Socialist Worker

Insuring gains from asbestos

Issue No. 1735

Robert Hardy was the chief executive of the Chester Street Insurance company, which recently went bust, leaving thousands of victims of killer asbestos dust stranded. Sickeningly, we now know Hardy got a 'success' bonus payment of £439,000 the year before the collapse.

Meanwhile thousands of former shipyard workers from Upper Clyde Shipbuilders in Glasgow are suffering from asbestos poisoning and may not receive full compensation from the insurers. They will be asking where the insurance money has gone. Robert Hardy may know. He got his bonus in 1999, bringing his pay for that year to £668,000, for selling off a subsidiary company, Iron Trades, for £175 million. But its books valued it at £222.5 million.

The man who took over from Hardy at Chester Street Insurance, Philip Grant, says the £47.5 million loss was 'not a discrepancy. The company was sold for the best price reasonably attainable.' It is hard to believe that the victims of asbestos, which can lead to lung disease 30 years after breathing it in, could be made to suffer more. The insurance companies which are supposed to compensate their suffering have shown there is no end to the pain big business can inflict.

Many anti-capitalist protesters gave rich delegates at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, a hard time in more ways than one last month. Computer hackers managed to get credit card details, mobile phone numbers and private addresses from 1,400 of the delegates to the conference. Among the victims were former US president Bill Clinton and Bill Gates of Microsoft.

Out to get me

The US state is so bananas about security that the CIA raided the homes of two Midlands schoolboys who sent an email from Britain to the White House. The two boys, as a practical joke, threatened to kill new US president George W Bush.

Labour's approach to any questions

If you thought that the coming general election would mean you got the chance to question your Labour MP about what the government is doing, you had better think again.

Labour campaign strategists have told candidates to restrict themselves to speaking to people for 30 seconds in Operation Turnout. Previous canvassers will have already screened out voters who oppose Labour's policies from the left.

And if you get past that, any tough questions on Labour's record on the NHS, education and attacking refugees will not be answered in your allotted time.

Sun is shining on the butcher Sharon

'Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Ariel Sharon is that man. More than ever, Israel needs a tough guy as its leader. It's all very well for liberals and our Arabist Foreign Office to snipe at Sharon for being a hawk. Who can blame him?'

This was how the Sun greeted the election of war criminal Ariel Sharon as the prime minister of Israel. The same paper took a slightly different line almost two decades ago after the massacre of around 2,000 Palestinians at the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatilla during Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

Sharon led the invasion, and his troops allowed Israel's allies in the fascist Christian Phalange to carry out the slaughter. Even an Israeli court found Sharon indirectly responsible, and he was made to resign from his position as defence officer.

'Babies were shot where they lay,' wrote Denis Ross in the Sun of 20 September 1982. Their parents were lined up against a wall for execution by Nazi-style firing squads. Older children were spreadeagled on the rubble of their homes-a bullet through the back of the head. Four doctors were killed with hand grenades when they emerged from a hospital carrying a white flag to appeal for an end to the slaughter. Relief workers were sickened when they saw the full extent of the holocaust yesterday.'

It's good to know that it's not just in cases of criminal injustice that the Crown Prosecution Service refuses to prosecute the police. It also lets ex-coppers off the hook in cases of minor corruption. During the fuel crisis last year, former detective Colin Eynon used a warrant card that he should have handed in when he retired in 1993 to claim priority and jump the queue. He was found out and charged. But the CPS let him off on 'medical grounds'.

Taking on the incorporation

A new book, Managing Activism: A Guide to Dealing With Activists and Pressure Groups, is a sign that the corporations are under pressure. It explains to corporations and governments how to deal with pesky activists who can 'cause severe damage to an organisation's reputation, sales, profitability and share price'.

It advises capitalists to 'get to know the enemy', and then attempt a 'proactive strategy of relationship building, negotiation and conflict resolution'. This book is all part of the way that corporations are trying to co-opt the movement into their structures by pretending to be fluffy while continuing to exploit people and destroy the environment.

Things they say

'The people that stand outside and say they work in the interests of the poorest people-they make me want to vomit.'
MIKE MOORE, head of the World Trade Organisation, makes clear his feelings about anti-capitalist protesters

'I was press officer and steering committee member [of the Anti Nazi League], and pulled in a lot of people who would not have touched the SWP with a bargepole. They were very impressive in their ability to generate leaflets and organise things almost overnight. They will certainly regard me as a betrayal merchant now.'
New Labour's premier betrayal merchant, ex Foreign Office minister PETER HAIN

'There is little evidence to suggest black Londoners should trust the Met. I don't think there's been any change impacting on the policing of London's communities since the Macpherson report.'
JENNIFER DOUGLAS, as she and three other black members resigned form the Metropolitan Police's independent advisory group

'You have to look at what they're doing in the prison service to see what is possible.'
STAN PACEY, education team manager for Capital Strategies, a private firm which is planning to run schools under New Labour's privatisation plans

'You've just announced that there are only 80,000 human genes and I've just done a deal with SmithKline Beecham. I've already agreed to sell them 100,000 genes. Where am I supposed to get the rest, you bastard?'
HEAD OF LEADING BIOTECHNOLOGY COMPANY to scientist Craig Venter as he saw his chance for increased profits disappear

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Article information

Inside the System
Sat 17 Feb 2001, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1735
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