Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2152

Hypocrites, fraudsters, gluttons and thieves

The ongoing MPs’ expenses scandal is in essence a reverberation of Labour’s outright capitulation to free market Tory ideology throughout its 18 years of opposition and 12 years of government.

As a result, rather than being a debating chamber for competing economic models, the House of Commons has evolved into a talking shop for big business and neoliberalism.

This might explain the real reason for the current economic downturn, as there was no socialist check within parliament on the lending practices of financial institutions that have assisted in crippling our economy.

Regardless of what emergency reforms are made to the system to try and allay public outrage, MPs will always be financially well rewarded by some means as long as politics is deemed a professional career rather than a vocational activity.

Nick Vinehill, Norfolk

The chutzpah of the MPs is breathtaking. Workers at my call-centre who are struggling to get by on as little as £7.50 per hour were enraged to learn that their so-called representatives are using their money to pay for such items as non-existent mortgages and the upkeep of their moats and tennis courts.

 With so many of our class joining the dole queue, and millions more worrying that they might join them, Tory MP Christopher Chope – with 2008 expenses totalling £136,992 – proposes a bill that would allow bosses to opt out of paying the measly minimum wage of £5.80 per hour.

Since he has been in his post, the works and pensions minister James Purnell – £20,000 tax cheat – has conducted a crusade against the poorest in our society. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) website invites us to “Report a cheat”.

The spoof of the DWP poster in last week’s Socialist Worker got a great response from my workmates. It would be great to see it turned into a poster.

It should also be mentioned that while Purnell has claimed £400 a month from the taxpayer for his groceries.

MPs Margaret Beckett and Menzies Campbell denied on Question Time that MPs could be compared to benefits cheats, and for once I would agree with them.

Benefit fraudsters are far more honourable, don’t cost as much and have done their porridge.

Call centre worker, North London

The integrity of Phil Hope MP was brought into question last week. Is this surprising news? Possibly not.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) tried tirelessly to engage with the MP for Corby & East Northamptonshire on the issue of Royal Mail privatisation, seeking his support in opposing the sell off.

He proved to be something of a slippery customer.

During a snivelling interview with the BBC, Phil – looking like a chicken that was about to be plucked – claimed the expenses scandal had been a “massive blow” to him and that he had “always worked hard to represent the views of his constituents with integrity”.

Have you Phil? Well we’ve seen no evidence of this.

When the CWU spoke with the people of Corby we found that, among the gargantuan number of his constituents that we spoke to, not a single one supported the proposition to sell off Royal Mail.

These views were relayed to Hope, yet he still declined to sign an Early Day Motion against privatisation and refused to go on the record to support the wholly public ownership of Royal Mail. He has ignored the will of his constituents.

At a time when Royal Mail is making record profits yet declining to offer its workforce a pay rise, and when overtime levels are almost non-existent, Hope is able to stump up nearly £42,000 with apparent ease.

MPs like Hope should try living on a postal worker’s wage for a week – it may give them the dose of reality that is clearly needed.

Gareth Eales, Deputy branch secretary Northamptonshire amalgamated branch Communication Workers Union

An MP’s annual salary is £64,766. The prime minister gets a salary of £194,250.

Despite this, a good many of our “representatives” think they can charge society for their gardeners, plumbers and cleaners, for their sink plugs, light bulbs, dog food, tampons, scatter cushions, plastic carrier bags, sky sports subscriptions – not to mention their second, third and fourth homes.

I wonder how many of these parasites have lectured the leaders of the Third World on the evils of corruption and the need for “good governance” or have attacked unemployed workers as “welfare dependent” or single parents as “scroungers”?

Sasha Simic, East London

The origin of humans

I have a few quibbles with your article on the origins of the human species (» Human evolution and the African Eve, 16 May).

First, “Homo erectus” was present outside of Africa before one million years ago. The eldest East Asian erect fossils have been dated to close to 1.8 million years and nearly as old early Erects, or Homo habilis, are known from Georgia.

The discovery of “Homo floresiensis” in Indonesia is leading many to consider the possible very early dispersion of hominins from Africa or even an Asian origin for the group.

Second, fire seems to have played a major role in improving the quality of food perhaps as far back as the early Erects. As the first tool distinctly different to anything produced by animals it deserves a special mention.

Third, ancient human remains are frequently associated with lake or river environments and it’s not improbable that waterside adaptations played a distinct role in speciating us from the Great Apes.

Something unusual is definitely needed to do so as tool-use of stone and branch is known among all the Great Apes, yet they weren’t propelled towards the human condition by labour, early technology or their social organisation.

Frederick Engels’ own remarks on human evolution are certainly a step up from the “Aristogenesis” ideas that stifled research into human evolution. But a lot more has been learnt since then, as he would’ve no doubt hoped would be.

Finally, coalescence times of various genes do not properly trace the multitude of changes that have occurred in human populations over time. Genetic change is continual and ongoing, even shaped by present day social forces.

Evolution hasn’t stopped and nor is social evolution divorced from genetic evolution.

Socialism needs to come to terms with the scientific study of human nature that is emerging before it can truly arrive in the 21st century. If Engels could see evolution being driven by what people do, then surely modern socialism can too.

Adam Crowl, Queensland, Australia

Fight for our views

Many of us are fed up of seeing, hearing or reading Nazi British National Party (BNP) filth without anybody challenging it on TV, radio or in the press.

Why isn’t Unite Against Fascism challenging these media to get space and time to put our message across?

If the answer is that we have a policy of no platform for Nazis then this is wrong in cases where we cannot control the agenda.

In public meetings or union events, of course, we tell the BNP to get lost. But we do not control the BBC or The Sun.

In these ideological spaces we have to fight for our views, not sulk in abstinence.

Nick Grant, West London

Guernica: then and now

I’m organising the Whitechapel Art Gallery symposium on Exhibiting Guernica 1939-2009: Contexts and Issues.

Picasso’s Guernica was first shown at the Whitechapel Gallery under the auspices of Stepney Trades Council.

This symposium aims to bring together personal memories from the time, contributions from local historians and discussions of Picasso’s politics.

It will look at the social, political and artistic significance of Guernica’s display in the East End and its lasting legacy.

If anyone who was involved in solidarity work at the time would like to attend, or possibly speak at the event, I would be delighted to hear from them.

To get in touch with me email

Michael Rosen, East London

Class divide in Delphi plants

I read your article on the fight to save jobs at Delphi (» Fight to save jobs at Delphi, 16 May) with interest.

One of our plant managers has got a new car and is still working five days a week – along with his management team.

Meanwhile, workers on the shopfloor have been put on four days a week.

Talk about rubbing your face in it.

Delphi worker, by email

How many are watching us?

I was amazed to discover that Westminster city council has access to 800 CCTV cameras across the borough, which encompasses most of central London.

City West Homes, the arms length body that runs Westminster’s former council homes, operates another 235 cameras.

How many more cameras are there in Westminster?

June Aitken, West London

Tamils will keep up fight

Thanks for your article on Sri Lanka’s war on the Tamils (» Britain embraces murder in Sri Lanka, 16 May).

We can now understand why the international community is so quiet.

Nonetheless, I think that the Tamils will never give up their passion and will show the world their independent identity.

Thiru, St Albans

Cashing in on the crisis

I’m used to loans company filling up my letterbox with leaflets week in week out.

They reached a new low this week.

A leaflet from the Oakam “local money store” appeared with the main text reading, “Victory over the banks! We could help when banks say no!”

It goes on to detail loans with staggering interest rates of 76.9 percent.

Loans with extortionate rates of interest rip people off and trap them in debt.

It’s a scandal that these companies are trying to promote such things by using anti-bank rhetoric, and pretending they are somehow different when they are not.

Laura Johnson, Coventry

Housing crisis shames MPs

Repossessions in Britain have doubled while MPs have been furnishing second and third homes.

You couldn’t make it up!

Kate Logan, Dudley

China, please come to US

Thank you for sharing this interview with China Mieville (» A tale of two cities, 16 May).

I don’t hear a lot about China in the US, which is a shame because he’s absolutely brilliant.

He is my favourite author and I can’t wait to read his latest novel.

Is there any word on a book-signing tour?

Sheri Simpson, Wauwatosa, US

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Article information

Mon 18 May 2009, 18:09 BST
Issue No. 2152
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