Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Harry Leslie Smith – a tribute

On behalf of Reading Trades Union Council, UNISON activist Antoinette Solera remembers with fondness Harry's wisdom, charm - and sense of struggle - during his two visits to Reading:


Harry addressing listeners in his second visit to Reading, 2016

In October 2014 our branch secretary Pat Kenny laid down a challenge to me, the then Communications Officer for the Reading Borough Council branch of UNISON. ‘Ant, we need a great speaker for the AGM, do your thing and find one’. Rising to the challenge, a few weeks later I phoned in to donate to the Guardian’s Christmas Appeal, realised Owen Jones was helping to man the phones and cheekily asked him if he was free to visit Reading and speak at our meeting the following March. Owen wasn’t available, but meanwhile via Twitter I’d become aware of a new rising star in the world of left leaning politics. Harry Leslie Smith had delivered a barnstorming speech at the Labour Party Conference in September, I was following him on Twitter, he was touring the country to promote his book ‘Harry’s Last Stand’ and I was blown away by his quiet wisdom and his energy in fighting against austerity and for our NHS.


There then followed a long exchange of emails with Harry’s literary agent (who I suspect was probably holding on for a bigger gig!) However I’m not one to give up easily and in the end the agent put me directly in contact with Harry and his son John. Harry was keen to visit new places to share his message and was willing to travel all the way down from Barnsley, so we decided to host an evening event too. In retrospect I think the clincher was the offer of a full on cooked breakfast at the hotel and as much beer as Harry wanted at the evening do at RISC!


I remember meeting Harry and John off the train at Reading station and being very nervous – a 91 year old famous activist and author had travelled more than 200 miles to visit us and we all wanted to make sure he was well looked after. I don’t know why I worried. As soon as we arrived at the hotel and Harry was settling in to his room we had several beers with John and a really good chat about Harry’s work and what motivated him in his retirement to enter the world of political activism.


Harry did his research well. Before the visit he’d sent me a list of questions about Reading – our housing crisis, homelessness, poverty, details about services that had been cut, the daily struggle faced by our members in looking after vulnerable people – he wanted to know warts and all what was really going on. This was important to Harry because everywhere he went he wanted to relate the current problems in every town and city directly back to his experience of poverty in his youth.


Harry Supporting UNITE's 2016 strike action at Capita

At our AGM several of our delegates were in tears as Harry told us about his sister Marion, who died of tuberculosis, ended her short life in a workhouse infirmary and suffered the indignity of burial in a paupers’ pit. That evening Harry moved us once again by reminding us of the horrors of the poverty he suffered. Yet he also lifted us all with his optimism, reminding us of the great things achieved in the ‘spirit of 45’. He reminded the audience of trade unionists, community activists and students that evening we can – and will – achieve great things again.


I would like to think Harry was impressed by the level of activism in our town because a year later he visited Reading again, this time at an event hosted by Reading TUC where we had a spirited debate about austerity and the role of trade unions in fighting for social justice.


I’m proud that Reading’s trade union movement played a part in helping to spread Harry’s message and his 2016 visit showed what a Trades Union Council can do to bring people together in solidarity with each other.


Sadly Harry is no longer with us but his legacy remains and will be long lasting. We have his books, his newspaper articles, his podcasts, his television interviews and his tweets to remind us of his making ability to inspire and to galvanise people all over the world for social justice, for equality and against poverty and racism.


Harry was a great and treasured friend of the trade union and labour movement. His son John has vowed to finish the projects Harry had begun. There is talk of memorials and statues and I hope Harry is accorded the recognition he deserves on that front. However I feel the best tribute we can pay to him is to continue our efforts on behalf of our members, the people we serve and in the pursuit of social justice.


Rest in Power, Harry - and thank you for everything you have done. Always remembered, never forgotten.


Antoinette Solera
Co-Convenor, Central & East Berkshire UNISON

Reading Chronicle report of Harry in Reading, 2016

Monday, 29 October 2018

DPAC, RTUC and principled Labour Party activists fight for Disabled Bus Rights

RTUC, DPAC and principled Labour Party members
outside the Reading Civic Offices

On 29 October 2018, just as the Reading Borough Council (RBC) Policy Committee was sitting down to meet, Berkshire Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), Reading Trades Union Council (RTUC) and principled Labour Party activists gathered outside the Civic Offices, banners aloft, for another in their series of protests against RBC proposals to limit disabled people’s access to free bus travel.
Following a consultation from May to July on imposing charges for disabled people’s bus travel before 09:30 and after 23:00 Monday to Friday, stripping disabled people’s helpers/carers of their Companion Passes altogether and imposing charges for the dial-a-ride Readibus service, RBC have deferred a decision on Access Pass, Companion Pass and Readibus reforms on several occasions. At the Policy Committee meeting, however, Deputy Leader of RBC, Cllr Tony Page, answered a question on the subject from Cllr Rachel Eden, Chair of the Access and Disability Group.
In his answer Cllr Page announced the retention of Companion Passes for disabled people’s helpers/carers – the consultation was overwhelming in support of this concession. However, he declared that all other aspects of the proposed reforms were still under consideration – and travel passes for Senior Citizens will also be added to RBC’s review!

Thus, while RTUC, DPAC and principled Labour members can take soothe from their success in delaying RBC’s decision-making and in their intention to retain Companion Passes – a clear sign of the heed being taken by RBC of the campaign of opposition – the campaign must go on. RTUC, DPAC and principled Labour members say NO TO RESTRICTIONS ON DISABLED RIGHTS.
RTUC, DPAC and principled Labour Party members
outside the Reading Civic Offices

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Vote 90! It's not 100 years for us

Nikki Dancey (GMB & RTUC) introduces Louise Raw,
Shami Chakrabarti and Lisa McKenzie

On 19 September 2018, the GMB union, with support from the Reading Trades Union Council and Reading & District Labour Party, organised ‘Vote 90!’ – a celebration of equal votes for women and men, achieved in 1928. While the population of the United Kingdom has generally been looking back this year to ‘votes for women’ 100 years ago, socialists and labour historians have offered the corrective that 1918 was the year of the ‘ladies franchise’ – votes for women with middle class incomes and property rights. Only in 1928 were the injustices removed which gave women over the age of 21 the vote on the same basis as men.
RTUC Banner flying proud for 'Vote 90!'
Democracy was not yet achieved – plural voting for university graduates existed until the 1940s and 18-20 year olds were disenfranchised until the 1960s – but 1928 was a great leap forward. (Even today, a groundswell of support for votes for 16-17 year olds and the existence of voting restrictions on prisoners demonstrate that the onward campaign for democracy continues.)
‘Vote 90!’ presented ‘an evening of working class wit with a stunning panel of women: Shami Chakrabarti, Louise Raw and Lisa McKenzie’. With the GMB’s Nikki Dancey in the Chair, the event offered ‘a wry look at this year’s “Vote 100” celebrations and remembers the majority of women who didn't actually get the vote until 90 years ago’. The speakers presented a look at the history of working class women through the suffragette years and how they were ignored by so many in the early 20th century, what the vote meant to working class women then and now and how working class women are still so often ignored and reviled in equal measure by the establishment.

Louise Raw, historian, author and Matchwomen's Festival organiser, spoke on the self-organising power of women with particular reference to the Bryant & May Matchwomen’s strike of 1888 as well as anecdotal accounts of other struggles women have played and continue to play a leading role in.

Louise Raw in a show of passionate discourse!
Lisa McKenzie, Sociologist and Research Fellow at the London School of Economics and class war activist, spoke about her personal struggle, fighting for an education, witnessing community destruction during the Great Miners’ Strike of 1984-85 – and frankly casting doubt on the effectiveness of the vote as a working class tool – let alone a weapon – for winning social justice, peace and economic empowerment.

Lisa McKenzie takes the floor
Shami Chakrabarti, the Labour Party’s Shadow Attorney General and former Director of Liberty, ended by acknowledging the wisdom of the previous speakers and making a pitch for participation in electoral contests.
Shami Chakrabarti rounds off the night 
The speakers had their own books on sale on the night and were pleased to sign copies. The event charged no fee – though attendees were generous with their donations.
A panorama of the night

Monday, 10 September 2018

Radical Actions, September 2018

RTUC at Reading Pride!

RTUC at Pride: Ray Parkes (Unite), Nikki Dancey (GMB), Dave
McMullen (GMB), Steve Geary (USDAW), John Gillman (Unite), Ruth
McEwan (Unison), Helen Caney (Unison), Nick Hatton (UCU), Billie
Reynolds (Unison) and Nada Al-Sanjari (NEU)
On 1 September, Reading's LGBT+ community staged its annual Pride March and Festival. After processing through the town centre behind banners and accompanied by music and dancing, the celebrants gathered at Kings Meadow and enjoyed a party atmosphere - though with serious political, health and trade union messages being propagated from a variety of stalls.

RTUC's Pride Stall: Ray Parkes and Nada Al-Sanjari
The Reading Trade Union Council attended in force, having a stall of its own and supporting pitches established by affiliate trade unions. Among the RTUC friends and delegates present were Neil Adams (Unite), Nada Al-Sanjari (NEU), Kevin Brandstatter (GMB), Helen Caney (Unison), Nikki Dancey (GMB), Rachel Eden (GMB), Steve Geary (USDAW), John Gillman (Unite), Sarah Hacker (Unite), Nick Hatton (UCU), Ruth McEwan (Unison), Dave McMullen (GMB), James Parker (Unite), Ray Parkes (Unite) and Billie Reynolds (Unison).

RTUC distributed literature on trade union issues and the history of the labour movement and spoke with Pride attendees about the value of trade unionism in contemporary society. Conversations especially focussed on the role of trade unionism in fighting fascism and defending LGBT+ members from discrimination in the workplace and the community.

Protesting Rail Fare Increases in East and West Reading

On 3 September Reading & District Labour Party and Reading Trades Union Council joined forces to protest against the Tory governments announcement of inflation-busting rail fare increases, coming into force in January. Labour's Matt Rodda (MP for Reading East) and Cllr Rachel Eden (prospective parliamentary candidate for Reading West) assembled at Tilehurst Railway Station, joined by RTUC's John Partington (TSSA) and local Labour Party activists, to leaflet the travelling public and discuss Labour's policies for renationalisation of railway franchises and reinvestment of railway profits into infrastructure and services.

Labour's Reading East MP, Matt Rodda (second left) and Prospective
Parliamentary Candidate for Reading West, Cllr Rachel Eden (second right)

Matt and John also visited Reading Railway Station, joined by another Labour supporter, and leafleted and engaged with the commuting public. Under the Tories' plans, rail fares will increase by 3.2% in the new year.

RTUC's John Partington (TSSA) (centre) and Reading
East Labour MP, Matt Rodda (right)



Protesting Proposed Attacks on Disabled Travel Rights

Reading Trades Union Council, represented by Nada Al-Sanjari (NEU) and John Partington (TSSA), joined Berkshire Disabled People Against Cuts for the third wave of protests against Reading Borough Council's proposals to restrict free bus travel for members of the public with a disability - as well as disabled persons' helpers. Under the current scheme, disabled people and their helpers get free travel on Reading Buses 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Reading Borough Council proposes restricting free travel to the hours between 09:30 and 23:00 for disabled people - disadvantaging those who travel for work or appointments in the early morning or wishing to enjoy a nightlife later on when others are partying the nights away! The proposals would also remove free travel entirely from disabled people's helpers.

RTUC's John Partington (TSSA) (third left) and Nada
Al-Sanjari (NEU) (sixth left) with DPAC protesters

Reading Borough Council are set to make a decision on the changes to disabled people's bus concessions on 24 September. They can be sure they will be met by further protests - with greater numbers fourth time round. RTUC and DPAC (and many in the Labour Party) call on Reading Borough Council to scrap the changes and stop attacking those who need their support in order to lead a mobile life.

Saturday, 25 August 2018

Radical Actions, July & August 2018

As the sun beat down during a sizzling summer, Reading Trades Union Council (RTUC) remained vigilant, taking part in three actions with Reading & District Labour Party (RDLP). We stood up for local and national transport as well as for public health provision.

Celebrating 70 Years of the NHS
John Partington (left, TSSA) and Nikki Dnacey (right, GMB) of the RTUC
join Matt Rodda MP, Labour Councillors John Ennis, Rachel Eden and
Ruth McEwan and supporters at the birthday card presentation
On 28 July, Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate for Reading West, Cllr Rachel Eden, joined Matt Rodda, Labour MP for Reading East, and other supporters and defenders of the National Health Service to deliver 70th birthday cards to the Royal Berkshire Hospital. Cards were signed by supporters of public health who condemn the creeping privatisation of the NHS by the Tory Government and they were addressed to several wards in the hospital. Delivered to the RBH reception, the security attendant - himself employed by an outsourced firm - assured the cards' distribution to the nurses, porters, doctors and other hospital staff in the designated wards. Kevin Brandstatter, Nikki Dancey (both GMB) and John Partington (TSSA) attended the event on behalf of the RTUC.

Cllr Rachel Eden and Matt Rodda MP hand over the
birthday cards at RBH reception

Reading Buses Open Meeting

Matt Rodda MP addresses the audience in the Reading Buses open meeting
On 1 August Matt Rodda, Labour MP for Reading East, organised an open meeting in Caversham Baptist Church to inform the general public of proposed timetable and route changes by Reading Buses. Alongside Matt on the panel were Caversham Councillors, Adele Barnett-Ward (Labour), Ed Hopper (Tory) and Jane Stanford-Beale (Tory).

The Reading Buses Chief Executive Officer, Martijn Gilbert, made a noble effort, failing to address the absence of a workers' representative on the panel but doing his best on the logistics of timetabling. Ultimately, although Reading Buses does not aim to make a profit, it cannot make a loss and receives no subsidy from the Conservative Government - so timetabling and route determination are decided by market mechanisms with some redistribution of income across the town's regions.

John Partington (TSSA), attending for RTUC, set Matt up with a chance to promote the Labour Party manifesto and condemn Tory austerity by pointing out that bus services should not be a public service genie squeezed into a profit making bottle - but Matt preferred not to make party political points and instead acted as a meet and greet figure. Rather than be profit making organisations, bus companies are a public service which generate wealth for the local economy. As such, subsidy for unprofitable routes is essential.
Matt Rodda MP alongside Caversham Councillors
John also challenged the Councillors present with the notion of park-and-ride services to draw passengers out of cars in favour of buses to their rail commute from Emmer Green, Sonning Common and environs - but this did not elicit a direct response. The question of where a park-and-ride facility would be built was too thorny an issue for anyone to take on.

Cllr Adele Barnett-Ward did announce the Labour council's consultation on congestion charging and a company car parking levy. Either of which proposal would take great strides towards alleviating town centre congestion and really boost Reading Buses' public appeal.

Protesting Rail Fare Increases
Chris Reilly (RMT) and John Partington (TSSA) of RTUC leaflet the
commuting public outside Reading Railway Station

On 15 August, RTUC and RDLP members gathered in two shifts (07:00-09:00 & 18:00-19:00) to protest the Tory Government's announcement of rail fair increases for January 2019 of 3.2%. While commuters suffer below-inflation pay rises (and company directors average 11% pay rises annually), the rail fares will again increase above inflation.

Cllr John Ennis with RTUC's Nikki Dancey
and Kevin Brandstatter (both GMB)

Labour Councillors John Ennis and Ellie Emberson joined other Labour protesters alongside RTUC delegates John Partington (TSSA), Chris Reilly (RMT), Nikki Dancey and Kevin Brandstatter (both GMB) to distribute leaflets declaring 'Cut Fares Not Staff' and inviting the public to write to their MP to condemn the year on year inflation-busting fare rises.

Labour Party protesters leaflet
outside Reading Railway Station

This year's protest took on added flavour as the Tories also announced their desire to see pay negotiations with the rail unions to be based on the Consumer Price Inbdex (CPI) rather than on the Retail Price Index (RPI) - a lower measure of inflation which ignores increases in mortgage rates - thus further squeezing pay for working people - while company directors receive an average of 11% pay increases year on year! Rest assured - the RTUC will oppose continued wage squeezes on all workers and will be back on the streets protesting fare rises in the run up to their January implementation, with a view to preventing or lowering them.


Defiance to Fascism in Oxford
Communist Party, Oxford Stand Up to Racism, Oxford & District Trades
Union Council and Palestine Solidarity stalls in Cornmarket St., Oxford

On 25 August, a coalition of radical groups and individuals assembled in Oxford's Cornmarket Street in a show of defiance against fascist thuggery under the banner, 'We will not be silenced'. The previous week, on 17 August, socialists at a stall at the Carfax Tower, protesting Tory MP Boris Johnson's Islamophobic comments about women in burkas, were attacked by two fascists who spoliated the stall, damaging literature and jostling and verbally abusing the stall-keepers.


The event on 25 August was attended by Oxford Stand Up To Racism, Oxford & District Trades Union Council, the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist), Palestine Solidarity and sympathisers from other groups. John Partington (TSSA) also attended, taking solidarity from the Reading Trades Union Council. Speeches were made by prominent local anti-racists and leaflets were distributed.

Upcoming anti-racist events publicised
The 'Love Music Hate Racism' festival in Oxford (1 September) and the 'Confronting Racism and Fascism' conference in London (23 October) were publicised. A petition against fascist demonstrations was also circulated, gaining dozens of signatures on the day. The message from the day was clear - for every one anti-racist stall disrupted by fascists, three or more will follow. 'We will not be silenced!'
Petition against fascist demonstrations in the UK 

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

RTUC backs DPAC against attacks on disabled persons' rights

Kevin Jackson (4th left, Unison) and Nada al-Sanjari
(3rd right, NEU) from RTUC join the protest
In a second round of protests against Reading Borough Council's attacks on disabled people's concessionary bus passes, Berkshire Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) were joined by Reading Trades Union Council outside St Mary's Minster Church to inform the public of their campaign. While disabled people currently get free bus travel, as do their helpers, under RBC's proposal's, free travel for disabled people would only occur from 09:30 to 23:00 - and their helpers would cease to get any free travel at all. Also, the dial-a-ride ReadiBus scheme would become chargeable.

Nada al-Sanjari (NEU), Kevin Jackson (Unison) and John Gillman (Unite) of RTUC joined DPAC members and sympathisers to make noise on the issue, hold placards and leaflet the passing public. ITV Meridian News filmed the protest and publicised it on their website: http://www.itv.com/news/meridian/2018-08-22/protest-at-radical-proposals-to-cutback-on-bus-services-in-reading/, as did That's Thames Valley TV: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=foYRQ1sZ_7Q&feature=youtu.be.

Following the protest, leafleting took place outside RBC's Civic Offices, including RTUC's John Partington (TSSA). This brought the issues to the attention of the public as well as Council workers and officers.

RTUC's John Partington (TSSA) leaflets the
public outside RBC's Civic Offices


Friday, 17 August 2018

RTUC welcomes Reading Campaign Against Privatisation

17 August 2018 was the evening when the united forces of Reading's anti-austerity labour movement came together to say 'Enough is Enough'. Individuals from the Labour Party, trade unions and other campaign groups met to discuss the formation of a united protesting and campaigning group. The result is the establishment of RECAP - Reading Campaign Against Privatisation.

RECAP is determined to fight against any further cuts to public services, to privatisation of the same - and also to campaign for the return to public control of social services already handed over to the private sector and the 'third sector' (voluntary or charity organisations). The central objects of RECAP can be found on its debut leaflet:

RECAP identifies the austerity government of Teresa May's Conservatives as the principal target of its campaigning. However, Reading Borough Council - while being heavily constrained by government income limitations - needs to show leadership and opposition to the Tory's cuts agenda and work creatively to preserve the socialised control of public services. RECAP will oppose RBC's drive to privatise and rationalise public services and calls on the Council to engage with the trade unions to work through the difficult times until a Labour Government is elected. The trade union movement - being directly connected to the workers delivering services to and for the people of Reading - contains substantial intellectual capital that RBC needs to tap into in order to manage the austerity being imposed upon it by the Conservative Government. The slash-and-burn approach of cuts and privatisation will not maintain public services, will not save RBC money - and will not preserve public support for the incumbent councillors.

For more details about RECAP and for ways to get involved - including influencing RBC's current consultation on privatising services - 'Like' the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/readingagainstprivatisation/ and follow the website: http://recap.group/.

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Reading Trades Union Council at Tolpuddle 2018

RTUC assemble, including John Partington (left, TSSA), Dave
McMullen (2nd left, GMB) and Keith Jerrome (right, Unite)
On 22 July 2018, the labour movement assembled in a Dorset village to complete the weekend celebration of trade unionism with the annual Tolpuddle Martyrs' Festival march and rally. This year - as ever - saw a Reading Trades Union Council presence, though made especially joyous by the debut of RTUC's new banner.

Reading Trades Union Council on the march
Leading the procession through Tolpuddle was the Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn MP, who laid the ceremonial wreath on James Hammett's grave - the only one of the six martyrs who remained in Dorset. Later in the afternoon, Jeremy closed the speeches by enthusing the assembly with socialist policies and appealing to all supporters of Labour to be ever on an election footing.

Jeremy Corbyn MP leads the procession through Tolpuddle
Reading Trades Union Council was well represented, with Nikki Dancey and Dave McMullen (both GMB), Keith Jerrome (Unite), Steve Geary (USDAW) and John Partington (TSSA) in attendance.

Steve Geary (right, USDAW) of RTUC
John Partington (TSSA) with the reverse of the RTUC banner
The weekend was rounded off with a concert by Billy Bragg, a regular entertainer at the Festival. The whole weekend proved a shot in the arm for the activists - and a great occasion for old friends of the left to reunite from across the country.

Billy Bragg closes the festival with a suite of labour songs


Saturday, 30 June 2018

RTUC at the NHS 70th Birthday March

The RTUC Contingent at the NHS 70th Birthday!
Cllr Ruth McEwan (3rd left, Unison), Nada Al Sanjari (4th left, NEU),
John Partington (2nd right, TSSA), Nick Hatton (far right, UCU)
On 30 June 2018, health workers and patients alike - many with their trade union paraphernalia - assembled in Portland Place and processed through London to the centre of political power - Whitehall - to both celebrate the 70th anniversary of the NHS and to protest Conservative policies leading to the privatisation of our universal health care system.

Slough Trades Council on the march!
Organised by the People's Assembly, Reading Trades Union Council delegates along with comrades from Palestine Solidarity, the Labour Party and the Socialist Party, converged on Whitehall and met in the blistering sunshine to celebrate the benefits of a cradle-to-grave healthcare system free at the point of use and listen to the speeches from health professionals, politicians and trade unionists warning of the damage the NHS is suffering under Tory reforms.
RMT backing a publicly owned and controlled NHS


The shot in the arm came from Frances O'Grady, General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress, expressing the trade union movement's determination to fight Tory privatisation of the NHS. 

TUC GEneral secretary, Frances O'Grady,
addresses the assembly
Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn MP, wows the crowd with
the promise of undoing Tory privatisations in the NHS
She was followed by Jeremy Corbyn's pledge, as leader of the Labour Party, to reverse privatisation and re-establish the NHS on the basis of the founding principles of 1948: a universal coverage, paid for through progressive taxation, available to all free at the point of use.
Oxford Unite join the march

In addition to RTUC delegates, Oxford workers from Unite were spotted with their banner - members of Oxford & District Trades Union Council with whom the RTUC has cooperated in the past. Also, RTUC's partner in the Berkshire Association of Trades Councils, Slough Trades Council, was in attendance.

Nada (far left) and Ruth (2nd right) join comrades on Whitehall
The Reading contingent was represented at the event by Nada Al Sanjari (NEU), Joan Boyd (NEU), Kevin Brandstatter (GMB), John Gillman (Unite), Nick Hatton (UCU), Kathy McCubbing (Palestine Solidarity), Cllr Ruth McEwan (Unison), John Partington (TSSA) and Billie Reynolds (Unison).

Nick, Nada and John await speeches in Whitehall

Joan Boyd (NEU) and John en route to Whithall

Billie Reynolds (Unison), Nada and Kathy McCubbing
(Palestine Solidarity) at the end of the march
Many leaflets and magazines were distributed at the event, but perhaps that of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) captured the basic appeal of the protesters most concisely: 'Save Our NHS'.
An example of pro-NHS publicity
distributed during the march

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

RTUC - Flying a Banner for Reading Workers

RTUC Banner - the official unveiling at the delegates' meeting
After more than a year of discussion concerning design and production, the Reading Trades Union Council banner was officially unveiled at the RTUC delegates' meeting on 13 June 2018 - from a design finalised by Nick Hatton. Its obverse iconography represents a wealth of Reading history, with key workplaces such as the Royal Berkshire Hospital and Reading Railway Station (and, from the past, Huntley & Palmers' Biscuit Factory) keeping company with such Reading symbols as the Maiwand Lion, the memorial to the volunteers of the International Brigades and the Red Kite. Reading's proud symbols of struggle are also represented, with banners on display representing the Suffragettes, Pride and Peace. And foregrounding it all is the diverse Reading population - with persons from all ethnicities standing shoulder to shoulder, defending past victories and promoting a better future.

On the reverse, the banner pays a special homage to three pillars of the local labour movement - Thora Silverthorne, Ian Mikardo and Lorenzo ('Len') Quelch.

The reverse detail during the May Day march
Thora was a volunteer nurse in the Spanish Civil War, caring for the fallen heroes of Spanish democracy under the auspices of the Spanish Medical Aid Committee and in so doing becoming a hero herself. On her return to Britain, she was instrumental in founding an independent trade union for nurses - the National Nurses Association - and as a paid employee of the Socialist Medical Association, through which she lobbied for the creation of the NHS in the 1940s.

Ian was the Labour member of parliament for Reading/Reading South (1945-59). Although never a cabinet minister, he did chair the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries and had stints as Chair of the Labour Party and Chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party.

Len started his career as a trade unionist, serving as Secretary of the Berkshire Branch of the English Land Restoration League and being active in the Agricultural and General Workers' Union. He was also seconded to Gibraltar for a period, reorganising the Coal Porters' Union. In politics, he was a Reading Borough Councillor from 1914 to 1937, being elevated to the Aldermanic Bench from 1933 to 1937.

Heading Reading's May Day march
Although officially unveiled on 13 June, the RTUC banner had already made two public appearances by that date: on 7 May it headed the annual Reading May Day march through the town, with RTUC President Chris Reilly (RMT) leading the way; and on 7 June the banner was flown outside the Reading Town Hall, while BBC Question Time was being filmed, as part of a vigil for Palestinian victims of Israeli aggression.
The RTUC banner on display at the vigil for Palestine