Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2133

Unite union members protest against legal aid cuts last year (Pic: Senan Mortell)

Unite union members protest against legal aid cuts last year (Pic: Senan Mortell)

Legal aid cuts hit poor

Around 35 members of the Unite union who work in advice centres lobbied the headquarters of the Legal Services Commission last month in a protest against cuts to Legal Aid.

The protest brought together workers from Shelter, the Refugee Legal Centre, law centres and tenants’ rights groups.

Cuts to Legal Aid mean that advice providers, most of who already work on a shoestring, will be paid even less for the work that they do.

The Legal Services Commission is moving from paying hourly rates to a “fixed fee” for each individual case, regardless of how much time is spent.

The result is that we are being pressured into spending less time on each individual’s case. At the same time, advisors are facing worse pay and working conditions.

This means that the poorest and most vulnerable people, who rely on free legal advice, will receive a worse service.

Those at the lobby rightly pointed out that, at a time when the recession means more people falling behind with debt payments and facing repossession of their homes, free legal advice is more important than ever.

At the best of times asylum seekers face a struggle to get proper representation. These cuts make the situation even worse.

Unite will be hosting a conference for workplace reps in the voluntary sector on 29 January to discuss the impact of the cuts and how we can organise a campaign against them.

Hopefully this can be the start of a national campaign on this issue.

Andy Jones, South East London

Get the police off our streets

I was shocked to see the police using metal detectors in a public place when I was walking through Liverpool city centre recently.

There was also a yellow “anti-social behaviour taskforce” mobile camera van patrolling the area.

Due to the relatively small size of the city centre, it was effectively under “lockdown”.

We should not allow our urban spaces to become places where the state can infringe on our civil liberties in such a stark manner.

Events in Greece, the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes, and the clampdown on anti-war and climate change protesters here, have all shown that the question of whose interests the police serve is an explicitly political one.

John Cooper, Liverpool

Questions to answer

As a retired police officer, who was once a firearms officer as well, I have naturally followed the Jean Charles de Menezes “slaying” with great interest (» Shot, then slandered and still no justice, 13 December).

All the information that has come to light shows that the command and control structure in place was diabolical.

There is still confusion as to whether the officers believed themselves to have been operating under rules outlined within Operation Kratos. Under this, “shoot-to-kill” is allowed without warning the “target”, if approved by the nominated senior officer and if there is a belief that this person is a potential suicide bomber.

In this case Commander Cressida Dick was the senior officer.

Ms Dick’s own loggist recorded, “It is him, the man is off the bus, they think it is him and he is very, very jumpy.”

The Coroner’s findings have left even more unanswered questions than before and will increase the distrust that specific communities already rightly have with the service.

Once upon a time the police were believed to conspire together to manufacture evidence against suspects.

Now it appears that officers only need to respond with different versions of an event and cause total confusion in order to deflect an accusatory finger being pointed at them.

I personally have the utmost empathy for the officers who undertook this disastrous operation, but justice is required.

This means that the service has to be held to account, and if necessary “heads must roll”. The apologies of Sir Ian Blair and now that of acting commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson are not enough.

When will the public demand the establishment of an independent investigation into this case where a totally innocent young man was ruthlessly gunned down?

The police service acknowledges concerns that others raise – but it is still appalling at acting appropriately, so others need to hold it to account.

Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera, Berkshire

The bank ‘sweeteners’ that leave a sour taste

Certain banks are attempting something of a charm offensive at present. Some say home repossessions will not be initiated until six months after falling into arrears.

Helplines and seminars are being arranged for small enterprises and “intensive care” units are being instituted for larger borrowers.

The Halifax bank is currently advertising “MoneySense Advisers” to advise customers how to make their meagre wages stretch to meet rising prices.

A cynic would say that if the banks had any money sense then they and the rest of us might not be in the current mess! We should not be fooled by a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

The full benefits of cuts in the interest base rate are still not being passed on to borrowers.

Millions have been overcharged by scandalous bank charges. The banks are refusing to restart meaningful lending to oil the wheels of the real economy. And thousands of bank workers are losing their jobs.

There is a business saying, “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”, but that doesn’t apply to the bank executives who have had their snouts in the troughs for years.

The charm offensive is merely a strategy to take the heat away from bank’s appalling behaviour in bringing down the economy through their greed.

RBS worker, Home Counties

How can we bring about revolution?

I am writing this letter as I am interested to see that you mention the word revolution in your manifesto.

Until recently I believed that a revolution wasn’t needed in Britain.

However, with the introduction of ID cards, privatisation of the benefits system and a media that not only supports government strategy but sensationalises their policies, I am beginning to feel that a revolution may be needed.

But there is a problem. If the people of Britain don’t want a revolution, where does that leave the Socialist Workers Party?

You cannot force a revolution upon people. If the people say no to a radical overhaul are we right to be forcing change against the people’s will?

Many people accept ID cards, are happy to have “terrorists” arrested without even hearing what they are being charged for and are happy to have a prime minister who wasn’t voted into office.

But how can socialists stand by and let this happen?

This is a big moral dilemma for me and I would be interested in what other people think.

L Hoyle, Manchester

Wrong about Che and Fidel?

You write about “the tension between Fidel [Castro] and Che [Guevara]” (» The inspiring life of a vibrant revolutionary, 20 December). What tension? What is your evidence for this?

There is nothing in the speeches and writings of the scrupulously honest and courageous Che that even hint of any such tension.

Nor does the best research on him, such as John Lee Anderson’s biography, bear out the existence of any such tension. On the contrary even in his last letters, Che acknowledges his debt to Fidel and the latter’s inspiring leadership.

As Che said, he was being loyal to Fidel’s example and doing what was denied to Fidel because of his responsbilities as Cuba’s leader.

Dayan Jayatilleka, Switzerland

Sack MPs that have failed us

Labour’s nasty attacks on benefit claimants are an insult to the sick, the maimed and the unemployed (»  Labour’s attacks on benefit claimants , 13 December).

Perhaps we, the working class, should use draconian measures when it come to MPs’ pay and expenses.

MPs are paid and employed by us to look after us.

So far they have made a complete mess out of it, so I, as one of their employers, think they should be sacked

Graham Jones, Port Talbot

Reject slur on the miners

ITV transmitted an episode of the Glasgow police series Taggart on Monday 15 December.

It featured the discovery of two skeletons in a derelict mineshaft.

The investigation “revealed” the bodies to be those of a “scab” and his wife, murdered for refusing to join the Miners’ Strike of 1984-5.

This is one more disgraceful slur on the memory of the striking miners – who fought not just for their own rights but for those of all workers in the country.

It is the latest in a long catalogue of smears that seek to portray the miners as a mob of homicidal neanderthals.

All socialists should contact Scottish Television to protest at this disgusting libel.

Keith Ackermann, Essex

Don’t line up behind state

Socialist Worker has carried articles about probation officers challenging privatisation. Why on earth do you support a key element of state oppression?

Probation officers are part of the state apparatus that demonises those who have fallen foul of the criminal justice system.

Probation officers also play an active part in recalling ex-prisoners who are on licence back to jail for the most trivial of reasons.

The current ethos of the probation service stinks.

Charles Hanson, Kent

More bigotry from the Pope

Pope Benedict XVI recently remarked about the need to “save humanity” from homosexual and transsexual behaviour.

This proves you can take the boy out of the Hitler Youth but you can’t always take the Hitler Youth out of the boy.

Sasha Simic, East London

Lapdancing: an ideal job?

I am not convinced that the average lapdancer is being manipulated into going into that profession (» A step in the right direction, 20 December).

To suggest that these girls can’t think for themselves is an insult to them.

It is positive that the GMB union represents lapdancers. But we should also appreciate that many people in this industry do so through free choice and are in fact exercising their own form of sexual freedom.

John McEwan, Lanarkshire, Scotland

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Article information

Tue 6 Jan 2009, 18:40 GMT
Issue No. 2133
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