Inside the system
LABOUR-run Southwark council is currently pushing through the privatisation of the entire borough's council housing stock. At the same time, councillors have just awarded themselves a 100 percent rise on their basic allowance from �5,000 to �10,000 a year. The councillors claim that the rise reflects the more demanding input into their jobs-er, like getting rid of responsibility for the borough's housing stock?
Odd voices of anti-capitalism
THE Spectator magazine is hardly known for its left wing views. But its foreign editor, Andrew Gimson, returning to London after six years in Germany, gave some interesting insights into the current political mood. "I find our capital city in the grip of a mad speculative boom with otherwise astute people unable to see that the crash must shortly come," he wrote. "The election of Mr Ken Livingstone as mayor of London was not merely a protest against Mr Tony Blair. It was also a vote for a man prepared to challenge the dogma that the free market, or what passes for the free market, is necessarily a good thing. As far as the establishment was concerned, Mr Livingstone's hostility to capitalism was the one reason why he needed to be stopped."
The Spectator is a little behind the times. Mark Lawson recently commented in the Guardian on newly elected mayor Livingstone fawning to the Queen mother at an official function. Lawson wrote, "Few of Livingstone's supporters can have suspected that, on a single day in his first month, he would be represented in the media by a pro-royal photo and a canny Blairite political manoeuvre."
SOCIALIST Worker has often pointed out that the stockmarket and the City operate like a casino. Leading addiction charities now confirm this. They have reported that the biggest increase in compulsive gambling is among City traders. They say City traders have become addicted to spread betting-waging on the difference between a bookmaker's prediction and the actual result of an event.
Britain canned MUCH OF the coverage of the Cannes film festival has concentrated on the wining, dining and antics of a few famous film stars. But a documentary film about Sierra Leone by French director Philippe Diaz has caused a stir. The film, New World Order, lays the blame for the disaster in Sierra Leone on Britain, the US and the United Nations. "I had no intention of making a film about changing the world. It just happened," says Diaz. "We found a terrible situation made worse by the UN. It was being presented as a war between democracy and barbarian, diamond-hungry rebels who were chopping civilians' hands off. This was not what we found. What we did find shocked us so much."
First rank racism
THE BRITISH army has paid over �150,000 to a soldier who was subject to unremitting racist discrimination in an out of court settlement. Nasar Khan served for the army during the 1991 Gulf War. He says he was routinely referred to as a "Paki bastard" and as a "Muslim shite".
He was told that he was "a raghead" who was fighting for "the wrong side". The case highlights the racism that runs right through the British army. Blacks and Asians still make up only 1.1 percent of all the British armed forces. An inquiry into the case found ten cases of racial discrimination against Nasar Khan and in nine out of ten the perpetrator was Staff Seargeant Smith. Sergeant Smith has kept his army rank.
EVER rung up for a rail ticket to be told you can't get the cheap tickets? It is a deliberate ploy by the privatised rail companies to screw more money out of us.
That is the only conclusion from new research from the Rail Passengers Council. It found that over the last four years rall companies have reduced the availability of saver tickets.
Passengers were "effectively forced" to buy more expensive tickets because cheaper tickets could be used on fewer and fewer trains.
The report said a passenger paying �35 for a Supersaver return between London and Liverpool in 1996 could now have to pay Virgin Trains �140.
The new Kremlin
THE GOVERNMENT is so worried that its own MPs may stray from the line dictated by the Millbank control police that it has banned ministers from taking part in the twice yearly survey by pollster MORI. The ban led the chair of MORI to comment, "We can interview in the Kremlin and the White House, but we can't interview in Whitehall."
Things they say
"THE saddest thing is that we are trying to prepare children for the modern world in tatty classrooms, with tatty books and computers that are completely out of date."
- KEVIN SHORT, the brother of cabinet minister Clare Short, resigned as head of Hamp Junior School last week
"IT IS no secret that it is easier to recruit members as an opposition fighting a deeply unpopular government in the run up to an election than it is when you have high satisfaction ratings in the polls and people seem happy with your government."
- LABOUR PARTY SPOKESMAN trying to explain why 50,000 members have left the party since 1997
"TONY Blair manages to give the impression that he does not like trade unions, local authorities and the Labour Party. People have sensed this and they don't like it."
- MARK FISHER, former arts minister
"IT IS pretty bloody intolerable."
- Railtrack director RICHARD MIDDLETON describing the railway service
"SOME people might see this as a bunch of people with too much money and not enough to do, behaving recklessly."
- TOM COMBRINCK, one of the super-rich who flew their sports cars into Spain to race along Pyrenean mountain roads at 180 miles an hour last weekend
"THIS FORM is about as valuable an exercise as writing what your three favourite colours are."
- DR PLANT on the government's questionnaire sent to health workers last week to consult them over the future of the NHS
"THE Dome company are holding us to ransom. They know we can't close them down and the more cynical among us think they will come back for more money."
- GOVERNMENT MINISTER