THE CONSULTATION on one of the most cynical government Green Papers ever closes on 1 December. Yet there has been virtually no public debate about its contents. 'Every Child Matters' is meant to be a response to the killing of Victoria Climbie, and the subsequent Laming Report.
But, in the manner of a Trojan horse, it smuggles in legal, structural and financial reforms which represent the biggest shake-up of local and national government for 30 years.
Separate local council departments of education and social services will be scrapped. New Children's Trusts, with one director and lead council member, will also be able to take over leisure and housing services, and seek partnerships with the private sector. More alarmingly, at national level Margaret Hodge will assume control as children's minister over the pay, qualifications, training and conditions of up to four million of us who work with children.
Teachers, and social, health, welfare, play, justice and community workers, whether paid or voluntary like child minders and carers, will all be directed from a new Children's Workforce Unit within the Department for Education and Skills. To complete the totalitarian picture every child from birth will have an electronic file and number. Only a tiny fraction of kids are at risk, or caught up in crime, yet all will be presumed victims or guilty.
All of this goes way beyond anything that might have prevented Victoria's death. Indeed, it is doubtful that any amount of structural change could prevent the severe professional failings in her case.
Though it's almost too late to respond officially, the first step in fighting these proposals is to get informed. A full critique, entitled 'A One-Stop Sop', is available on the www.theclassissue.org.uk site or from me at the e-mail address below.
One small genuine benefit to the Climbie family is to help them raise just £150,000 to build a school in Abobo, Ivory Coast. Victoria was sent to the UK because there was no school for miles around her birthplace.
Rather than exploit her death to ram through reforms fitting another agenda altogether, no doubt ordinary workers can show their customary compassion and give generously to the Victoria Climbie Charitable Trust at www.victorianadjoclimbie.org.uk
Nick Grant, firstname.lastname@example.org
You can't call this a choice
TENANTS' REPS in Camden, north London, last week condemned an instruction by the council to its staff to take down any posters on estates against its plan to hand our homes to an Arms Length Management Organisation (ALMO). A ballot of council tenants in New Labour run Camden on the ALMO plan was due to start this week.
ALMOs are a halfway house to privatisation. Meetings of tenants' reps in Camden have demanded a 'fair and balanced debate' over this issue. The Labour council has refused this and has been direct mailing every tenant once a week, putting out one-sided pro-ALMO propaganda.
The government claims it is offering tenants 'choice'. This isn't choice-it's bribery and blackmail, and a total breach of all normal democratic practice. Tenants have applied for a judicial review demanding the council distributes a right of reply by tenants against the ALMO.
Alan Walter, Camden
MY BOSS and I had a ridiculous conversation this week, even for two government officers. I was making my standard weekly plea for her to pay me more for less when I noticed her hand moving towards my chest. She was pointing at the tiny 'Stop Bush' badge that I was wearing. 'What's that?' she asked.
'It's a Stop Bush badge,' I said, lifting the badge up so that she could see it. 'I'm asking you to take it off,' she said. 'I can't tell you not to wear it,' she conceded. 'I know,' I said. I kept it on.
IN THE 1930s my father was in the Communist Party and the Left Book Club. He gave me a radical view of Britain during the Depression. In the 1970s I was briefly in Women's Lib and rejoined the women's movement at the time of the Greenham Common protests in the 1980s. I've always been aware of poverty behind closed doors, hunger in so many places, wars and oppression across the globe. But now I can do something about it.
In two years I've joined Leeds Coalition to Stop the War and the Stop the War Coalition, left the Labour Party and passed through the Socialist Alliance to Globalise Resistance and the Socialist Workers Party. I was at the first European Social Forum in Florence. I went to the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre in January, and have just returned from the European Social Forum in Paris.
I'm going to the World Social Forum in Mumbai in January. The social forum movement is wide open to people of all types and all ages. Gathering strength as it is doing, the movement for me addresses the causes of all horrors.
It did so in Florence, and even more powerfully in Paris. There people discussed war, the arms trade, privatisation, poverty, discrimination, ecological damage and so much more. It's all there. Make the links. Anyone can join the movement.
Gaymerling Bennett, Leeds
Why we are with you in London
I AM an 82 year old American World War Two veteran (stationed near Norwich till my plane was shot down in 1943) with a message for the UK. Not since the Battle of Britain have millions of Americans looked for the Brits to save the world from threatened disaster.
President Bush, with his doctrine of unilateral pre-emptive war and his direct pipeline to Jesus Christ, feels he is divinely ordained to wage war to save the world from evil.
His 'moral clarity' and his impatience with nuance pose the danger foreseen by Andre Gide when he said, 'Tyranny is the absence of complexity.' The president has said that he does not read newspapers, relying instead on briefings from Condi Rice and others.
He does not know that 60 percent of the British public think he is a threat to world peace, or that 53 percent of the citizens of the European Union rank the United States with North Korea and Syria as dangerous to peace. That is why so many of us throughout the world felt at one with you in London.
Judge Richard E Tuttle retired, California Superior Court
In the heir?
READING THE national press over the past few weeks, it appears that the age-old institution of nepotism is alive and well. It started earlier this month with the needless coverage of Oscar Humphries trading in on his father Barry.
Then James Murdoch secured a top media job thanks to papa Rupert, who needs no PR boost and who now grandly uses a royal 'we'. Now to top it all, George Bush Jr is staying at Buckingham Palace. So much for Blair's classless Britain.
Duncan Williams, by e-mail
Distorting truth on social forum
I READ without surprise an article in the Times on the European Social Forum. I am shocked, however, that such incorrect and falsified journalism should be allowed to be printed. In her article on the ESF, it appears that the journalist in question was just looking for a 'shock' article about some unwashed Trotskyist-anarchists meeting up in Paris to overthrow the state and eat babies.
I was one of those she interviewed, and she made no attempt to hide that she was looking for anarchists-who were a minority at the ESF. As ever, the truth was very different. The majority of delegates to the ESF were people who want to fight against a system which breeds inequality, racism and war.
Ordinary people, low paid workers, students and pensioners were there. Those who organised the ESF called it the 'convergence of all progressive and radical movements in Europe'. It certainly was.
Chris Leary, Manchester
Media should know better
RICHARD LYNN, a professor of psychology at the University of Ulster, has been receiving favourable media attention for claiming that black Africans have an IQ substantially lower than the average, which explains their nations' economic poverty.
The truth is that IQ tests have been shown to be culturally biased and not a true measure. Richard Lynn is in the tradition of those discredited psychologists such as Arthur Jensen, Hans Eysenck and Charles Murray, and his odious 'research' should not be given a respectful hearing in the media.
Dave Taylor, Hampshire
Liberal who liked Bush
CHESTERFIELD Stop the War Coalition had a local protest on Wednesday of last week. In the morning we had been doing leafleting at the college and town park with banner drops to tell the traffic on the roads about our protest. We had lots of people pipping their horns and giving us the thumbs up to say they agreed with us.
The protest was held outside the office of our Liberal Democrat MP Paul Holmes, who had told our organiser that the Bush visit was a good idea. We stood at his office with our placards and chanted. We then travelled to join the London demo on Thursday. Everyone I have spoken to has said what a great march the protest was, and felt a sense of unity and goodwill.
I was certainly glad to have attended. There was a clear message that we spelt out to Bush and Blair that they are both liars and war criminals.
Martin Hall, Chesterfield
Is he just a dumb act?
BUSH AND Blair have turned the concepts of democracy, freedom and peace on their head, in true Orwellian fashion. War is peace, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength. The latter certainly applies in the case of Dubya Bush.
Anyone who watched the Christmas video or DVD edition of Have I Got News for You will no doubt disagree with Liberal Democrat MP Menzies Campbell, who defends Dubya as intelligent and articulate.
As presidential candidate elect Bush could not even provide the name of General Musharraf of Pakistan, only referring to him as the general, while insisting he knew his name and laughing as the interviewer continually pressed for an answer. This happened three times with three different countries. Bush could not name any of the leaders when pressed. He sat like a dummy.
Watching this clip made you cringe, and just a bit embarrassed for a man about to take office in the White House once the elections had been rigged. Now we are being told that he is only being portrayed as dumb by the media. I find that hard to believe. Pigs are horses. Girls are boys. War is peace. Dubya Bush is not dumb, we are.
Barry Donnan, Kilwinning
Get this pamphlet
AT A recent FBU meeting in London, Martin Smith of the SWP spoke to firefighers' union branch secretaries about his pamphlet on the 'awkward squad'. Martin contrasted the success of the post workers to the defeat of firefighters. The difference, he explained, was rank and file organisation.
This led to an excellent and concrete discussion on how we build such organisation inside the FBU. There is an argument inside our union that we cannot fight until we remove the union leaders who sold us out.
But our own recent unofficial action and the post workers' victory shows we do not have to wait for elections before we can fight. Everybody agreed it was a good initiative to invite Martin to our union meeting, and everybody bought his pamphlet.
We also all agreed to distribute and build support for Red Watch, the firefighters' rank and file paper. I recommend inviting Martin to speak at your meeting, but if he's too busy you can still buy and sell the pamphlet.
Neale Williams, London