Smoking, diet: should we change lives or lifestyles?
I WAS shocked but sadly not surprised to hear of New Labour's plans to make people who smoke, are overweight or who don't take regular exercise sign agreements with their GP. Any breach of these agreements could potentially jeopardise access to NHS treatment.
New Labour would like us to believe that these are simply lifestyle choices, and therefore the consequences for health should be the sole responsibility of the individual. The wealthy consult their dieticians, lifestyle gurus and personal trainers on their wellbeing – and then pass judgement and punishment on the rest of us. In contrast the majority of people in this country have very little choice at all.
Good quality fresh food is not cheap. I have a friend on income support and she has £30 a week to spend on food for herself and her two kids. She doesn't simply choose to buy cheap junk foods. She has no choice. We are also constantly bombarded with advertisements for junk foods – a despicably large number purposely aimed at children – many of which claim to be healthy options.
We have no control over this as individuals. The government does. But I don't see New Labour demanding that big food corporations sign agreements not to push junk products or to stop making huge profits from the sale of food. Nor do I see the government genuinely tackling the causes of smoking or refusing to benefit from the huge sums of money it collects from tobacco taxation.
And as for exercise, New Labour have continued to drive enjoyable physical activities from school life, to close down playgrounds, playschemes and youth centres which kept young people active and off the sofas. They provide no free health and exercise centres. Presuming you have any energy left after working increasingly longer hours and if you've got the money you can choose to attend a health centre. If you haven't then that choice just doesn't exist.
We can blame the individual but that just lets the government and policy makers off the hook. If we want a healthier society we need to change the reality of the lives of working class people, not their 'lifestyles'.
Molly Mahamdallie, North London
Italian? You can vote in referendum
ON 15 June all Italian citizens will be called to vote in two referendums. One is for social control of harmful electromagnetic emissions from the national grid. The other asks for the extension of Article 18 to employers with fewer than 15 employees and is particularly important. At the moment only 6 percent of Italian employers, those with more than 15 employees, are bound to apply Article 18 – giving the right to be reinstated in the job previously held should a judge rule a dismissal unfair.
A yes victory in this referendum will be a blow to the neo-liberal trend towards uncertainty in the workplace, and the Berlusconi government. A yes victory concerns the dignity, job security and freedom for all workers. A right is either universal or it does not exist. For the first time Italians living abroad and belonging to the AIRE lists will be able to vote by postal vote in this referendum.
Rifondazione Comunista invites everyone to vote yes. And we ask political bodies, unions and social groups in Britain to publicise as far as possible in their mailing lists and newspapers this appeal. A victory on the extension of workers' rights in Italy will be a victory for all European workers. United we can win. Anyone wanting more information on the yes campaign please email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 07946 561 926.
Enrico Mandelstan, Partito della Rifondazione Comunista UK branch
Just a cover
IN YOUR article on the euro, 'What's Behind This Row?' (Socialist Worker, 31 May), you missed the obvious point. The row is a put-up job to keep the plebs arguing while their pensions and health services are stolen away.
The cancer of privatisation has been spreading across the European Union, but nothing like it has in Britain. The strong opposition put up by continental trade union movements, of which we have just had a shining example from the French, has limited or even blocked it. European Union countries are in fact further apart than they were 40 years ago, with Britain now at the bottom of the league. The same applies to the comparative levels of public investment.
Hugh Lowe, West London
Protest tonic after Evian
WE SPENT a few days in Evian before it was closed to all but residents for the G8 summit.
There was little good feeling among locals as their beautiful town became an ugly militarised zone. Hundreds of heavily armed soldiers were everywhere. A monstrous camouflaged missile launcher pad marred the lake. Moving into Geneva we experienced the anti-capitalist movement armed not with bombs and guns, but with visionary ideas and an enthusiasm to put them into action.
This was truly inspirational. Hundreds of protesters visited the Globalise Resistance and Stop the War stalls we helped set up, and many were impressed with the broad-based groups we had been part of in Britain. As first time protesters on an international event such as this we would like to thank all of the Globalise Resistance and Swiss ATTAC organisers for their support and leadership, encouragement and patience, which were highly impressive.
We will be taking back our exciting experience to Leeds, and will be returning to Paris in November for the European Social Forum and will make sure that from Leeds our numbers will be more.
Sally, Paula, Rosa and Steve, Leeds
Our DU demo brings result
JUST TO let you know we held a small demo outside our local army careers office. We were highlighting in particular the issue of depleted uranium and its use in past wars, and also the depleted uranium shells tested at Dundrennan on the Solway Firth.
The army closed the office and pulled down the shutters. Result! The public were also very interested in our campaign.
Barry Donnan, Irvine
Respect key to 'crap' jobs
IN RESPONSE to Nidhall Eddeym (Letters, 7 June), who asked who would do the crap jobs in a socialist society, the answer is simple – anyone who is unemployed. It's better than dole money and they will get treated with the same respect as everyone else.
The trouble comes when you pay them less and they are treated less favourably and looked down on. I have done lots of crap jobs, and you feel crap because you are treated like crap. I don't think anyone would mind doing so called 'crap' jobs if they were treated with respect.
R Tyler, London
Think what this cash could do
I READ recently in the Daily Express about a fat cat boss getting pay such as £35 million, and three insurance bosses getting £170 million between them.
I was totally appalled. They think they are worth it, but I know it is legalised robbery. Just think what a socialist policy could do with the amount they are receiving.
C A Douthwaite, Barrow-in-Furness
Where are the factories too?
TONY BLAIR not only told parliament of chemical weapons, but of factories actively producing them across Iraq.
He said in the House of Commons on 24 September last year, 'The dossier shows that Iraq continues to produce chemical agents for chemical weapons, and has rebuilt previously destroyed production plants across Iraq.' Please could someone ask why these factories cannot be found?
David Roberts, by email
Iraq and the media war
THE ROW over the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is the lead story by 'intelligence' author Stephen Dorril in a special issue of Free Press – Iraq and the Media War.
The booklet is published by the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom. Other articles include an analysis of 'embedding' by David Miller of the Stirling Media Research Institute.
Anyone wanting copies of the booklet can obtain them from the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, 23 Orford Road, Walthamstow, London E17 9JU. Phone 07774 607 419.
Barry White, London