Interesting Times!

EUrefFriday 10th June, 7:30pm, Unity House, Fennel Street, Loughborough

A brief round table discussion introduced by Green Party, Labour and Lib Dem speakers.

On the eve of the Referendum, which way forward for progressives?

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Geoff Gay Tribute evening

GeoffAn Evening of film, music, poetry and folk song The Friday Room, Unity House, Fennel St., Loughborough. Friday 20th May 7:30 – 10:00 pm Refreshments provided.

The following letter from Ray Sutton was published in the Loughborough Echo Letters Page.

Dear Sir

Further to the tributes you published last week following the death of Geoff Gay, may I, as his friend and comrade of almost 50 years, add some further details?

From his youth Geoff was a man of the Left, totally dedicated to the cause of the working class. He lived his whole life in a fit of rage against social injustice and inequality and for thirty years before he joined the Labour Party, his political commitment led him to take part in a vast array of causes and campaigns.

Geoff fought for world peace and nuclear disarmament and opposed all forms of racial discrimination. Active in the National Union of Teachers, he also showed solidarity with other groups of workers in struggle. During the Miners Strike of 1984-5 he supported the Leicestershire ‘Dirty Thirty’, helping with the nightly food collections around Loughborough and putting up miners pickets from South Wales and County Durham for weeks on his living room floor.

Geoff obtained his qualifications to teach maths at Leicester University but he was also an active supporter of the Open University and tried as I do to foster education and debate in the wider community among people who have not had the same opportunities. Geoff’s passion for science led him to launch ‘Loughborough Logic’. He was also an active participant in the Socialist Forum and Left Unity and a founder of the still existing local political discussion group the ‘Friday Room’. One of the last campaigns Geoff was involved in was Unlock Democracy, a national movement to win Proportional Representation. He believed ardently that our present first-past-the-post voting system is unbalanced and unfair.

The numerous well researched letters Geoff wrote on these topics which the Echo published over the years were a joy to read. But until the very end he remained totally committed. In the last conversations I had with Geoff he spoke as a retired teacher of his opposition to privately run academy schools. He also thought the privatisation by stealth of the NHS under this government ought to be resisted and spoke of his sympathy for the junior doctors in their endeavours to win a fairer working contract.

Geoff’s allegiance to the Labour Party in his final years was never tainted by tribalism. He believed that the transition to a more just society would come about through the co-operation and direct action of the many, not merely the election of the few. Thus he tried to build a broad democratic alliance for social change and could list among his numerous friends, members of the local Green Party.

In an age of squalid political manoeuvres and compromise Geoff Gay stood out as a beacon of integrity. He was a real Socialist and valiant for truth. In the ranks of those who still campaign to achieve the ideals that inspired and motivated him, Geoff’s passing is a tragic loss.

Yours sincerely

Dr Ray Sutton MA

There will be a planning meeting in the Swan this Friday 6th May at 7:30. It would be good to see as many people as possible.

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The EU, what are the questions? Follow up

We had a a very informative discussion at the last Friday Room meeting  at which we were able to explore the issues behind the EU debate without anyone trying to push a particular outcome. Here are some notes I made. If anyone at the meeting would like to clarify or add to this report please comment below or email me directly:

Regulation and independence from Brussels
Regulations are seen as too complex and unevenly applied. However, it may be that, where the directive says things like: “These are not intended to be enforced onerously on small businesses”, that it is over-enthusiastic UK regulators rather than Brussels that is the problem.

The word democracy, in its narrow sense of voting on decisions, was originally conceived to work with small groups of citizens, but throughout the world it seems to work less satisfactory at larger scales.
UK democracy is in a bad state, with a widespread disillusionment with politics and an unrepresentative government. (The first-past-the-post voting system must bear some blame for this.)
There is a need for a better Europe-wide democracy, which I think implies the development of participatory decision-making beyond simple voting systems. See the “European Citizens’ Initiative” and indeed the activities of 38 Degrees.

Needs to be put in perspective. We are faced with a potential massive and total loss of control over our institutions to the international corporations. Compared to this, the partial and negotiable sharing of control to our neighbours is trivial. Note however that the EU has yet to conclude the TTIP talks, so it is not clear how much EU membership can shield us from world domination by the corporations.

Not on everybody’s list of issues, but there is good evidence that a high level of corruption is incompatible with the level of prosperity that goes with EU membership. Greece and Italy both have such a high level of corruption, which means that bailouts to these countries have gone to feeding corruption rather than remedying matters.
EU needs to develop better anti-corruption policies. Note that corruption in Turkey is at an even greater level.

Peace and morality
Peace with Europe is maintained by things like mutual dependence, working together, and being closer neighbours, and not so much by the making of rules. We would like to change the emphasis away from the individual and towards the community, and to see moral values such as human rights upheld. We don’t trust our own government.

Is the referendum decision reversible?
If we vote to stay in, surely we could just have another referendum after a reasonable time?
On the other hand, if we vote to leave would it not require very complex negotiations to get back?

Role for 38 Degrees
Has voted not to take sides but maybe take some sort of myth-busting role. Maybe there is a role in which it is accepted that there are indeed a lot of issues where the EU needs to do much better. (As we concluded.)
38 Degrees should draw up a list of these issues, get people to say if they agree or disagree and in effect say to the powers that be in the EU: “If we stay in, these are the changes that we require” or perhaps better “regardless of which way the vote goes, these are the changes that we want”.
Further, 38 Degrees should make contact and liaise with all the other European, pro-democracy grass-roots movements.
The politicians have had their go, now is the time for the people to say what they really want!

John Greenwood

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The EU, what are the questions?

EU_Question Informal discussion.

Friday 18th from 7:30 to 9:00

In the downstairs back room at the Swan in the Rushes
This is not a organised in-out debate but rather to a discussion to identify the issues and the uncertaintities.

National 38 degrees seem to favour the idea of taking a neutral myth busting role. What do local members think?

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Should we be more “democratic”?

At the recent Friday Room discussion it was suggested that we should be more organised and that a lack of “democracy” means that the Friday Room is somehow unacceptable.

I have the impression that most attendees would not agree with this view and accept the informality of the way meetings are organised.

My perception of the Friday Room is that it is a discussion group only.

It does not aim to take any unified action or indeed to come to any agreement about the topic being discussed.
The only outcome is individual wisdom and individual actions.
There is no defined membership and no expectation of regular attendance.
It might be better thought of as a place rather than an organisation, A bit like Hyde Park Corner.

I also think there is a wider issue of the meaning of democracy. Governance can be entirely top down with a dictator, benevolent or otherwise, or to some degree bottom up with the governed having a some control. The problem is that the governed are many, divided and ignorant, so the practical problems in giving effective control to the governed.
There is a range of “tools” available, the ballot is the most obvious, but there are also petitions, demonstrations, polling, focus groups and consultations, which admittedly have sever limitations. The idea that having a ballot is the definition of democracy and, if you have a one, everything is ok, is dangerously wrong. The ballot, the tool with highest regard, also has limitations and sometimes just does not work.

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Informal meeting, 5th Feb

The upstairs room at the Organ Grinder (used to be the Pack Horse) has been booked for Friday 5th Feb 2016. Meeting to start at 7:30.

Several people have expressed concern about homelessness and we need to discuss what next for the Friday Room.

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Unions on Film: Pride

PrideFriday 18th December, 7:30pm, Unity House, 21 Fennel Street, Loughborough LE11 1UQ

Presented by Unite Community and the Friday Room

Pride is a 2014 British LGBT-related historical comedy-drama film written by Stephen Beresford and directed by Mathew Warchus.

Based on a true story, the film depicts a group of lesbian and gay activists who rasied money to help the families affected by the miners’ strike in 1984, at the outset of what would become the Lesbian and Gays Support the Miners campaign.

Free Admission – Buffet and drinks

A collection will be made towards the costs of the Buffet and wine

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