Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2181

Victory over privateers inspires new NHS fight

The Camden Keep Our NHS Public campaign is celebrating victory over our local primary care trust and its plans to set up a new privately-run health centre in the borough.

The trust had wanted to award the contract to run it to health privateers Care UK.

Clinics like these are being proposed everywhere as a way of opening up GP services to profiteering by the private sector.

A similar process is taking place in hospitals where services described as “new” are put out to tender.

NHS Camden claimed it did not need to consult the public over the proposed centre because the department of health was asking every trust to set one up.

However, an important high court precedent was set two weeks ago when the trust withdrew their challenge to our claims of a lack of consultation. Now others around the country can use the precedent that we helped to set.

Another climbdown came last week when the trust withdrew its health centre plans completely. It is not planning any new proposals until after the general election.

Our campaign against privatisation has shown how any threat to the NHS can mobilise large numbers. Across Camden people have signed petitions, come to meetings, and joined demonstrations and protests.

Now we plan to join up with those fighting the huge threatened cuts to London hospitals.

Our message is that we need to step up the action against the attacks on the health service.

Local campaigns can win victories in the run up to the election. They can also lay the groundwork for the national campaign that will surely be needed to fight the proposed cuts that will come afterwards.

Candy Udwin, Camden Keep Our NHS Public

Karen Reissmann’s comment on nurse training was a very good summary of some of the contradictions inherent in making degree training mandatory (» Nurse training cut by degrees, 28 November).

Most of the media got nowhere near close to exposing the issues as succinctly as she did.

Like Karen, I have worked for almost 30 years mainly in community nursing. This area, like all others, has seen downgrading and pay cuts for some staff and nurses having to reapply for their jobs.

Our ever-expanding management are constantly looking to off load their responsibilities onto frontline staff.

And as our caseloads grow larger, we have to watch the limiting of training places being offered to the next generation of staff. Nurses need to make their voices heard.

Jill, Manchester

Don’t let the Nazis divide us

Thanks for reviewing the play Who Do We Think We Are? (» Imagining the nightmare, 28 November), which depicts the hellish scenario of a British National Party (BNP) government.

I felt chilled as I sat with my family watching young people from Harlow stage this first class production.

Having lived through the Second World War, I was so proud to hear them participating unafraid in this great anti-Nazi production.

The play sends a powerful message to the BNP, and any other groups that support them, that our young people will not let fascist thugs destroy our future.

I think that this production should be taken to every school and college in the country as a matter of urgency.

Maureen Topley, Harlow

Wembley, in Brent, north London, is a peaceful, harmonious and united multicultural community.

Yet recently the BNP has attempted to slur us with an online video attacking immigrant populations in the area.

The fascist BNP seeks scapegoats for the problems arising from the economic crisis.

We, the anti-racist majority, say no to blaming the innocent. Instead, we blame those who caused the crises.

The diversity of our borough has enriched us all.

People from all backgrounds contribute to our daily lives by working to deliver key public services and providing employment opportunities for many.

To seek a mythical Wembley of pure white Aryans is nonsense.

We have always welcomed Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, gays, women, trade unionists, and young and old people to play their part in our borough, and long may we continue to do so.

Alf Filer, Brent and Harrow Unite Against Fascism

Swiss vote shames the ‘left’ who backed it

The Swiss vote to ban minarets was overwhelmingly driven by the right but the policy was also supported by some on the left.

They were taken in by the claim that minarets are a symbol of female oppression – opening the way to honour killings and Sharia law.

The Swiss state certainly has nothing to boast about in its treatment of women, who were not permitted to vote until 1971. But it is bizarre that a minaret can be treated as an accomplice in women’s oppression.

Notably, the same argument is not deployed against church spires and bell towers.

There are some on the left who would like the campaign to go further. The Swiss Women’s Federation has already come out in support of a campaign to ban the burqa.

And Britain is not immune. Burnley College in Lancashire recently refused to enrol a female student because she wears a niqab.

This type of scrutiny is resulting in the harassment of Muslim women.

Just last month, two Muslim students were beaten up in Leicester for defending a Muslim woman who was being taunted by thugs over her hijab.

Those supporting campaigns against Is are not defending women’s rights, but isolating Muslim women and placing them at increased risk.

Richard Seymour, North London

Social work report offers nothing

The Social Work Task Force report published last week accepts the difficulties that we face, but offers nothing to frontline social workers.

It recommends changes based on the current status quo in welfare.

The secretary of state’s response talks of the need to “take forward personalisation in adult social care”.

Many in government see the push for personalisation as a way of cost cutting and privatising services.

The Task Force wants to create more hierarchical structures. This is likely to lead to the creation of “super” social workers whose main role will be telling others what to do.

The report argues that social workers should be listened to – but this is tokenistic.

Social work is about care and control. The focus on care only ever comes when social workers, service users and others fight for better resources.

The report is a missed opportunity. Instead we must build the Social Work Action Network, make links with activists in service user-led campaigns and organise to have trade union stewards in every social work workplace.

For more information go to

Malcolm Jones, Wigan

A licence to party

If everyone on the left agrees with the People’s Charter, why can’t we build an alternative to Labour round it?

The Charter could be the policy of a People’s Charter Party?

Steve Brown, North Lincolnshire

Beware Tory housing con

A highly respected MP from south London has uncovered a dastardly plot by the Conservative Party to introduce a “Market Value” housing bill if they win the next election.

If passed, this bill could see a severely disabled person’s rent rise from £70 to £225 a week – and the difference would not be covered by housing benefit.

This plan would mean that council housing would become uneconomical for people on housing benefit, and provide a justification for selling off more council houses.

This has already started to happen in the Tory-controlled London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham.

Anyone interested in the plan should visit to see the actual horror for themselves.

Andrew Warren, South London

Commercial break

Socialist Worker often says that under a socialist planned economy we would have to get rid of the advertising industry.

But that might create a system where people are told by government what they can and cannot have, rather than a society where people make informed decisions themselves.

Dan Factor, East London

Return of Tartan Tories?

St Andrew’s Day, 30 November, was supposed to be the most important day of the Scottish National Party’s (SNP) tenure in Scottish government – a date they had timetabled to launch their independence referendum white paper.

This day passed with a whimper. It seems that the future of the party’s strategy for winning Independence is now based on the Tories winning next year’s Westminster election.

Does this mean that a vote for the SNP at next year’s election is a vote for the Tories?

Mark Porciani, Glasgow

Nepal stunt insults poor

What on earth were the leaders of Nepal thinking when they decided to hold a cabinet meeting half way up Mount Everest as part of a protest against climate change?

This ridiculous stunt cost more than six million rupees (£50,000) and could only be accomplished by using military helicopters and hundreds of soldiers.

Nepal is the 12th poorest nation on earth, and its government seems determined to keep it that way.

The country’s Maoists fighters, who put down their arms to join this sham of a democracy, must be ruing their decision.

Shahnaz Khan, New Delhi

Leaning on the workers

I have a question arising from Simon Basketter’s article about “lean production” techniques in car plants (» Driven to destruction, 5 December).

He describes how managers try to boost the number of seconds worked “productively” each minute.

Karl Marx argued that there were two methods the ruling class used to boost profitability. “Absolute surplus value” meant increasing the number of hours worked.

“Relative surplus value” meant making those hours more “efficient” through improved technology.

But which category do these “lean production” techniques fall into? It seems to me they can equally well be thought of as either “absolute” or “relative”.

Jiben Kumar, East London

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Article information

Tue 8 Dec 2009, 18:40 GMT
Issue No. 2181
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