Socialist solicitor challenges Straw
‘People need hope, not prisons’
THIS IS the speech that JIM NICHOL gave when he was selected as the Socialist Alliance candidate for Blackburn earlier this month. Jim will be standing against Jack Straw, New Labour’s home secretary.
“LET ME tell you about my latest case, of a young man called Peter Fell from Blackburn who was wrongly imprisoned for 17 years for two murders that he did not commit. He was released on 1 December last year with nothing-no money, no friends, no clothes, no family. Just me, his solicitor, and a prison visitor who took him into his house.
Peter applied for an emergency grant of 313 from the Social Fund to see him through the winter. He received 103 and was told, “After looking at your application and personal circumstances, we have decided that your need for what you have asked does not have a high enough priority.” Tough luck if you happen to be a victim of the criminal justice system.
Peter’s case is a terrible example of New Labour policy. If you are poor you can go to the wall. The government’s dual policy of profit first, profit last, and anything left profit again, combined with the need to win Tory voters, has led to the most appalling onslaught on people’s civil liberties. In opposition Straw opposed the building of a single prison by the Tories for 12 to 14 year old children. He said he would cancel this contract.
Far from it, he ratified the contract and has set about building a further two prisons for children. Straw knows full well that 20 children have committed suicide in youth prisons in recent years. He knows that in Feltham 50 percent of children incarcerated have been diagnosed as having a mental disorder. He knows that 31 percent of the children in Feltham are black. Above all, he knows that these institutions have been condemned by his own chief inspector of prisons, who stated that he had not come across such a totally deliberate and unnecessary impoverishment of children anywhere.
But all of that it doesn’t matter to Jack. What matters is the vote of the bigot. On asylum seekers and others, Straw was way out in front in opposition when he declared war on the “squeegee merchants”. This was followed up by his war on asylum seekers. He introduced the hated below-subsistence voucher scheme and dispersed asylum seekers throughout the country, whilst proudly proclaiming that he is incarcerating many more than the Tories. He tolerates racism and violence against asylum seekers.
About two weeks ago there was an advertisement placed by the Folkestone Tories in the local newspaper. This is Michael Howard’s seat. The advertisement proclaimed that asylum seekers were bogus and that they, the Tories, were going to sort them out. The advertisement was revolting. Jack Straw was interviewed on Radio 4 the following day about the advertisement. He explained that William Hague was not a racist, that most members of the Conservative Party were not racist, but that the advertisement was unacceptable.
What a spineless politician. You do not have to be a raging revolutionary to take on these despicable people. He could have spoken hard against the racist Tories. Not a word of it-for there lurking in the background is the Tory bigot. Sometimes you know that your civil liberties have been taken away from you-certainly when you are prevented from peacefully marching on May Day because the government wants to give out a message to the banks, the global monopolies and the arms industry that they will not tolerate a repetition of Seattle and Quebec.
The police presence on May Day in London was no different to that used against striking print workers in Wapping in 1986 or the miners in 1984. There are many more civil liberties being taken away. New Labour’s proposed legislation means:
Then, combined with investing in the housing estates, education and welfare, crime would diminish rapidly. But Jack Straw still has his eyes fixed firmly on the Tory bigot. Rights are being eroded and will continue to be eroded under a New Labour government. We in the Socialist Alliance intend to put socialism back on the agenda. The world is a fabulously rich place but the riches are in the hands of a few. They need to be in the hands of the many.
I have been in socialist politics for 40 years and I can tell you that the Socialist Alliance is the best thing to have happened for years. Socialists from all walks of life have come together. There is more that unites us than disunites us. The chance to build a new socialist movement has never been more urgent. You have to choose, and I can tell you that your vote is the beginning and not the end. You have a choice between the spin or socialism. The Socialist Alliance is here to stay, and we want the biggest possible vote to hit Labour with and to launch a new socialist movement.”
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