THERE WERE three events last week which emphasised Labour's continuing failure to address the horror of child poverty in this country.
First, I was shocked to read Gordon Brown's trumpeted 'successes' in 'reducing' the number of children living in poverty (defined as children living in a household with less than 60 percent of average earnings). Brown and his acolytes in the press claimed that as a result of various tax breaks Labour were well on their way to abolishing child poverty by 2020.
But hold on! This means Labour, governing the fourth largest economy in the world, is prepared to countenance one of the highest child poverty levels in Europe.
Schemes such as Family Credit have been used to lift some families just above the poverty line-but this is done by the state subsidising a low wage economy. It does nothing for those families where no one is working.
The consequences of child poverty were the theme of the recent Barnardo's advertising campaign.
Barnardo's' 'Silver spoon' campaign set out to show that being born into poverty will impact on the rest of your life. It will lead to a poorer education, more ill health, and greater chances of serious accident and early death. It is likely to lead you to be homeless, to have problems with drugs and alcohol, and to commit-or be a victim of-crime.
Yet the campaign has been banned. The images of poverty are too 'offensive' for billboards.
Finally, a series of opinion polls for Tory papers and Tory think-tanks have suggested we think we are too heavily taxed-and Labour are now feeling defensive about this issue. There have been tax increases under New Labour-but they have been indirect taxes which have a disproportionate effect on working class families.
The solution is much easier. We should reduce indirect taxes (like VAT) and heavily increase income tax on the top earners. The rich pay less direct tax (at 40p in the pound) than their equivalents in Europe-indeed, they pay less than when Margaret Thatcher was in office!
Tax the rich, reduce inequality and take immediate steps to abolish child poverty now.
Michael Lavalette, Socialist Alliance councillor, Preston
Why the silence on Yarls Wood?
THE MIRROR gets an undercover reporter into Buckingham Palace and tells us what the queen has for breakfast. Shock, horror! Front page headlines and lead items on radio and TV for days.
A BBC reporter infiltrates police trainees. Blunkett tries to prevent his programme being shown but fails, and it is greeted by justifiable outrage which forces the police to act.
The Mirror gets an undercover reporter into the Yarls Wood asylum detention centre (Daily Mirror, 8 December), and exposes widespread racism and brutality not only among the young, low paid, under-trained staff employed by Group 4 who run the centre, but also among the managers .
The reaction from Blunkett and the rest of the media? A resounding silence.
Asylum seekers in detention are treated with racist, callous brutality. Those in the community face destitution if their claims for asylum are arbitrarily dismissed. More claims are likely to be dismissed as cuts in legal aid make it harder to present cases fairly. At the same time, as you reported last week, immigrants applying for work permits or student visas are to be subject to swingeing charges for the privilege of coming to this cold, cruel and racist country.
Socialists must act as 'tribunes of the oppressed' and organise protests against these outrages, and build support for the Committee to Defend Asylum Seekers and the new Unite Against Fascism campaign.
Sarah Cox, West London
Break the link
ISN'T IT time the Unison union stopped supporting New Labour through the affiliated political fund?
Giving money to New Labour in the hope that it will prioritise socialist policies is the bad buy of the millennium. There was angry debate about this at the Unison United Left annual general meeting which I went to.
Members were furious about the continued existence of a fund that shores up a government that pursues hated initiatives like top-up fees and foundation hospitals.
One AGM speaker expressed great frustration at having to stand by and watch his local MP vote in favour of the Iraq war, knowing that his MP was a fund beneficiary.
Unity needed as Tory defects
LAST WEEK, suspicions about some of those in the Halifax Tory party were confirmed when Geoffrey Wallace, a Tory councillor for the area, defected to the Nazi BNP.
He joined Richard Mulhall and Adrian Marsden to become the third BNP councillor in the West Yorkshire town. Wallace was seen congratulating Adrian Marsden on his win in January this year. His publicly stated reasons for joining the BNP were his 'concerns over Europe' and the 'vibrancy and effervescence' of his new party.
The defection comes as local people are waking up to the threat posed, and are starting to see through the con of respectability and concern about 'local issues' the Nazis are trying to present.
More than 150 people attended the 'An Englishman in Auschwitz' event with Holocaust survivor Leon Greenman, hosted by the local Unity anti-fascist group. A benefit gig for the group featuring local bands The Victor Surge and The Fat Rascals raised several hundred pounds.
But much more still needs to be done to unify and make more effective direct opposition to the BNP in the area.
Paul Sutcliffe, Halifax, West Yorkshire
Vanunu inside this Christmas
THE WORLD'S first independent weapons inspector, Mordechai Vanunu, is in his last months of captivity at Ashkelon prison, Israel.
It has been 17 years since a female Mossad agent lured him to Rome-days before his revelations were published, exposing a plutonium reprocessing plant in Israel. He has kept his ideals and agitated for peace throughout 11 and a half cruel years in solitary confinement and five more in jail.
You can contact the Campaign to Free Vanunu or send him a Christmas card, care of the prison. More details are available on our website: www.vanunu.freeserve. co.uk
Snooty about rugby parade?
JAMES Meadway's snooty article about the Rugby World Cup in last week's paper was Socialist Worker at its absolute worst.
Millions enjoyed the World Cup for what it was-a thrilling competition with a fantastic climax. Meadway reveals nothing but a sneering contempt for these people. I enjoyed playing rugby at a state comprehensive school. I never set foot in a public school.
Meadway's article dismisses countries such as Wales, South Africa and Australia as a motley selection of ex-colonies-and you claim to be serious about internationalism?
Laughing at the world leaders
SOCIALIST WORKER is a wonderful organ for information, but I think it would be more accessible if it occasionally took a satirical look at events. Sometimes comedy can be a very effective means of social commentary, one perhaps too often overlooked by Socialist Worker.
What kind of left alternative?
I WAS pleased to see your new series on 'Where we stand', and thought the first article really excellent in setting out in clear language some of the basic Marxist socialist case against capitalism.
However, what is the point of just getting rid of that monster Blair? Should you not be advocating a positive socialist alternative, rather than just being for some form of 'left' alternative, which is bound to be a reformist capitalism?
Andrew Northall, Northamptonshire
A step forward against BNP
THERE WAS a very positive meeting in Crawley last weekend. The Nazi BNP have been leafleting the Tilgate area after having stood in the local elections in nearby Furness Green.
In response a meeting was called involving Labour Party members, local Asian community leaders and anti-racists. Some 200 people attended. The new Unite Against Fascism campaign was seen as a positive step forward for the movement against the BNP.
Naina Kent, London
Incinerate Blair, not waste
THANKS TO New Labour moving to the right an opening has presented itself to be filled. The question has arisen of which party is going to fill this opening.
Next year sees the elections for the mayor of London, the GLA and European Parliament. The challenge is to unite the various parties opposed to New Labour as a credible alternative.
Local issues within communities are an obvious starting point, particularly environmental concerns. One example is the campaign to end waste incinerators.
Amanda Logan, London
'Tip of a dirty big iceberg'
MERSEYSIDE Police Authority has just published a report showing that in 2003 black people in Liverpool were 9.5 times more likely to be stopped and searched than whites.
It seems that the nine racist recruits from the north west forced to resign following the TV programme The Secret Policeman were just the tip of a very big dirty iceberg.
Nick Wall, Wallasey