Socialist Worker

Blunkett didn’t sack any cops when my brother died

Deaths in custody | Retirement age | SNP | Deaf jurors | Reagan |

Issue No. 1908

DAVID BLUNKETT wants to make the chief constable of the Humberside police resign. This is because of a report into how Ian Huntley was able to get a job at a school in Soham.

My brother, Christopher Alder, was killed while he was in the custody of the Humberside police in 1998. David Westwood, the man Blunkett wants to sack, was the deputy chief constable when Christopher died. The chief constable just retired when we started asking questions.

There were no calls for resignations in the wake of Christopher’s death. David Blunkett did not rush forward to condemn the police then—he backed them all the way. They didn’t give us justice then, and they are not giving us justice now.

They are still refusing to hold an independent public inquiry into what happened when Christopher was arrested that night in Hull. Christopher was in a fight and got taken to hospital. Then he was arrested and he died soon after arriving at the police station.

A jury found that Christopher had been “unlawfully killed”. At a later trial the judge directed that the police officers involved should be acquitted.

A CCTV camera caught police officers laughing as Christopher lay dying.

But that evidence was ruled out by the judge. Now Blunkett wants to stick our case in a file and leave it on a shelf gathering dust, like they have with the Stephen Lawrence case. But when the video of Christopher’s death was shown in a TV programme back in April, I got an amazing response.

Since then, I have got support from lots of people who were shocked at what they saw. I spoke to firefighters at their annual conference a few weeks ago.

They donated thousands of pounds to Christopher’s campaign and all promised to get hold of their MPs and help us lobby for an independent public inquiry.

Janet Alder

Burnley


I AM outraged at some of David Blunkett’s last-minute amendments to the asylum and immigration bill.

They will lead to more anti-refugee feeling.

There are thousands of asylum seekers left in a legal limbo because their claim for asylum has been rejected but they cannot be deported because their home country remains too dangerous.

One of Blunkett’s amendments means such asylum seekers will be forced to do “community work” in order to receive support. If they do this to asylum seekers, how long before all claimants are threatened?

Ann Jenkins

West London


Beware an attack on retirement age

SOCIALIST WORKER is right to argue that the TUC needs to wake up to the need for a real fight to defend pensions, and this includes the state pension also.

A recent Sunday Times article revealed that the government is seriously considering increasing the retirement age to 70. An editorial in the Guardian has accused the Sunday Times of scaremongering, but this is far too complacent.

People have every reason to be concerned. This has already happened for women (who now have to retire at 65 instead of 60), and the government is proposing to force the same change through in the public sector.

Also organisations that have Tony Blair’s ear, such as the CBI and the Adam Smith Institute, have been lobbying to raise the retirement age to 70.

The Treasury has calculated that by making workers work an extra five years it can get £10 billion in tax revenues.

And if the state pension age was raised to 70, it would save an additional £10 billion, because one in five pensioners die before they reach that age.

The least likely to reach a later retirement age are from the manual working class. Rail workers and public sector workers planning strike action to defend pension rights are leading the way, but this issue affects every worker.

It is a classic case of the capitalist class trying to force us all to work more and receive less!

Joe Hartney

Edinburgh


Fighting Bush on home front

“THEY SAY cut back—we say leave Iraq” was one of the most popular chants at a national tenants’ conference in Washington DC last week.

I attended the conference as a representative of Defend Council Housing. Over 200 delegates and supporters picketed the offices of the department of housing to protest against the latest budget cuts by the Bush administration, which could see some of them lose their homes.

The tenants live in privately rented accommodation, at below-market rents, and receive vouchers that are paid to landlords. The programme provides housing to over 1.5 million Americans, but the government wants to raise rents and reduce subsidies.

The tenants recognised the similarities between their fight and ours.

Bush and Blair don’t only agree about the war—they both want to privatise public services.

I told the conference that the US should not be judged by its government or corporations but by its people.

The people at the conference are part of the other America—the poor, elderly and disabled workers who are constantly attacked by the Bush regime.

But they also represent the fighting tradition of the American working class.

Glyn Robbins

East London


SNP is sinking

JUST TWO weeks after the European election and John Swinney, leader of the Scottish National Party, has bitten the dust.

At a time when New Labour is massively unpopular, the SNP vote has declined from 33 percent in the 1994 Euro elections to 19 percent today.

A survey earlier this year showed that the SNP has the smallest core support of any of the major parties in Scotland.

The majority of SNP votes in urban areas come not from hard nationalists but from people seeking an alternative to Labour.

But the SNP’s policies are remarkably close to New Labour, despite some rhetorical opposition to the war, so why vote for them?

Pete Cannell

Edinburgh


Better service needs cash

THERE WAS a lot of hype recently, nationally and locally, about improving social services provision to prevent further tragedies like that of Victoria Climbie.

At our office we had big staff meetings called by higher management to impress upon us the need to work longer hours and to find ways of expanding the service without—you guessed it—any further expenditure.

The thinness of the employers’ commitment to improving the lives of needy children is shown by their decision to close play parks in some council estates here.

H Fahoney

Pembrokeshire


Deaf people are kept from juries

I AM a deaf person and a British Sign Language (BSL) user. I had been recently selected for jury service and was looking forward to be a juror.

However, the jury officer said to me that the BSL interpreters are not allowed because this will count as a thirteenth person on a jury. Therefore I cannot be a juror.

I felt this was extremely unfair. Jeff McWhinney, a deaf BSL user and chief executive of the British Deaf Association, went to court to be allowed to take part in a jury trial.

The judge agreed that there was no reason why a deaf person should not serve on a jury, or have an interpreter in the court.

However, the current law says there can only be the 12 members of a jury in the jury room at any time.

Please read more here

Khalid Ashraf

Leeds


Gay socialists take pride

IN LAST week’s Socialist Worker N Jones asked what gay socialists are doing about Gay Pride.

Many people are angry that Gay Pride has become increasingly commercialised and depoliticised. Since the late 1990s event organisers have attempted to cash in on the pink economy.

This Saturday’s official festival, “Big Gay Out”, is a not-for-profit event, with money being donated to Stonewall and London Pride. But it still charges £30 a ticket.

Those who believed in the free market loved by Blair and Brown have become bankrupt. The political statement of resistance, the march itself, has not.

We would encourage people to join our stall at the political rally in Trafalgar Square alongside other trade unionists next Saturday. A sense of collective pride begins when we are united in our struggle.

Helen McGuinness

Norwich

Right to be hard on Reagan

IN RESPONSE to Andrew Smith’s letter in last week’s Socialist Worker, I would like to support Chris Harman’s obituary of Ronald Reagan.

Although it’s true that Reagan was merely representing the interests of the wider US ruling class, he was nevertheless fully conscious of the suffering his policies caused. He was a ruthless warrior for his class.

It is the “charismatic” leaders like Reagan who are responsible for most of the suffering in the world.

Whilst our main enemy will always be the capitalist system rather than individuals, a healthy disrespect helps break down its “civilised” facade.

Andrew should recall the telegram sent by British workers to the Spanish dictator General Franco as he lay on his deathbed: “Die, you bastard, die.”

John Maunder

York


We need more asylum seekers

SUPPORT FOR the BNP and UKIP is increasingly worrying, especially the rise in racism and anger against immigrants to this country.

While much of the media expresses the opinion that Britain is flooded with immigrants, immigrants make up only a small percent of the population.

In a society where the birth rate is decreasing, economic immigrants help the population keep stable.

Britain is in desperate need of train drivers, nurses and plumbers.

Perhaps more media attention should be focused on the drainage of money to the monarchy rather than those who are helping our society.

Fiona Hutton

by e-mail


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Article information

Letters
Sat 3 Jul 2004, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1908
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