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The Morning Star hits the road

Editor RICHARD BAGLEY reports back from his whistlestop tour round Britain where he met and heard feedback from readers at five People’s Press AGMs

THERE’S no other newspaper quite like the Morning Star. Not just for its unique position as the world’s only socialist English-language daily, backing trade union, activist and policy struggles that put people first day in, day out.

It’s also a member of Co-operatives UK, the umbrella organisation that brings together around 6,000 co-ops across Britain.

In fact many remain ignorant, or wilfully overlook, the fact that while the Morning Star’s editorial line may be guided via an annual democratic endorsement of Communist Party of Britain strategy document Britain’s Road to Socialism — an argument for a popular trade-union-centred alliance to challenge economic rule by big business, global finance and their Establishment backers — the paper is in fact a co-op owned by its readers for its readers.

And it has been the case for decades.

The diversity of content and opinions that appear on the Morning Star’s pages reflect the breadth of our ownership and the role that the paper plays as the chronicler of organised labour and the left — often a lone voice reporting the stories that other media refuse to touch.

That means that every year our broad spectrum of readers, including Labour Party members and Greens, trade unionists and activists of all shapes and hues, have a chance to table resolutions, elect the paper’s management committee and make their voice heard.

Our five-day, 1,000-mile roadshow has traditionally swept into Birmingham and on to Glasgow, then down to Leeds before heading to Cardiff and our final destination in London.

It’s gruelling, yes. But it’s an essential part of the democracy that ensures that the Morning Star is a paper like no other.

It was fantastic to see young bedroom tax activists join our co-operative and attend the AGM in Cardiff for the first time.

In Scotland we had a senior Scottish TUC representative in our ranks.

In London one of the longest-serving veterans of our movement made the journey to the historic Bishopsgate library — Battle of Cable Street anti-fascist Max Levitas, who had reached the spritely age of 99 days earlier.

And while many praised the Morning Star for an improvement in quality over recent years, there was also robust but constructive criticism from the floor.

A resolution tabled by the National Assembly of Women urged the paper to include more content for and by women, and more images too.

Shareholders backed the position, endorsed by the paper’s management, near unanimously.

The Morning Star has made some steps forward in the past year towards addressing the issue, but we know that there is much more to do.

Scottish readers put up their own resolution calling for front pages to be more carefully selected with the whole of Britain in mind — and at our Glasgow AGM bemoaned a sometimes London or Anglo-centric approach.

Events in the news will not always respect those wishes, but the point is undoubtedly correct — the more striking and resonant our front pages with people in our diverse communities, the more likely it is that potential readers will be drawn to them.

Another management committee endorsement, another near-unanimous vote.

 

But dangerous underrepresentation of working-class people in political life was the most controversial issue of the tour — with readers arguing whether a resolution on the matter represented a call for the Morning Star to endorse a break with Labour.

Not so, said those who had put forward the position. But the Morning Star should create a space for debate on such a crucial subject — just how do we ensure more working-class representation?

The proposers won out, with a 91 per cent vote in favour.

Finally the People’s Press Printing Society’s redoubtable secretary Tony Briscoe left a lasting impression on audiences and the paper’s future alike, delivering an emotional farewell and proposing a sweeping rewrite of the PPPS co-op’s rules to bring them into line with changing law.

This was not a call to turn the paper into something unrecognisable, he explained, but an opportunity to reinvigorate the co-operative nature of the paper in its 85th birthday year.

The outcome will be presented to readers in the next 12 months before a vote at next year’s AGM.

And as for retirement, he promised: “I’ll still be at the AGM next year — just as a reader.”

So the new rules are guaranteed fine-tooth-comb scrutiny by a man who has done so much to keep the Morning Star on track this past decade and more.

 

 

COMPANY secretary Tony Briscoe’s departure from the paper on July 26 after 13 years prompted a heartfelt tribute from People’s Press Printing Society chair Bob Oram.

Saluting a heroic stint during testing times at the paper, Oram also highlighted Briscoe’s record as a then Thompsons solicitor during the great 1984-5 miners’ strike.

NUM pickets across the north-east of England faced trumped-up charges and fierce prison terms.

Briscoe, as part of the team of lawyers who stood by their side to resist the state’s vengeance, became legendary for his dogged pursuit of justice.

And readers across the five-stage AGM saluted his equally dogged contribution to the paper, regaling him with gifts including a pewter quaich — look it up — from Dumfries Readers and Supporters Group, as well as literature, art and malt whisky.

The latter, from the Morning Star Scottish Campaign Committee, came with strict instructions not to open until his retirement.

Barring Armageddon they can rest assured that Briscoe, ever a stickler for the rules, will do exactly as instructed.

 

IT WAS heartening on the road to see the growing response of readers to the Summer of Heroes appeal.

In north-west England, the young heroes behind the annual Kinder Scout sponsored walk are already pressing on with their next project — a musical fundraiser at the Glossop Labour Club on July 27. Contact j.hallsworth@mcr1.poptel.org.uk for details.

In Cardiff came news of a barbeque and another Morning Star sponsored walk — a tradition that, we are told in the spirit of friendly competition, began in Wales and spread north to Manchester.

Remember — this appeal is about raising vital funds for new technology as well as a fun way to get more people involved with the Morning Star.

Behind the scenes new members of staff and our technical team are working furiously to build a solid bedrock from which we can develop and grow in our 85th year.

Without a Summer of Heroes success, those plans will be severely hampered.

Contact our campaigns organiser David Peel via campaigns@peoples-press.com to get involved too.

 

ONE resolution that didn’t get past shareholders asked the Morning Star to put on an international conference this autumn.

The management committee explained that it was impossible in practical terms.

But the paper’s growing collaboration with European dailies, first reported in the Star in January, offers a tantalising glimpse of what could be done in years to come.

 

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