More to Labour’s failure than their school choice
Bob Holman’s article on Labour’s leadership election ( Where are the workers in Labour’s leadership? , 4 September) provides shocking evidence of just how privileged and socially removed current Labour MPs are from the working class people who vote them in.
This is part of the explanation for why New Labour has let down its supporters so badly—but it is only part.
Bob notes that Clement Attlee, prime minister when Labour brought in the welfare state, was an Oxbridge and public school product.
Ramsay MacDonald, Labour’s most right-wing prime minister, was the illegitimate son of a housemaid and farm labourer.
In 1931 he slashed unemployment benefit, split the Labour Party and took a section into coalition with the Tories.
Likewise, Ernie Bevin, champion of Labour’s right wing in the 1940s and 1950s, was also born illegitimate and had minimal schooling.
Indeed, for much of Labour’s history the strongest opposition to the socialist voices within the party has come from union leaders who worked their way up from working class backgrounds.
One example is the use of the union block vote to defeat Tony Benn’s challenge for the deputy leadership in 1981.
The problem is deeper than educational background. It stems from seeing change as coming from winning Commons seats and forming a government.
The better MP (from whatever school) starts off hoping to influence the state. But to get votes they have to compromise.
They have to court the boss-controlled media and fight to maintain “market confidence”. Before you know it, they sound like Tony Blair. Labour betrays the hopes of ordinary people because the project is mistaken.
Rather than encouraging people to “rejoin in order to fight for reform,” Bob is more likely to win the more equal society he wants by focusing on battles to stop the cuts, combat racism and stop wars.
Donny Gluckstein, Edinburgh
I respect Socialist Worker’s call for Labour Party members and trade unionists to back Diane Abbott for party leader. But she won’t win.
The real choice is to support Ed Balls to stop the Milibands. Balls has shown he is prepared to back causes such as anti-privatisation.
Anne Wilson, South London
Gym firms pump up the profits
I want to tell Socialist Worker readers about a new way of making money at a well-known chain of gyms where I work as a fitness trainer.
Our Warrington branch is making all their existing trainers redundant and replacing them with new “personal trainers”.
For gym members, the key difference is that where previously advice on how to train effectively and safely was free, they will now be expected to pay £30 for the service.
Workers at my branch have been told that the scheme my also be introduced here too—and that we should expect big changes.
The bosses want to make all the fitness trainers redundant and ask us to reapply for jobs as personal trainers.
But to do so, we’ll have to take a “business course” costing £125.
We will also have to pay “rent” to the gym of around £500 a month and then compete with each other for business.
Personal trainers get to keep any profit beyond their costs, but the saving on wages will net the firm a fortune.
All of the staff feel let down and annoyed with these developments—and so do many of the gym’s members.
After all, they have been receiving our help for free for the last eight months and now we’re supposed to ask them for money.
But why should they pay for something that was offered for free when they joined?
I came into this business to help people for free. I believe strongly in helping others and providing the best possible service without fleecing people.
If I had wanted to be a personal trainer I would have applied to be one.
As far as I can see our firm has acted within the law. However, what they have done smacks of behaviour well below the standards that I expect.
It just goes to show that the suits who own many gyms run them for profit, not people’s health.
Name withheld, North West England
You can’t take class out of the climate
Defending last month’s Climate Camp, Bodie Broadus asks us to accept that, “If it’s the middle classes that are most able to attend these events, then so be it” (Letters, 4 September).
I disagree. The camp has laudable aims, but I do question the usefulness of the same people repeating actions every year.
While drawing attention to the issue of climate change is a good thing, surely asking questions about how to involve more people in this fight is a vital one.
And understanding class is important if we are going to broaden this movement.
All too often we are offered the lie that individuals have the responsibility to stop climate change—and that by consuming responsibly we can buy ourselves out of this problem.
The trouble is, while those who can afford it may be able to purchase an easier conscience, real power comes from collective action.
That means we have to stop arguing that if people only cared about the planet a bit more they’d be prepared to pay-up and fly less.
Instead, we should target business trips taken when a phone call would do. And we should attack train company profits that mean three short haul flights can be taken for the cost of a rail fare.
If the movement against climate change fights for a planet where we get to be equals, maybe then we’ll be able to “leave class out of it”.
Kelly Hilditch, South London
So, the singer Morrissey has done it again. Except this time there is no ambiguity, no scope for misunderstanding.
His comment, in an interview with the Guardian, that the poor condition of animal welfare in China renders the Chinese people a “subspecies” is vicious and dangerous racism masquerading as concern for animals.
For those of us of a certain age—who came to socialism around the same time that we were swirling around our bedrooms singing along to The Smiths’ hit The Queen is Dead—it is genuinely painful to receive this final confirmation that the man who was once our idol is a racist.
His remarks are reminiscent of nothing so much as the racist attacks launched frequently against the Jewish and Muslim communities under the spurious cover of “animal rights” campaigns against kosher and halal slaughter.
There’s no need for socialists and anti-racists to throw out their Smiths and Morrissey records and CDs, of course, any more than we should refuse to listen to Wagner’s music on account of his antisemitism. However, as Martin Smith, national coordinator of Love Music Hate Racism, correctly told the Guardian, it looks like the uncomfortable relationship between the anti-racist movement and Morrissey has come to an ugly end.
Mark Brown, Glasgow
London’s not for burning
The London firefighters’ battle over shifts will be vital for the whole fire service.
London is the biggest brigade in the country—one in eight firefighters in Britain are in the capital.
If the bosses get away with forcing through crap shifts here then they’ll do it everywhere.
For too long the FBU union has let the bosses divide and rule, region by region.
That’s what happened in South Yorkshire after the strikes last year—despite their brave fight, they ended up with a “compromise” deal that meant much worse shifts.
This isn’t just about firefighters’ jobs—it’s about all of us being safe from fires.
We can’t let them pick us off one by one. We need a fightback across the whole FBU and the whole working class.
Jenny Burrows, Sheffield
Aussie Greens are on left
In your article about the Australian elections ( Protest vote rocks Labour in elections , 28 August) you suggest that the leader of the Green party has promised to work with the Tories if they take power.
This is misleading, as it sounds like the Greens would be willing to form a coalition with the right.
The Green member elected to the lower house has clearly stated he would be on the Labour side of the house.
Chris Hart, Lancaster
Bankers cheat on Darling
Alistair Darling, the former Labour chancellor, says that his supertax on bankers’ bonuses didn’t work.
He put a 50 percent tax on bonuses over £25,000, but the banks simply found “imaginative” ways round it.
It shows how little changed when the banks were nationalised. They should have been reorganised to serve the public interest—that would have been imaginative.
David Jones, Halifax
Make waves on swimming
Free swimming for older people and those on certain benefits ended this week for the residents of the “London 2012 Olympic borough” were I live.
Tory cuts mean that the council can’t afford the scheme any longer.
Meanwhile, Conservative health secretary Andrew Lansley attacks TV chef Jamie Oliver for wanting to improve the quality of our kids’ school dinners.
Is it just me, or are the Tories intent on fattening us all up for slaughter?
Ellen Jones, East London
Game’s up for the Tories
It was laughable to hear defence secretary Liam Fox calling for the Medal Of Honour computer game to be banned.
Apparently, players can choose to be the Taliban and mount attacks on British soldiers.
No doubt he saw the story as a convenient distraction from the question as to why our troops are still fighting for a worthless cause at the behest of politicians.
If Mr Fox is so concerned about the feelings of the families of our troops then he should bring them home from Afghanistan.
Dan Factor, East London
Union bosses earn bucks
I see that the trade union leaders at British Airways and BAA have let the workers down yet again.
It’s time we exposed these people, their enormous salaries, pensions and perks.
Unite’s Derek Simpson will be allowed to stay in his £800,000 grace-and-favour house in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, until he dies, while raking in £120,000 a year.
A Chattin, Bolton