A4/A3/Large poster version pdf: Steve-Norman-poster.pdf
By The Bristol Blogger
I first came across Steve Norman in late 2004. Ian Bone, then editor of The Bristolian, called one evening: “You’ve got to meet Steve Norman and Andy Richardson. Top geezers! They’re running a campaign directly with the elderly and learning disabled to save their daycare centres, which are being shut down by the council.
“The protests are crazy. You’ve never seen anything like it. Steve was quoting Martin McGuiness’s ‘Armalite and ballot box strategy’ to me. They’re doing a protest next month outside the Council House. Make sure you get there.”
So that’s how I found myself outside Bristol’s Council House on a crisp January morning in 2005 at some protest to save something I didn’t know much about. Although that was about to change because Bone was right, I’d never seen anything quite like this before.
A protest over council cuts in those days would usually consist of eight – maybe ten – well-meaning socialists brandishing a few crappy placards and a fake petition for the public to sign. Maybe they’d be accompanied by someone flogging a badly written newspaper listing the crimes of the Labour government alongside an urgent plea to join their marginal socialist sect.
This protest consisted of about 20 elderly and learning disabled people accompanied by Andy and – as the public ringmaster-in-chief with a megaphone in hand – Steve. However, the genius of this protest didn’t lie with Steve’s quickfire Bristolian epithets aimed at various social service bosses and out-of-touch Labour councillors but with the 20-odd extremely vulnerable elderly and disabled people who were very, very slowly trooping across the pelican crossing on Park Street directly outside the Council House.
When a protestor finally made it to the other side, they would press the button to cross again and wait for the ‘green man’ pedestrian light. Meanwhile, the other nineteen would continue their ramshackle progress across Park Street. By the time they all finally reached one side, the green man appeared, allowing them to troop across the road all over again!
Few cars were going anywhere that morning. Traffic chaos engulfed the heart of the city directly outside its notional seat of power and there was fuck all anybody could do about it! Motorists might be fuming but they were hardly going to get out of their cars and start threatening a load of vulnerable adults, some with zimmer frames, others in wheelchairs.
The police arrived, mildly (and not very realistically) threatening arrests. Only to be told by Steve they would require full risk assessments and specialist lifting equipment before they attempted to remove anyone in a wheelchair into a police vehicle. The police seemed to accept this logic and drifted away to do something more useful or, maybe, they were trying to find their equalities policy and a disabled access police van with a wheelchair lift? (Steve knew perfectly well that the Avon & Somerset Police had no such vehicle in service. Police were therefore unable to arrest or legally remove wheelchair using protestors).
Meanwhile, the target of the protests, Bristol’s councillors and senior council officers remained hiding behind closed doors. Not one of them daring to venture the few metres outside to meet with their own vulnerable service users on a chilly January morning. Stephen McNamara, the council’s legal boss and town clerk, then at the height of his high camp wig-wearing “Look-at-me-I’m-a-very-important-man-I-am” phase, was even stationed in the lobby of the Council House to personally prevent any of his vulnerable adult service users accessing the toilets!
The protest broke up after a couple of hours when council transport arrived to return the service users to Lockleaze Day Centre for their lunch. Steve and Andy invited me to come to a ‘Campaign to Save Daycare in Bristol’ meeting.
These meetings happened most Thursday evenings in a back room at the – now – sadly demolished Wedlocks pub at Ashton Gate. From this disorganised ragbag of vulnerable service users, carers, political activists and anyone else who showed up – sort of led by Steve and Andy often with their heads in their hands – a ‘spring offensive’ of actions was devised and launched.
This offensive kicked off on the 1 March at the annual budget meeting of Bristol City Council. A meeting flooded with the elderly, disabled and their carers. So many attended that wheelchairs lined the length of chamber and a victory came early when it was announced that Labour’s piss weak and wimpy council leader, Peter Hammond, had thrown a sickie and his long-suffering deputy, Helen Holland, would be standing in for him. Lib Dem Councillor Simon Cook, that year’s Lord Mayor, provided further amusement prior to the meeting when he agreed to depart from tradition and let the public speak at a budget meeting “as long as you don’t mention Hitler”.
Helen managed to mumble through almost five minutes of her boss Hammond’s odious justification for cuts to the city’s most vulnerable at the height of an economic boom for the rich when the council chamber descended into chaos and the budget meeting – as planned by the council – ground to a halt. Kicked off by a single carer interrupting her speech and loudly accusing Helen “of trying to fucking kill me” in 2003, the Hitler speech was soon rolled out by another protestor as councillors, the Lord Mayor and town clerk, McNamara, resplendent on his throne in his absurd judges wig, were aggressively heckled into silence.
A full blown retreat by councillors from the chamber soon followed when Steve and Andy handcuffed themselves to a rail in the public gallery and McNamara was confronted with the reality that he had lost all control of his own council meeting and had no means of restoring order. He had no clue how to remove the handcuffs from Steve and Andy and couldn’t use his security to throw out any other protestors. Even he understood manhandling any vulnerable adults he was legally responsible for protecting out of his building might end badly.
The people had seized the council chamber and the Lord Mayor, councillors and highly-paid administrators from the UK’s eighth largest city were cowering from vulnerable adults in a back room unable to set a legal budget for the city. Mission accomplished.
Many of the “spring offensive” actions have now taken on a near mythical status. Not least, the Friday afternoon of March 18 2005 when twelve service users occupied their own day centre in Lockleaze after some of them handcuffed themselves to rails and refused to leave at the end of the day. Steve, Andy and friends remained outside all night, supporting the occupiers – and thwarting the plans of council staff, who had to remain on site to “protect” service users, to starve out the occupiers – by pushing fish and chip takeaways through an open second floor window on long sticks.
The occupation created a huge amount of high profile coverage from the press, TV and radio. While the council’s daft PR man, Simon Caplan, invited open ridicule and more publicity when he helpfully explained, from the front page of the local newspaper, that the protest “served no useful purpose”. Except introducing the daycare campaign to new audiences across the city through headline coverage on every available local news platform!With the wind in their sails, the campaign moved on to even more logistically complex protests. Within hours of the announcement by Tony Blair of the 2005 General Election on April 5, Steve and a number of protestors with major mobility problems had occupied the Labour Party’s first floor South West HQ on Portland Square with an ITV News camera crew in tow!
On May 3 2005, just days before the election, Steve and protestors targeted hundreds of bank holiday customers at @Bristol. Many of these punters were less-than-impressed that the learning disabled and the frail elderly were having to take the streets to campaign to keep their own services. Bristol’s Labour boss for social services, Robin Moss, however, insisted to reporters that the daycare protests were “political stunts”. Although the real political stunt arrived just a few days later when Moss was unceremoniously dumped out of his Easton council ward by the Lib Dems while his party was similarly dumped out of power in Bristol, again, by the Lib Dems.
Steve, Andy and the protestors weren’t done yet and continued putting pressure on the new Lib Dem administration that had promised a review of daycare services during the election. On June 6 2015, the group appeared on College Green directly outside the Council House for the day with a series of 10ft-high placards directly naming seven council officers under a large headline: “Bristol social services’ list of uncaring professionals”.
This produced an aggressive response from town clerk and part time Council House toilet attendant, Stephen McNamara. “If necessary,” the wannabe tough guy thundered from the pages of the Evening Post, “the council will take legal action through the courts to prevent any such activity. The council will not tolerate its employees being harassed in this way.”
Steve loved these kind of threats from puffed up bureaucrats. “This campaign will not be bullied by city council legal mumbo jumbo and empty threats,” he replied in the same article. While he told the BBC, “I would love a legal action for the publicity”. That same day, Steve publicly forwarded his name and address to McNamara, inviting him to take immediate legal action. Steve was only too happy to see this – or any other – pompous old fool, who habitually made the law up to suit the interests of the powerful, in a proper court where the real law would apply.
When Steve, predictably, received no response from McNamara, he borrowed a flat-bed truck and on June 11 2005 spent the day humiliating the council by driving around the city centre, followed by a convoy of the press, parading his ten foot placards publicly shaming the same seven council employees all over again.
And the council’s response? Immediate legal action? Police? Arrests? Injunction? ASBO? Er, no, unconditional surrender and an invitation to Steve and the protestors to immediately attend talks with the Lib Dems to try and settle the dispute. Within weeks of these talks, the Lockleaze Day Centre was officially saved and the campaign drew to a close.
Steve went on to fight many more battles after this one. But the basic template of the ‘Armalite and ballot box strategy’ altered little: use persistent and high profile PR-friendly direct action ignoring all police and legal threats from weak and desperate politicians until the useless fuckers surrender. And they always will.
Today, the Bristol Labour Group’s Lord Mayor, Jeff “CUNT” Lovell, called people protesting his Labour Group’s right wing £100 million cuts budget “A DISEASE”!
Oh dear. Well, at least they’re not an extreme right wing cunt like Lovell is. After all, which end of the political spectrum is associated with trying to dehumanise their opponents?
We’ll give you a clue Lord Mayor Cunt … It ain’t socialists, it ain’t social democrats. In fact it’s nobody on the left of politics at all. Ever.
The bigger question here is why the hell is there an extreme right winger not only in the Bristol Labour Group but leading and promoting them?
Are they all Nazis? Or do they just tolerate references to the the Untermenschen in their ranks for a quiet life?
With thanks to Ms K J Bailes
THREE PEOPLE NOBODY’S EVER HEARD OF CONDEMN CONFECTED SHOCK IMAGE AS, ER, SHOCKING IN USELESS RIGHT WING RAG EVERYONE KNOWS IS FULL OF CRAP!
The Nazi Post has kindly published our hugely successful ‘Best Cut of All‘ front cover and poster so it can reach a wider audience. It’s published today under the excellent, if inaccurate, headline, “Anti-cuts campaigners condemn ‘disgusting’ image of Bristol mayor Marvin Rees”.
The article features a few random nobodies from West Bristol – that the Post apparently found on Facebook and rebranded as “ANTI-CUTS CAMPAIGNERS” – who helpfully consented to condemning our artwork in the local yellow press. This is presumably so we can all have a good laugh at the Post’s expense?
Meanwhile, actual, real, anti-cuts campaigners from Bristol’s local anti-cuts group, BADACA, didn’t, er, condemn anything at all! Do we have a new media phenomena? FAKE CAMPAIGNERS?
Full article here: ***WARNING*** This link contains shocking bullshit: http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/anti-cuts-campaigners-condemn-disgusting-image-of-bristol-mayor-marvin-rees/story-30135187-detail/story.html#ipHBqQfKVokBpzXc.99
In case you care, the quote the from us that the Nazi Post won’t print said, “Could you tell Mike Norton he’s a cunt and we wouldn’t mind putting an axe through his Tory head?”
A word from the circulation department:
“We’ve had quite a good response from the street to this issue and only had one ‘negative’ – which was really more in the realm of worry about displaying the front cover rather than an objection to it per se. Even this hitch was overcome.
“Laughter or a shrug is the more common response.
“On the positive side we’ve already had two sell outs requiring re-stocks, and two places wanting our number in the anticipation of demand for more. A punter in one of the delivery venues shook our hand and said ‘I just love this paper – it’s straight from the heart with two fingers up to PR bullshit – I’ll show all my friends.”
The BRISTOLIAN is on the streets NOW!
We have an early entrant for our IDLE SELF-PUBLICIST COUNCILLOR of the year award. Please step forward Labour’s councillor for Windmill Hill, “Lazy” Lucy Whittle.
LIVID RESIDENTS of Windmill Hill and Totterdown – fuming over her and her politically ambitious colleague Jon “SPADstic” Wellington’s top secret plan to build a bloody great ROAD through their beloved Victoria Park – were desperately emailing Lazy Lucy in December only to be greeted by an out of office message.
“Thank you for contacting me, I am currently on SICK LEAVE but expect to be able to return to work within a few weeks, hopefully at the end of December,” bleated Lucy.
Fair enough. We all get ill and can’t work. But wait! What should pop through residents’ doors in late December/early January but a copy of the South Bristol Voice newspaper featuring a ‘Your councillors’ column written by none other than LAZY LUCY, merrily wittering away, without a care in the world, about the awfulness of the cuts she’ll be voting to implement this year.
What type of STRANGE ILLNESS is this that afflicted Lazy Lucy over the Christmas holidays? Too ill to reply to residents’ emails but well enough to write an article promoting herself and taking advantage of free PR in the local freesheet? Truly, an extraordinary condition.
Lazy Lucy and sidekick, SPADstic, may be trying to avoid residents after they supported a SECRET three month public consultation by cycling and concrete charity, Sustrans, into the so-called ‘Filwood Quietway’ through Victoria Park.
This is basically a plan – going to a planning committee next week – for a FIVE METRE WIDE ROAD for cyclists to SPEED through the park on. And, despite Lazy and SPADstic’s comprehensive three month consultation over the summer, virtually no residents knew anything about it!
Unless, that is, they happened to wander into a BICYLE REPAIR GAZEBO in Victoria Park on the afternoon of Wednesday 31 August or they were invited to a few mysterious PRIVATE, invitation-only meetings with the mendacious pair of Labour councillors and Sustrans’ posh engagement manager, Anais “Nincompoop “Leger-Smith.
To add INSULT TO INJURY, Lazy Lucy even used her South Bristol Voice PR column in October to discuss her road-through-the-park plan in vague terms, telling residents, “we are really interested in what the community thinks. So do let us know your thoughts,” a week after the consultation CLOSED!
Lazy Lucy also gave the road Labour’s SUPPORT in her column, telling residents, “[SPADstic and I] see this as an improvement to Bristol’s cycling infrastructure that will bring benefits to communities along its route.”
Now SPADstic, apparently alone and abandoned by sickly Lazy Lucy, and desperate to salvage his six-month car crash career is attempting a REVERSE FERRET at the kind of furious speeds cyclists will soon be doing across his local park.
As hundreds of objections pour in from residents – as they finally find out about the road SPADstic forgot to tell them about – SPADstick is desperately issuing VAGUE and PISS WEAK promises to support the residents he deliberately sidelined and ignored during the three month consultation.
Too little; too late we say. Why did Lazy Lucy and SPADstic DELIBERATELY allow this plan get to a planning committee before telling residents? And why – if their consultation with Anais NIncompoop from cycling’s concrete kings – has been such a comprehensive listening exercise, are HUNDREDS of residents and every community group and school in the area UP IN ARMS about it?
The plan needs to go back to the drawing board and these idiot councillors need to apologise to their residents for their appalling conduct and start doing their jobs properly. Or else.
The explosive state supported corporate poisoning of Avonmouth continues. See Bristolian #29 in November for the latest news on the neighbourhood city bosses like to forget
With the occupation at 44 Richmond Terrace apparently winding down, it’s time to start asking some QUESTIONS about decisions regarding the occupation taken by by Bristol City Council.
Specifically questions about what senior bosses at Bristol City Council – who have just been awarded pay rises of up to 20 PER CENT to reflect their ‘expertise’ – have been up to.
To the untrained, non-corporate eye, their decision-making over Richmond Terrace has been consistently CRAP. Why did a group of highly paid ‘strategic managers’ have no strategy whatsoever throughout this whole occupation?
Instead the bosses seem to have staggered from one short term RANDOM DECISION to the next. Either based on Service Director Nick Hooper’s well-known PERSONAL DISLIKE of occupier, Steve Norman, or they have responded to events on the ground as they happened. All the precise opposite of what we’re over-paying these clowns to do.
The fact is the bosses directly responsible – Service Directors Nick “Drooper” Hooper and Mary “Contrary” Ryan and Strategic Director Alison “Three Jobs” Comley – on a combined income of around £310k per year – have been thoroughly OUTFOUGHT, OUT THOUGHT and OUT RUN during the last six weeks by a band of Bristolian activists.
Is this trio of useless twats really the best Bristol City Council can offer to solve our housing crisis?
Here’s some of the questions that the council and its highly paid bosses need to start answering:
1. Why did the sale of 44 Richmond Terrace go ahead at all on 20 April hours after it had been occupied by protestors?
2. Why did both Bristol City Council and their auctioneers tell the buyer the house was “rumoured” to be occupied when Steve Norman had emailed housing Service Director, Nick Hooper, at noon on 20 April informing him he had occupied the house?
3. Why did no one at Bristol City Council visit and confirm if the house had been occupied or not on 20 April before proceeding with the sale?
4. Did Bristol City Council receive confirmed reports from the BBC on 20 April, prior to the auction, that the house had been occupied?
5. Why did Bristol City Council do nothing between 20 April – when the house was occupied and then sold – and 18 May – when the sale should have completed – to regain possession of the home?
6. After 18 May why did Bristol City Council not attempt to negotiate a solution to the occupation until 31 May, once they had dismally failed to evict the occupants after half an hour trying?
7. Why did Housing Service Director, Mary Ryan, visit the occupiers on 23 May claiming she was negotiating a solution with them while offering nothing?
8. Why did Bristol City Council not obtain an eviction order until 25 May, five weeks after the occupation had begun and one week after the sale should have been completed?
9. Why did the council take six days, from 25 May to 31 May, to attempt to evict the occupiers, giving the occupiers time to dig in and secure the house?
10. Why, when the council’s bailiffs visited on Tuesday 31 May, were they not aware the occupiers were on the roof of the house – and had been since Friday 27 May as reported on the BBC – and that a specialist team was required to remove the occupiers rather than the gang of thick, useless oafs they sent.
11. Despite repeated requests to Housing Service Director, Nick Hooper from April 20, why has he never supplied written evidence that Anthony Palmer was not entitled to extra housing priority as an ex-serviceman because he had left the services over five years ago?
12. Why was Anthony suddenly awarded this extra housing priority on 31 May without explanation?
13. Why was Anthony Palmer allowed to be harassed by staff from Connolly & Callaghan, the private owners of his homeless hostel, through regular checks on his whereabouts throughout the day?
14. Why was Anthony Palmer threatened with eviction if he did not stay at his shithole Connolly & Callaghan homeless hostel overnight? Is it a prison?
15. Why did housing Service Director, Nick Hooper, consistently disregard the advice of social services and health visitors in relation to the urgent housing need of Anthony Palmer?
16. Why did the details of 44 Richmond Terrace supplied on the Hollis Morgan website describe the house as requiring “complete modernisaiton” (sic) while the so-called ‘structural report’ produced by Bristol City Council on 25 May says the building has “structural damage”?
17. Who wrote the 224 word ‘structural report’ for 44 Richmond Terrace for Bristol City Council and when?
18. Was this ‘structural report’ sufficiently detailed and complete for a senior council boss to take the delegated decision to sell 44 Richmond Terrace?
19. Which manager at Bristol City Council took the decision to sell 44 Richmond Terrace?
20. Why did the council undertake renovations at 44 Richmond Terrace in the year prior to its sale?
21. Did the council offer the former tenant the opportunity to return to 44 Richmond Terrace earlier this year after the council had completed repairs and renovation?
22. Why did a council spokesman say on 25 May, “Costs to bring the property up to the standard we aspire to for council houses were estimated in excess of £35,000″ when the figure stated in the council’s own ‘structural report’ is £30,000?
23. Why had no one at the council been in touch with the buyer at any point to discuss the occupation of the home they had sold to her?
24. Why did the council tell the buyer information on the occupation was “confidential”. On what legal basis was it “confidential”?
25. Why was the buyer reliant on information regarding 44 Richmond Terrace from the media; from Richard Carey and Steve Norman occupiers at the property and from BBC Radio who had contacted her at various times? Why did the council not communicate with her?
26. Why did the council misrepresent the actual facts regarding the sale during pre-contract enquiries by the buyer?
27. Why had Marvin Rees not seen an email sent to him by the buyer on Thursday 19 May by Monday 30 May despite the sender receiving an automated acknowledgement from Marvin’s council email account? Who had seen that email and who withheld it from the mayor?
We anticipate no answers to these questions as the council, its staff and its councillors will now pour a lot of time, money and resources into defending at all costs the bent, overpaid deadbeats responsible.