Privatised school not welcome in Hackney
The people planning to set up a privatised free school in Hackney, east London, got a hostile reception when they called a public meeting last Saturday. Around 100 people attended.
As a Hackney parent, I went along. I said I resented their assertion that local children would benefit from the school because it would compensate for the bad homes they came from.
I got applause for this and so made more criticisms. A youth worker then spoke and again criticised the plan.
Andreas Wesemann is the “corporate finance advisor” for the Hackney New School, which plans to open in September 2013. He and his friends were visibly thrown as other parents began to ask probing questions and express doubts.
Pauline Pearce, the woman who famously confronted rioters in Hackney last summer, saved the day for the free school group.
She spoke about wanting to give underprivileged children more opportunities. But she also said we should have another meeting to continue the debate.
There was clearly a minority of parents who wanted the free school. But the organisers were rattled and agreed to call another meeting.
Afterwards a few of us got talking and agreed to set up a campaign against the free school. It is worth going to these meetings because there is real potential to build opposition to free schools.
Ken Muller, East London
Pressure forced SNP to back down
Trade unionists and campaigners celebrated an outstanding victory last week when City of Edinburgh council voted to end plans to privatise many council services.
The city council is run by a Scottish National Party (SNP) and Lib Dem coalition. SNP councillors had previously maintained that, although they greatly regret it, they had little other option if they were to make the necessary savings.
But months of campaigning by anti-cuts groups and Unison union activists resulted in the SNP councillors splitting with their Lib Dem partners. There are lessons in this example.
Whatever a party’s manifesto might state, in office it is all too easy for councillors to say that they have “no options”. With council elections only months away, whatever promises candidates make, you can be sure we will be watching them.
Pat Smith, Edinburgh
Court lets police off the hook
I and two others took the police to court following the brutal policing at the G20 demonstration in 2009.
In May 2011, the High Court ruled that kettling in those circumstances was unlawful. However, on Thursday 19 January this year the High Court overturned this judgment, deciding that the officers had in fact acted lawfully.
They accepted that the decision to contain the Climate Camp demonstrators and the police “push” were justifiable because of fears of the serious risk of the protesters being joined by “dispersing demonstrators from another substantial crowd”, which the court claimed had been violent and disorderly.
Ultimately, the court concluded that, to prevent a “breach of the peace”, it is legitimate for the police to act in the way they did. This seems to turn the whole concept of “preservation of the peace”, never mind “policing by consent”, on its head.
The ruling means that kettling can be used where the conduct of those being kettled does not legally justify the kettle. It is a direct violation of our right to protest.
In other words, kettling might now legitimately be used on one group in response to the feared actions of another.
Can you foresee a large‑scale demonstration in London which will not have, running in parallel or associated with it, demonstrations involving people who might act in a way that the police could characterise as a “breach of the peace”?
It is extremely rare that the judiciary, an established section of the ruling class, has a moment of progressive clarity. Nonetheless, we will be appealing to the Supreme Court and, if necessary, the European Court of Human Rights.
The state only makes concessions when forced to, and we must force it to uphold the right to protest.
Josh Moos, North London
Spartacus paved the way for welfare bill win
I am grateful for Socialist Worker’s coverage of the suffering of sick and disabled people, who are being hit with savage and humiliating attacks on their benefits and quality of life.
I want to highlight the incredible grassroots campaign by disabled activists that helped lead to the government defeats in the Lords.
Campaigners, some of whom are house or bed-bound, used social networks such as Twitter and Facebook to produce the Spartacus Report.
This exposed how the government’s “consultation” completely ignored the many valid concerns of disabled people, carers and charities about the Welfare Reform Bill.
As a result of their tremendous efforts, Sue Marsh and two others have pushed themselves to the point that they are now enjoying the success of the campaign from their hospital beds.
The sick and disabled have found a voice and are no longer invisible—but we still need help and support from healthy activists to halt this despicable attack.
Remember sickness and disability can happen to anyone—it does not discriminate. The Spartacus Report can be downloaded at bit.ly/spartacusrep
Rachel Deakin, Sheffield
They marched, now will they stand up?
On the day of the 30 November strikes we had a wonderful demonstration in Swansea—1,500 people!
The Labour MP for Swansea West, Geraint Davies, marched proudly at the front to show his support for the strikers. And he was far from the only MP to do so on the day.
So are all the Labour MPs throughout the country who did the same now going to stand up in parliament and tell Balls and Miliband (and Dave Prentis) that strikes are necessary?
Siân James, Labour MP for Swansea East, also spoke on the platform at the strike rally.
She has credentials when it comes to strikes—she organised the women of the South Wales valleys during the 1984-5 Miners’ Strike, even as the party’s then-leader Neil Kinnock attacked the strikers every day.
I also seem to remember seeing Harriet Harman at the Grunwick strike the same day as me and busloads of South Wales miners.
But these are individuals. The Labour Party always does well when strikes are over, but has the Labour Party itself ever actually supported a strike?
Fred Fitton, Swansea
Labour voters driven away
I remember my dad—who was a lorry driver all his working life—saying to me that the working man should always vote Labour. If he were alive today, he would be shocked.
Alan Ashton, Canada
Blacklist is a serious crime
It is quite obvious that the Consulting Association blacklisting outfit has got away with serious crimes. So much for justice for workers. Good luck to all who fight the blacklist.
Kenny Newton, Birkenhead
Sexism is no way to fight
I read with mixed feelings about the 18 year old trans woman who has entered the Miss England competition.
Her intentions are to raise awareness of transphobia, but can you really do this while subjecting yourself to sexist objectification?
It only reinforces the idea that trans women are measured by their looks, not their achievements. Sexism is not an improvement on transphobia, nor does it challenge its causes.
Ed’s turned over the cuts
So Labour leader Ed Miliband now supports the coalition’s cuts. How can anyone in the working class vote Labour again?
Apart from the few Labour MPs and councillors who fight for working people, we should be standing candidates against Labour from now on.
Rupert Mallin, Norwich
Theories of devolution
John Gullick (Letters, 21 January) makes some important points, but he seems to have confused devolution with independence.
Scotland has been devolved since 1998. But Westminster retains key powers. It appears the SNP has the support of most socialists in Scotland for independence—at least for now.
Kathryn Rimmington, Portsmouth
When Tories cut, we bleed
Your article on the Tories driving people to suicide (Disabled woman speaks out, 21 January) shows what happens when economic hardship is coupled with a government with no respect for public services.
It is the most vulnerable in society who feel the most pain—both in terms of the cuts and in increases in prejudice.
Paul Collins, Oxfordshire
Retire at 68, die at 68
I noticed government statistics in the Nottingham Post showing that men now have a life expectancy of 68 years in the ward next door to me.
So they’ll be expected to die at the same age everyone under 35 will now have to work to.
And there are 73 other wards across the country with an even worse life expectancy than that.
Richard Buckwell, Nottingham
Internet bill is not enclosure
Socialist Worker is right to oppose the US Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa). However, Derek Wall’s argument about enclosures (Letters, 28 January) is spurious.
The processes that saw peasants driven off the land and deprived of access to what had been communal resources were part of a world-historic transformation.
They helped the emerging capitalist class accumulate vast wealth and created a propertyless proletariat. Sopa is not really comparable with this.
More importantly, Derek suggests that the web exists outside private ownership.
This is nonsense. Among those protesting was Google, which made over £5 billion in profit last year.
Sam Thorne, Glasgow