Benefit bashing should have no place in Labour
Ed Miliband’s speech on responsibility sets the tone for the Labour leadership (Socialist Worker, 18 June).
He talked about “those at the top and the bottom, who were not showing responsibility and were shirking their duties.
“From bankers who caused the global financial crisis to some of those on benefits who were abusing the system because they could work—but didn’t.”
Is he simply bashing “benefit cheats” in order to make a wider point about bankers, while avoiding that label “Red Ed”?
Perhaps. But it is entirely unnecessary.
Labour has not only neglected the reality of a huge shift in public opinion against bankers. It has also forgotten that, in politics, words have consequences.
His false comparison between “benefit cheats” and bankers serves only to legitimise prejudices about the welfare state.
This is not a recipe for electoral success—far from it. Miliband is making the same mistakes as all Labour leaders of the past by allowing the right to set the agenda.
Welfare dependency is the result of structural unemployment, not individual choice. What people demand is solutions, not scapegoats.
If Labour committed itself to full employment there would be no need for this irrelevant, sensationalist nonsense.
I have been a member of the Labour Party since 1979. I know it inside out—its history and its people.
Ordinary members’ politics are motivated by noble concerns for fairness, equality, civil liberties, jobs, decent pay and good public services, but with little theoretical understanding.
That is why we have been so easily bamboozled by right wing Labour leaders and their rhetoric.
Sadly, many comrades have already fallen for Miliband’s vacuous oratory.
Some now feel ashamed that their leader cannot stand up for the very people who handed him the top job.
I’m one of them, and I want no part in any agenda that seeks to capture power at the expense of the poor. I’m out.
Siobhan O’Malley, West London
Pressures lead to the problems
There has been lots of media coverage recently about uncaring staff in the NHS and care home sector.
But I wanted to explain how staff can end up like this.
Health and care work is hard. It requires real mental effort to work out what’s wrong with a patient and get the treatment right.
We also need good training to perform well.
It’s terrifying and potentially disastrous for patients, and staff, if we don’t know how to treat them properly.
It can be difficult to explain complicated medical problems in a way that the patient can understand.
We have to cope with the distress of others, and this can also distress us.
We need good supervision and “head space” to deal with our own distress. This allows us to remain caring, patient and able to concentrate.
But these things are in shorter supply as the market eats into the whole field of care.
There are constant pressures to win contracts in the NHS market, cut costs and increase efficiency.
So we aren’t always at our best. You can become irritated at a patient if they do not understand what you say.
You can lose concentration when patients talk to you, making it difficult to communicate effectively with them.
Some people end up trying to switch off their emotions. It’s difficult not to switch off empathy at the same time.
Some staff become hardened. There is a terrible black humour that we use to cope with the bleak events we see on a regular basis.
It keeps us human and sane, but it doesn’t play well on carefully selected TV clips.
If we want care that isn’t full of uncaring, hardened staff, then we have to remove the influence of the market.
This means renationalising care homes and using the money saved to give patients and staff the space they need to be human.
Karen Reissmann, Manchester
Media hypocrisy on Protestant extremism
More than 100 Protestant thugs attacked Catholic neighbourhoods in east Belfast on Tuesday morning of last week.
They wore balaclavas and camouflage, and threw rocks, bottles and bricks at Catholic homes in the Short Strand area in Northern Ireland’s capital city during the attack.
Two men were shot.
Earlier this year nail bombs were sent to Neil Lennon, the manager of Glasgow’s Catholic‑supported Celtic football club.
Paul McBride QC and former Labour MSP Trish Godman—two prominent fans of the team—were also targetted.
So now I expect the press will tell the Protestant community to “stop protecting” the terrorists in their midst. I also expect talk of how “backward” the Protestant religion is.
I expect a whole community to be vilified for the actions of a microscopic minority.
But my error is to expect Protestant terrorists to be treated in the same way as Muslims.
As far as the authorities and the media are concerned it’s only Muslims who are expected to bear a collective guilt for the actions of their co-religionists.
The British media and the establishment are clearly agreed that it’s only Muslims who can qualify as “extremists”.
Sasha Simic, Hackney
Ramsgate unites against racism
Ramsgate’s Love Music Hate Racism festival brought a positive multicultural message to the Harbour Parade on Saturday 18 June.
It kicked off with inspirational music from Thanet youngsters and a brilliant local Roma group.
Mic Righteous and Spookasonic had an amazing response. Kid British tore the set down, and Lady Leshurr said the event was, “Crazy! Kent is the best! They’ve showed me the most love ever!”
The crowd were a huge happy, smiling, dancing and singing throng—probably the most enthusiastic crowd for a music event the town has seen.
The festival was paid for by thousands of pounds donated by local trade unions, with particular thanks to Unison and the NUT.
Hugh Lanning, of the PCS union, told the crowd, “We can’t let racism divide us as we face unprecedented cuts. Join us on 30 June when public sector unions will strike against these attacks.”
Our festival brought the community together in a very positive way. The vast majority back our multicultural society, and we can organise big events to prove it.
Jon, Jasmine, Matt, Bunny, Sue, Scream and 40 others, Kent
Civil service pensions con
I am a retired coastguard officer and in receipt of a modest civil service pension.
Of course, George Osborne will continue to encourage the myth that civil servants haven’t paid for their pensions for years.
This is on the grounds that the main civil service scheme was not funded and was non-contributory.
This conveniently ignores the fact that the salaries of civil servants are reduced to take account of nominal pension contributions.
The savings from the civil service salaries bill were pocketed by the treasury. That’s how we paid for our pensions.
The chancellor could now publicly admit this in the wake of his onslaught on the public sector. But why confuse the public and the media with facts?
Dutchy Holland, Chair, PCS Associate and Retired Members
Osborne hits the poorest
There are a couple of aspects of George Osborne’s budget which deserve to be highlighted.
The first is smoking. Although we all know that smoking is bad and should be avoided, the fact remains that many working class people, including those who are unemployed and on low incomes, smoke.
Therefore, I contend that Osborne’s increase in tax on tobacco was a vindictive swipe at the poor—especially as he made the point he wanted to substantially raise the price of “cheap” cigarettes and rolling tobacco.
Secondly, he has reduced the winter fuel payment to the over 60s—by £50 for 60-79 year olds and by £100 for those over 80.
This is at a time when the obscenely rich energy companies have announced massive increases.
It must keep those shareholders happy.
I haven’t heard very much from Ed Miliband and his chums on either subject.
Mitch Mitchell, Cambridge
Labour is party of rich
The Labour Party is one of the parties of the rich and has a history of attacking workers’ rights.
All the parties of the rich implement the same agenda of benefiting the rich and attacking working people.
It is the capitalist system which must be overthrown.
A new system has to be established where the working class sets the agenda and makes sure that interest of the vast majority of people is given preference—not the profits of the monopolies.
Dalwinder Atwal, Essex
Ed and David are the same
Your article made a big deal of the differences between David and Ed Miliband (Socialist Worker, 18 June).
But in fact that there really is nothing significantly different between them, other than in tone.
And, as for Ed Balls’ anti-strike “advice” to the unions—was it meant to be persuasive?
The Labour Party is incapable of speaking for the people it purports to represent and it offers no alternative to business as usual.
Kathryn Rimmington, Portsmouth
SWP history: Help wanted
In my book Don’t You Hear the H-Bomb’s Thunder? I told the story of the origins of the International Socialists (IS) in north east England.
I am now taking the story forwards from 1965.
If I can find a collaborator I would like to record the IS/SWP’s Yorkshire story too.
I would like to talk to anyone who has been a member of the organisation in either area or knows anyone who has.
If you think you can help, please contact me at Marxism 2011 via Tyneside SWP or by email: email@example.com
John Charlton, Newcastle