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Letters— Labour’s two-child shame is also an anti-racist issue

Child poverty when it comes to children of black and Asian backgrounds has been ignored by Keir Starmer
Issue 2865
Keir Starmer Labour two child policy

Keir Starmer is in hot water

Labour’s two-child shame is also an anti-racist issue. I’m glad that Keir Starmer is in hot water over his insistence that Labour won’t abolish the Tories’ two-child benefit cap.

But I worry that even many on the left have not grasped the way this is not just an issue about child poverty, but also one about racism.

The decades of systemic discrimination suffered by black and ethnic minority people has resulted in entrenched inequalities. Nowhere is this clearer than on the question of child poverty.

According to the Runnymede Trust, about 60 percent of Bangladeshi children, 54 percent of Pakistani children and 47 percent of black children are living in poverty—once housing costs are considered.

Yet the overall figure for all children is 30 percent. In the two poorest London boroughs, Tower Hamlets and Newham, child poverty rates are the highest at 56.7 percent and 51.8 percent respectively.

It’s no accident that here over 80 percent of children are from an ethnic minority background. The Tories’ “colour blind” policies try to ignore these statistics.

Take their Troubled Families initiative. It sidelines the question of family income and instead concentrates on more “cultural” themes, such as family breakdown, alcohol abuse and education.

Because Bangladeshi children are doing better at school, and because their parents are less likely to divorce or drink alcohol, the state may now view Bangladeshi children as being less likely to experience poverty. But the opposite is true. Ethnic minority child poverty is of course driven by factors that apply to all families in poverty.

But they also have specific factors. For example, ethnic minority groups tend toward larger families. Abolishing the two child cap on benefits would have raised 250,000 children out of poverty and 850,000 out of deep poverty.

It would have cost £1.3 Billion, compare that to the £50 billion profit recently shared amongst the oil companies.

Starmer should heed the words of the American abolitionist Frederick Douglas. He said it is “easier to build strong children than fix broken men”.

Raj Perera

North London

 Students and strikes

As university graduations start, one thing is clear—both students and staff are angry. We face rising inflation, increasing commercialisation and Tory attacks.

The government last week announced it would cap the number of students on courses that don’t end in high-paying jobs. Staff and students are united by the university workers’ strikes.

They have halted study and left management scared. Bosses are lashing out with ever harsher attacks on lecturers and other colleagues. At my university, Liverpool Hope, this is particularly savage.

Management here are attacking lecturers that are boycotting exam marking as part of their union’s dispute. They are deducting 100 percent of pay from workers participating, with 50 percent returned as an “ex gratia” payment.

That’s why last week, when I was awarded a degree at our graduation ceremony, I unfolded a banner in front of the scab vice chancellor. It read, “Students support the strikes.”

Far from a negative reception, both students and staff responded extremely positively. My lecturers, who are active members of the UCU union, congratulated me for my degree and thanked me for showing solidarity.

And students too said “it was the right thing to do”. Students are at the forefront of offering solidarity to their lecturers and other staff.

Sky Harrison


 Why would a low paid worker back consultants?

I work in the NHS on a pretty low salary—though not as crap as some. Yet I support the consultant doctors who are striking over pay, even thought it’s true some of them earn big money and drive fancy cars.

The government wants to smash up the health service and hand everything over to the private sector. To help this along, they want to keep pay so low that loads of jobs are unfilled, and people are constantly looking for a way out the door.

That affects nurses, such as me, because we end up working twice as hard to cover rota gaps.

And it’s happening at every level. There’s not enough cleaners now because pay is too low. And, yes, it’s happening to the consultants too. They are being pushed out of the NHS deliberately, so the Tories can say it’s failed.

Name witheld


Break from party offers opportunity

North of Tyne mayor Jamie Driscoll last week left the Labour Party and says he will now contest the election for the first North East mayor as an independent.

This is really big news for socialists in the region. The North East mayor will have quite a lot of power, and will govern an area which covers seven councils, from Northumberland in the north to County Durham in the south.

We should back Driscoll as a credible alternative to Labour’s dismal right wing direction. He offers something different to the politics of Starmer. And, he has a vision for the north east which fills people with hope.

Driscoll says he wants more affordable homes, to lift people out of low pay and to lead a fight against climate change.

He has, for example, pledged to deliver an integrated transport network. However, socialists should not subordinate our support for strikes and demonstrations to any reformist politician, no matter how left-wing they say they are.

This is a mistake that has been made too many times—from the Syriza party in Greece to Podemos in Spain, Corbyn in Britain and Bernie Sanders in the US.

All of these were forced to fit in with the priorities of the ruling class, and some were removed from power.



 Sun shines on Starmer

Keir Starmer is doing his best to show the ruling class that the next Labour government will govern in their interest.

But he still has his crucial meeting with Rupert Murdoch to look forward to.

Not until he has knelt before Murdoch and promised that Labour will observe the boundaries that he lays down will the job finally be complete.

John Newsinger


It’s not just heat that kills

MP Caroline Lucas recently said there were about 3,000 excess deaths last summer when “UK temperatures hit a deadly 40 degrees for the first time”

I wonder is she is aware that excess deaths in Britain have been abnormally high for the last three years —even after excluding deaths from Covid-19?

In the week ending 21 April 2023 alone, there were 2,540 excess deaths in above the five year average.

Louis Shawcross

Northern Ireland

We all need 10 percent!

The Tories are fond of repeating that they are holding down public sector wages for the good of everyone.

If they were to pay us more, inflation would spiral out of control, they insist. But a recent report by the Institute of Public Policy Research shows raising pay by 10 percent on average would not add significantly to inflation.

Should our unions now make that their minimum demand?


By email

What does SW think?

What does Socialist Worker think about the expansion of the Ulez anti-pollution zone to outer London.

I was originally in favour of it because I want cleaner air. But now I worry about the poorer people that can’t afford a cleaner car.

Dave Sutherland

St Albans, Hertfordshire

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