Abuse of children at special needs school is part of a wider pattern

Posted on: June 18th, 2024 by Thomas Foster
Life Wirral School provides provision to children with special educational needs

Life Wirral is a private specialist school (Picture: BBC News)

Abuse, bullying and insults. That’s how staff treated children with special educational needs and disabilities (Send) at Life Wirral school in Merseyside. It’s a story of outsourcing by the council and the level of crisis for Send provision.

It will be condemned widely as an appalling one-off, to be investigated but with no general implications. In fact it is part of a systemic failure. 

Life Wirral is a private school that is supposed to provide education to children with Send. A BBC investigation released on Monday showed staff calling students—directly to their faces—terrible terms such as “fucking idiot”, “retard”, “flid”, “ponce” and “batty boy”.

A staff member described how he dealt with a student. “(The student’s) been beaten into being a bit of a bitch now, which is why I think he’s going to stay behaving well.”

The school’s head of operations, Paul Hamill, talks of fantasising about drowning a pupil in a bath “like a kitten”. Hamill tells the BBC’s undercover reporter of an instance where he threw a student “all over the place” and of “fucking ragging” him.

“I put it on the paperwork that I guided him effectively,” he said..

The school’s mental wellbeing coach disgustingly described the school as “full of retards”. A staff member grabbed a student’s face and drew on it—the head teacher walked in, saw what was happening and said nothing.

The school’s chief executive officer (CEO), who had been sacked as a special police constable for gross misconduct, said he used police-style restraint on a student to “fucking nail him”.

Staff taunted children for their neurodiversity or learning disabilities and mocked them for shouting or having tics.

There’s a student at the school who stays at home and doesn’t come in. The staff teaching the student describe the student as “a little serial killer” who deserves to sit in a “padded cell on his own for the rest of his life”.

The student gets two hours of lessons, four days a week—for which the school charges £150,000 to the council a year.

The school’s CEO was eager to take the student because of the money. “I need to grow this business. And to do that I need money,” a staff member reported the CEO saying.

It’s an environment of utter cruelty. The school staff treated vulnerable children as completely inferior. They used intimidation and bullying in place of genuine support.

An independent Send advocate warned Wirral council about the problems at the school in February 2023. But the council didn’t find any problems. The Department for Education was alerted and called Ofsted to inspect the school.

Inspectors maintained its “good” rating.

The Department for Education has stated that all students have been removed from the school and is contacting the council “to make sure alternative education is provided”.

That’s trying to hive it off as an isolated instance when it is a particularly awful example of a system failure.

  • Watch the Panorama programme on BBC iPlayer here 
A failure of outsourcing

In response to Tories cutting their budgets, councils often decide to outsource and pay for children with Send to be sent to private “specialist schools” instead.

That’s exactly what happened at Life Wirral, where every child had an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP)—a legal document that sets out a child’s needs and how they should be met, with the local council obligated to meet them.

And so Wirral council funded every student at Life Wirral, which had fees ranging from a minimum of £50,000 a year per child and up to £150,000.

The excuse that councils use is that with the number of children needing additional support rapidly increasing, there aren’t enough state school places for children with Send.

It’s true that there is a huge funding crisis for Send provision. 

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that since 2015, meeting Send needs has absorbed around half of the cash increase in school spending in England—which adds up to around £3.5 billion.

And yet local councils are still forecasting massive budget deficits of nearly £1 billion by the end of the current financial year.

Children suffer from the Tory cuts, and the willingness of councils led by all parties to implement them. Schools set up to be engines of profit cash in.

As the CEO of Life Wirral School said, “I’m an entrepreneur. I’m a businessman. I’m not a special educational needs specialist. I’m not a teacher.”

And when asked about future plans for the schools, the CEO didn’t respond with anything about improving provision. He instead said, ““My plan is to be the first billion pound educational division in the country.”

The way children are treated is not just about economic gain. It’s because society oppresses, discriminates against and belittles certain groups making them easier to treat as unimportant. 

Government solutions are failing

In response to soaring Send budget deficits, the government has created the Safety Valve programme, which 38 local authorities that have the highest deficits have signed up to.

Councils enter into bailout agreements with central government, where they receive yearly cash injections in return for creating a plan to cut Send budget deficits. To receive more money they have to ram through cuts.

A third of the councils with bailout deals have reported that they face bankruptcy. Of those that responded to a Schools Week magazine freedom of information request, 38 percent said they were at risk of issuing a section 114 notice—meaning they could not balance their budgets—in the next three years.

The section 114 notice restricts council spending to a legal minimum and would force more curbs to Send services.

And around a third of the councils with safety-valve agreements said the risk of them not being able to deliver their legal duties for Send children has risen in the last year.

Councils have deliberately tried to cut back the number of care plans they offer, denying children with Send the support they need.

Often parents are forced to take councils to a tribunal just to receive an EHCP—and in the meantime children have gone up to two years without education, waiting for support.

On top of this, the Tories have given approval to council requests to cut from their core school budgets to deal with Send budget deficits.

Moving money from one underfunded budget is no solution.

There desperately needs to be more funding for Send provision. Labour’s vague promise of “increasing inclusivity and expertise in mainstream school” isn’t enough. The first step is simple—tax the rich, fund our schools.

Industrial round-up: Victory for Waltham Forest school teachers

Posted on: June 18th, 2024 by Daire Cumiskey
NEU strikes were strong last year when organised nationally (Picture: Guy Smallman)

NEU strikes were strongest last year when organised nationally (Picture: Guy Smallman)

NEU union members at Belmont Park School in Waltham Forest, east London have won a “complete victory” after they struck last week over working conditions.

After going on strike for one day, management conceded to all of their demands.

Management has been employing and paying teachers on a casual basis, meaning staff don’t know if they will be paid for permanent responsibilities.

But after striking, the teachers have won improvements in workload, a formal negotiation process and permanent teacher learning responsibility payments.

Pablo, a teacher in Waltham Forest, said that permanent teacher learning responsibility payments were “unprecedented” and it was a “complete victory”.

South London schools battle after closure threat

Three schools in Lambeth, south London, are balloting to strike after threats of mergers and closure.

In the indicative ballots, St Saviour’s school had a 100 percent yes vote and a 90 percent turnout.

Holy Trinity School had a 100 percent yes vote with a 100 percent turnout and St John’s Angell Town had a 100 percent yes vote on 83 percent turnout.

Workers want to stop closures and compulsory redundancies. The indicative ballots showed an overwhelming mood for hard-hitting action.

Merger and closure is hitting schools in many parts of Britain.

Schools receive funding based on the number of students they have, not their capacity, so empty places create a financial strain.

And eight of the ten council areas with the largest proportions of spare places are London boroughs.

It’s a process happening in Hackney, east London, as the local council forces six primary schools in Hackney to close or merge.

Tory cuts imposed by local councils mean that when schools don’t have a sufficient number of students they are forced to close. Instead they could shift to smaller classes.

Action over decade of cuts

School workers at Ballard School in New Milton, near Bournemouth were set to strike this week over pay.

They were set to strike for five days in a row from Thursday of this week.

Following a ballot of its members, 84 percent voted for strike with a turnout of 81 percent.

Pay has fallen behind inflation significantly over the past ten years while the school has around £8 million in reserves.

In March, the school implemented a 4 percent pay uplift for staff. But this does not tackle the historic real term pay cuts staff have faced.

Bus walkout in Liverpool

Nearly 500 bus drivers across Merseyside are set to strike on Monday and Tuesday next week after they rejected a pay offer from their employer, Stagecoach.

Workers have rejected an offer despite their Unite union describing it as one “that recognises their hard work and current low pay”.

Throwing out this deal shows an appetite among rank and file activists for hard-hitting action to win a clear victory.

The drivers are unhappy that their pay rates are substantially below those of drivers at other bus companies in the region.

Unite called off the strike at the start of June as a “goodwill gesture”.

But this rejection of the bosses’ offer shows that such a move was a mistake. There is no goodwill from Stagecoach.

Redbridge council bin workers in a fightback

Refuse workers in Redbridge, east London, are balloting to strike after the council has overseen a worsening of work conditions.

The workers, in the Unite union, are employed by Redbridge Civic Services, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the council.

Yet they have much worse work conditions than other council-employed workers.

Workers consistently start and finish late due to vehicles breaking down and not being repaired.

Because of this, they are forced to do an extra hour of work daily.

This is despite contracts saying this would happen only in “exceptional circumstances”. And they are pressured to work overtime every weekend.

Also, sick pay is much lower than for Redbridge council workers—just ten days, compared to six months.

If the ballot is successful, the first round of strikes will take place in the polling week of the general election.

The current leader of the council, Jas Athwal, is currently standing to be the next Labour MP in Ilford South.

Athwal was also responsible for setting up Redbridge Civic Services in 2019 and, until last month, sat on its board before resigning to concentrate on his election campaign.

The ballot closes on Monday of this week. Taking action around and if necessary beyond the election date would rightly put the workers’ case in the forefront of the politicians’ minds.

Time for a steel strike

Steel workers in Port Talbot, south Wales, rallied on Monday on the eve of their industrial action over mass job losses.

Around 1,500 Tata workers based in Port Talbot and Llanwern began working to rule as well as starting a continuous overtime ban from Tuesday.

The Unite union says, “Strikes will be scheduled if the company does not row back on its plans.”

But it has drawn back from calling a walkout. A sustained strike would have put the issue of the 2,800 job cuts at the centre of the election debate.

Tata bosses say they won’t listen to whoever forms the next government.

The company has vowed to press ahead with plans to “return to profitability” no matter what happens on 4 July. Strikes can make them think again.

A united fight is the best way to win on guards’ pay

Some 200 PCS union members working as security guards in jobcentres across Britain began a seven-day strike over pay on Monday this week.

Employer G4S, which turns over billions of pounds every year, pays only the minimum wage.

PCS union officials demand that G4S gets back round the table and starts to meaningfully address the low pay experienced by this group of workers.

To see the list of picket lines to visit across England go to tinyurl.com/PCSJobCentre

Secruity workers in the GMB union also went back to the picket lines on Monday.

G4S bosses have offered free parking to all workers who scab and go to work to try to break the strike.

The GMB members plan to strike until Sunday of this week and then head back to work next Monday.

Then they plan to strike again from 1 July for a week followed by a week back and then out again from 15 July for a week.

They will continue this week-on and week-off strike pattern until August.

Why Keir Starmer can’t define the working class

Posted on: June 18th, 2024 by Daire Cumiskey
Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party schmoozing billionaire Theo Paphitis (Picture: Keir Starmer on Flickr)

Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party schmoozing billionaire Theo Paphitis (Picture: Keir Starmer on Flickr)

Keir Starmer was floored by a simple question in an interview on Monday—“What do you mean by working class?”.

It’s become a joke that Starmer endlessly repeats his “My Dad was a toolmaker” phrase.

That’s a vague reference to the class feeling Labour feeds off.

In fact the key understanding of the working class is that it is those people who don’t have any ownership or control over the ways we produce goods and services in society.

Starmer couldn’t talk about the reality of class, because to do so raises the existence of the bosses and the conflict with them.

To talk properly of the working class is to talk of the social power of the enemy—the ruling class.

Labour, which cuddles up to the ruling class, is reduced to empty talk of people’s hopes of “getting on” within the present set-up. 

In 1999 Labour prime minister Tony Blair said the “class war is over”.

But 25 years later it will be the class anger of ordinary people, tired of cuts and falling wages and benefits, that is central to ejecting the open party of the bosses from Number 10.

There’s another reality that Starmer wants to avoid.

Working class people are not just forced to work to live but also have the power to shut down society if they stop working.

That prospect should haunt Starmer and all his pro-boss mates—and we should try to make it a reality now and also after 4 July.

Labour and Tory failures let Farage fill a vacuum

Posted on: June 18th, 2024 by Daire Cumiskey
Nigel Farage speaks at an event of the Brexit Party in 2019

Nigel Farage’s Reform UK has been given ground through Tory and Labour racism (Picture: Guy Smallman)

All the polls suggest there is a political earthquake coming. The Tories are going to be wiped out and Labour will achieve a historic win—even if on quite a low vote.

Rishi Sunak might take the Tories to their worst result since 1906, 1832—or even 1754. Yet there’s no buzz about the campaigns, no sense of excitement or inspiration.

Instead the gross figure of Nigel Farage dominates much of the media. He fills a vacuum left by the failures of Labour and the Tories.

Neither offer any alternative to the austerity, racism and pro-corporate polices of the last 14 years. And neither dare to talk about the genocide in Gaza. That’s what enables Reform UK’s attempt to make this “the immigration election”.

Outrageously Farage is allowed to claim that he is the only one talking about “real issues”.

But it isn’t migrants that have caused Britain’s housing crisis. It’s the failure of the Tories and local authorities to build council housing and the fact that up to a million homes are left empty.

It isn’t migrants that are straining public services, it is decades of cuts and underfunding. It’s the rich hoarding profits that keeps wages low—not migrants.

The racism from Farage and the main parties has terrible results. It means deaths of desperate people. At least 60 migrants died on Wednesday last week after a rubber dinghy broke down in the Mediterranean Sea.

The engine failed, leaving the boat adrift without food and water for several days. Those on board died from dehydration and hunger.

“I met a man who lost his wife and a one-and-a-half year old baby. The baby died the first day, the mother the fourth day,” said someone involved in the rescue.

The EU border force agency spotted the boat on 7 June, and contacted Italian and Maltese rescue coordination centres. It wasn’t until five days later that the boat was rescued by a charity group.

And at least 11 migrants have died and more than 60 are missing as a result of two shipwrecks off the coast of southern Italy on Monday. Of those missing, 26 are thought to be children.

A year ago up to 600 people drowned in the shipwreck off Pylos, Greece. And British policies mean people drown with brutal regularity in the Channel.

This is how Farage wants to “deter” migrants. His real policy is “Try to come here and you’ll die”.

We need to confront racism everywhere, and to offer working class people hope of a break from policies that benefit the rich.

We need to fight to direct ordinary people’s anger towards the ruling class and its system of division, poverty, war and environmental collapse.

Ghosts of Palestinian history in a new film

Posted on: June 18th, 2024 by Sophie
A House in Jerusalem Palestine Palestinian

Miley Locke and Johnny Harris in A House in Jerusalem

Eerie twists and turns and the hidden histories of Palestinians are seen through the eyes of an Israeli British girl in the new film A House in Jerusalem.

Palestinian director Muayad Alayan does not aim to portray the atrocious brutality of the everyday experience of Palestinians that we witness every day on social media.

Instead, his message is conveyed through the metaphors about silencing that interlace the film and remind us of the occupation in the West Bank.

The film starts with Rebecca moving to occupied Jerusalem with her father after her mother’s shocking death. The audience is constantly reminded of the occupation.

You see it in the padlocked well in the garden, the Israeli police who monitor Rebecca’s phone, a father who refuses to give space to his daughter’s overwhelming grief and the history of a house erased after the Nakba of 1948.

Rebecca begins to see the ghost of Rasha, a young Palestinian girl. But she is the only one who can see Rasha. Haunting It is another haunting reminder of Israel’s indoctrination and propaganda that threatens to silence Palestinian history.

In an interview Alayan admits the personal aspect of this film. It is clear from the scenes that weave Rebecca’s discovery of Jerusalem, the checkpoints, Bethlehem’s surveilled opposing wall, the maze of Aida refugee camp and the destroyed villages of Lifta and Imwas.

Within the enchanting friendship between Rebecca and Rasha, we witness how children expose the truth and yet equally are prevented from doing so by the adults in their lives.

Rasha is helping Rebecca grieve for her mother, but instead of being given the care she needs, she is subjected to invasive doctors. In her gratitude for Rasha’s care, Rebecca becomes determined to help Rasha understand her family’s story. Although publicised as a horror film, that’s not really accurate.

The suspense is at the beginning of the film as the compelling characters of the two girls meet. You don’t get too far through until it’s clear that the film speaks for Palestinians.

The horror in this film really lies in what is not said or shown. It acts as a ghostly backdrop to the film. It’s unspoken but any audience member with context of Palestine can hear the bombs fall in the background or see the ghosts of the thousands of children who Israel has killed in the eyes of the protagonists.

It is with urgency I suggest you see this film.

It reminds us of the complex history and culture of Palestine, the horror of what has been lost and, how essential it is we continue to fight Israel’s occupation.

A House in Jerusalem is currently screening at Picturehouse and Vue cinemas and at the Barbican cinema in London

A chance to watch films from across the Arab world

The Safar Film Festival is an opportunity to watch over 50 films from across the Arab world. Running until 30 June, the film festival has screenings in Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow, London, Hull, Liverpool, Oxford, and Plymouth.

The programme includes a screening of Palestinian short films on Sunday, 30 June, at the Barbican Cinema in London. There will also be a two-part series of screenings of Sudanese archive film called A Visit To Vanguard.

It will show footage from the Sudanese Film Group, formed in 1989 by Ibrahim Shaddad, Altayeb Mahdi and Suleiman El Nour.

For tickets go to tinyurl.com/safarfilm

Labour vows to be ‘party of wealth creation’ for bosses

Posted on: June 18th, 2024 by Daire Cumiskey
Labour leader Keir Starmer was joined by billionaire Deborah Meaden as he launched Labour's plan for small businesses. (Picture: Keir Starmer on Flickr)

Labour leader Keir Starmer joined by billionaire Deborah Meaden (Picture: Keir Starmer on Flickr)

Keir Starmer launched Labour’s manifesto on Thursday of last week to praise from bosses—and heckles from climate campaigners.

Starmer said Labour is “pro-business” and the “party of wealth creation”.

But the start of Starmer’s speech was interrupted by Alice, a protester from Green New Deal Rising, shouting, “Same old Tory policies.” Starmer didn’t announce any new policies.

The centrepiece of the Labour manifesto is “economic stability”—meaning no policies that might upset bankers, bosses and the rich.

“You cannot play fast and loose with the public finances,” Starmer said. Spending pledges in Labour’s manifesto are minimal.

They include promises to set up Great British Energy (GBE) and the National Wealth Fund. GBE will be a publicly-owned power company that will compete with private corporations.

It will receive only £8.3 billion of funding over the next five years, with no plans for nationalising utilities.

Untouched The National Grid’s operating profit was £4.8 billion from 2022-23, but the Labour manifesto leaves private profit untouched.

Labour won’t raise taxes on the rich or corporations to pay for GBE or the Wealth Fund.

Capping corporation tax at 25 percent, there will also be no rise in capital gains tax.

Instead, Labour will fund infrastructure through the current windfall tax on oil and gas companies.

It talks of a “crackdown” on people who dodge tax through “non-domiciled” status, when the rich live in Britain but are legally registered elsewhere.

Alice, the protestor, said that, “We need better, the climate can’t wait. We need a green new deal now.”

Labour’s “New Deal for Working People” is tenuous.

It includes banning fire and rehire practices, ending zero hour contracts and repealing the 2016 Trade Union Act that placed turnout thresholds on strike ballots.

But Labour has given big business an effective veto.

The manifesto states, “We will consult fully with businesses, workers and civil society on how to put our plans into practice before legislation is passed.”

Starmer will also build on the Tories’ attacks on migrants. Labour’s new Border Security Command would ensure “failed asylum seekers can swiftly be sent back”.

Labour’s commitment to reduce migration forgets how reliant the health service is on migrant workers.

Labour won’t give a huge injection of cash to the NHS or kick out the private companies that leach off the health service.

Instead, it wants overstretched health workers to do more.

The party’s commitment to 40,000 more NHS appointments each week will be achieved “by incentivising staff to carry out additional appointments out of hours”.

Despite Starmer’s claims that this is “a plan to change Britain”, he’s committed to not upsetting the rich and bosses.

The promises that Starmer left out The Labour manifesto dropped some of its key commitments. The most significant omission is that the NHS “is not for sale”.

The National Policy Forum document from October 2023 stated that, “Under Labour, the NHS is not for sale.

Labour will always protect our NHS as a publicly funded service, free at the point of use.” But, “the NHS is not for sale” is absent from the manifesto.

The manifesto says that the NHS will “always be publicly owned and publicly funded”, but it leaves the question open about who will be providing the healthcare in the NHS.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting has committed to using private NHS contracts.

But this comes at the expense of investment into the NHS itself—private healthcare providers have made £10 million a week since 2012 from private contracts.

Streeting wants to increase the NHS’ reliance on the private sector. Labour has also dropped a number of housing pledges it had made.

It has maintained its commitment to building 1.5 million new homes, but it has scrapped its specific target for 40 percent of those homes to be affordable housing.

And a number of pledges made for the private rental sector are absent from the manifesto.

Labour previously pledged longer notice periods for private rents, the introduction of a national landlord register and a legally binding Decent Homes Standard.

The national landlords’ register would have forced landlords to submit independent evidence of property and management compliance, like gas safe certificates and electrical tests.

But all these pledges are absent in the manifesto highlighting Labour’s abandonment of supporting working class people.

The manifesto also dropped the homeownership target of 70 percent. Labour has also dropped its green spending pledge.

Previously a £28 billion yearly commitment to green infrastructure, it has been cut to roughly £4.7 billion a year.

The commitments dropped by the Labour Party show the trend of Starmer’s leadership.

Tommy Robinson throws his weight behind Farage Fascist Tommy Robinson—founder of the English Defence League—endorsed Nigel Farage and Reform UK in a social media video last Sunday.

“Nigel Farage’s winning over the people and he’s putting across our arguments to the nation very skilfully and in a great way.

There is only one option at this election and that is Reform UK,” he said.

The fact that Robinson—an Islamophobe who calls for “foreigners out” and dubs Palestine protesters “terrorist scum”—gives them endorsement is a testament to how vile Reform UK’s racism is.

And Robinson has called for a protest on 27 July—a “march for freedom”, in his words.

He will spew his vile racism out on the streets. Speaking about the demonstration, he said, “You will realise on 4 July how desperately we need a cultural movement. On 27 July, we’re going to take over London.”

Robinson and his street thugs must be opposed. Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) has called a counter-demonstration—anti-racists from across Britain must fight to show that fascists are not welcome on our streets.

So far the election has been one full of racist attacks on migrants and refugees.

It’s been one where both far-right Farage and fascist Robinson, enabled by the Tories and Labour’s peddling of racism, have been trying to mobilise people around them.

We need a principled anti-racism that fights back—and makes no compromises with racist lies.

Racists want refugees to die and less tax for rich

Reform UK launched its manifesto on Monday—a document full of racism towards refugees and tax cuts for corporations.

It promises to freeze “non-essential migration” and “pick up illegal migrants out of boats and take them back to France”.

Reform UK would rather refugees drown than reach safety.

It promises to “protect our culture, identity and values”, force through £50 billion in austerity cuts, and abandon all net zero climate targets.

Nigel Farage says this is necessary because Britain is “broken socially” and “in decline culturally”.

“We have begun to forget who we are, what our history is and what we stand for”, he said.

It’s all lies. He is selling racist myths in exchange for votes. Farage claims to be different from the political class—but he’s one of them, just another politician at the top seeking to divide ordinary people.

Bigots attracted to Reform

A Reform UK election candidate previously urged people to vote for the fascist British National Party (BNP)—and was forced to resign by Reform UK last Sunday.

Grant StClair-Armstrong, who is standing in the seat of North West Essex, posted, “I could weep now, every time I pick up a British newspaper and read the latest about the state of Britain.

“No doubt, Enoch Powell would be doing the same if he was alive. My solution… vote BNP!”

He’s calling for a vote for a Nazi organisation that was dedicated to creating an “all white Britain”.

To have a candidate that calls for a BNP vote shows the racists that Reform UK attracts.

And StClair-Armstrong used a blog to post “jokes” using racial slurs about Chinese and Pakistani people and a “joke” about “female hormones”.

Reform UK was forced into action after his comments attracted outcry. It was fearful of losing votes.

But there are many more like StClair-Armstrong in its ranks.

Scramble for votes as centre collapses

Posted on: June 18th, 2024 by Sarah
The European Union flag flies alongside flags of other countries

There’s political crisis throughout Europe (Picture: European Parliament/Flickr)

The paradox of Nigel Farage is that he hates Europe but wants to make British politics like politics on the continent. I can’t remember who said this but it’s very true of the present moment.

Farage aims to exploit the collapse of Tory rule to take over or replace the Conservative Party. This process, in which the far right moves to the centre of the political stage, is further advanced in continental Europe. Look at the European Union parliamentary elections.

In Germany, the governing Social Democratic Party (SPD) ended up third after the centre right Christian Union parties and the far right Alternative for Germany. And in Italy, prime minister Giorgia Meloni’s fascist Brothers of Italy took the lead.

But what happened in France is quite astonishing. Marine Le Pen’s fascist National Rally (RN) came top with over 31 percent on the vote. President Emmanuel Macron, whose centre right bloc won only 14.6 percent, reacted by calling snap parliamentary elections.

One of Karl Marx’s finest works is The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. This analyses with tremendous sardonic force how Napoleon Bonaparte’s nephew, Louis, exploited the defeat of the 1848 revolution to seize power and proclaim himself Emperor Napoleon III.

Marx writes, “I…demonstrate how the class struggle in France created circumstances and relationships that made it possible for a grotesque mediocrity to play a hero’s part.” He shows how an impasse between bosses and workers allowed Bonaparte to posture on the historical stage.

Macron is like a caricature of a caricature. He’s an overpromoted suit who managed to win two presidential elections by weakening the traditional centre left and centre right parties and by not being Le Pen. And Macron benefitted from what is a general European phenomenon. Decades of neoliberalism have hollowed out the party system. This was accelerated by austerity after the global financial crisis, and then by the pandemic and rising inflation.

Macron has deepened the decay by defying last year’s wave of mass strikes and imposing his neoliberal pension “reform” without a parliamentary majority. His solution for the RN advance seems to further fragment the party system and thereby to allow himself to act as the arbiter.

His gamble looks like it’s failing. Polls predict that the RN will get a third of the vote. Les Republicains, the main centre right party, has collapsed in a farcical split after its president called for an alliance with Le Pen. This is a humiliating fate for a party that began as the Union for a New Republic, formed in 1958 to support General Charles de Gaulle’s establishment of the Fifth French Republic.

But other pillars of postwar capitalist politics in Europe are suffering a similar meltdown. The German SPD and the British Tories were two of the first modern mass parties to emerge in Europe in the late 19th Century. Both are in deep trouble.

Meloni is benefiting from the collapse back in the 1990s of the Italian “First Republic” and the Christian Democratic and Communist parties on which it rested.

This doesn’t mean the far right can’t be stopped. Macron’s manoeuvres have been undermined from the left by the formation of the “New Popular Front”, though this is fragile and bitterly divided.

And, of course, in Britain it is Labour that is the main beneficiary of the Tory collapse. It still has some social base in the unions and local government. But it too has been hollowed out and weakened, most recently by Keir Starmer’s purge of the Labour left and support for Israel. Though Labour is preserving its huge poll lead over the Tories, both are losing support to the smaller parties. The vagaries of the first past the post electoral system could deliver Starmer a huge majority of seats based on a relatively smaller share of the vote.

The weakening of mainstream capitalist politics would matter less if the general prospect were of greater stability. But the opposite is true. Global heating and intensifying inter-imperialist rivalries are likely to deliver fresh blows to the ramshackle party structures. The main question is who will benefit politically.

Letters—Of course people don’t trust our rotten political system

Posted on: June 18th, 2024 by Sarah
Tory politician Matt Hancock

The Tories have been responsible for a regime that has eroded public confidence in politicians (Flickr/ Downing Street)

Four out of every five people in Britain don’t trust politicians, according to the latest Social Attitudes Survey.

Some 58 percent said they almost never trust politicians “to tell the truth when they are in a tight corner”, the highest figure since the 2009 MPs expenses scandal.

Commentators are wringing their hands over the survey. But it should come as no surprise that politicians are seen as liars who will jettison any principle to save their careers.

The Tories gave us Partygate, Liz Truss and the cost of living crisis. But the discontent expressed in the survey is about much more than the last five years. It is the legacy of decades of austerity, growing inequality, cynical lies and spin and a deadening political centrism. 

Poverty is blighting millions of lives. Some 73 percent polled said they believed there was “a great deal” of poverty in Britain. This is the highest proportion recorded since 1986 when the question was first asked.

Most people realise the NHS is under threat. The poll found that 52 percent were dissatisfied with the health service—more than double the proportion in 2019 and the highest on record.

The dissatisfaction it reveals can only have been deepened by cross party support for Israeli genocide,  its toxic environmental policies and for sacrificing public services.

The pantomime of the mainstream general election campaign seems almost orchestrated to infuriate and frustrate voters seeking real change.

A record 79 percent of the 5,500 respondents said Britain’s current system of governance needs “significant improvement”. And most people know it won’t be delivered by politicians, whatever the election results. We will only get improvements if we fight for them.

Judy Cox


The legacy of D-Day

The politicians who attended the D-Day commemorations are dubious for two reasons. Firstly, the Normandy invasion is proclaimed a battle for freedom against Nazi tyranny, but the commemoration this month was dripping in the symbolism of Empire.

For the British ruling class the Second World War was to save their brutal domination. People like Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer are promoting the same racist scaremongering as in the 1930s and that helps the likes of Tommy Robinson today.

Secondly, D-Day in 1944 was not the turning point of the war as claimed. In 1943 Winston Churchill ignored desperate pleas from his Russian ally for a second front in the West to split the German forces.

He thought the Empire would be safer if Russia and Germany exhausted themselves first. The Russians won those key battles but at the price of tens of millions of lives.

Churchill backed D-Day once Red Army advances became possible. D-Day began a race to Berlin to preserve Western imperialism from Russian imperialism. It led to a draw which left Germany divided in two.

However, the troops who died were motivated by hatred of dictatorship and racism and their sacrifice deserves commemoration. We can do that by opposing the racist politics of Farage, Sunak and Starmer. That is a worthy epitaph.

Donny Gluckstein


Should teachers be taking phones away?

Of course children and teenagers should be stopped from using their phones too much. Hardly a day goes by without a scary story about how these attention-sucking machines are rotting their brains.

Adults find it hard enough to stop endlessly scrolling on the things, how are young people supposed to know when to switch off?

But I do baulk at teachers having strict behaviour policies about schools. Strict rules don’t actually help kids learn, and they can end up actually pushing students out of education.

And what’s next, parents receiving fines? Such a measure puts too much responsibility in teachers’ hands. I also find it a bit rich that the education system is set up for screen learning and now they want to restrict our kids’ technology.

Susan Foreman


Keep raising Palestine during election

I was part of a lively protest outside the hustings in Bournemouth last week. We chanted “your hands are washed in Palestinian blood” as Tory MP Tobias Ellwood entered the building.

Ellwood made some pretty unpleasant comments about mobs, violence and how we were spreading hate. But I told him that the only thing we hate is genocide and the mass slaughter of children.

By protesting that day we changed the agenda and forced them to address the key topic. In Bournemouth, we’ve got another protest planned at an election hustings. It’s right to keep taking to the streets during the general election and raise the issue of Palestine to our rotten politicians.

Pete Wearden


Where’s the big politics?

I was a big fan of Jeremy Corbyn during the high points of his time as Labour leader. Corbynism was so exciting! It raised big questions about the kind of society we want.

But I can’t help but feel he’s really lost his way this election. I don’t see any of that in the current Corbyn campaign. Ok, he’s not the Labour candidate but I feel like I haven’t heard anything about his campaign. Do you think he actually wants to win or is he just running down the clock until 4 July?

Ginni Ellington

Central London

Manifesto nonsense

It was so gross to see the Social Democratic Party’s reappear during this election and promise to put “family, neighbourhood and nation” first.

The party, which emerged out of a Labour split in the 1980s, said in its manifesto it wanted to focus on the “epidemic of family breakdown”. It’s a load of reactionary nonsense, designed to desperately pull people away from the Tories or Reform UK.

Jane Mycast


Let’s take on Nigel Farage

I was disgusted to see Nigel Farage pelted with objects while out and about campaigning in Barnsley, South Yorkshire.

Disgusted, that is, to see that there was only one person getting stuck in. Clacton first, Barnsley next, maybe next time there will be a bigger gaggle of people pelting him whenever he shows his face.

Richard Ivan

West Susex

Right to ban clinic demos?

I just noticed that the  Scottish parliament has banned protesters outside abortion clinics. I do think it’s a good move that the anti-choice bigots will be moved on but what if this impacts on pro-choice protests?

Jenna Blanch