Socialist Worker


Issue No. 1852

More and more people standing up to Nazi BNP

Many people in the local community here were shocked when the British National Party (BNP) got someone elected to Broxbourne council on 1 May. On Tuesday 13 May we had a local protest against the BNP councillor taking up his position.

We protested because we wanted to show people from ethnic groups living here that we do not agree with the BNP. Only a small minority of people actually voted BNP. I felt it was important to register the fact that, apart from anything else, we don't think he will be a good councillor.

The BNP election campaign material showed they have no other ideas except opposing asylum seekers – there aren't any asylum seekers in the borough. The protest was really good. There were speakers from the Labour Party in Enfield, the local Labour Party and the Anti Nazi League, and local people joined in.

The man from the local Labour Party was definitely 'Old Labour'. It was interesting to hear from them because normally Labour are so quiet round here. I hope we had an impact – you don't normally get demonstrations or things like that happening round here!

The BNP said they wanted their victory here to be their gateway to the south east. We want to stop them and show they are not welcome here or anywhere else.

Maz, Cheshunt

Back in January the BNP stood in a by-election in the Mixenden ward in Halifax. I teach at a school in the area. During that election I wrote to all union members in the school warning there was a danger the BNP could get in. I asked people to get involved in leafleting against them and to donate money to the campaign.

I got a couple of donations, but it wasn't an overwhelming response. After the BNP candidate got elected, people realised there was a real problem. In the run-up to the local council elections earlier this month I wrote again to members of staff.

I sent them an Anti Nazi League newsletter describing how we had been out on the estate meeting people intending to vote BNP and changing their minds. This time the response was great. I got one donation of £50, one of £30 and lots of people gave tenners – I've been given over £150 so far.

Kevin Mottram, Halifax

Wrong take on rail guards' strike?

I am surprised that your reporter seems to have fallen for the RMT rail union leadership's line that guards have won significant concessions in our dispute over safety. Unfortunately, the RMT executive agreed to call off our strikes despite no real concessions being made.

The RMT safety proposals are being examined by the Rail Standards and Safety Board (RSSB), as they would be in any case. All the train companies have conceded is that they will not oppose the results of this examination – they are bound in law to accept the results. The only 'significant concession' we have is that if the board accepts our line we can take part in drawing up the wording of any official railway rule change.

The truth is that the RMT executive panicked after officials exaggerated a 'return to work' movement. Rather than persuade the small minority of wavering members that our action was right, the executive claimed a victory to cover up their own weakness. Significantly, three train crew members on the executive did not support this cop-out.

If the board does not accept our proposals, we will now have to start mobilising our members over again. Train crew are confident that we can defeat the train companies on this issue – as long as our union leadership doesn't keep undermining our action.

Greg Tucker, RMT train crew conference secretary (personal capacity)

Short changed

I work at the City Hospital in Birmingham. We cater for people from Clare Short's Ladywood constituency. Her resignation wobbles did not come as any great surprise to me. She might wrestle with her conscience over some issues, but it has never prompted her to fight for more provisions at this hospital, which treats some of the poorest people in the city.

When we have been forced to reduce services we never heard a squeak of protest from Clare. She is right to have a go at Blair over the 'reconstruction' of Iraq. But she supports their 'reconstruction' of the NHS, foundation hospitals, which will make life worse for us.

Liz Crostie, Birmingham

Labour turns its fire on the left

I am a school student from Camden. I am writing to voice my disgust at the way George Galloway has been treated by the Labour Party. He was one of only a handful of MPs who reflected the anti-war feeling among the population of the country before the war.

The Labour Party is meant to represent the workers. Labour means work, as they seem to have forgotten. I cannot understand how a party that claims to be 'left wing' ignored a march of two million people, the biggest anti-war demonstration of all time.

I feel the main reason George Galloway has been suspended is because Labour don't want a true left winger in their party. How can the government claim not to have enough money to give the firefighters a decent wage when they have just spent billions on war?

Surely it would be more constructive to spend money on a vital force that save lives rather than killing people. Will they lift the ban on George Galloway after he loses his chance to stand as an MP? New Labour's 'plan' is very transparent. I sent this letter to David Triesman, Labour's general secretary. Everyone should complain to him.

Ellie Harries, Central London

Writing on wall for journalists

Pay strikes and the mass movement against the war have helped galvanise the left in the National Union of Journalists for the first time in many years. This year's annual conference was the largest for years. Strikes over pay in Bury and Bolton, and recent walkouts over pensions within Trinity Mirror, reflect a growing militancy and a willingness to fight back among journalists.

A huge conference vote for a ballot to establish a political fund also showed the widespread politicisation. Things are definitely looking up.

Phil Turner, Sheffield

Now East will really be East

At last the BBC is to allow an Asian family to appear in EastEnders. Up until now, if you watched this programme you might think that London's East End was mostly inhabited by white small businessmen.

If the BBC want to go a step further towards reality perhaps they should show the family attending an anti-war demonstration.

Yuri Prasad, East London

Locked up for being ill

Many people are suffering under the Mental Health Act of 1983. People have been sectioned, locked up, under the act. Homes have been broken into and people taken off against their will.

Some who are justifiably angry, for example about their treatment, are taken and injected with drugs. Please write to politicians, TV stations and newspapers to raise this issue.

Name withheld

Solidarity is not a crime

I recently went to Calais to experience the shocking reality of life since the closure of Sangatte refugee camp. Refugees are not the only victims of the new measures agreed by the British and French governments.

I heard of a French person being arrested for giving shelter to two Iraqi refugees in his home. He was accused of people smuggling. Under French law sheltering someone without papers is a crime. When local people try to give out food to refugees, the police arrest the refugees. There are reports of the police beating up refugees.

Tom McGowan, Kent

War based on tissue of lies

The US is preparing to spend $3 billion on repairing Iraq – having already spent a lot more than $3 billion destroying it. It was comforting to know that their weapons were so accurate that only Saddam's hidey holes were destroyed.

How cunning of him to keep hiding in power stations, sewage plants, etc, to ensure that the infrastructure collapsed with him, leaving Iraq in a worse state than post-war Berlin.

John Higgins, Edinburgh

Camfield is a better choice

Four candidates are standing in the election for TGWU general secretary. All make reference to the dissatisfaction within the union with Bill Morris and the union's attitude to the government.

The two candidates most closely associated with the left are Barry Camfield and Tony Woodley. Many union members see Camfield as the most consistent critic of the union's line.

He clearly wants the union to present a more robust challenge to the anti-union laws, is bitterly critical of New Labour and condemns the war on Iraq. Socialists should support Camfield.

TGWU member, Gatwick airport

A dramatic warning

I watched The Day Britain Stopped on TV last week. It was absolutely brilliant. For a few minutes I thought a real disaster had struck because it was so realistic. It was also chilling. The horrific accidents and loss of life were all too believable. The programme clearly blamed privatisation for the transport chaos it predicted.

Chris O'Donnell, Manchester

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Article information

Sat 24 May 2003, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1852
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