Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2190

Hunger strikers call for answers and dignity

I am one of 70 women on hunger strike in Yarl’s Wood detention centre against our treatment. We have been on hunger strike since early February (» Yarl's Wood hunger strikers jailed, 20 February).

I have won my case and been granted asylum in Britain. But, like many of the women here, the authorities are still keeping me detained.

The Home Office says it wants to reconsider my case, but that doesn’t give it the right to keep me locked up in this prison. I have been here for seven months.

Others have been here for three years.

There are rape survivors and torture victims in Yarl’s Wood. We have been through a lot and then we’re locked up when we get to Britain.

I came from St Lucia. Me and my daughter were kidnapped by gangs and there was no protection for us over there. The judge ruled that they cannot send me back there.

We’re all frustrated and we’ve had enough. We just want an answer about why we’re still here.

Many of us are mothers with children outside. We need to see them.

The conditions are very bad and the guards have been aggressive towards us, especially since we started our hunger strike.

All the women are talking about continuing until we hear something. We are getting lots of supportive letters from people campaigning on our behalf. Please keep up your support.

Verna Joseph, Yarl’s Wood
Email messages of support to [email protected]

PCC judgement is affront to justice

The Press Complaints Commission’s (PCC) decision to turn down a complaint about Jan Moir’s Daily Mail article on the death of Stephen Gately is a disgrace.

Moir wrote a notoriously homophobic article about the Boyzone singer in October.

It said, “Whatever the cause of death is, it is not, by any yardstick, a natural one…”

This added to a general homophobic climate in which attacks on LGBT people increased.

Gately’s partner and more than 25,000 people complained to the PCC about it, the most complaints regarding a single article ever.

Peta Buscombe, chair of the PCC, said the article was, “in many areas extremely distasteful” but that the Mail had “just failed to cross the line”.

The PCC is a self-regulating body and it has failed millions of LGBT people and their supporters.

This emphasises that we need to protest and look to our own strengths to face down homophobia.

Simone Murray, Carlisle

Fighting will increase confidence

I don’t think Simon Basketter’s article (» Who do you vote for?, 13 February) on who the left votes for fully reflects the position the Socialist Workers Party has adopted towards the general election.

We are right to say “Vote left where you can and Labour where you must.”

I don’t think Simon emphasises the “where you must” enough.

Instead, he suggests it is the same old equation that a Tory victory means that “many workers will feel depressed and less confident to fight” while a Labour victory means that “workers will feel a little more confident”.

Whoever wins the election – Labour, Tory or a hung parliament coalition – they are going to attack workers, especially public sector ones.

The outcome of the election is not key to whether workers are going to be confident to resist these attacks.

I agree that a Tory landslide will give the bosses more confidence, therefore voting Labour if we have to, in the absence of a left candidate, is the right approach.

However, what is far more important to the confidence of public sector workers is the fight by PCS union members over jobs, pay and redundancy terms.

I’m a local government worker and a Unison union member. My partner is a civil service worker and a PCS member.

It is what we do in our workplaces and unions to resist the attacks that really matters in terms of building workers’ confidence in the next few months, not which party wins the election.

Adam Smith, Margate

Why is Socialist Worker backing left wing candidates at the general election? Electing New Labour is the only way to stop a vicious Tory government, which will attack us all. You should call for a vote for Labour candidates and not split the vote.

Mary Bamber, Birmingham

Depersonalising dead leads to future horrors

I am a former history teacher and have taught several pupils who went on to join the armed services.

I usually liked them, always I hope respected them, but I regretted their choice of career.

I mention this because I am upset by the attempt to turn young men (and a few women) into depersonalised “heroes” once they have been killed in war.

All who knew them mourn them dreadfully, and it is good if the wider community support friends and family in that grief.

In recent months, politicians and the media have been desperately marshalling these feelings to shore up support for unpopular and unjustifiable wars.

This is part of a longer-term cultural pattern. War is depicted not as death and destruction, but as a fantasy of bravery and heroism, where the enemy are evil “terrorists”.

This encourages young people to want to be soldiers when they grow up. It makes it easier for our rulers to get away with new horrors. They then stand at the Cenotaph weeping crocodile tears for those whose deaths they have brought about.

We need the courage to speak out honestly against these horrible wars, and to reject the hysterical media nonsense about “heroes”.

That would be genuinely respectful to our young people, including those in the military.

Roger Keely, Huddersfield

One immigrant we don’t want here

How ironic that Pauline Hanson, one of Australia’s staunchest anti-immigrant bigots, is poised to emigrate to Britain.

The irony will be lost on her as she, no doubt, believes she has a god-given right to go anywhere she pleases as she is white.

Immigration was very much about race for Hanson. In the mid-1990s she began her parliamentary career by launching an attack on indigenous people. She then called to limit the number of Asians entering Australia.

She wasn’t the sharpest knife in the block, but she had a style that allowed her to tap in to the deep reservoirs of Australian racism.

The debate that her racist bile engendered provided a convenient right wing cover for the then Tory prime minister to implement almost all of her disgusting ideas under the guise of sensible policy.

It’s a reminder to us all to be vigilant in our fight against the fascist British National Party, which has said that Hanson is one immigrant it wants in Britain.

Get lost Pauline Hanson – immigrants are welcome here but racist filth like you most certainly are not.

Steve Cilia and Sam Traies, East London

Bilston will resist closure

The campaign by postal workers in Bilston against the closure of their office (» Bilston Delivery office campaign, 13 February) is gathering momentum.

The regional TUC is supporting the fight.

Cheryl Pidgeon, the regional secretary, handed out a statement of support to all staff in an early morning visit.

Cheryl added that she was appalled with the lack of support from the local MP Pat McFadden.

She said she would be making personal representations to the regional minister Ian Austin about the situation.

Bilston has a strong tradition of trade union support.

This will not be found wanting during this campaign, with or without McFadden’s cooperation.

Dave Jones, Wolverhampton & District CWU

Campaigning hits the Nazis

The fascist British National Party (BNP) recently came a miserable last with

9 percent of the vote in a parish by-election in London Colney, near St Albans.

This is despite its efforts to whip up division over the building of a mosque in the town.

Unite Against Fascism (UAF) activists campaigned with the Labour Party and representatives from the local Muslim centre.

Thanks to a magnificent turnout, we leafleted the whole ward in less than an hour.

We received support and thanks from residents for doing so.

This was a huge blow for the BNP Nazis who thought that they were certain to make gains.

Jon Berry, Three Counties UAF

He can Count on the law

A few days ago, Count Alfons Mensdorff-Pouilly, arms lobbyist, returned to Austria as a winner.

Mensdorff, married to the former conservative health minister Maria Rauch-Kallat, had spent some time in a British prison.

Mensdorff was accused of bribing politicians in order to influence their decisions concerning new fighter jets for the Austrian airforce.

The British Serious Fraud Office arrested him in London.

Now a big white-collar criminal is free and tells us that his innocence was proven.

But BAE made a deal, of which Mensdorff was part, bribing its way out of charges.

This upper class criminal is seemingly above the law, while asylum seekers are convicted for stealing a piece of bread.

Tom Allahyari, Austria

Insult takes the biscuit

A senior branch director of Fox’s Biscuits in Batley, West Yorkshire, last month announced that the company would reward the most deserving workplaces with biscuit treats for their employees.

He thought it would bring some relief from the doom and gloom.

This did not go down well with Fox’s workers, who saw through this insensitive PR stunt.

It has recently been announced that up to 268 jobs are under threat at Fox’s.

Staff and their union are holding talks about fighting these job losses.

John Appleyard, Liversedge, West Yorkshire

Good riddance to Purnell

Thank goodness that former minister James Purnell is leaving parliament at the next election.

This nasty Blairite figure was behind the government’s latest assaults on single parents and disabled people.

When he announced he was stepping down he said, “My hope is to contribute ideas to public service.” On past evidence let’s hope no one listens to them.

Katherine Branney, East London

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Article information

Tue 23 Feb 2010, 19:25 GMT
Issue No. 2190
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