Socialist Worker

Socialist Worker

Issue: 1887

Dated: 07 Feb 2004

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Blair is to Blame

No more cover-ups No more lies Thousands died for oil and US power...

International Comment Features Reviews What We Think Other


Revolt as BBC staff stand up to the bullies

BBC workers have staged an unprecedented revolt over the Hutton whitewash and the government's attacks on independent journalism. The mood of many of the 24,000 BBC workers to resist has not diminished since last Thursday's spectacular walkouts over the Hutton report and Greg Dyke's departure.

A bonfire of the pledges

HOW MANY manifesto pledges did the government tear up last week? They bullied their MPs into voting against the pledge not to introduce university top-up fees. That was on every news broadcast and in every newspaper. But very few people noticed housing minister Keith Hill announce that he was ditching a pledge to bring all council homes up to a "decent homes standard" by 2010.

Members' striking revolt

The executive of a key section of the PCS civil servants' union last week called off planned strikes over pay. Pressure was building from members this week for the strikes to be put back on

All-out action hits taxi manufacturer

PRODUCTION workers at London Taxis International (LTI), manufacturers of the "London Taxi" in Coventry, walked out on all-out indefinite strike on Tuesday of last week. They are sick of year on year below-inflation pay deals and dragged-out pay negotiations. The strikers are in the TGWU and Amicus unions.

Willam Cook's strikers

BOB McNEILL, Mark Crossland and Eddie Grimes, who are taking part in Britain's longest running industrial dispute, travelled to London on Thursday of last week to attend their bosses' appeal at the Employment Appeal Tribunal offices. They were part of a group of workers in the Amicus union at the William Cook's foundry in Sheffield who were told not to return to work after striking for one day in April 2001. They have been campaigning since.

Our pay deal is not safe

OVER 150 members of the PCS and Prospect civil servants' unions packed into a meeting at the HQ of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in London last week. Both unions are balloting for action over the 2003 pay offer after 90 percent voted to reject it. Feelings are running high as HSE management are determined to limit rises at the top of all pay bands to 0.5 percent per year for three years.


STRIKE ACTION by workers at Sainsbury's distribution depot in Haydock forced the company to increase its pay offer. The workers, members of the Usdaw union, voted to accept the deal which brings their pay up to £7.60 an hour, with shift allowances on top. The vote was 426 for the deal, and 218 against.


REPRESENTATIVES from NUT teachers' union associations met in Leeds on Saturday to discuss how to build the campaign to elect Ian Murch as general secretary of the NUT. Doug McAvoy, who has been general secretary for the last 15 years, is due to retire in June. The NUT has been painted as part of the awkward squad over the last year.

Hutton reaction

THERE WAS a great response to a Stop the War Coalition stall in central Manchester last Saturday as campaigners petitioned against Hutton and called for an independent inquiry. Activists were also building support for the demonstration at the Labour spring conference at 12 noon, Saturday 13 March, GMEX centre, Manchester.

Workers rage at these sackings

POSTAL WORKERS at the East London mail centre have voted by two to one for strikes over the sacking of two of their colleagues. Workers at the office were disgusted and enraged when management announced the sackings were going ahead. This is despite an almost total lack of evidence and the promise of a review after a recent well-supported unofficial walkout.

Peace Not War festival

THE PEACE Not War group is organising four nights of music and arts next week on the anniversary of last year's global protests against the war on Iraq. It takes place from Thursday 12 February-Sunday 15 February at the Hackney Ocean, 270 Mare Street, Hackney, east London (nearest station Hackney Central).

'Land Rover fight is an inspiration'

LAND ROVER workers are due to hold their second one-day strike on Monday of next week in protest at the company's pay offer and the strings attached to it. The 8,000 workers at Solihull and those at Gaydon in Warwickshire are taking on Ford, a multinational with a reputation for ruthlessly exploiting workers. That's why other car workers are hoping the Land Rover strikers get a victory.

Sacked for supporting his pals

EIGHTEEN YEAR old Keith Burgess is an agency worker who was sacked for supporting the recent strikes by Hackney's refuse workers. His courageous and principled stand is in glaring contrast to the union-busting attitude of the Labour council. His story also highlights the precarious world of "flexible" work and short-term agency contracts which the government champions.

Bus workers

BUS DRIVERS at Stagecoach buses in Worthing, near Brighton, are continuing their fight for better pay. There have been two one-day strikes in the last week, including lively, large pickets. Some 20-30 people turned up on Friday of last week and 40-50 on Monday of this week. Everyone was in good spirits. The drivers are in the TGWU union. Securitas drivers bringing cash to the company refused to cross the picket line. This caused a big headache for management.

All-out strike at Leicester College

LECTURERS AT Leicester College began an indefinite strike on Monday against management's introduction of an unnegotiated contract. This contract removes four days holiday and introduces the possibility of unlimited Saturday working. Management claimed they had more people who had signed the contract than voted for strike action and that the college would run as normal with no classes needing to be cancelled.

Council tax

THE CAMPAIGN against the council tax is gathering momentum in Crawley, Sussex. We have organised a public meeting for this week (Thursday 5 February in the Civic Hall at 7.30pm) and hope to attract a wider group than pensioners since council tax rises hit everyone. The council tax is an issue of growing importance.

Union members demand a voice

NEW LABOUR was set to plunge itself deeper into crisis this week by expelling the union that first got the Labour Party established a century ago. Its assault on the RMT rail union is creating a storm in the wider trade union movement. Other trade unionists, including the 250,000-strong postal and telecom workers' Communication Workers Union (CWU) nationally, have rallied in support of the RMT.



Whitewash turns black for Blair

ONCE UPON a time the Hutton report might have worked. Lord Hutton himself represented the British army at Lord Widgery's inquiry into the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry in January 1972. Widgery produced probably the greatest official whitewash in 20th century British history. After a chat with the prime minister, Edward Heath, he exonerated the Parachute Regiment of the charge of killing 13 unarmed civilians.

I'd still rather be a picket than a scab

IT IS almost 20 years since the start of the miners' strike of 1984-5. I worked as a miner for 25 years and I was out picketing all through the Great Strike. Two TV programmes screened recently brought the memories flooding back. They are not the first such programmes-a small flurry came out on the tenth anniversary of the strike. The usual approach taken by such films goes along these lines:


Compulsory reading for college students

THERE COULD hardly be a better time for Socialist Worker to be available in universities, and soon many more students will see the paper. Over 40 WH Smith's and Menzies campus shops in England and Wales will be stocking the paper from next week, plus almost all Scottish universities.

Blair is out to smother dissent

GREG DYKE issued a statement last Wednesday accepting the Hutton report. It was not enough for Blair, who smelled blood. The government went on the offensive even after the chairman of the BBC's board of governors, Gavyn Davies, stood down. The two governors who effectively forced BBC Director General Dyke out were Lord Ryder and Lady Hogg.

Slavishly loyal to his masters

BARON HUTTON of Bresagh was appointed to head the inquiry into the death of David Kelly by Lord Falconer, a close friend of Tony Blair. Another of Blair's friends may have influenced their choice. As Lord Chief Justice in Northern Ireland, Hutton would have worked closely with disgraced spin doctor and former Northern Ireland secretary Peter Mandelson.

Up in flames: the credibility of the whole political establishment

I'M CONSIGNING the Hutton report to my stock of dodgy dossiers. I want to go over the lies the government told to show that this wasn't just about one report by the BBC. The whole government case for the war on Iraq was flawed. After 11 September 2001, to get support for the war in Afghanistan, Tony Blair said in Oman, "There will be no war on Iraq unless we show there is conclusive evidence that links it with 11 September."

"You won't get away with this"

The vote for student top-up fees and the scandal of the Hutton report sent waves of anger around Britain. Much of the mainstream media has ignored this grassroots revolt. Here we print some of the many e-mails readers sent to Socialist Worker and comments from high-profile anti-war campaigners

Election drama founded on little real substance

IMAGINE TONY Blair and Gordon Brown, clown-like smiles glued to their eroded faces, spending week after week pressing flesh and chatting up the locals in the pubs and chippies of Barrow-in-Furness. And imagine an electoral system that gives more strategic clout over the selection of the Labour leader to Cornwall and Essex than to Liverpool and Glasgow.


Evil Empire

ARUNDHATI ROY says, "Fiction dances out of me. Non-fiction is wrenched out by the aching, broken world I wake up to every morning." In every essay in this collection you will find the same passion, clarity and rage as in her inspiring call to action at the opening ceremony of the World Social Forum last month.

What We Think

Another inquiry won't answer real questions

TONY BLAIR is following one fake inquiry with another. He thought that Hutton's report would let him off the hook. But within hours of its publication the whitewash had provoked a huge backlash. Now Blair has announced another inquiry-this time into "intelligence" on Iraqi weapons.

Other Categories

Hugh Scanlon: from awkward to ermine

HUGH SCANLON, who died last week at the age of 90, was president of the engineering workers' union in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He was part of the "awkward squad" of the time. The media referred to him and the transport workers' leader Jack Jones as the "Terrible Twins". But Scanlon ended up in the House of Lords.

Brian Wilson, 1949-2004

Socialists in Sheffield felt a great loss last week on hearing of the death of Brian Wilson. A born fighter, Brian led an inspired campaign to save homes on the Shirecliffe estate-protesting on the rooftops, blocking streets and leading a town hall invasion.

Lies, damned lies and statistics on racism

RECENT NEWSPAPER headlines screamed that four out of ten whites did not want to have a black neighbour, after a poll by MORI. We live in a racist society. But if the headlines were accurate we would have taken a significant backward step to a more segregated society. The problem is not what people were asked or what people said. It is the way the findings were reported.

Opening the door on open and shut cases

FINGERPRINT evidence is often considered to be watertight evidence by courts and juries. But is it as safe as we think? The New Scientist magazine has discovered that the only piece of research ever done to validate fingerprinting is "based on flawed assumptions and an incorrect use of statistics".

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