Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2228

Students’ day of rage rocked the government

The student demonstration in London last week was really positive, attracting lots of media attention, raising the profile of the issues and showing how angry people are.

The mainstream media has criticised the “violence” at Millbank Tower, the Tory Party HQ. But a few windows can be replaced, while if fees go up people will be in £30,000 worth of debt even before they start working.

If the government is going to cut the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) for young people then it should cut MPs’ expenses—they’re already on £60,000 a year.

I get the Adult Learning Grant—EMA for over 19s—and the government says it hasn’t made a decision on its future. But its budget is £55 million and the government has said that it has identified further savings of £55 million, so it is obviously under threat too.

Michael Johns, Nottingham

The vast majority of students from Sussex university who attended the protest last week were inspired by the events.

We occupied our university over cuts last year and subsequently fought off attempts by the authorities to scapegoat students over the action. We need to do the same now.

We can’t allow politicians and the media to single people out to blame for the damage to Millbank.

I was interviewed on ITV’s Daybreak breakfast show. The presenters tried to insinuate that the actions were planned and that we were losing public support because of the violence.

But I argued that this wasn’t the case, and that it was a militant and angry demonstration from the beginning.

Many people feel that lobbying the government is not enough. Occupations are a legitimate form of protest and must be used to take our fight forward.

Stacey Whittle, Brighton

The protests last week were a breath of fresh air and we celebrate them.

The government’s attacks on education will wreck millions of young people’s lives, throw workers on the dole and transform education into something shaped by business and the market.

It’s no surprise that students are angry—and they are right to make sure the Tories feel that anger.

We think Sally Hunt, the general secretary of the lecturers’ UCU union, is wrong to condemn the Millbank protest. She blamed it on a “mindless and totally unrepresentative minority”.

That’s wrong. Thousands protested at Millbank. Far from being mindless, they were clear about who their enemy is and determined to show that they would resist.

We think education is a right for everyone, not a privilege for the rich. We need more militant action against the Tories.

Sean Vernell, Jim Wolfreys, Dave Gibson, Alison Lord, Malcolm Povey, Laura Miles and Tom Hickey UCU executive (pc), Andy Stafford UCU rep (pc)

Everyone is talking about the student demonstration and it’s all over the news. I’m glad we went through with it.

Twenty of us went from Newport College to the demo. Loads of my friends who didn’t go to London are asking when the next protest is as they want to go on it.

My dad was made redundant two years ago and my mum, who is a cleaner, is up for redundancy. I’m worried about what will happen if I go to university as we won’t be able to afford it. We need to keep demonstrating until the government takes action.

Sophie Lawless, Newport

I couldn’t tear myself away from the live footage of the demo, especially the events at Tory HQ. I thought it was fantastic and I have no problem that some parts of their property were destroyed. The outrage pouring out of David Cameron and others’ mouths makes me sick.

I am a million times angrier that these scum are hellbent on destroying countless millions of ordinary people’s lives in multiple ways.

But they are incandescent about a few projectiles coming their way. I say stuff their building. We need to destroy the Tories (and their Lib Dem henchpersons) before they destroy us.

Iain Brown, Dundee

Monday: Had lunch with three colleagues. Argument dominated by “Why can’t we be more like the French?” and “It’ll never happen here”.

Tuesday: Well-attended Prospect union lunchtime section meeting. The mood is solid but sombre and the motion calling for coordinated action over cuts, pensions and pay freeze backed overwhelmingly—more in hope than expectation.

Wednesday: Office electrified as news comes through of the student demo and Tory HQ occupation. “I hope they’re quaffing champagne,” colleague calls out across the open plan office. Much hilarity when I stand up and read out text message from protester, “Am I in Paris?”

Thursday: Email received from Prospect member, “I started the week thinking it would never happen here. Now I believe this is only the beginning.” Bring it on.

Simon Hester, North London

NHS must have more doctors

The Birmingham Mail Extra recently had an item, “Phone lift for A&E”.

Screen West Midlands, the local media development agency, hosted an event attended by culture minister Ed Vaizey to hear how “digital companies are urging councils and health authorities to release

non-sensitive information”.

This means that they can give “up-to-the minute information on waiting times in A&E to make life easier for patients”.

Call me old-fashioned, but I wonder quite how this would make life easier for patients, or for doctors and nurses for that matter.

Channel 4 News reported in September that around a third of hospital trusts are short of doctors for A&E departments.

Changes to immigration rules under the last government, and the fact that becoming a GP instead of a hospital doctor means less anti-social hours, are major factors causing the shortage.

The option of listening to endless mobile phone ringtones while lying on a trolley in a chilly corridor doesn’t sound very appealing to me.

How about more doctors working fewer hours? That’s my idea of a 21st century service.

Heather Rutledge, by email

Well done Jim Nichol

I’d like to congratulate Jim Nichol on his piece in Socialist Worker regarding his Viva Palestina Gaza trip (Viva Palestina Diary). I thought it well written and succinct.

But I’d like also to raise awareness of the kindness and solidarity that Jim showered upon the people of Gaza.

I too was on the convoy with Jim and am the only one who witnessed what he did.

I bumped into him on the second to last day of our Gaza trip outside of one of the many conferences we were supposed to attend. I suspect Jim, like myself, had had a jot too many of them.

Earlier, I’d met a director of one of Gaza’s charities that helps people injured in war. He offered to let us visit his clinic.

There we met Mrs Raja Morta, who’d lost a leg during Israel’s merciless war 22 months ago. It was explained that she needed to travel abroad for an operation to fit an artificial limb and it would cost a fortune.

Jim immediately helped her. Later that day he met five other patients, giving them considerable sums before taking them to a chemist to buy medicines.

This was in addition to the fundraising he’d done for Viva Palestina and the considerable costs of the convoy itself.

Jim Nichol is a great guy and is a credit to the Socialist Workers Party, as he was to the convoy. With friends like him Gaza will never walk alone.

Mark Holt, Chair, Merseyside Stop the War Coalition

Prisoners are humans too

My son is in Moorlands closed prison ( Prison riots against system of violent abuse , 13 November).

His block was not involved in any riots yet they have been on a 24‑hour lockdown.

I didn’t get a phone call from him until Friday evening as they would not let them out their cells, and then it was one at a time.

They may have done wrong to be in there but they’re still human. I love my son just as much as I did before he went to prison.

You would think people would get early release, cutting down on overcrowding.

Toni Thompson, Cleethorpes

Benefits are a right for all

The escalating benefit loss penalties in the government’s white paper ( Punish the rich not the jobless , 13 November) are mandatory.

There would be no right of appeal against the loss of jobless benefits. This would seem to be a potential breach of article 6(1) European Convention on Human Rights.

This states, “In the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law.”

The government seems to have forgotten even the traditional claims to justice and a fair trial in this country—meagre as these are in practice for the poor.

Is it proposing to deny the same rights to people on benefits as are granted by law to people in criminal trials? Iain Duncan Smith and David Cameron should set aside the cheap rhetoric and start explaining.

Corin, North London

Will jobless be made to scab?

The Tory plan to force the long-term unemployed into unpaid work is a terrible idea.

I cannot seem to find any information regarding “terms and conditions” that may apply. Therefore I have to wonder the following:

Will it be a somewhat protected system in that it’s only work that is otherwise unavailable—or will scab work also apply?

If people are on strike, will whoever gains the contract be allowed to force the unemployed to do scab work solely to save their own benefits? Just a horrific thought.

Gregor Johnson, by email

Cameron: a Tory hypocrite

It was disgusting to see David Cameron’s hypocritical and mealy‑mouthed criticism of China’s human rights record last week.

Our despicable prime minister could barely get out the words as he is desperate to get trade deals with Chinese firms.

But what right does Britain have to lecture China on such things? The government has carried out atrocities across the globe, most recently in the “war on terror”, which Cameron wholeheartedly supports.

Simone Murray, Carlisle

Sack fat cat firm Atos

As a claimant of the sickness benefit Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for some months, I have, like thousands of others, experienced Atos Healthcare’s Work Capability Assessment.

This corporation, worth £5 billion, is in receipt of a top‑dollar contract for “assessing” patients signed-off by their doctors as too sick to work. It has been working to government targets of moving one million patients onto Jobseeker’s Allowance.

In some cases patients with terminal illnesses have been denied ESA and forced to seek work.

Anyone wishing to hit back can sign the online petition calling for Atos’s sacking at

John Moore, Chesterfield

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Article information

Tue 16 Nov 2010, 18:08 GMT
Issue No. 2228
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