BLAIR'S FAVOURITE New Labour council is trying to break our union. We are absolutely clear that Newham council in east London intends to lead the way in smashing the town hall union to force through Blair's plans to "restructure" public services-cutting our pay and jobs and selling off the people's assets to the fat cats. We are going to step up our action and we are determined we are going to win. But in discussing strategy with Unison union regional officials, the question of our political relationship to the government dominates the debate.
We have won the right to withhold some union funds from Labour, but we are fed up with the union high-ups facing two ways. They support us on the one hand but pull punches when it comes to using their economic and political muscle within the Labour Party.
Were the £3 million in donations to Labour to be stopped until the council recognises the basic rights of trade unionists, our vicious union-busting council would be brought to heel at once.
So we have put a motion to Unison conference asking that all funds be stopped until our union rights are restored. The regional officer is fed up with hearing this argument and says we should concentrate on picketing and striking. He even told us the political funds should not be discussed by the rank and file as it "demoralises" them. This is nonsense.
It is not demoralisation but anger that our money and political power are being squandered that is expressed in our meetings. There is a growing feeling that union money should go only to those politicians who really support Unison.
The question of to whom, and how much, is a matter to be decided in democratic discussion and debate involving the whole union membership-not just a few diehard Labour Party members.
Stephen betrayed again
DOREEN Lawrence summed up the anger of many Londoners this week over the police decision that there is insufficient evidence to prosecute anyone for her son Stephen's murder in 1993. "The authorities have given up, but I will not," she announced.
Anyone who read the Macpherson report into the police handling of Stephen's murder will know the police treated him with absolute contempt and that the entire investigation was mired in racism. I had high hopes there would be change after Macpherson found the police to be institutionally racist.
But in the 11 years since Stephen's murder nothing has changed:
New Labour says we should no longer talk about multiculturalism as we are all British now. But the figures above prove British justice is not colour blind. If black people are to feel equal in this society, we need a political organisation that will take on police racism and corruption rather than denying it exists.
We need to make the police more accountable, with racist police officers sacked and prosecuted. We need to show people there is an alternative to the cuts, privatisation and racism of New Labour.
We'll take extra from pensioners
DO YOU remember when the Halifax Bank ran a series of adverts using the song "Consider Yourself at Home" from the musical Oliver? I don't think they realised at the time how inadvertently honest they were being, in that the song in the musical is sung by a bunch of thieves.
I have just spent four tortuous months working for Halifax-Bank of Scotland Credit Card Services. I was contracted through Office Angels, and of all the agencies that I have worked through they must be far and away the worst.
Arbitrary sackings, zero job security and workplace bullying are the norm. But the nastiest stunt that the two organisations have pulled on the public is misselling credit cards to pensioners. With the government's drive to pay benefits directly into bank accounts, droves of elderly people are now walking into a High Street trap.
They arrive in the branch and just want a current account and miraculously leave with a Visa or Mastercard they never even asked for, don't know they have and have no use for. These things are peddled on commission. Even if the new owner of the card chooses not to use it they still get calls from the company which pester them to spend. Since when did we give these parasites the right to drive our grandparents into debt?
This isn't a model
IT IS immensely angering but sadly unsurprising that Unison union leaders have abandoned the national claim for Scottish nursery nurses. Their decision is consistent with signing up to the government's "teaching on the cheap" remodelling agreement. Despite Unison promises of more teaching assistants on better pay, a report by Alan Smithers for the NUT union shows 20,000 such posts have been lost because of budget shortfalls.
Unison members, and those in other education unions who silently went along with Clarke, need to get this capitulation overturned inside their unions at their conferences and in their branches very soon.
Only crumbs for nurseries
HAVE YOU ever noticed that the picture of a cake on the box at the supermarket is often much better than the cake inside? That's how I feel about the government's provision of "free nursery places". At present three and four year olds get a "free place" and Tony Blair said last week that he wants to extend this to two year olds.
It sounds good. But it isn't quite what it seems. The free place is for two and a half hours a day, for five days a week, for 33 weeks a year. In other words, it doesn't let you work or go to college.
Any help is useful, but the lack of a proper nursery place means that parents still have to pay well over £100 on average a week to get full time care. Blair's delicious gateau turns out to be a stale old bun. I had never heard of Respect until last week but then another parent at the Hackney nursery where my child goes told me that Respect stands for an 8am to 6pm nursery place for 52 weeks a year. That gets my vote!
Army atrocities in Ireland
SO NOW predictably the photos of Iraqi prisoners being tortured by British troops are said to be possibly faked. The myth must be upheld in the media that "our boys" are heroes and don't do this sort of thing.
But remember Northern Ireland and the mistreatment dealt out to the Irish by British soldiers, culminating in Bloody Sunday. Today for Irish just substitute Iraqi.
Even if the Daily Mirror's pictures are proved to be fakes, it doesn't mean such atrocities are not being committed in our name. Real heroes are those who refuse to fight in these imperialist wars.
Fascists forced to go wandering
LAST YEAR we found out the BNP were planning to stand in the local elections here. A broad range of people came together to build a campaign against them.
Where they leaflet a bit of a street, we cover the whole ward within an afternoon to combat their lies. Now we have found out they haven't been able to find a candidate to stand in the 10 June local elections and after trying to set up a local BNP group have had to admit failure.
Welcome planned for G8
I ENJOYED reading the contributions by Walden Bello and Alessandro Pelizarri on the politics of the G8 (Socialist Worker, 8 May). I would have welcomed more supplementary information on the prospect of the G8 being held in the UK in 2005. This will undoubtedly be one of the UK movement's biggest events next year.
Though we won't know the location until after next month's summit in Georgia, already Globalise Resistance Scotland, working on the presumption that it will be at Gleneagles, have been circulating a statement for individuals and organisations to sign up to.
This states that the G8 is unwelcome but, if it does go ahead, calls for the widest possible mobilisation against it. Copies of the statement can be obtained from [email protected] Could I urge your readers to circulate the statement and sign up as many individuals and organisations to it as possible.
A stage in the electoral cycle
IT'S GREAT we have Lindsey German standing as Respect candidate for London mayor campaigning for cheaper tube and new trains and tubes. But we must not forget the two means of transport that suffer most from a car-centred transport system-walking and cycling.
Cycling is one of the quickest, and potentially healthiest, means of transport. It is one that does not pollute or endanger lives of other road users. Most of us are lucky enough to be able to walk, and walking can also be great in a city like London-remember the anti-war demonstration on 15 February last year.
But with little space for pedestrians, with dangerous roads and pollution it's usually not much fun at all. Walking and cycling, of course, don't provide big profits for oil, construction, car or transport companies.
If we want a vision of a better London let's campaign to change these priorities.
New friends for warmongers
MICHAEL ROSEN has it all wrong about the liberal bombers (Socialist Worker, 8 May). They are not in difficulties over Iraq-they have just moved on to far more "important" matters. For example, at the end of a week dominated by reports of abuse and torture committed by US and UK troops, David Aaronovitch dedicated his entire column in the Observer to a review of the sitcom Friends.
"Killjoys disclaiming the importance of Friends", writes the great man, are "missing the point".