose fracking and call on central government to withdraw licences issued for the Wakefield district. We also took the opportunity to lobby councillors on setting a no cuts budget prior to their budget meeting next month.

John Sibbald, Wakefield & Pontefract Socialist Party


Wakefield tells big business to frack-off!

Four fracking licences have been granted in the Wakefield District area to Hutton Energy and Igas which would completely surround the city of Wakefield and turn the whole area into a massive industrial complex.

John Sibbald, Wakefield and Pontefract Socialist Party

In response, Frack Free Wakefield District held its first public meeting in a packed meeting room at Lightwaves leisure centre in Wakefield.

The meeting started with speakers detailing where fracking was likely to happen and the problems associated with it and then a good discussion took place with questions and opinions from the floor.

We have done interviews with the local press and local radio station but they seem more concerned about the visual impact on local beauty spots and less on the serious health issues involved with fracking.

We have also sent a six page document to all 63 Wakefield District Council members but only received a meaningful reply from one, the council leader Peter Box. He has promised a full council debate on fracking at some point in the future. When that happens we will hold a rally outside county hall to personally lobby councillors.

Our demand from the council is that they publicly announce total opposition to fracking and other similar processes such as underground coal gasification. We also demand that the council writes to central government and ask them to revoke the licences which they have issued; this is a course of action already taken by number of other councils in the Yorkshire area.

Frack Free Wakefield District can be found on facebook here – https://www.facebook.com/Frackfreewakefielddistrict-531329090364278/?fref=ts

Fast Food Rights Tour of Shame in Wakefield

Fast Food Rights protesters at the Food Court in Trinity Walk

Fast Food Rights protesters at the Food Court in Trinity Walk

The drizzle didn’t dampen spirits outside the McDonald’s in Wakefield as 20 people showed up to support our demand for a £10 minimum wage, a wage to truly live on. Iain Dalton opened the Fast Food Rights protest by declaring our presence there part of the Youth Fight for Jobs campaign, backed by the Baker’s Union, aiming to empower workers and show the possibility of unionisation.

Sam Lynch, Wakefield Socialist Party

The manager in McDonald’s told us that they didn’t want to be seen siding with a political agenda when we spoke to them and offered a leaflet, yet the political agenda of McDonald’s is pretty clear; anti-union, low wages and low protection for workers and devastating ecological destruction – and at this store amounts to its closure in little over a month, showing the urgent need for trade union organisation in fast Food.

We moved from McDonald’s to a Flutterbye’s charity that has utilised the government’s forced labour workfare scheme; giving the organisation free labour just so people can get their unlivable benefits disguised as experience.

From this shop we moved on to Pound Bakery, then Thomas the Baker and then to Sports Direct and Subway to protest their exploitative use of zero-hours contracts, along the way our chant for a living wage now attracted some attention from the local YMCA, a couple of young workers chased after us to ask about the campaign. We rounded around, continuing the momentum and proceded to march into Trinity Walk to speak outside the Burger King and leaflet their workers.

Aftrwards, with brightening skies, we called an end to the demonstration and thanked the trade unionists, TUSC supporters and activists for coming out. The campaign will be sustained by more frequent demonstrations over the summer with the next one taking place in Leeds on June 26th at 4.30pm outside the McDonalds on Boar Lane.

500 March in Knottingley to Save Our Colleries

The Kellingley NUM banner near the front of the march

The Kellingley NUM banner near the front of the march, appropriately showing a banner struggling against capitalism (depicted as a snake)

Over 500 miners, their families and supporters marched through Knottingley, West Yorkshire to save the last three deep coal mines in England. Many local trade unionists came to support the miners, with the Yorkshire Shop Stewards Network & Wakefield NUT branch being prominent, and other groups joined the march such as the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign whilst Lesbians & Gays Support The Miners (known to many once more from the film Pride) brought their banner too.

John Gill,  Wakefield District Socialist Party

Political support came from all over Yorkshire, with TUSC and Socialist Party members from Leeds, Sheffield, Selby  as well as Wakefield and Pontefract. Leeds TUSC and Socialist Party activist Iain Dalton was interviewed on BBC Look North news (see below) giving a much better analysis of the situation in a few seconds than the Local MP Yvette Cooper did with ten times the airtime!

TUSC supporters from Wakefield & Selby on the march

TUSC supporters from Wakefield & Selby on the march

Kellingley, Hatfield and Thoresby collieries need urgent investment/state aid to allow them to continue production. Between 30-40% of England and Wales energy needs are still provided by coal and it makes no economic sense to close these three mines and import coal from across the world, especially now a new clean coal power station is being built less than 6 miles from Kellingley and only an hours rail journey away from the other two mines. £300million in investment could keep all three mines open, where there are 30 years worth of reserves to exploit, but the Con-dem government is dragging its feet on this matter.

Hatfield Main NUM banner on the march

Hatfield Main NUM banner on the march

After the march a rally was held at the Kellingley Social Club where 4 Labour MP’s spoke, Yvette Cooper, Shadow Cabinet member despite supporting the mines staying open gave no promises from Labour’s leadership to solve the problem if Labour form the next government and made a “British jobs for British workers” tinged with some anti-Russian rhetoric speech rather than arguing the economic and social cases for keeping the pits open.

Other Labour MPs Ian Lavery, Sian James and Dennis Skinner gave better cases and the solution of nationalisation was raised but none were able to give much hope except elect a Labour government in May and we will fight for the mines. One local man after the rally questioned whether he had been to a rally to save the mines or a Labour Party election rally!

Yorkshire Shop Stewards Network banner on the march

Yorkshire Shop Stewards Network banner on the march

Our leaflet explaining the need for a socialist energy policy with a publicly owned and democratically controlled energy system that can save the current jobs at the three mines was very well received (see copy below). Clean coal is much safer than the shale gas fracking and nuclear being proposed by the Tories and some Lib-Dems and even some Labour frontbenchers. Clean coal is a better stop-gap until enough investment allows renewable sources of energy to supply enough for people’s needs! Coal Not Dole!

Featherstone Massacre Commemorated

At James Gibbs and James Duggan's graves, commemorating the Featherstone Massacre

At James Gibbs and James Duggan’s graves, commemorating the Featherstone Massacre

Despite poor weather, over 25 people turned up to commemorate the 121st Anniversary of the Featherstone Massacre organised by the Wakefield Socialist History Group. Wakefield & Pontefract Socialist Party member, John Gill, recounted the fateful events when miners at Ackton Hall Colliery in Featherstone took six weeks of strike action in 1893, against their tyrannical employer, Samuel Cunliffe-Lister – the same person who owned the Manningham Mills in Bradford.

Iain Dalton

As workers succesfully blocked the moving of coal supplies on the 7th September, troops were called to ‘maintain order’. After clearing the site and reading the Riot Act, 16 men were wounded when the soldiers shot into the crowd with live amunition. Heavy rain stopped those gathered visiting the site of the massacre, although a dry spell allowed us to visit the graves of the two workers who died from their wounds, James Duggan and James Gibbs, where WSHG convener, Alan Stewart spoke briefly.

Instead, we were confined to the Bradley Arms, a local pub connected to the dispute, where ILP MP RB Cunninghame-Graham’s words from his visit in the aftermath of the shooting, ‘Revolutions are not made with rosewater’, adorn the fireplace.

The ILP made the case a cause celebré, with Keir Hardie visiting as well as Cunninghame-Graham. For those wanting to know the outcome of the ILP’s campaign for justice for those miners, then come and join next year’s (hopefully sunnier) commemoration or get a copy of the forthcoming pamphlet which John is writing about this struggle as well as the Kinsley Evictions, which also was pivotal for the development of the ILP in the area.

Hundreds Protest Against Israeli Onslaught on Gaza in Wakefield

250 gathered to protest in Wakefield

250 gathered to protest in Wakefield

Over 250 people of Wakefield District gathered on Wakefield Cathedral precinct to protest against the Israeli Governments disgraceful and vicious attacks on Gaza and its people.

John Gill, Wakefield & Pontefract Socialist Party

The protest had many young people and families from the city, many who have never spoken in public before gave impassioned speeches, along with local trade unionists and religious leaders such as Ken Capstick, Yorkshire NUM Vice-President during the 1984-5 strike, Tony Robinson, the Bishop of Pontefract and Mr Shah from the Wakefield Mosques.

Socialist Party members leafleted amongst the crowds as well as on our stall, around twenty papers were sold and most people got a leaflet or signed our petition. Several contacts were made with young people on the protest, with two Palestinian refugees staying locally amongst others.

Socialist Party stall at the protest

Socialist Party stall at the protest

A dozen EDL members, mainly from South Yorkshire hung around the protest attempting to disrupt it but were drowned out every time they tried so they gave up fairly soon when faced with mass numbers.

Wakefield Socialist Party will be holding a meeting about the Israel/Palestine conflict on Tuesday August 12th at 7.30pm in the Black Rock in Wakefield including a report from the CWI summer school about the work being done in the working class of Israel and Palestine to fight for Socialist change, the only long term solution to the conflict.

Rugby League: Have Featherstone fans got their club back?

“It will all end in tears,” some Featherstone Rovers Rugby League football club supporters said when news broke of major new investors and signings at the club. Months later, majority “B” shareholder Feisal Nahaboo and chief executive Craig Poskitt walked away from the club.

Michael Griffiths and Simon Barraclough, Wakefield Socialist Party

Featherstone, a small ex-mining community, is proud of its professional rugby league team. The smallest town in Britain to have one, Rovers won the game’s biggest prize, the challenge cup, at Wembley stadium three times. It produces local youngsters and causes upsets against more fashionable clubs.

At a packed fans forum after Feisal and Craig’s departure, Rovers chairman Mark Campbell reported concerns about apparent inaccurate financial information being presented by the finance director and Feisal’s attempt to take over an elected board. The fallout led to legal threats and then Feisal’s departure.

Fans raised questions on the club’s financial plight after the departure of the majority shareholder. Feisal’s shares are owned by Probiz Excellence Limited. Probiz (and its sister companies) offer “a range of added-value solutions for business owners and individuals from general accountancy to business advisory services to wealth management opportunities,” says its website.

Despite threats of winding up orders, however, the club is not on the verge of financial collapse. The chairman stressed that the club does not have to buy back the shares Probiz acquired. Campbell also pointed out that all full and part time player contracts already signed will be honoured.

Campbell’s answers seemed to reassure fans. The club is a limited company but many major decisions are still in the fans’ control, who can own one “A” share each. The fans control the land the club owns and elects representatives onto the board.

And although Featherstone Rovers may not have the money to make the club a force in the game again, we’ve been through hard times before and will again pull through by our own efforts together.