Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2214

Stop housing attacks

Prime minister David Cameron wants to end lifetime tenancies for council and housing association tenants and replace them with fixed term tenancies lasting as little as five years.

Councils will be expected to regularly review tenancies to see if the tenant still needs their home or if they can move into the private sector.

Cameron said before the election, “We respect social tenants’ rights.”

The Conservative Party said they had “no policy to change the current or future security of tenure of tenants in social housing”. These promises are now exposed as lies.

The threats, combined with housing benefit cuts, will mean more evictions, homelessness and bigger council house waiting lists. That is why a tenants’ open letter against housing benefit cuts is gaining support – everyone should sign it.

This new threat conjures up a Victorian nightmare world where tenants are forced to move house if they get a job or a promotion, or if someone they love dies. And who would be appointed to vet our income and family life?

Tenants fought off attacks in the past, and we will not be scapegoats for the housing crisis.

These proposals are a smokescreen to hide the real scandal – not a single new home will be built.

Tenants, and the millions on the housing waiting list, like millions more, cannot afford exorbitant mortgages or private rents. We need a new generation of first class public housing to create much-needed homes and jobs.

That is why Defend Council Housing (DCH) is organising to attend party conferences and lobby MPs to oppose these attacks.

And we are joining and building the protest outside the Conservative Party conference on 3 October called by Right to Work, and the DCH lobby of parliament on 11 October. We say, “Hands off our homes, our rents and our rights. Build more council homes.”

Eileen Short, Chair, Defend Council Housing

Stop cuts, invest in council housing meeting: 18 October, 7pm, House of Commons

TV abortion ads are a leap forward

I was pleased to read that the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) rejected calls by anti-abortionists to ban a TV advert by Marie Stopes.

This is the first time an advert for abortion services has been aired in the UK. The anti-abortionists tried to argue that the advert was “offensive” to religious believers, trivialised abortion and would lead to promiscuity among teenagers.

Women often don’t know where to turn when faced with an unplanned pregnancy, and many don’t feel comfortable talking to their family doctor.

The anti-abortionists are out of step with public opinion. But we need to be wary. For the first time in many years we have a cabinet where the majority are in favour of reducing the time limits for abortion.

Andrea Butcher, Central London

French veil ban wrong

Fariha Habr (Letters, 7 August) argues that we should defend the French ban on the full veil, on the grounds that this will liberate women from patriarchal oppression.

Punishing women for wearing the burqa will not liberate them, it will merely serve as a justification for further oppression.

And most importantly, the veil ban is not, and never has been about women’s rights. It is part of an attack on minorities, and will provide justification for yet more racist harassment.

Nicolas Sarkozy’s government does not seem to have much to say about the treatment of women in countries such as Saudi Arabia, where the veil is imposed by force. It only talks about the dress of a minority of Muslim women within France.

Anyone who cares about women’s rights should take a look at the violent deportation of asylum seekers, including pregnant women, in France. This sums up just how pro-women France really is.

Richard Sunderland, Leeds

No religion in schools

Jim Wolfreys ( French veil vote will boost Islamophobia , 24 July), is probably right to say that republican nationalists in France have co-opted a once progressive idea, namely secular state schools, from the French Revolution of 1789.

But does he approve of the increase in religious schools in Britain?

Does he think that our fuzzy-minded approach to Anglican school assemblies in state schools is better than the hard-line view in France that religion is an anathema in schools?

How does he feel about students cutting classes because of religion?

He also takes no account of peer and parental pressure to conform to religious norms.

The unprogressive forces of superstition and religion have to be defended against by Marxists and socialists.

Jamie Rankin, West London

Disgrace of Sunday Times homophobia

Anti-gay bigotry is alive and well in the media.

Clare Balding presents a TV cycling programme and happens to be a lesbian.

When described as a “dyke on a bike” by a Sunday Times columnist, she complained about this homophobic abuse to the editor.

He replied, saying “some members of the gay community need to stop regarding themselves as having a special victim status”.

Balding is now complaining to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC).

However, the PCC refused to condemn the Daily Mail last autumn after its columnist Jan Moir wrote a homophobic article on Stephen Gately days after he died. If its supports Balding it will be a first.

A report by Stonewall on the portrayal of lesbian, gay and bi people on the TV programmes young people watch found that half the gay people depicted were stereotypes – figures of fun, predatory or promiscuous.

The BBC managed just 44 seconds of positive and realistic portrayal in 39 hours of television. Lesbians and bi people were particularly under-represented.

The research shows that young straight people weren’t happy with this situation – they wanted realistic portrayals of gay people. Their attitudes are far better than those of media bosses.

Colin Wilson, East London

Sinn Fein: party of the establishment

Joe Dwyer (Letters, 7 August) would have us believe that “Sinn Fein has abandoned none of its objectives”. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

The last ten years have seen Sinn Fein transform itself from a party of opposition to a party of the establishment.

This somersault has resulted in a party formerly associated with bank robberies being the party of the bank bailouts – it voted for the bailouts in the south of Ireland.

Sinn Fein are more comfortable in rooms with representatives of the British or US administrations than they are on anti-war mobilisations.

A significant step forward for Palestinian solidarity has been the trade union-supported campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

Despite this, Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness agreed to send a trade delegation to Israel.

Sinn Fein do not oppose the Loyalist Orange Order – they want to accommodate to it on the streets, as in government.

Those looking for a radical and principled pole of attraction in the North should look elsewhere.

Seán Mitchell, Belfast

Solidarity with Yunus Bakhsh

We write to express our heartfelt gratitude to Socialist Workers Party branches and individuals who contributed to Yunus Bakhsh’s campaign ( Activists hail victimisation victory , 7 August).

We also received support from trade unions and other organisations. That support enabled the Employment Tribunal to take place and for Yunus to emerge victorious.

It was also the messages of support Yunus received from comrades and the wider public that helped him through the dark days.

Yunus now awaits a remedies meeting with the Tribunal.

Alan Newham and Bob Murdoch, Defend Yunus Bakhsh Campaign, Newcastle

Yunus win is a victory for all

Yunus Bakhsh’s victory is absolutely wonderful news – justice has been done.

This is a major victory for Yunus and for all active trade unionists and socialists.

Onwards and upwards in the fight for a socialist society.

Howard Bailey, Middlesbrough

We need rent cuts now

My brother Steve Hack wrote an article for Socialist Worker recently calling for rent cuts. I endorse his call.

Since 2002, first time buyers and ownership has declined as housing becomes more unaffordable.

Millions of people are paying high private sector rents with insecure tenancies.This is driven by a social housing shortage.

Why did Gordon Brown veto Labour Party resolutions on council housing – it would have been cheaper than propping up the banking system.

Peter Hack, Bristol

Faithless in Israel boycott

The dance band Faithless have declined offers to play in Israel.

The decision was taken after long discussions between band members and management.

Some argued that we should go and donate money to progressive campaigns in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

But a majority of band members feel that now is the time to join the growing movement for a cultural boycott.

Frontman Maxi Jazz has issued a statement which can be read at

Dave Randall, Guitarist, Faithless

Fighting can build unions

Matthew Cookson’s article on building unions is correct ( Leading a fight builds strong trade unions , 31 July).

In the 1970s I was a full-time official in Coventry. We tripled the membership of ASTMS, now part of the Unite union.

A large number of these were supervisors (foremen) who until 1969 had not been members of a union.

As a result of piecework their wages had fallen behind the shopfloor, and I was often asked why. They agreed that it was because the shopfloor went on strike – so they joined.

There was not one engineering company in Coventry where we had not by the early 1970s secured recognition and won substantial increases by threatening strike action and/or taking it.

Success breeds success.

John Fisher, Coventry

Lib Dems are the outrage

Socialist Worker readers should recognise that it’s the Lib Dems who are the biggest outrage in the governing coalition.

They campaigned for a deficit budget and against the VAT rise.

In Eastbourne, the Lib Dem council leader is blaming the previous government for the cuts of over £6 billion.

But it is the Tory coalition, with the Lib Dems at its heart, that is to blame.

Larry Iles, Eastbourne

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Article information

Tue 10 Aug 2010, 17:16 BST
Issue No. 2214
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