About Bill Cawley

i was born in Stoke in 1955 and lived and worked in the City. I was a City Councillor from 82-7 and a County Councillor from 97-05.I'm a member of the Green partyMy heroes are Thomas Paine, HL Mencken, Tom Joad and Ernest Everard

Tristram Hunt on the Future of Socialism

I was listening on Radio 4 last Monday to the start the week programme which debated the future of Socialism. The debate was framed around the sensational victory of George Galloway in Bradford and to reinforce some of the discussions on tonight’s Newsnight.

Tristram felt that the death of Socialism was rather premature and although the statist model of the eastern bloc had been repudiated after 1989 and the fall of communism other forms of socialism were coming to the fore. Tristram mentioned co-operatives and mutuals, which does interest me through my involvement in Leek. Continue reading

Why a political elected Police Commissioner is a dangerous idea

Next November there will be the election for local Police Commissioners in Staffordshire and Stoke – as it will be everywhere else in the country. It is likely that all the main political parties will be entering candidates. Already there seems evidence that the party HQs are controlling the business about who becomes the candidate. In North Wales, for instance, the local Labour Party is accused of trying to impose a short list of three without internal party debate. The other political parties will want to control the process. Continue reading

Property is drift – on transfer of assets to the community

The Stoke Councillors who were in the room at Staffs Uni were very keen. They were of a common voice when it came to discuss transfer of assets to the community of council buildings that were being dispensed with. It was October 15 th and I was sitting in on a seminar as part of the Stoke Stories conference organised by the Royal Society and the WEA. I had reason to be dubious as I was sitting next to Richard Talbot, the local historian and community activist from Penkhull. He told me of the problems that he had faced with the Council over Boothen Park and an attempt by friends the park to run the facility for community use. It seemed that the City Council were not that helpful and were only keen to unload costs and responsibility for things like tree clearing something that had not been done for years when the park was controlled by the City Council. Yet they were playing hardball with a group of willing and committed volunteers. Continue reading

Anthony Bamford and corporate dependency

I met one of the Bamfords, it might have been Anthony, in the mid 1980s. I was being interviewed for the position of Magistrate. The interview took place at Fenton Court. Mr Bamford was interested in my political activity especially whether I had demonstrated. Asking someone on the left during the middle of the Miners Strike if they had taken part in a demo was like asking whether a duck had taken to water. I had no problem with it and was perfectly open about my political affiliations and actions.

We move forward a quarter of a century and Sir Anthony Bamford’s political affiliations and actions are under scrutiny. His response seems to be far less open than mine all those years ago in Fenton. It seems that he has been funding the Tory Party and that over time he been providing leading Tories with all sorts of perks. Continue reading

Olympic Souvenirs

Dear Sir,

I understand from an article that appeared in a national newspaper this weekend that over 90% of souvenirs for the London Olympics are produced abroad primarily China. When Britain successfully gained the right to host the 2012 Games we were lead to believe that this would be a major boost to the manufacturing sector in the UK. This has now proved illusionary, but what is particularly galling is the way in which British pottery companies like Royal Doulton and Wedgwood have out sourced much of their production of Olympic pottery to the Far East. Despite being decorated with Union Jacks and London’s famous landmarks, fine bone china teapots, cups and saucers, vases and pottery are being produced 6,000 miles away in Thailand and China. At a time when over 8,000 people from the Potteries are out of work I would describe the action of companies like Wedgwood as little more than treachery directed at the community which created the company in the first place.

Bill Cawley

In Defence Of The Young

In 1899 they were accused of blocking the pavement forcing decent people into the road in Derby St, swearing and playing cards on the Pickwood Rec.

In 1954 they were accused of intimidating passengers on the Cheddleton Bus, vandalising municipal flowerbeds and engaging in a mass punch up in Haywood St over the Easter weekend.

In 2011 they are accused of laziness, lacking a work ethic, according to local businessman, drunkenness, illiteracy and being ignorant.

In the three instances the accused are young people as portrayed by older people.
Its time for a defence to be launched.

I work with young people; I know of them and in the course of an ordinary day will come in contact with young people. Most I know in these settings are perfectly fine, courteous, hard working, amusing and to use the jargon of the time” customer focused”. I am sure that some young people behave badly as I know that there are some old people act outrageously. The old man last summer who swore vilely at a bus driver and thumped the side of the bus in Longsdon is one side of the equation as is the skinhead who helped me with a buggy in which lay my sleeping baby daughter in Lime St the other.

Could it be that young people today, as they were yesterday, are being deliberately misunderstood by politicians and journalists who wish to use them to suit their own ends? Do the young serve a useful function as a scapegoat for the inadequacies of their elders?

I am sure that if we consider the question of the alleged uselessness of the British teenager we can all think of individual acts of kindness carried out by them. I don’t envy the young today in a country which has burdened them with debt and in which over a million find themselves unemployed. And they are being written off. Yet they had nothing to do with this crisis and the young will picking up the bill for a long time. This crisis is caused by the uselessness of the old.

Working Men Clubs in the 70s

During the 70s I went to a couple of Working Men’s Clubs in Stoke. The Suburban on the Abbey, Baddeley Green and later in the decade I had a job behind the bar at Berryhill. My principal memories of them was how ordered and dignified they were. Saturday was the highlight of the week and people would make an effort to look their best. The Committee officers ran them with a grip of iron and membership were as tightly controlled as any freemasons. Instant silence followed the command ” Give order please” and quiet was demanded- and got- when Bingo started. Bingo was a ritual with its language and actions especially when certain numbers were called out ” Ted’s den- Number Ten, Two fat ladies 88, Leg’s eleven” followed by wolf whistles and the clinking of glasses as pens were banging against them. Sometimes a frustrated gamester would call out to the elderly lady caller ” Shake them up, Elsie” if his numbers were not coming up.

Then there were the turns.
Peter Kay is not far out when portrays the strange acts at the Phoenix. I recall vividly the Pakistani stand up comedian who told racist jokes against himself, the asthmatic country and western act from Cleverley who stopped for breath half way through his act.” I’ll be with you in a moment “, or the overloud ear-ringing rock bands. Sometimes there were special events like a boxing tournament at the Suburban where one competitor eschewing the basic defensive stance advanced with arms flaying like a windmill to be quickly demolished by punishing jabs that opened his nose up in a crimson torrent. For the turns themselves there was recognition that there efforts were taken with proper regard. As local act Gerry Stephens writing of the time reported

“You’d arrive outside the Club, grab your gear, and go in. The room would be completely empty. Then people start coming in; the room is packed, and it’s your job to entertain them for the night. You’ve only got your guitar, your voice and your patter, to get them going, gets them laughing.

It was quite a thing to be an artist in the 70s, there was a lot of respect shown; the audience wasn’t allowed to come in or go out during a bracket”.

But the knell- as it was for the working class- was already tolling for the clubs

Newtown

Newtown

This pub sign in Fenton was probably put up in the 1960s and has a prophetic view of the future rising above the smoky past. Hanley represents a shining city on a hill- a vision from the perspective of the late 60s of what the future might hold. Manhattan on the Trent or so they hoped.

I lived close to here for the first ten years of my life in Lytton St, Stoke. It is an industrial landscape and particularly a sound scape. Factory hooters, the grinding sound of flint being crushed, the shrill sound of a saw from the coopers across the road, steam trains, the clatter of goods wagons in the siding and the chugging of barge engines. The canal in the 60s was still a working place with barges filled with bones, clay flint and pottery.
Instead we seem to have gone from industry and grime to no industry and grime. I took the bus into Hanley yesterday and the evidence of decay is all around. We went past the old shopping precinct; we went past the mosque boarded up and no sign of recent activity. True went the new Sixth Form and the new University building but then into Stoke with its boarded up shops and then Harpfields with weeds growing through the playground of the empty school.

Looking through the archives regularly as I do there have been many plans of what the future should have held. In 1973 for instance there was talk of a Stoke-Hanley Axis with grandiose plans. It is something that over the years we have not lacked are fanciful drawings and detailed drawings.

What has gone wrong? Is it indeed fair to blame the actions of officers and councillors of the last 40 years for the mess that we are in. After all other places such as Burnley and Hull are in the same position as Stoke. In fact the Centre for Cities has suggested that the gap between places like Cambridge and places like Stoke is widening and the vision represented in the pub sign looks like a mirage

I like the Victorians

I like the Victorians. They had drive, they had energy, they believed in progress. I know that there was poverty and disease and huge discrepancies in wealth but look around at any North Staffs town and you can see obvious signs of their desire for improvement. Local towns were building their own gas works, they were organising their own water supplies, and they were building their own town halls. And this was done at speed look at the 30 years it took them to build the railway system, look at the drains under the streets of many cities in the UK. I wrote this on the day that Burslem Town Hall was put up for sale. I came across the opening ceremony for the Town Hall in 1857. It was obviously a moment for pride and followed 6 years later by the Wedgwood Institute opened by Mr Gladstone.

I also came across more modern examples of public works in my work today. Jez Moxey breezy stating in 1996 that the new Britannia Stadium would have ” ample” parking and why o why was it built next to a railway line without a station? Anyone who has studied the history of the last 30 years in the area must conclude that modern politicians are big on building castles in the air, but unlike the Victorians not very good at doing the actual building.

The Grand Illusion- the search for no work in Jan 2012

I was on Radio Stoke a week ago today, talking about unemployment and tactics to get a job. I was positive and I was upbeat but I did feel a fraud. As a friend who is out of work told me the elephant in the room is the simple equation that there are 2.6 million out of work and 400,000 vacancies. That is the simple arithmetic that says that there are nationally 5 people chasing every job.

I know three people out of work. A relative has been out of work for 18 months and lives in South London. He does voluntary work for a drug treatment centre in Brixton. His view of the Job Centre is dismissive especially his case worker a very overweight hectoring woman who insists that he applies for jobs that he is not qualified to do such as being a touch typist. Incidentally the woman took 20 minutes to type a three-paragraph letter. The irony of having someone in charge of your destiny whom is essentially crap and would have difficulty herself in the job market if she were out of her job. She also was in the impression that Tameside in Greater Manchester was in London. The relationship is not a good one.

A friend has been out of work since November 2010. He has applied for 300 jobs. He was inducted on to the Work Programme and went along to a meeting at the Old Post Office in Tontine St in Hanley. There were a few people on the course including a bloke from Norton and a disabled woman who had not worked for over a decade. The attitude of the bloke from Norton left a great deal to be desired he went off and came back smelling of beer. He had obviously had a drink at Weatherspoons. The disabled woman had difficulty coping with a basic computer test- the Fischer Price test as my friend called the laughably unsubtle assessment. The company that was running the Work Programme was called Ace and was Wigan based. All the staff were from the North West which makes knowledge of the North Staffs labour market questionable at best. A view reinforced when none of them knew where my mate asked the best place for cheap bacon sandwich- I suggested Abdul’s on the Bus Station. They sat around tables when someone gave an ” Inspirational” talk. He was told to do volunteer work which he would have done anyway.

A third friend also unemployed in Wolverhampton, a teacher of over 20 years experience also believes the Job Centre does not have any jobs. They were suggesting voluntary work. He is doing a computer course of no merit.