Sunday, April 29, 2007

Hazel Goes Nuts After Online Shop is Pulled

It hasn't been a good week for my little chipmunk, Hazel Blears. Today she was way behind in a YouGov poll on who should be Labour Deputy leader, and it has now emerged that her online shop has had to be closed down after it was revealed that the NUTS ABOUT HAZEL T-shirts could be linked to a Bangladesh factory disaster in 2005. This is from the Press Association...

Ms Blears said she was urgently investigating suggestions the supply chain for the garments could lead to a firm linked to the disaster in which dozens of people were killed and when the factory building collapsed in April 2005. She also pledged to donate cash to a fund for victims' families and demanded "swift answers" from the supplier over the alleged links as her campaign team
threatened to urge its other customers to mount a boycott until assurances were
provided. Spreadshirt - who supplied garments for the website - was a "highly
reputable and award winning on-line supplier", a statement on hazelblears.com
said. However, one of the items it supplied came from Bangladesh via B&C/The
Cotton Group which, the website statement said, had been a customer of Spectrum,
the firm which operated the factory.

An "angry and upset" Ms Blears took immediate action in a bid to limit any political fallout from the claims with the formal battle to succeed John Prescott expected to begin shortly. A range of merchandise such as "Nuts for Hazel" T-shirts, "Hazel Beers" beer mats and mousemats featuring Ms Blears in her biking leathers have been the subject of much Westminster discussion. She said: "It has been brought to my attention that one of the T-shirts available on my deputy leadership campaign website can be sourced up the supply chain to a company linked to a tragic disaster two years ago at the Spectrum Factory in Bangladesh. I am investigating this claim with some urgency. I am angry and upset at any suggestion that a company my campaign is using might be unethical in any way. My online campaign shop is supplied by www.spreadshirt.co.uk which appears to be a reputable company." She said that as well as suspending the shop section of the site, she had written to Spreadshirt and would be contacting some of the company's other clients. "I shall be making a personal donation to the families affected by the Spectrum disaster two years ago," she said, adding that she would also ask a campaign volunteer who was visiting Bangladesh in the near future to meet with representatives of the workers.


The word 'rattled' springs to mind.

27 comments:

tom_r said...

What a shame. The t-shirt idea comes back to haunt her. Sounded like a really innovative campaigning idea to me.

Then again, Hazel's innovative idea of setting up a Facebook group slightly backfired as well, didn't it Mr Dale!!

Laurence Boyce said...

What a kind soul Hazel is. Perhaps best not to tell her that her government is “linked” to the death of 655,000 Iraqis. She might get really upset.

Chuck Unsworth said...

'Rattled' is certainly it. Her performance on 'Any Questions' the other day was astoundingly awful. 'Rattled' to the point of raving incoherence.

And to think that this chipmunk is in such an exalted position.

She's in urgent need of major medical intervention.

Colin who hates Hazel said...

Firstly I'm not a fan of the chipmunk, having seen her shiny happy face on Question Time more odften than is good for me.

But the post raises a question about how far personal responsibility goes. I guess that most of know that any promotional tee-shirt is most likely made in some godforsaken sweatshop in Asia or elsewhere. And there was a story quite recently about clothing from GAP.

So - when we buy cheap clothing from places like GAP, Marks and Spencers, John Lewis, Primark and the like, should we diligently enquire how much the workers who produce the garment are paid? Whether they work in safe and healthy circumstances?

The same applies to workers producing cheap food imported from other countries - were the strawberries you bought from the supermarket this weekend picked by workers on an acceptable wage? working acceptable hours? in reasonable conditions? Answer - almost certainly not.

In our hearts we all know that working conditions in these countries are way below anything we would consider acceptable.

But - that's the market. As long as we put price the top of the list for these 'commodity items' we create the demand these suppliers fulfil. And that creates the jobs they have.Whever therte's a supplier-led scandal, the retailers always plead ignorance, feign innocence and 'hold an inquiry'. Whereas, in the real world, we know fine well that their buyers have negotaited prices which pin their balls to the floor. (Just ask the dairy farmers ...)

Where does this leave us? Piggy in the midle, driven by our greed for cheap goods at all costs, and wracked, momentarily, by our consciences.

Then we start squabbling over our Anna Hindmarch China-sourced cotton shopping bags on e-Bay.

No, the bottom line is that this is a non-story. Or, it is a story in which we are all complicit. So, much as I despise and detest the chipmunk, and think her silly reaction of firing off angry letters and 'demanding' swift replies (as if anyone cares enough ..) is merely self-serving and aimed at getting brownie points among the pathetic nu-lab drones, I can't see that is is something that she, herself, can reasonably be held to account for.

Pity really. She really is a stupid woman, seemingly never happier when defending the indefensible conduct of this corrupt and incometent government with her shiny face and bad haircut thrust coquettishly at the camera(that's enough rant, ed).

Anonymous said...

Laurence Boyce said...
What a kind soul Hazel is. Perhaps best not to tell her that her government is “linked” to the death of 655,000 Iraqis. She might get really upset.

Excellent point, Laurence, well said.

Auntie Flo'

Anonymous said...

From the Home Office website on what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Prior to an emergency situation:

"At work, know your staff and suppliers"

Not so easy to follow government guide lines in a globalised market place, is it Hazel?

I would, however, have expected a minister like you to have ample resources to make the relevent checks.

If an SME had made the cock up you appear to have made we'd be pilloried and probably fined by you and your government.

So why should you, a government minister with substantially more financial and information gathering resources than the average SME has, be treated as a special case and let off the hook?

Auntie Flo'

The Hitch said...

Re laurence boyce

Maybe she could send all the unsold T shirts (there must be hundreds) and other TAT to Iraqi orphanages ?

That way she could be seen to be doing the decent thing.
Just thinking of all those parentless little rascals running about in their "Im nuts about Hazel" T shirts brings a tear to my eye

verity said...

Con Who Hates Hazel writes: "But the post raises a question about how far personal responsibility goes. I guess that most of know that any promotional tee-shirt is most likely made in some godforsaken sweatshop in Asia or elsewhere."

"Godforesaken" because it's not in the West? Rather ethnocentric, aren't we?

Are you saying these people should not have the opportunity to better themselves? Are you saying that Nike et al would still manufacture in SE Asia if they had to pay what they would pay a skilled workforce in the West?

You think everyone thinks like people in the West. Newsflash: Even people in the West don't all think alike. Probably, everyone on your street doesn't think alike.

In Jakarta, and Manila, and many other less developed places in SE Asia, there are mountainous rubbish dumps. Because all the rubbish is dumped together, vegetable matter composts, making them extremely hot. So hot they burn the soles of the feet of the children whose job it is to help support the family by scavenging through these mountains of garbage every day of their little lives. They may find an old comb. They may find a glass that someone has thrown out. A blouse that can be maybe laundered and sold. A pair of sandals that their father might be able to repair and sell.

The kids' brothers and sisters are trawling through the gutters and sidewalks, looking for dropped coins of any denomination. Perhaps a discarded matchbook with a few matches left in it that can be sold one by one.

This has always been their lives. Like all parents, they love their children and want a better life for them. But how? How to pull themselves out of the grinding poverty of barely scraping a daily existence?

Then the news that Nike is going to open a factory hits town and there are hundreds queuing for jobs.

For the lucky ones, being hired is like dying and going to heaven. For one thing, these factories, although small, are airy with open windows and jalousies to keep the sun out, and have ceiling fans. An undreamed of luxury. Not just out of the baking sun, but with a breeze! The company gives them rice and something for lunch. FREE FOOD! Unbelievable! Some of these factories have a doctor on the premises. No more spending days in the boiling sun creeping over a baking rubbish dump. A regular wage. No more grinding worry about how to buy rice tomorrow.

To patronising Westerners, be assured, these people aren't stupid. That one of them is in full-time, regular, guaranteed employment means children in the family can continue in school instead of being taken out to beg or scavenge.

Some of these factory workers' children are now going all the way through the school system and graduating from high school. Meaning, they are employable in steady work. Some are even going on to university.

How can you sneer at people like this and speak of them in such patronising tones? They make the choice to work in these factories based on how they can better their families. It is an intelligent, rational and far-reaching choice.

Try to force Nike and similar to pay wages similar to those in the West, and they will simply shut up shop and go home.

I don't know anything about the factory disaster in Bangla, but for the most part, these factories are very, very welcome in some poor countries in SE Asia and other parts of the world.

ContraTory said...

As "Colin who hates Hazel" says, this is a non-story. Hazel Blears did not deliberately engage a company that might have connections with a "dodgy" outfit. It would be interesting to learn who she was "grassed up" by, though. It was probably a supporter of one of the other deputy leader candidates. Clearly the deputy leadership contest is going to be a good, clean fight.

ilikeakehurstfanclub said...

What a shame! Especially after she had just secured the member for Rhondda Valley to model a pair of "Nuts about Hazel" pants - as featured on this scurrilous website.

Don't hide your nuts, show them for Hazel!

Colin who still hates Hazel! said...

Verity (8.09) doers not address the point that I was arguing - but raises another, very interesting point: to what degree is economic culturally blind - or do our fancy western ideas of 'ethics' and the rest make conventional economics 'institutionally ethnocentric'?

My point was really that this is a non-story: in terms of personal responsibility it is not practically possible to ensure the bona fides of every imported item taht we kight buy. I might have gone round the houses in making the point, but, in a (Hazel) nutshell, there it is.

I just wish that Verity wouldn't assume that I am 'sneering' and adopting 'patronising tones'. Her words personalise - and, I think, thus degrade - the discussion. There are indeed godforsaken places in the West, though, in the light of your comments, I hesitate to exemplfy them!

MayI assure you, Verity, that I had no intention of sneering or patronising. However, I exempt from the above all words referring to the Chipmunk herself, who I think is (all too literally) beneath contempt. As I said before, these are all dilemmas which teh globalised marketplace places before us on a daily basis.

Now, nothing sneering or patronising in that post (Chipmunk excepeted) , I hope!

verity said...

Colin Who Still Hates Hazel - I certainly didn't intend to offend you. It's just that I find unthinking application of first world standards to the third world risible. One minute the West is complaining, 'are these people never going to be weaned from the aid tit?' and the next minute they're condemning Western factories offering basic jobs, on local salaries, in basic premises that are so eagerly sought there are queues of hundreds to get hired.

I think that unless we hear that a factory is employing slave labour, we should trust people to make the best choice for themselves as to whether to be employed by them. I really don't think the decisions that adults make for themselves in their own countries are any of our business.

Anonymous said...

what about reminding Hazel about the number of UK troops that have been killed in Iraq as well...

Colin Who Hates Hazel and all Her Nuts More Than Ever!! said...

I think that Verity and I may be in agreement. (I may yet die happy ...)

In any case, we've succeeded in moving the discussion on to something that is far more interesting than whether la Blears sourced some dodgy tee-shirts to further her doomed capaign for the sinecure of deputy leader.

There is indeed a delicate balance to be sought in how far - if at all - we seek to use our economic influence to affect the employment conditions of others in this increasingly globalised economy. Indeed, we have to be very careful not to sit too high on our horse for fear that even more jobs that have been to date located in the West are increasingly relocated to other economies whose workforces are rapidly acquiring skills and technology that we have hitherto regarded as our own preserve. In our eagerness to stand up for the rights of peoples we may regard as oppressed, we may be unwittingly creating an underclass - unskilled, unemployed, outbid - of our own.

jonathan hemlock said...

A very interesting discourse has opened up here, courtesy of Verity and Colin.

Some years ago, I was giving some technical advice to a person who wrote up the buyers' guides for a large (£2 billion +) UK retailer.

She told me that one of the problems they had was regarding the use of child labour in suppliers' factories.

A simple enough call, we might think, until you go to Africa where many children have been orphaned by Aids and have the choice of working in factories or starving.

Choice? Hmmm...

Perhaps, we in the West have too short a memory for our own Dark Satanic Mills and are too quick to judge other countries.

Well done Verity and Colin.

For once, I feel sorry for that little muppet, Hazel Blears - she didn't know what she was getting into.

verity said...

I would prefer always to listen to the suppliers and the market before politicians.

No one is forcing the Nike (I use this as a generic term, for convenience) worker into servitude. If he leaves, there are 100 behind him waiting for his job. He hangs onto his job through his own free will, for the sake of his family. They won't stay factory workers forever. If his wages manage to keep his children from having to quit school and scavenge or beg on the streets, those children will stay on long enough to get high school diplomas. A qualification! Beyond the wildest dreams of the previous generation.

They will qualify for a job in a shopping mall, perhaps, selling things in air-conditioning and with benefits like medical. And a paid holiday. Maybe one week a year, but a vast step away from the garbage mountain to which they would have been condemned to dig through for(a very short) life had a parent not been lucky enough to grab a job in a factory.

The same thing happened with us. Factory workers began to climb out of abject poverty within one generation. They got plumbing. They could afford to keep their children in school until at least 12, when they would be apprenticed to a trade.

My faith is in the market. Never governments. [I acknowledge, obviously, the role of the British government and the Royal Navy in ending the slave trade to N America, but this was largely in response to petitions, many of them signed with Xs, presented to Parliament by the British people. They were doing the will of the people.]

If Nike [used as a generic] exploits people in poor countries, the customers will respond and so will the shareholders. That's enough. We don't need picky-fingered, interfering governments who don't understand free trade because they have never been involved in it.

Indonesia is coming along OK because now, more children are able to stay in school, supported by parents who have jobs. More go on to university. It has a long way to go, especially regarding the legislature - as, sadly, does today's degenerate Labour government - but they're working on it.

It's not up to us to tell people in other countries how to live their lives.

jonathan hemlock said...

Verity:

You should have your own blog.

Much as many of us enjoy your postings here, there is a wider audience who should get a chance to read what you have to say.

Chuck Unsworth said...

Contratory:

"As "Colin who hates Hazel" says, this is a non-story. Hazel Blears did not deliberately engage a company that might have connections with a "dodgy" outfit. It would be interesting to learn who she was "grassed up" by, though. It was probably a supporter of one of the other deputy leader candidates. Clearly the deputy leadership contest is going to be a good, clean fight."

It's highly likely that Blears would spend considerable energy on finding out who 'grassed' - rather than establishing the ethical credentials of those that she placed her business with. So typical of the whole NuLab approach.

The real story is why, with all her legions of acolytes (sorry, advisors), she did not have this detail checked out. Her game is election to Deputy Leader at all (and any) costs. If she can't cover her arse (yes, difficult, I know) on this what sort of a Deputy is she going to make? Deputy Dog, maybe?

The Remittance Man said...

Auntie Flo kind of hits the nail on the head here.

It doesn't matter if so called cheap labour is beneficial to the labourers. And it doesn't matter whether and end user should take responisbility for the original source of any goods they buy. The fact is, were it a private business sourcing goods from "sweatshops" the lefties, including The Little Chipmunk, would be happily denouncing the management from the rooftops and urging us to boycott the evil capitalist exploiters.

Now, just because the stupid woman has been caught we get all the same excuses she would deride as irrelevant if they'd been made by say the MD of TopShop.

It's not the deed that is the damning indictment, it's the delicious irony that entertains and the downright hypocrisy that deserves our ire.

verity said...

The Remittance Man - You are right.

Anonymous said...

Where does Guido get his T-shirts?

Blears-valueless,mindless and entirely typical of NuLab MPs said...

Hazel Blears who is standing as DPM of a party who has lied and cheated at every opportunity, broken the law at every turn, sanctioned torture flights, entered an illegal war etc etc

What exactly was anyone expecting?

el Tom said...

"It would be interesting to learn who she was "grassed up" by, though"

Actually, it was the New Statesman. Nice try though.

adam said...

Hi everyone,

Spreadshirt believes the accusations leveled at one of our suppliers to be inaccurate. We’re happy to answer any of your questions about this, and would like thank Miss Blears for raising this question so that we may make our position on ethical manufacturing clear.

You can read our official comment on this here http://spreadshirtus.wordpress.com/2007/05/01/spreadshirts-statement-on-social-and-ethical-manufacturing-practices/

Thanks

Adam Fletcher,
Industry Ambassador,
Spreadshirt

Scott said...

For those interested I am currently (albeit slowly) compiling "ethical profiles" of a slew of suppliers in the t-shirt printing / promotional clothing industry. See here or more specifically here.

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