Three pillar boxes on each street corner (and each one owned by a different company under crazy plan to sell off the Post Office)
New Labour is poised to drive through Post Office privatisation in just seven weeks time. The government's regulator announced last week that it wants to see the Post Office (Consignia) totally sold off. This is the privatisation from hell, the maddest of the mad. It offers the crazy prospect of competing pillar boxes on street corners. Even Margaret Thatcher shied away from it.
Over 650 guards and conductors on Arriva Northern struck for 48 hours on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. Their action brought trains across the north of England to a halt and led to big, angry picket lines.
Tony Blair is relying on disgraced accountants Arthur Andersen and similar companies to push through privatisation schemes. Andersen did auditing and consultancy work for Enron, the bankrupt energy giant. It shredded documents showing how Enron hid its losses to appear to be making a profit.
Lord Birt, Tony Blair's new special transport adviser, is tied up in a £100 million business deal with Richard Branson, owner of Virgin Trains. Birt operates from luxury offices where a life-sized cardboard cutout of Branson greets visitors. At the same time he has a direct line to Tony Blair. Birt is chairman of the Lynx New Media company.
The newspapers have been full of Tony Blair's forthcoming visit to Africa. A new report from the Campaign Against the Arms Trade has found that the value of British arms sales to Africa is set to quadruple over the next year. African nations spent £52 million on arms deals with British firms in 1999.
Cuts to care homes and social services are leaving one million elderly people at risk. Help the Aged, one of 21 organisations contributing to a new report on the crisis, says that many elderly people "use social services as an emergency measure.
Transport secretary Stephen Byers has been caught out again for trying to pass off already allocated government spending as "new". Last week he claimed he had got an extra £2.2 billion for the railways. Within two days officials at the Treasury admitted the money had already been announced in April of last year.
"Wreckers." That is how Tony Blair insulted public sector workers at a Labour conference in Cardiff last weekend. Nurses, rail workers, postal workers, teachers and cleaners are not "wreckers". They are the people who keep our services going.
Socialist Worker will be available to a new-and its biggest ever-audience in newsagents across Britain from next week. Major newspaper distributors have recognised the growing mood for left wing ideas after two successful pilot projects, and will distribute Socialist Worker nationally.
British Airways is threatening to axe another 16,000 jobs. BA cut 7,000 jobs last year, but chief executive Rod Eddington admitted that more jobs would have to be sacrificed this year. Alpha Airways, which supplies in-flight meals and duty free shops, is also planning to sack some 1,000 workers.
Muhammad Abbas Shaffi went to a Marxist forum on Kashmir last Thursday in Bristol. He said, "It was the first time I'd been to any meeting like that, but I was really inspired. The speaker had an overwhelming knowledge, and being Kashmiri myself it was the first time I had ever discussed Kashmir from an independent perspective. What I also liked was that it was an open and honest debate by people who had nothing to gain by being there apart from the betterment of humanity. It was debate, not for the sake of it, but to try and overcome the problems in Kashmir and think how to resolve the issue."
The first strike by journalists over pay in over a decade has won a victory at the Bradford Telegraph and Argus titles. After just one half-day stoppage by NUJ union members, management at the Newsquest-owned titles were forced to offer a deal worth 3 percent. The Bradford NUJ chapel (workplace union branch) was the first to win back recognition at Newsquest, which owns papers across the country and is owned by US multinational Gannett.
Over 400 people joined a march and sit-down protests as the HMS Vanguard nuclear submarine entered Plymouth's Devonport dockyard for the first time last Sunday. Seven people were arrested during a mass blockade of the nuclear submarine dockyard.
The Scottish Executive announced last week that it is to give £300 million of public money to shore up the plan to privatise Glasgow's council homes. New Labour is prepared to throw still more public money in to push the privatisation through in a tenants' ballot due to get under way in March. Glasgow is just one of the major privatisation plans coming to a head.
BT has issued a major challenge to its workers' CWU union, and the challenge looks set to spark a strike ballot. BT plans to transfer core workers to a private company.
Tens of thousands more workers in London are to be balloted on possible action over pay. Council workers, health workers, higher education admin workers and more could be united in a vote across the capital which could pave the way for action. We reported in Socialist Worker last week that delegates from Unison union branches across London had backed an indicative vote among council workers.
The Welsh Socialist Alliance (WSA) continues an energetic campaign in Ogmore, where a by-election takes place on Thursday of next week.
Around 400 workers at Manchester Airport struck on Monday in the first of six one-hour stoppages. The strikes are against the imposition of new contracts which would mean wage cuts of up to 40 percent, attacks on holidays and sick pay, and a longer working week. The airport management are also threatening to axe jobs
New Labour is determined to break the national dispute involving tens of thousands of job centre and benefits office workers. The government wants to seriously weaken the strikers' PCS union. An internal document for MPs and managers says that the dispute is a "matter of principle" and that the government will not negotiate.
Members of the Ambulance Service Union on Merseyside are celebrating the reinstatement of two suspended colleagues. Management took two paramedics off work a fortnight ago after both left a shift early due to illness. Workers voted to strike if the two were sacked, and both workers have now been cleared.