As chancellor Rishi Sunak was considering his budget I was dealing with a case that should bring home the poverty the Tories should be addressing.
I work in a foodbank in Hackney, east London. We are only too aware of the human cost of the austerity policies of the last decade. But this winter is going to be terrifying.
A woman who has been coming regularly to the foodbank told me that she is very reluctantly staying with her partner, who is sometimes violent.
She could not see any way to survive with her young children without his income.
The Universal Credit cut has hit her hard. The £20 a week extra meant she was able to just about able to cook a meal in the evening for her two children. Now that money will have to come from somewhere else, probably from the woman herself skipping meals.
Then there’s the rising fuel bills—and remember that people on the prepaid tariffs foisted on the poorest face a bigger rise than the rest of us.
If she leaves her partner, her carefully-managed strategy of survival will fall apart.
So she risks her health and her mental equilibrium in order to meet her basic material needs and those of her children.
That £20 a week cut means nothing to that Tory MP who said it was grim to live on just £82,000 a year.
It means nothing to Boris Johnson who says that he can’t get by on his £157,000 a year—plus all the expenses and the corporate handouts.
But it’s the biggest overnight cut to social security since 1945.
The case I’ve mentioned is just one of tens of thousands that could be collected across Britain.
The answer isn’t more charity, or more foodbanks—horribly necessary and admirable though they are.
It is to put more money in people’s pockets, including higher wages as well as proper benefits.
I despair that the good lessons we learnt during the pandemic about working together and cherishing low paid workers are being forgotten.
Clubs must take spiking seriously
In the last few weeks, women have been sharing stories of being spiked by men in nightclubs and bars.
Terrifyingly, some say they believe they were injected with unknown mixtures of drugs.
Recently my friend was spiked in a nightclub in Plymouth. She reported feeling ill and so an ambulance was called.
Tests were run, and it was found that the drugs she was spiked with had taken a toll on her heart.
I was also spiked in a nightclub. Thankfully my friend noticed and told me not to drink from my glass.
When I took my glass to the bar, I told the bar worker that I had been spiked. Of course she was sympathetic but didn’t ask me who had done it. I don’t blame them for this, but I think this is where change could happen.
Women shouldn’t have to feel as if avoiding spiking is just another part of going out.
In Plymouth and other cities, women have organised to boycott nightclubs this Wednesday.
Of course there has been some criticism of the boycott plan. I think it would hit clubs harder if it were on the weekend.
The murders of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa were a wake-up call for so many women. But the protests—especially after Sarah’s murder—made us feel empowered.
So join the boycott and keep fighting to put an end to this sexist system.
Pitch rivals unite to score anti-racist winner
Anti-racist Swansea and Cardiff football fans both celebrated a victory in the South Wales derby last weekend.
Players and managers of clubs read out a statement written by Stand Up To Racism members.
Our logos were displayed throughout the game on the big screen and in the programme, and players wore Show Racism the Red Card T-shirts.
This success followed years of campaigning, notably in Swansea by Jacks Against Racism and Fascism. We have managed to marginalise the far right at our ground.
The “Voice of Wales” group had once abused players taking the knee—and targeted refugees at the Penally camp.
But our persistent campaigning helped ensure that #TakeTheKnee is now widely applauded from all sides of the ground.
And, it also helped ensure that the Voice of Wales received a pathetic vote in recent Senedd Welsh parliament elections.
Jacks Against Racism and Fascism.
NHS pay rise? I’ve ended up with less
I thought the 3 percent pay “rise” imposed for NHS workers was terrible, a pay cut in real terms.
And then I discovered I actually had less money coming in.
That’s less in actual cash terms.
The extra 3 percent meant that I moved into the next level of pension contribution.
I am now above the £21,478 threshold for an increased pension contribution rate.
This means that the amount taken from my wages goes up from 5.6 percent to 7.1 percent. It hits workers including clinical support workers and pharmacy assistants.
In my latest pay packet I was given an extra £348 in back pay.
But I also paid increased pension, national insurance and tax contributions of £361. So I was £13 worse off.
And this comes before the national insurance goes up by 1.25 percent in February, and the Universal Credit cuts bite.
The demand for a 15 percent pay rise for all NHS workers is now more relevant than ever.
I hope when the unions have finished their consultations and ballots that all of us NHS workers will show what we think of the government’s insults.
And if we take some action then everyone must support us.
Taiwan has right to decide
Socialist worker’s article on Taiwan (20 October) ends with the sentence “While Taiwan is clearly part of China, in truth the decision over its future currently rests with the interplay of imperialist powers.”
This is mainly true, but it totally ignores the role of the Taiwanese working class who fought successfully to overthrow the dictatorship of the Kuomintang.
If the people of Taiwan wish to remain independent of the oppressive Chinese state then socialists must support them without lining up with the West.
Taiwan may be “Chinese” in a cultural sense, but the local population have a right to self-determination.
Stamp out injustice
The miscarriages of Justice UK (MOJUK) group sends out on average 200 + mailings a month to prisoners.
It costs 66p for each mail sent. We are asking MOJUK supporters to help so that we can keep the information going to prisoners.
If you have any unused stamps, please send them to MOJUK.
Even if you have only three stamps put two in an envelope, the other on the envelope, and send to MOJUK, c/o 22 Berners Street, Birmingham B19 2DR.
Miliband and China’s coal
Can Labour’s Ed Miliband sink any lower? We all remember his 2015 general election slogan proudly displayed on a mug, “Controls on Immigration”.
Recently, and before it has even begun, he blamed China for the Cop26 talks ending in failure due to China’s coal production.
Apart from lining up behind British and US imperialism, blaming China has a whiff of racism about it. Perhaps Miliband could knock out another mug with the slogan “Controls on Chinese Coal”.