The SSP has them scared
The Daily Record has launched another bitter attack on Scottish socialist MSP Tommy Sheridan. That should come as no surprise after its vicious assaults in the past. What is new this time is that the Scottish National Party has joined in. They dared to suggest that Scotland's most open and accountable MSP is somehow involved in dodgy financial deals.
The smears came after Tommy criticised MSPs for voting themselves a 13 percent wage rise (£6,000 a year). This was supposed to bring them into line with Westminster MPs-although ScotRail train drivers are attacked for striking to get parity with drivers in English regions.
Most people in Scotland agree with Tommy on this issue, so the Record tried to muddy the water by saying he was as bad as the rest.
Nicola Sturgeon MSP, who has a reputation as a left of centre member of the SNP, enthusiastically joined in the witch-hunt. Just for the record (and for the Record), Tommy is paid £2,200 a month after tax. He personally takes £1,373 of that (including his pension contribution), and the rest goes to the Scottish Socialist Party. This is all open to inspection and publicly notified.
In a strange way we should be heartened by what has gone on. The Record, which slavishly supports New Labour, and the SNP are clearly feeling the heat from us. For example, in the recent Glasgow Springburn council by-election the SSP came third, with a greater vote than the Lib Dems and Tories combined.
The last time the Record waged a smear campaign against the SSP (over Tommy's support for legalising cannabis) it rebounded, to the credit of our party. I firmly believe it will be no different this time.
Angela McCormick, Glasgow
Important cases were raised at Paddick meeting
It was standing room only at the assembly room in Lambeth Town Hall, south London, on Tuesday of last week. Hundreds of mainly white residents attended the Community Police Consultative Group meeting in support of Commander Brian Paddick. Paddick's dialogue with community groups has won him lots of friends within the borough, as has his policy on the decriminalisation of cannabis for personal use.
But it was clear from the start that this was not popular among rank and file officers, and his attacks on the New Labour council for their lack of youth provision led to a very public brawl between him and the leader of the council. When Paddick spoke to the meeting he received a standing ovation. At the back of the hall was the mother of Derek Bennett, whose son was shot six times in the back last summer in Brixton by a police armed response unit.
Mrs Bennett shouted out, calling the meeting a disgrace, but many of the people in the hall, unaware of who she was, called for her to be quiet. After the many speeches supporting and praising Paddick, only a short time was given for questions at the end.
But people were able to make important points about the deaths of Ricky Bishop and Derek Bennett at the hands of the police while Paddick was borough commander.
Officers allegedly involved in these cases are still working. Paddick is dismissed for allegedly allowing cannabis to be smoked in his home. The Met's reactions to Paddick are a clear indication that the police force are still unwilling or unable to change.
TINA HUMPHRIES, Socialist Alliance candidate for Larkhall ward in Lambeth
Smile - you're in a strike pic
Thank you for publishing over the last few weeks a number of wonderful photographs of people on strike. I particularly enjoyed those of the Hackney school meals staff and the Sunderland medical secretaries.
What both have in common is the sheer joyful exuberance of the people taking part in the actions. They also give an impression of real power. Is it perhaps that the rarity of strikes today means that people are surprised to discover just how liberating it is to take such a stand... or is it just that women are less boring than men?
Anyway, I am glad to see people smiling when they are defying their bosses. Society is usually grey, boring and over-serious. Those of us who want a different world should encourage the playful cheekiness which ought to be our natural state.
ANGELA MORRIS, Birmingham
Criticism is banned
Home Secretary David Blunkett has thrown Shahid Malik off the Committee for Racial Equality (CRE). Now he is likely to lose his place as the only Muslim member on Labour's NEC. Shahid Malik was physically attacked by police during the Burnley riots last June.
He has criticised the Home Office and the head of the CRE for failing to address the root casuses of problems faced by ordinary people in Burnley and the north west. For all New Labour's talk about listening to ethnic minority views, the disgraceful treatment of Shahid shows how Blair cannot stand any criticism, however mild.
RICHARD MACSWEEN, Burnley
Democracy in every sphere
Tony Benn says (Socialist Worker, 23 March) that in order to recreate the labour movement we have to go back to the Chartists, the working class political movement that existed from the mid-1830s to 1860.
Before 1848 the Chartists focused on achieving the vote for working men, albeit with methods including an armed uprising in 1839 and a general strike in 1842. By the early 1850s, with papers like the Red Republican, the Chartists were campaigning for 'The Charter and Something More'. By this they meant not just political democracy, but economic and social democracy.
That's what we want-the power to elect and recall not just MPs but also the likes of judges and those who run industry.
KEITH FLETT, North London
Is it because you are out of touch?
After reading Weyman Bennett's review of the Ali G film (Socialist Worker, 30 March) I was left a little confused. Firstly, Weyman praises a number of jokes from past TV appearances which he has found 'acceptable' while at the same time criticising the character's use of terms socialists quite rightly feel are offensive, such as 'bitches' and 'batty boys'.
This totally misunderstands where the humour of the character comes from, at least in its earlier stage, and falls into the trap of believing that socialists can only laugh at jokes which are politically well directed. He then goes into a rather confusing discussion about language which seems to suggest that laughing at Ali G involves condoning at face value homophobic or sexist terminology.
The disappointing thing is that there are issues here that are controversial and interesting to discuss, but Weyman does not get to grips with any of them. He ends by praising a demonstration held outside the film premiere in which protesters described Ali G as the new Al Jolson.
However, what informed their objection essentially was that Sacha Baron Cohen is white-and, what is more, Jewish-and therefore should not comment on any aspect of 'black' culture.
KEITH COPLEY, East London
Whose side are you on in Zimbabwe? The so called Movement for Democratic Change is that country's equivalent of the Tory party. It represents the interests of foreign investors and white landowners. During the late 20th century liberals used organised labour as a weapon to disrupt and overthrow regimes that challenged the status quo in some way.
Reaction has now decided to apply to Zimbabwe the lessons learned in Eastern Europe. If you align yourself with the MDC you place yourself in the service of imperialism.
MAURICE COURCHA, North London
I was delighted by the turnout in Rome against the policies of their right wing government. The anti-capitalist feeling is growing. It is also interesting that Labour left wingers are allegedly plotting to challenge Blair's leadership. Something like this happened under Thatcher, if my history is correct, and she was thrown out of office.
I hope the same happens to that megalomaniac Tony Blair.
Socialist Worker is supposed to be available in newsagents. But none of the newsagents I have been in have displayed it or even had a copy when I've asked for it.
Can I suggest that everyone places an order with their local newsagent for the paper? This will raise awareness of the paper which should lead to increased circulation. Just off to place my order with my newsagent.
JENNY COMPTON BISHOP, North London
If you have difficulty getting Socialist Worker at your newsagent phone 020 7538 3305.