Morris dancers branded racist for black face disguise

Morris menMorris dancers were accused of racism last month after they were confronted by shoppers during a performance in Birmingham city centre.

Dancers had blackened their faces in-line with the Border Morris tradition but had to abandon their performance due to continued heckling.

The men explained the practice had nothing to do with racism but was in fact based on a tradition—local to Herefordshire and surrounding areas—of blackening the face with charcoal as a method of disguise that dated back to the 15th century.

Explanations were not enough and the incident caught the attention of regional and national news outlets.

The use of black face make-up by Morris dancers has even been banned by Shrewsbury Folk Festival.

There are, unfortunately, many genuine instances of racism in daily life that need addressing and eradicating. But political correctness on this level is ridiculous and diminishes the seriousness of real discrimination.

County Hospital needs more beds, more staff

County HospitalBosses at the County Hospital called on people to avoid the accident and emergency department in December because of long delays.

And members of the public were again warned of extended A&E waiting in January.

The calls came as the NHS was being put under great strain across the country this winter, with many widely-reported cases of patients having to wait hours in corridors waiting to be seen.

Long delays were also the cause of two deaths at the Worcestershire Royal Hospital in January.

The British Red Cross is now frequently working with the NHS to help relieve the strain and called the situation a “humanitarian crisis”.

The staff do their best with what they’re given but Hereford needs more beds, more doctors, more nurses. So does the rest of the country.

How much longer do we have to wait before the government seriously investments in the NHS? How many more people have to die? Our hospitals can’t cope.

Free movement must end

Immigration-1The impact of mass and unrestricted immigration into working class communities was a significant factor in last year’s EU referendum. Yet, despite compelling evidence demonstrating this truth, many left-wingers seem determined to remain with their heads buried firmly in the sand.

EU law provides for free movement of people. It is one of the ‘four freedoms’ enshrined in the rules of the capitalist single market (along with the free movement of goods, services and capital). In other words, workers are categorised not as human beings but explicitly as commodities to be bought and sold like copper and coffee according to the laws of supply and demand.

Naturally, this commodification of workers is very popular with big business, enabling bosses to take advantage of highly-diverse economies by shunting workers across borders and playing them off against each other, thus driving down wages.

This type of social dumping uproots workers and their families, divides communities, and all in the name of greater profits. Social cohesion has been tested like never before along with the increased strain on under funded public services.

Yet, to many on the left, free movement is seen as an advance for working people, to be defended against all comers. For them, it’s a building block to greater class solidarity and another step on the path to their vision of a borderless world. The actual impact on working people, migrant and native, is secondary.

We must of course stand with migrants and challenge any attempt to attach personal blame to them for the failings of government or the actions of unscrupulous employers.
The failure of the left to accept or even discuss the negative aspects to free movement allows the bigotry of right-wingers to take hold in vulnerable communities.

Let’s be clear that refugees fleeing war and persecution should always be welcomed. But we cannot remain in denial on the broader issue of immigration. That’s why we must support an end to free movement for economic migrants. A failure to do so will further damage – and possibly shatter for good – what support still remains for left-wing politics among working class people.


While recognising that the current economic conditions prevent us from having open borders, we must nonetheless move towards a world where all people can one day move freely. A necessary step in that direction will be the replacement of capitalism with a more cooperative economy and the equalisation of conditions across the world (such vast differences in the standard of living between EU member states has been arguably the number one reason for immigration). Under such a system people will move because they want to and not because poverty compels them to. As a result this will reduce worldwide immigration levels to a relative trickle and allow people to remain with their friends and family in the parts of the world they were born.

Badger cull target missed thanks to campaigner efforts

BadgerBadger-culling is a key part of Defra’s 25-year policy to eradicate bovine tuberculosis in cattle, with Herefordshire being one of seven new target zones in 2016.

Government policy is to reduce badger numbers in a given area by 70% in the first year and then maintain this population level with a further three years of culling.

But badgers have been scapegoated for the spread of bTB infection in UK cattle herds for decades, and this flies in the face of scientific evidence that the main route of transmission is from cow to cow.

Studies have highlighted the need for improved bio-security measures on farms. This includes regular testing, strict adherence to movement restrictions and quarantine for cows that have tested positive for the disease.

The problem is of course made worse by intensive modern farming methods.

Having spent winter 2015 sett-surveying, campaigners were able to target their efforts effectively once the cull started in August last year. And during long days and dark nights out in the fields of Herefordshire fighting a six-week cull it becomes easy to lose perspective. What impact if any is being made on cull activity? Are badger’s lives being saved?

The kill figures for the 2016 cull, released by Defra in late December, while devastating overall, contained some surprises. Five weeks in and cull contractors had been struggling in Herefordshire, forcing Natural England to massively reduce their targets.

Ultimately in Herefordshire, although a total of 624 badgers were killed, that was still 248 fewer than Natural England’s original minimum target.

Every life needlessly lost is a tragedy but every single one spared serves to remind us that direct action saves lives. Culls will now take place for a further three years.

If you would like to get involved please get in touch with No Herefordshire Cull by emailing or by phone on 07551 884357.

Gloucestershire Against Badger Shooting also organise wounded badger patrols.


Ska-punk band, Citizen Fish, headline an anti-badger cull benefit gig on Saturday 25th February at the Booth Hall, Hereford. Doors open 7:30pm and tickets are £8 on the door.

High Town is looking tatty and landlords are to blame

High TownThere’s no denying that Hereford city centre is looking shabby. Paving stones are broken and stained, the streets are dirty and the buildings look rundown.

You could easily lose count of the number of shops that have broken or rusty guttering, rotting window frames, dirty exteriors in need of painting and so on.

So who’s to blame? Many city centre properties are occupied by businesses that could afford the odd maintenance project here and there—a shop-front paint job won’t cost the earth. But responsibility must surely lie with the landlords.

When the Card Factory–River Island site went up in flames in 2010 it was one of a number of properties across the UK owned jointly by two London firms, both run by two businessmen in Gibraltar. Since then the site has remained more or less untouched and it took Herefordshire Council a number of years to force the owners to act—which they failed to do before the businesses went into liquidation.

Why would two offshore businessmen care that fire-damaged buildings were making Hereford city centre look shabby? For landlords it comes down to profits. They often display a tremendous lack of civic pride, neglecting their property until there’s major problems (a consortium of local business managers, Hereford BID, has now taken it upon itself to try and smarten up the city).

We all have a responsibility to look after our little bit of the city. And in the case of High Town it is a landlord’s job to take care of their patch. Right now they’re failing and our city is looking a mess because of them.