Socialist Worker

Letters

Issue No. 1688

Letters

Gordon Brown's fraudulent use of jobless total

HOW TORY can New Labour chancellor Gordon Brown get? Not content with thieving all their economic policies, he is now filching all the Tories' lies and hypocrisy. Brown claims that there are now more job vacancies than people without work in Britain. This is a lie based on a massive Tory statistical fiddle. Brown uses the utterly discredited "claimant count" to argue that there are "only" 1.1 million unemployed compared with one million vacancies.

In opposition Labour claimed that the "claimant count" was a Tory trick designed to fiddle unemployment figures. And they were right. Before the 1997 election Labour preferred the International Labour Organisation's calculations, which would give a figure of 1.7 million unemployed today. However, the Trades Union Congress argues that the real figure for people wanting work is nearer four million-three times the "claimant count". And all this ignores the fact that Brown's "economic miracle" is creating mostly "Mcjobs" paying only the pathetically mean minimum wage. So we have four million unemployed chasing one million lousy jobs. Some miracle!

  • AL RAINNIE, Hatfield

You helped in our struggle

ON 10 October 1997 my son Ryan Preece and his workmate Robert Simpson were killed when they entered a sewer chamber in Crymlyn Burrows, near Swansea, to clear a blockage. A lethal cocktail of illegally dumped toxins killed them both. Local people rallied round to raise funds to fight for justice. A football match raised �1,000, and concerts, pub collections and street collections boosted the fund. The local community helped raise over �6,000 in total. After the final failure of our fight to get corporate manslaughter charges raised we had just over �3,000 left.

We decided to split the money up between the following: Giants Grave Girls and Boys Club, where Ryan played his first football; Briton Ferry special school; Neath Socialist Workers Party, for helping us with the campaign; Neath General Hospital; Llansawel primary school; Multiple Sclerosis; and the Jersey Marine Junior School. We would like to thank everyone in the community who contributed and helped our fight for justice.

  • ALAN PREECE

Lifting morale

THE TEACHERS of St George's School in west London have been appalled at the media attack on their school and pupils. We issued a statement laying the blame for the crisis squarely on the government and Westminster council for cuts in the education budget. A lot of staff were angry at the media. They were delighted to read the feature on the school in Socialist Worker (4 March). This described the reality of committed teachers working with disadvantaged but hardworking pupils. "The article is brilliant," said one teacher. "This is the first thing I've read which has told the truth about this school." Messages of support to the NUT rep, St George's School, Maida Vale, London W9 1RB.

  • NUT rep, St George's School, West London

Education fees

The problem students face

EDUCATION secretary David Blunkett's recent speech at the University of Greenwich signposts another step along the road to ruin for Britain's university system. He wants to take away regulations which ensure universities cannot steal any more money from students in tuition fees than the government already does. Blunkett has signalled that universities can start to plan "top - up fees", with "prestigious" universities charging more. This will push the class divide even further into higher education.

Letting Martin Harris, our vice - chancellor, decide the level of our fees would be a disaster. This is a man who has no qualms about spending �1,000 on a taxi from London to Manchester. Students don't want New Labour's vision of a British Ivy League. We want a free and equal education.

  • ALAN KENNY, student, Manchester University

...And the solution from Orpington

RECENT action against fees taken by students in UCL and SOAS has dramatically increased the confidence of other students. In Orpington College we in the students' union have been arguing against tuition fees. Students decided to make a stand. Together we demanded that the �675 a year fee for over 19s in the college was dropped. We told management that if fees were not abolished we would take to the streets and use other forms of direct action.

Last week management caved in, and this huge burden on poorer students was abolished. Although there are still other financial penalties for students in Orpington and elsewhere, this was a major victory. It proves that direct action is the only language listened to by those who treat our education as a business.

  • PATRICK WARD, Orpington College Students' Union, Kent

May Day 2000

Dump the dome idea, Bickerstaffe

I HAVE written this as a protest to outgoing UNISON public workers' union general secretary Rodney Bickerstaffe. "I AM outraged at your letter sent to me "inviting" me and my "loved ones" to a day out at the Millennium Dome on 1 May as somehow part of our union's Campaign for a Living Wage. You are right when you say, "May Day has traditionally been a day for workers." But why are you encouraging your members to spend �10 of their hard - earned cash on a day out at the Millennium Dome this year? Many of your members are among the lowest paid workers, and the greater number do not live in London, so, again, why the Dome? You say that the TUC is organising the event under the umbrella theme of "Respect at Work". You say UNISON will be promoting its campaign for a �5 an hour minimum wage. Again I ask, why the Dome? why not a workplace? By having the event in the Dome it does several things. It will make money for the Dome. It will keep marches off the streets. It will keep the campaigning out of the workplace. So what should we be doing ? The streets are free. There should be marches everywhere celebrating the victories of the past and demanding a decent wage for all. The way to celebrate May Day in London would be to go behind the march called by the South East Region of the Trades Union Congress. This march is supported by the London Regional Council of UNISON, which in a statement rightly said that "for the trade union movement to be seen bailing out the Dome would be embarrassing in the extreme"."

  • MAUREEN DELENIAN, east London

Voice needed

I ATTENDED a London mayoral hustings organised by the Pink Paper. What was clear was the need for a socialist voice. Dobson said the only thing on which he disagrees with Blair is that "Tony supports Newcastle and I support West Ham". This hardly inspires confidence that he is about to shed his poodle image if elected. Socialists should be arguing for taxing the rich, stopping privatisation and cuts, and welcoming refugees to London. This is why we should welcome Livingstone's decision to stand for mayor and build the London Socialist Alliance (LSA) for the Greater London Authority elections.

  • LORNA ROSBOTTOM, east London

NATO supporter sees the light?

JONATHON Freedland was one of the many Guardian journalists cheering on Blair's bloody war in the Balkans last year. At a public debate that I attended during the bombing campaign Freedland had stressed the moral imperatives of Western intervention in "poor Kosovo", denying the hypocrisy and lies of the NATO warmongers. Last week, however, in an article in the Guardian, Freedland voiced his doubts about his previous opinions on the war.

In his column Freedland ruefully quotes Blair's cynical comment that the Balkan War was a "propaganda war to be fought much like an election campaign". For those of us in the anti - war movement this was something we knew all along. Against the likes of Freedland, we had argued that the NATO assault would only impoverish and ruin an economy already on the brink. Freedland now tacitly agrees with this position.

To his credit, at least he has finally seen through the lies and made public his discomfort at what he called "the uneasy fit between morality and combat". It would be much better, however, if Freedland had reviewed his position while innocent civilians were being slaughtered in Belgrade. Post - mortem reports, however correct, cannot bring the dead back to life.

  • TITHI BHATTCHARYA, School of Oriental and African Studies, London

Postal points

DAVID FROM Birmingham (Socialist Worker, 4 March) says we are out of date. Who decides what is and what isn't out of date? The reality of the railways is that competition creates a need to cut back. Cutbacks put pressure on safety. The problems of nationalised railways having no competition pale into insignificance next to those of having competition. Neither Labour nor the Tories offer any solution to the fundamental problems facing humanity, such as environmental catastrophe and poverty. These problems are usually the result of "sensible" and "moderate" parties and governments.

  • DANIEL NEVILLE, north London

A RACIST group has recently infiltrated a historical web - ring I subscribe to. These are electronic streets, and it is as important to drive these people from the web as it is from street corners. Are there organised efforts against this sort of thing? I would imagine there are. Perhaps an article could address the tactics of such a battleground?

  • JOHN MADRON, Oxon

THE repercussions of the Southall and Paddington rail disasters are still being felt. The official inquiries show how privatisation was to blame. These are the issues Norwich Socialist Worker sellers were petitioning over when we were arrested on 9 October of last year-the Saturday directly following Paddington. We are fighting our arrest. The next court date is 20 March.

  • GRAHAM KIRKWOOD and MIKE WATERMAN, Norwich

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Sat 18 Mar 2000, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1688
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