Socialist Worker

Socialist Worker

Issue: 1830

Dated: 14 Dec 2002

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The conman in downing street

Luxury flat for his son... £1,000 a week on Cherie's 'lifestyle guru'... total faith in George Bush... and two fingers to the firefighters

International Comment Features Reviews What We Think Other


Refugees left to starve on streets

THOUSANDS OF asylum seekers will find themselves on the streets and starving in bitterly cold weather over the coming months. That is the only present from New Labour this winter for people fleeing war, persecution and torture.

Survey rubbishes myths about race

CLAIMS THAT British Asian communities "won't mix" have been rubbished by one of the biggest ever surveys into ethnic minority housing. Researchers in Leeds and Bradford studied Asian housing patterns. The findings showed that politicians' and media claims that Asian and Muslim people did not want to mix were "myth making".

Reckless road building plans

THE GOVERNMENT effectively signalled the abandonment of its "integrated" transport policy this week when it announced a massive new road building plan. Transport secretary Alistair Darling announced a £2 billion roads programme, which will involve widening parts of the M1 and M6 as well as other major roads. There is no doubt that congestion on such roads is making travelling a nightmare.

Record numbers deeper in debt

WORRIED ABOUT paying the credit card bill off after Christmas? You are not alone. There are now record levels of debt in Britain. The government and so called economic "experts" may tell us we are enjoying a consumer boom.

Hoon hails mad 'Son of Star Wars'

TONY BLAIR says there's no money for workers who provide public services. But his government is ready to stump up a staggering £10 billion to take part in the US's mad "Son of Star Wars" plan. The plan is officially called National Missile Defence.

Fees deter the poorest students

TWO IN three young people who decide against going to university cite fear of debt as the reason.

Airport staff reject deal

WORKERS AT Britain's major airports have voted to reject their bosses' pay offer for a second time. The low paid workers are employed by the British Airport Authority (BAA). They are fuming that while the airport operator's profits have soared in the last year it is still playing Scrooge with their pay.

Defending activists against repression

THE ITALIAN state has attempted to clamp down on the anti-capitalist movement since the success of the European Social Forum (ESF) in Florence in November. It arrested 20 activists in the south of Italy the week after the ESF. Socialist Worker spoke to Antonino Campenni, one of those arrested, about the campaign against the crackdown:


"MAYBE I was naive when this began," says Steve Kendall from Stevenage. "But during the eight-day strike I realised just how much support we could get. You don't get it by standing around burning wood, but by getting out into workplaces and communities. That's one of the biggest lessons we've learned in my area. Now we are saying the union has to come up with what to do next. We are looking for someone to come up with something. We are still determined to win. The attacks on us have hardened the mood."


THE multinational car company Ford was forced to pay out £150,000 to former worker Shinder Singh Nagra last week after he suffered racist abuse at Ford's Dagenham plant. Shinder Singh Nagra won an industrial tribunal in April. He will also receive a medical disability pension of £12,000 a year for the rest of his life.


WE HELD a very successful stop the war public meeting in Exeter last week. Some 175 people turned up to hear Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn and local speakers. We got press coverage in the local daily paper and on local radio. Mike Gurney

Palestine debate

NEARLY 200 people took part in a debate at Edinburgh University last week on the prospects for peace in the Middle East. It was organised by the student society People & Planet. John Chalcraft, an Edinburgh politics lecturer, and Chris Doyle, from CAABU (Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding), explained why Palestinians had rejected the "peace offers".

Love Music, Hate Racism

AROUND 500 people came to a brilliant Love Music Hate Racism club night in Manchester last Saturday. "It was a fun and defiant event against all the racist and Nazi crap," said one clubber.

Inside at Xmas

SOCIALIST WORKER asks our readers to send cards or letters of support to victims of miscarriages of justice at Christmas. They include:

Students get into a militant mood

THE "GRANTS not fees" demonstration on Wednesday of last week was more militant than any student demo for years. If it hadn't been for the downpour that day it would probably have been the biggest demo for years too.

Defend Council Housing

HOUSING privatisation plans in Haringey, north London, have been blocked by tenants. A few weeks ago we found out that the council was about to use funds from the council's "ring-fenced homelessness budget" towards a £612,000 consultancy contract.

Kingsland School

TEACHERS AT Kingsland School in Hackney, east London, are to ballot for strikes over the sacking of their union rep, Indro Sen. Teachers in four other schools are to hold consultative strike ballots over the same issue.


PRESS AND paintline section members at Raven Manufacturing on the Altham Industrial Estate near Burnley have halted their strikes. This follows a letter from management threatening to sack them. The bosses' letter said they could do this under the law which allows sacking after eight weeks of a strike.

Gas workers

AROUND 6,000 gas engineers have voted to go on strike for better pay. The engineers work for Transco, the privatised monopoly that runs the national gas pipe network. Transco offered them a 3 percent pay rise, conditional on changes to working hours and cuts in allowances and sick pay. The workers voted to reject the offer by 5,700 to 60. The vote for strike action was just as overwhelming.

Rail workers

DRIVERS ON First North Western were set to strike this weekend as they resumed action over pay. This follows the rejection of a terrible offer from their management. Strikes would hit the company hard in the run-up to Christmas and could coincide with action on two other rail companies.

Defending refugees

ON THE anniversary of the declaration of Human Rights last Saturday, 100 asylum seekers and their supporters joined the annual "speak-out" in Manchester. Young asylum seekers read articles from the declaration, and through poems and songs, dance and drumming showed their strength of spirit. This government excludes many asylum seekers from even the most basic rights - a home, family life, work and refuge.

Anti-war mood across the world

PEOPLE ACROSS the world oppose George Bush's plans for war on Iraq, a new survey has revealed. The survey of views from 44 countries was overseen by former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. It shows how hostility to the US regime stems from a deeply rooted suspicion about Bush's motives for waging war on Iraq.



Challenge to Chavez

THE UPPER classes of Venezuela, in South America, last week launched another desperate attempt to overthrow the government of president Hugo Chavez. Their last attempt to do so, in April, ousted him from office for only three days before hundreds of thousands of poor people poured into the centre of the capital, Caracas, and forced the army to reinstate him.

Sickness at Ground Zero

RIGHT NOW in the US it seems impossible to escape the war on terrorism. Bush and his clones in the White House are using every trick to whip up a patriotic fever. Serious news programmes run terrifying reports of so called terrorist plans to kill every US citizen. Countless shops display posters declaring their allegiance to the war against terrorism.


Thoroughly 'modern' mystics...

ROLLING IN money, completely cut off from the vast majority of people, and stark staring bonkers. That's the picture of the Blairs and their circle that emerges from the scandal surrounding Cherie Blair's property dealings. Millions of working class people will be outraged that the Blairs casually buy up flats for over half a million pounds for their son when he goes off to college.

Still ready to fight and win

CHEERS WENT up in Hyde Park on Saturday as Fire Brigades Union (FBU) national official John McGhee announced, "20,000 people have marched today." The rally was the culmination of a determined march through central London by firefighters, control staff, their families and other trade unionists.

Blair takes our money and uses it to attack us

"MOST FBU members are sick to death with New Labour," says Paisley firefighter Billy Coates. "I'd say the majority in Scotland are now withdrawing from funding the Labour Party. On my station it's 100 percent."

Is the media all-powerful?

WHAT THE media say, and how they say it, obviously matters. Dictators are always keen to control TV and newspapers. These days they also try to restrict what their citizens can read on the internet. The Blair government knows the media matter. Why else does it constantly try to "spin" news coverage? The left cares too. We get cross when a big demonstration gets little or no news coverage.

Pressures that make union leaders buckle

MANY ACTIVISTS were shocked when the leader of the Fire Brigades Union called off planned strikes last week. Why did Andy Gilchrist retreat? Why did this member of the "awkward squad" suddenly seem so accommodating to a government which was abusing him personally and slandering firefighters?

The new group that lies about refugees

A BOGUS group posing as an authority on immigration in Britain has become the toast of the right wing press and Tories. Migrationwatch UK is constantly quoted in the Times, Sun and Daily Mail. These are the papers that relish attacking workers on strike as much as they enjoy bashing refugees. The group's name is supposed to make you think it is a respected think-tank, like Human Rights Watch.


Talking about a 'world on fire'

HEARTLESS CREW are one of the leading acts behind the Anti Nazi League's Love Music Hate Racism organisation. They played at the carnival in Manchester in September and at the London launch party on Friday last week.

What We Think

The vicious spirit that moves Tony

WHAT PLANET are Tony Blair and New Labour on? One thing's for sure - it's not the one the rest of us inhabit. There are top-up flats for their kids and top-up fees for ours. As the Cheriegate furore grew this week, Blair again lashed out at public services and the workers who keep them going.

Other Categories

Soldiers are pawns in game

LIKE JOHN from Glasgow (Letters, 30 November) I too served in the army. I was involved in the firemen's strike in 1977. I was young and naive. I joined the army thinking it would be a good way to see the world. How wrong I was. I had only been in the army a few weeks at the time of the strike. As we were new recruits in the army, that we had to break the strike was stupid, irresponsible and dangerous.

It's nice work if you can get it

THE GOVERNMENT and the press slam firefighters for having two jobs. But MPs are earning massive sums for positions on top of their £55,000 a year salaries. Many MPs earn the equivalent of a firefighters' wage of £21,000 for just one day a month's "work" as directors of private companies.

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