Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2202

I can’t stay Lib Dem after deal with Tories

I’ve been forced to cancel my membership of the Liberal Democrats after almost five years because I cannot support a coalition with the Tories.

I joined the party because I believed it to be a progressive organisation that stood against the war in Iraq, in favour of genuine equality and democratic reform, and because it was prepared to stand up for migrant workers.

It seems that Lib Dem leaders have been prepared to throw away all that in order to get seats around David Cameron’s cabinet table.

The Tories have an appalling historical record – and, in my view, nothing much has changed.

In 1909 they opposed the Liberal government’s budget that introduced welfare programmes. Forty years later they opposed the creation of the NHS. And today, leading Tories admit they still want to abolish it.

In the 1960s the Tories argued against the decriminalisation of homosexuality.

In the 1980s they introduced the Section 28 laws that banned schools from treating gay relationships as “normal”. More recently, David Cameron voted against gay adoption.

And I cannot forget that former shadow home secretary Chris Grayling suggested that people who run bed and breakfasts should have the right to reject homosexuals.

In the 1970s Margaret Thatcher complained that Britain was being “swamped” by immigrants from the Commonwealth. In the 1980s her government killed off swathes of British industry, condemning millions to the dole.

She broke the link between pensions and earnings, and opposed sanctions on apartheid South Africa.

She even described Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress as “terrorists”.

In the 1990s the Tories abolished the right to silence for criminal suspects and fought to stop Britain signing up to the European Union social chapter, which offered some protection to workers.

Since 1997, the Tories have supported university tuition fees, putting a generation of young people heavily into debt, while opposing the introduction of a minimum wage.

Perhaps the leaders of my former party are thinking, “that’s all in the past” and that the Tories are now a progressive party?

Well, a cursory glance at the voting record of Tories in the new cabinet shows that to be completely false.

They all voted against longstanding progressive Lib Dem policies to replace Trident, reform parliament, ban hunting – and, of course, their party backed the Iraq war.

And what about Tory MEPs? David Cameron has forged alliances with a succession of hard right politicians in Europe, some of which lean towards antisemitism.

Even the younger members of the Tories are riddled with racism and homophobia. Just last year, members of Oxford university’s Conservative Association were guffawing as they made a series of extremely offensive racist jokes.

Are these the kind of people that Lib Dem leaders want to cuddle up with? Well, I have to say, I don’t agree with Nick.

Rachel Thomas, Cardiff

We need real reform

To all those advocating electoral reform (» Letters, 8 May) I would offer these suggestions:

  1. No MP should have a second job with a private business, as this contradicts their obligation to support effective public services.
  2. MPs should be subject to the powers of constituent recall based upon a popular vote.
  3. Politicians should earn an average worker’s wage.
  4. All forms of business lobbying should be illegal.

These demands would go some way towards shifting power within parliament from the capitalists to working people.

It would not mean an end to the dominance of the ruling class, but it would certainly undermine their power.

Luke Evans, South London

Imagine if a union won a ballot for strike action, but thousands of its members were prevented from voting.

Employers would be howling with rage and judges would grant an injunction against the union in record speed.

Yet thousands were prevented from voting in the general election and, within a couple of days, the whole matter is forgotten.

Jo Donnington, Stockport

Guardian is Tory-friendly

In the weeks before the election the “left leaning” Guardian newspaper called on its readers to vote for the Lib Dems as their policies were more progressive than those of the Labour Party.

The result? We now have a Tory government set to embark on the biggest cuts to public spending ever seen.

Did the Guardian feel the need to apologise for its mistake? Quite the opposite.

Now we are told that the new coalition is the most exciting thing ever to happen in British politics.

Perhaps they think slashing the NHS will be thrilling too?

Eleanor Sweeney, Huddersfield

Teachers will pass the test of Sats boycott

The government and employers are so fearful of the movement to boycott the hated Sats tests that they have resorted to all kinds of threats to get schools to push them through.

Just days before the election, former education secretary Ed Balls and local government employers suggested that school governors should suspend heads who boycott Sats.

They even proposed that those taking part in the action should have their pay docked and tests implemented by temporary staff.

The education chiefs know that even a partial boycott could destroy their league tables.

Teachers at my school responded to the threats brilliantly last week.

We held a union meeting and voted to defend our head.

We said that we would not be part of any plan to carry out the tests and wrote to our governors, pointing out that suspending staff could be illegal.

This goes to show that, although our NUT union decided not to ballot ordinary teachers over the boycott, the anger among the rank and file is strong.

We didn’t become teachers in order to implement policies that damage children’s education.

And we won’t allow those who are standing up to the government and employers to be picked off either.

Amanda Squire, East London

The election was a result for us

Our small Socialist Workers Party branch in Woolwich & Plumstead in south London decided to stand in the local elections at the last minute – but achieved a good result.

Local college lecturer Lynne Chamberlain stood as an independent socialist in the multi-racial Glyndon ward in Plumstead.

We built our early campaigning around a joint UCU and Unison union public meeting against proposed cuts at Greenwich community college, which is in the ward.

The meeting was packed – attracting lecturers, support staff, students, and local reps from the CWU and PCS unions.

Representatives from the Nepalese community also came.

We leafleted everyone – from parents collecting their children from schools to worshippers on their way to the mosque.

Our first election leaflet reached every home in the ward and Lynne attracted 461 votes – 7.8 percent.

In addition, left Green candidate Andy Hewett received some 600 votes.

That means over 1,000 votes were cast to the left of New Labour.

Phil Windeatt, South London

The power is at the presses

It’s good to see the NUJ union chapels at Johnston Press coming together (» NUJ to set strike date at Johnston Press , 15 May).

The only trouble is, you won’t stop publication as the scabs at the Press Association will do your pages – just as they did when the Yorkshire Evening Post had their strike last year.

Journalists need to join with the print unions to stop the presses if their strike is to be effective.

Paul Robinson, Leeds

On trial for a tweet

I feel sorry for poor Paul Chambers, who was fined £1,000 and lost his job after posting a joke about blowing up an airport on Twitter.

Finding South Yorkshire’s Robin Hood Airport closed, he tweeted, “You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together, otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!”

A few days later, he’d been nicked and put on trial. He won’t have been feeling so chirpy after that.

The judge ruled the message was “of a menacing nature in the context of the times in which we live”.

What a twit.

Tamsin Woods, Southport

Protesters could face jail

Here’s A warning to all Socialist Worker readers about a crackdown on civil liberties starting in Northern Ireland. It could easily be implemented by the Westminster parliament too.

Those who protest against job cuts or sectarianism here could face up to six months in prison under proposed new legislation.

Under the Draft Public Assemblies, Parades and Protests Bill, organisers of protests involving 50 or more people in public could be required to give 37 days’ notice.

The bill will also give new powers to ban such protests to the Northern Ireland justice minister.

The legislation is supposedly to create a “new framework” for dealing with Orange marches.

But activists are concerned that the bill will instead be used to restrict the right to protest against Orange marches.

Damien O’Rourke, Glasgow

Hard times for millionaires

So ministers in the new government are leading by example and accepting a 5 percent pay cut.

As a public sector worker, I know that years of pay cuts can make life hard for your family.

There will be no package holiday for us again this year.

How gracious of the government to show that they too are going to be tightening their belts.

But I find it hard to see how a senior minister will cope on just £135,000 a year–plus expenses.

And what about the few in the cabinet who are not already millionaires?

How will they survive these hard times?

Roddy, by email

Dehumanising the desperate

I was horrified to read in the papers about the case of three “illegal immigrants” forced to cling to the bottom of a coach as it sped from Calais to Essex in order to seek sanctuary in Britain.

While the right wing press may use this as a reason to demonise desperate people, we should loudly oppose this view.

For me, this is yet another example of the negative effects of Britain’s punitive immigration policy.

While there is no doubt that New labour were the architects of these policies, we can be sure that things will get worse for “illegal” immigrants, migrant workers and asylum seekers under the Tory-Lib Dem government.

Cheryl, by email

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Article information

Tue 18 May 2010, 17:44 BST
Issue No. 2202
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