THE ANNUAL Pensioners' Parliament took place in Blackpool last week. At the opening rally about 2,500 people heard speeches from representatives of the Labour, Tory, Liberal Democrat and Green parties. It was noticeable that the speeches were received with virtual silence or even derision.
It appeared that the vast majority of the audience did not believe a word that any of them spoke. Unfortunately there was no Respect speaker on the platform. Respect supporters were heartened by the warm reception we received and also by how many people marched with the postcards pinned into their lapels.
Over the following two days there were workshops and debates on many subjects including pensions and income, healthcare, transport and mobility, women's issues, ethnic elders and Europe.
These are all areas that will be covered in the Pensioners' Manifesto which is to be published shortly. All the major political parties have been invited to discuss the manifesto with the National Pensioners' Convention. I firmly believe that Respect's ideas on pensions are much nearer the convention's views than any of the other political parties. On the Wednesday evening we held the Respect fringe meeting.
George Galloway MP, Respect councillor and candidate Michael Lavalette and candidate Steve Metcalfe all gained terrific applause.
AMONGST THOSE present at the Respect meeting at the convention was Ron Todd, the former general secretary of the TGWU union. He is on the left within the Labour Party. He was not at all antagonistic to George Galloway or myself.
He said that he wanted to reclaim Labour for the left. This meant getting rid of Blair. He also said Labour were taking the votes of party loyalists for granted and that they should stop simply voting for the Blair project.
Respect changed my mind
I HAVE been very concerned with the way politics have gone over the past two decades, so much so that I have not voted in all that time, preferring to spoil my ballot.
I know these are counted and thought that if enough people spoiled their ballots, then the message might get through that there is really no party out there worth voting for.
However, having researched the Respect coalition, and having great respect for George Galloway standing up to make his voice heard and standing on his principles, I have revised my opinion.
The Respect party seems to hold true to my views of right and wrong. Unfortunately I can't afford to donate on a regular basis, but I can donate my time regularly. I would like to help out any way I can.
Don't get court out
A GROUP of people have come together to set up Lawyers For Respect. The consequences of New Labour's decision to wage an illegal war on Iraq are now clear.
Civilians are killed and prisoners tortured in the name of "liberation". Whether it is on the war, PFI or student fees Blair never listens to us. We now have detention without trial or charge for foreign nationals. Blunkett wants to extend this to British citizens.
We are writing as lawyers who support Respect to ask for your support. If you want a full copy of our statement or to get involved please email firstname.lastname@example.org
People have written the story of London
PETER Ackroyd's London TV series is told with plenty of enthusiasm, but I think Karl Marx would have said that he is suffering from a classic case of alienation. Ackroyd invests bricks and mortar with a life of their own. He describes the Gordon Riots and various demonstrations through history as effectively troubling the smooth progress of London.
But the life and energy of the crowd and the conflict are all manifestations of class war and the struggle for existence. In the Gordon Riots people tried to destroy the symbols of their oppression such as Newgate prison. They also attacked the wealthy, who organised to defend themselves. The rich quelled the riot by killing 800 people.
Ackroyd wandered through modern anti-capitalist demonstrators, having himself filmed. The action almost looked as if it was back-projected, he is so dissociated with what is going on.
He is astonished by the stunted lives and anarchic behaviour of Londoners through history, never questioning why they are like this. The great beast that I think Ackroyd senses is not the city but the gaping maw of capitalism fed daily by millions of workers in London.
Ackroyd can rest assured that the people will not dismantle his beloved London. They have a more important task-the destruction of the capitalist system, thus achieving their emancipation.
No shine in India
THE FAR right BJP, under the banner of the National Democratic Alliance, ruled India for five years. We exported rice at the price of Rs 5.54 a kg at a time people in drought-hit areas were forced to buy rice at Rs 6.40 a kg. Huge numbers of farmers committed suicide.
The BJP left no stone unturned to raise communal tensions between Hindus and Muslims. Ironically, they advertised that India is shining. Where is the sheen? But Sonia Gandhi, the leader of the winning Congress Party, is no Mother Teresa to India. She never stood for those Muslims victimised in Gujarat riot in 2002. Her party and Communist allies played the soft card on the BJP's Hindutva philosophy.
Why is Usdaw making me sick?
I WAS shocked to read that Tesco planned to dock the pay of workers for the first three days they are off sick (Socialist Worker, 22 May). I was even more shocked to see that shop workers' union Usdaw was supporting them. However, it would appear that Tesco workers have a surprise ally.
The Chartered Management Institute's director of professional affairs, Christine Hayhurst, commented that, "Organisations would do well to ensure that genuinely ill staff are not penalised and sick people are not encouraged to work when they are not fully fit."
The institute added that the move could result in low workforce morale and high turnover rates if it led to genuinely sick employees believing they were being penalised unfairly. All pretty basic arguments that one would expect a trade union to make. So why the support for the scheme from Usdaw?
Could it have anything to do with the incoming Usdaw general secretary being on the Labour Party national executive committee? Perhaps Usdaw committee members might want to rethink the union's Labour link before it makes them all sick.
Texting the message out
RESPECT HAS had a lively European election campaign in Yorkshire and the Humber. Last weekend the billboard van carrying a giant version of the "Bliar, Bliar, Iraq's on fire" postcard highlighted our campaign by touring the region. Obviously, new technology can't and shouldn't replace a discussion with people but, just as a reminder to vote, a group of us are texting our friends and all the people who've left Respect their mobile phone numbers.
Our election is all postal, so we are doing it this week when the ballot papers arrive. The message says, "Ballot papers out now for the European Parliament elections: this time your vote matters. Punish Blair-Vote Respect. www.respectcoalition.org Please forward."
Contempt at poor women
HAVEN'T YOU noticed the appalling misogyny meted out by the tabloids to Maxine Carr? Normally the contempt tabloids showed at her trial would lead to severe punishment by the attorney general, or even dropped charges. Contempt of court is a very similar offence to conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
This is despicable hypocrisy and victimisation of an anorexic woman. And what are socialists doing about this? Note that Louise Woodward, convicted of child manslaughter, originally murder, was lionised by the tabloids. Why?
Surely, it's the class backgrounds. Louise Woodward had rich parents, unlike poor Maxine Carr.
A tragic loss for Eddie Gilfoyle
EDDIE Gilfoyle's father, Norman, sadly passed away in February. Although Eddie attended the funeral in the company of two prison guards he missed the service due to traffic congestion. As a campaign we are very disappointed that we have been unable to secure Eddie's release from prison so that he and his father could spend some quality time together.
Agenda is still a major debate
SOCIALIST WORKER was wrong last week in describing the Unison union's position on Agenda For Change as being one calling for a no vote. While there is increasing realisation that Agenda For Change won't deliver and that in fact up to 25-30 percent of health staff could lose out, Unison's position will not be determined until after a review of the earlier implementer sites towards the end of June.
The health executive will then make a recommendation to the special conference to be held in October. It is at this conference that the recommendation on rejection or acceptance in the subsequent ballot will be determined.
Choking on their dinner
LIKE MANY people, I was appalled by George Bush Senior coming to London to try to buy his son's way back into the White House. This man was the architect of the first Gulf War over a decade ago and, like his son, he is a mass murderer responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent Iraqi people.
Protesters were greeted by a ridiculous number of police, surrounding the fancy hotel where Republicans Abroad were eating a $1,000 a head meal. Not only did they prevent us from getting close to the hotel, but Londoners will be expected to foot the bill. Nevertheless, Bush Senior and his warmongering pals cannot have failed to hear the angry protest and rally.