Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2055

Health policy plastered by the booze industry

In the government’s new alcohol strategy document, published last week, we learn that levels of consumption are no longer rising, but have instead stabilised at among the highest in Europe.

So much for the much trumpeted “success” of previous policy.

The document extensively quotes research by the industry funded Portman Group. Why should we rely on the alcohol industry to provide information to the public on alcohol and health? Conflict of interest anyone?

The alcohol industry says it is in favour of a public consultation on pricing and promotion, suggesting that, “This review should collect the evidence before we can determine if any new restrictions are necessary.”

What rubbish. There is lots of undisputed evidence that shows that low prices increase consumption. A consultation will add nothing useful to this body of knowledge – it is simply an ingenious stalling tactic from the industry to protect its interests.

It is symptomatic of our spineless alcohol policy that this government has caved in to the industry again, despite the overwhelming evidence from experts who are not making money marketing potentially risky drugs to young people.

Steve Rolles, Transform Drug Policy Foundation

Government ministers who wanted to censure supermarkets’ low cost booze offers seem to have been forced into a hasty retreat after the drinks industry brought out their cask-strength PR machine.

This says a lot about how it is business first, workers’ health second.

Although the government’s initial attempts to limit consumption may seem like a healthy option, behind them lays a panic about the worsening news on alcohol misuse, particularly bingeing.

But attempts to cut heavy drinking by increasing prices would only provide short-lived reductions.

In the deprived communities where I work as a GP, changing the pattern of alcohol use would mean looking at the material conditions of people’s lives. Drink is merely a symptom, not the disease.

We live in a divided society with a widening chasm between the lives of the “haves” and the “have nots”. The culture of flexible hours (so beloved by New Labour) traps workers in a pattern of work where many look to alcohol for instant relief.

The fight for the well being of workers involves laying down a challenge to inequality, and, in the short term, urgently providing extra health and social resources to areas most affected by alcoholism – not taking away the only crutch many people feel they have left.

Gerard Reissmann, Newcastle

We need Remploy

I am afraid that Steve Leach (» Letters, 9 June) is trying to mislead Socialist Worker readers about Remploy. His suggestion that disabled people working at Remploy are “cocooned” is offensive.

We work a 35-hour week and get 25 days’ holiday a year. We still belong to an occupational pension scheme and have a trade union recognition agreement that is legally binding.

Mr Leach works as a project coordinator for Scope. Of the jobs that his organisation finds for disabled people, how many can boast of such terms and conditions?

Every Remploy factory has a learning centre, and our learning reps put workers through a variety of courses that provide real qualifications, which can be used in improving their lives.

At my factory in Swansea people have studied marquetry and other skilled woodworking processes. Some of our members can machine timber to within a thousandth of an inch.

Does that really sound like workers who are “cocooned”?

There are more and more examples of major employers sacking people on capability grounds.

And there are hundreds of cases of Remploy employees who have been persuaded to take up positions in other companies, only to be left high and dry when the host company dismisses them.

Remploy is failing because of the greed of its overpaid directors, not because the workers are “cocooned”.

Remploy directors have transformed the company from one that was set up to employ disabled people, into one that takes advantage of them.

In a perfect world Remploy wouldn’t need to exist as there would be no discrimination against disabled people.

Employers would know how to provide for the needs of disabled people and would welcome them with open arms.

But until we get to that point, we will need Remploy factories to help those with disabilities to enter the world of work.

Les Woodward, GMB shop steward and national convenor of the Remploy trade union consortium

It’s not difficult to take radicalism to work

A packed meeting at the Greater London Authority (GLA), where I work, on the subject of the threat of the BNP is an indication of how strongly people feel about the threat of fascism.

Front line staff were among the 50 or more Unison union members who filled the meeting. Many were anxious to discuss what we would do if any Nazi BNP members were voted in next year.

I reminded people that after a BNP member was elected to Tower Hamlets council in 1993, trade unionists walked out in protest.

We all agreed that we should not have to work with Nazis – elected or otherwise, and reiterated our policy to take industrial action, if necessary, should any member of staff be disciplined for refusing to cooperate with the BNP.

At the GLA we are attempting to re-establish the tradition of political meetings at work.

Over 40 people came to a Stop the War meeting last month to hear speakers from Military Families Against the War.

Now we are planning a forum on Latin America and the revolution in Venezuela.

Some readers might find the idea of organising similar meetings where they work a bit daunting, but the success of the meetings at the GLA is a result of a heightened political atmosphere that exists everywhere.

Beccy Palmer, East London

Postpunk politics: popular, but not pop

Anindya Bhattacharyya’s interview with Simon Reynolds (» Pop, politics, hip-hop and postpunk, 2 June) was too pessimistic.

Having played in overtly political bands for 24 years, I was part of the postpunk era and continued playing through the 1990s.

Today there are many musicians who celebrate a heritage of The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Redskins, and, dare I mention them, Crass.

The 1990s saw the anti-criminal justice bill movement, the Reclaim The Streets protests, and the striking Liverpool dockers’ marches to name but a few.

They all involved uniting cutting edge music with civil unrest.

Contemporary soundtracks – ranging from dub-folk-punk to hip-hop, to techno, and drum’n’bass – spurred them all on.

It’s not true to say there hasn’t been any radical music in the last 20 years, it’s more to do with the system having learnt a lesson from the mistake it made letting punk through the front door in the 1970s.

Just because the mainstream largely ignores political music doesn’t mean it is non-existent.

Craig High, Pembrokeshire

G8 shuts out voices of poor

I found your report on the police raids before the G8 summit in Germany very interesting (» Protesters defy police to rock the G8 leaders, 9 June).

It shows that when capitalist governments face a challenge they will use any measures to maintain their position.

The lack of democracy at the G8 means that the world’s poorest countries are shut out.

One response is the conference of poor nations being held in Mali (readers of French can get more info at »

That these nations are not represented at the G8 is evidence of how unequal and exploitative the economic and political relationships between developing and developed countries are.

Ben Kindler, Hong Kong

New Labour does Coke

It seems that New Labour has developed a split just weeks before Gordon Brown’s coronation.

Former health secretary Alan Milburn has just taken a lucrative job as an adviser to soft drinks giant Pepsi.

Yet fellow Blairite Douglas Trainer (former National Union of Students president and pre-election “special adviser” to Labour’s then Scottish first minister Jack McConnell) was recently on the books of Coca-Cola. He advised them on strategies for getting round the student boycott.

Where does Brown stand on the Pepsi/Coke split? I think we should be told.

Mark Brown, Glasgow

Cheap? No. Nasty? Yes.

The Homerton hospital in east London recently put the transport department, where I work, out to tender.

In April management told us that a private company had won the contract, and that they would be cheaper and quicker than us.

Needless to say this company isn’t cheaper, and certainly isn’t quicker.

Patients have been waiting up to four hours for transport home from hospital.

And patients who have been waiting for months for specialist appointments are losing them because their transport has failed to pick them up.

W Wrigglesworth, East London

Poisoned by bad blood

Thanks for the great coverage of the blood contamination scandal in the NHS (» NHS patients who contracted HIV through contaminated blood, 9 June).

I am an infected haemophiliac, and I would like to point out that I, like many others, did not receive blood from the US, where, as you point out, many blood products were obtained from prisoners.

Prisoners are at especially high risk of carrying HIV and Hepatitis C infections.

Instead the blood we were given was sourced from British prisons.

Against my wishes, in 1989 I was given the blood product BPL Factor IX. Within five months I was jaundiced and had Hepatitis C.

The question of infected blood products is not just an issue about blood from the US, it goes far deeper than that.

Oliver Carruthers, Hampshire

Two sides of same coin?

In her review of Histrionics by Roderick Buchanan (» Drawing out the poison of sectarianism in Scotland, 9 June) Beth Armstrong rightly states that the exhibition opens up the debate on the nature of sectarianism.

However, it is wrong to see Republicanism and Loyalism as two sides of the same coin. Republicanism is a response to British imperialism and oppression, while Loyalism supports that imperialism and oppression.

Sectarianism is part of the legacy of British imperialism in Ireland and has been a handy tool for the bosses to divide workers.

Colin Poole, Glasgow

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Tue 12 Jun 2007, 19:56 BST
Issue No. 2055
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