Posts Tagged ‘Socialist Party’

Opposing hatred and bigotry in Leicester

May 29, 2016

Leicester has been in the news a lot recently, because of the unprecedented success of its football team. However, we have seen the far-right attempt to jump on this bandwagon, oblivious to the multicultural nature of both Leicester and its footballing heroes. This was the scene last weekend:

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photo – Leicester Socialist Party – see more details

For two weekends in a row, the people of Leicester have successfully defended the city centre from Britain First, a far-right splinter-group which crawled out of the wreckage of Nick Griffin’s BNP. They claimed to be campaigning for the EU referendum, but their literature is full of lies and hatred, targeted at Muslims in particular. The Another Angry Voice blog has posted a useful guide to their brand of hatred.

Leicester is one of the most diverse cities in Britain and has a proud record of standing up against racism. Dividing people in terms of their race is a convenient smokescreen for the ruling class. If working-class people are made to view each other as the enemy, then they are not blaming the real causes of their problems. These include attacks on services and jobs which the Conservatives are carrying through nationally, but unfortunately the local Labour council are passing these on to the people of Leicester and the shortage of council housing due to a lack of investment in public housing over decades.

People are at the mercy of private landlords, on zero-hour contracts, in insecure employment or are unable to get a job. It is not surprising if the ruling class try to divert their anger on to scapegoats, such as “terrorists” or “immigrants”, rather than admit that the situation we find ourselves in is because of the system of capitalism. This results in an increase in racial attacks and discrimination against minorities.

The Socialist Party in Leicester have a long tradition of holding street stalls in the city centre, every Saturday. When confronted with the bullying tactics of the far-right, we refused to go away. Instead, we called on the public to oppose and surround their stall. We reminded people of the nature of Britain First, and why they do not stand for modern Britain. We pointed out that we need to unite as a community in order to defeat the Tories’ attacks and it is still vitally important to oppose the far-right, just as the people of Leicester saw off the National Front in 1979 and opposed the EDL when they marched through the city in 2012.

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A similar unwelcome reception for Britain First this weekend – picture Midlands Antifascist Network

If they are left unopposed, racist thugs can get away with attacks on Muslims. Britain First has invaded mosques, and its leader Paul Golding has been convicted of harassment. He was arrested again this weekend, after breaking bail conditions by failing to show up to a scheduled appointment in a probation office in Luton, as he was 50 miles north of that city, in Leicester.

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Golding being escorted by members of the local constabulary – picture East Midlands Anti Fascist Network

The far-right have form in this city. In 2010, the EDL broke out of police lines and attacked Big Johns, a local fast-food restaurant, because it was selling Halal produce. In 2013, I wrote about a Leicester pub, “The Globe”, which was attacked on a neo-Nazi website for allegedly refusing to serve members of the armed forces, in case this offended Muslims. As a result, staff of the pub received threats, although the report was clearly completely fake. Britain First share the racist views of the EDL and BNP and have no place in a modern, democratic society.

The principle of freedom of speech extends only to those who will allow freedom of speech to others. In destroying a stall table and megaphone of socialist groups, Britain First showed themselves to be no respecters of the right of free speech. They brought a loud sound system, blaring out patriotic music, in an attempt to drown out the public’s opposition.

Fortunately, they were again sent packing, behind police lines and carrying armfuls of their racist publicity, which they were unable to give out due to being surrounded and outnumbered. The public of Leicester will need to be watchful and ready to mobilise to counter their threat.

The Socialist Party stands for unity of the working class and against any attempts to divide us. We stand against racism, bigotry and intolerance. We are a democratic party and are happy to debate with our political opponents, but we will organise against far-right bullies, who resort to abuse, threats and violence.

The Socialist Party campaigns for a LEAVE vote in the forthcoming EU referendum, but not on the basis of racism and xenophobia. We are for a united, socialist Europe, not the bosses’ undemocratic EU, whose treaties have imposed privatisation and austerity across the continent.

 

 

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SUPPORT JUNIOR DOCTORS, SAVE OUR NHS!

April 10, 2016

 

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Our NHS is under attack like never before, and we must act now to save it. As a worker in the NHS and a UNISON member, I chaired a protest organised by Leicestershire Against The Cuts last Saturday. Itbrought together campaigners from groups such as TUSC, the Socialist Party, Momentum, and Keep Our NHS Public, alongside trade unionists including the NUT, Unite Community and junior doctors from the BMA. We had a lively rally and march through Leicester city centre, with many students and young people raising their voices – we need our public health service to still be there for future generations.

People were angry that cuts are being made to local NHS services – the nearby Hinckley and Bosworth Community Hospital is earmarked  for closure and 400 beds are under threat at the Leicester Royal Infirmary, under the so-called “Better Care Together” programme. Health bosses say inpatient services will transfer into community care. However, community health resources are already paper-thin.  In reality, the NHS is being run down and privatised.

Junior doctors are striking to defend their terms and conditions, because they see the government’s attack on their terms and conditions as an attack on the whole of the NHS. A doctor on a picket line at Leicester General Hospital said that junior doctors are seen as an easy target, as their contract is up for renewal. Jeremy Hunt is seeking to impose a new contract, without any meaningful negotiation. Doctors do not want to go on strike, but when patient  care and the future of the NHS is at stake, they have no other choice.

Peter Flack, from the NUT union, mentioned the need for co-ordinated industrial action – teachers are currently being balloted for ongoing strike action, because of education cuts and the enforced academisation of schools. We believe that the big health unions, UNISON and Unite, should also beballoting their members. NHS pay has been frozen in real terms  for the last six years. Unite estimates that NHS staff have had a 13-19% pay cut as a result. Contrast this with the tax avoidance of the super-rich, exposed in the Panama Papers leak. The PCS union estimates that around £130bn a year is lost through  tax evasion – that is more than the entire NHS budget for England and Wales! Who does the most useful work in society, David Cameron or NHS staff?

Sally Ruane, of Keep Our NHS Public, pointed out the lack of resources put into public healthcare in the UK compared to other wealthy economies. The government wants to make the NHS a “24/7 service”, but are refusing to pay for this! The result is that if they get their way, doctors, nurses and admin staff will be forcedto work longer hours, for less reward. If you go to hospital,  you do not want to be treated by exhausted staff, who have to make life-or-death decisions.

Mark Gawthorpe, of Unite Community, spoke about the strain on the disabled and unemployed. The government’s cuts to disability benefit, are resulting in mental health problems and, tragically, suicides.  It is all right for tax-avoiding MPs, who can simply “go private”. What about the rest of us? The NHS is there for all, not just for those who can afford it.

It was good to see supporters of Jeremy Corbyn from Momentum on the demonstration – however, Corbyn faces an uphill struggle to reform the Labour Party, given that it was Labour who introduced Foundation Trusts, privatising  the health service, with increased spending on PFI. Unfortunately, Blairites are still in control of the Labour Party machine. Corbyn should look outwards to the 100,000s of people who joined Labour and were enthused by his socialist principles. His words  need to turn into action. Right-wing MPs and councillors need to be deselected and the Labour Party needs to be made more democratic. Labour should be opposing all cuts to services, rather than merely wield the axe for the Tories, which is what Labour-controlled  councils up and down the country are sadly doing.

Dr Jon Dale, a Unite member, concluded the rally by putting forward the Socialist Party’s alternative. We stand for investment into our healthcare service. We would scrap extortionate PFI deals, where health trusts owe private companies £billions. We would kick out the fat cats from our health  service by abolishing the Health and Social Care Act, which has opened NHS services up to tender to “any willing provider”. Richard Branson’s Virgin Health, for example, has taken over Wiltshire Childrens’ Services for £64m. We would nationalise  the pharmaceutical companies, which rip off the NHS by overcharging for medicine. We demand a publicly-owned, properly funded National Health Service, as envisaged by the Welsh socialist Nye Bevan, almost 70 years ago. The Tories want to get rid of the  NHS. If you want to protect our health service, join the socialists!

Save Our Services in Leicester

May 10, 2014

On Thursday 8th May, the public gallery was full as the scrutiny committee of Leicester Council met to discuss cuts to voluntary services in the city. Leicester Race Equality Centre (TREC) and Leicester Council of Faiths were both allowed to submit a response (although they were limited to just 5 minutes each to put their case).

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TREC argued that it provided a unique service, responsive to the needs of diverse communities in the city, often working with extremely deprived and vulnerable people, and had worked to improve relations between communities in the face of far-right attempts to increase racial tension, as has happened in Thurnby Lodge and with the EDL protests. In both these cases, TREC have been involved in combating racist ideas and developing dialogue between different ethnic groups.

The council’s response to TREC’s demands for an Equality Impact Assessment amounted to just 144 words, which was completely inadequate, and contrary to the council’s legal responsibility under the 2010 Equality Act. The council’s consultation exercise was itself discriminatory, by being on-line, it excluding people without access to the internet, whether due to poverty or to disability. Only 136 people responded, and only 78 attended public meetings, with overlap between the two groups. This failed to do justice to the vast number of people across Leicester City affected by the service cuts.

Peter Soulsby, the Mayor of Leicester, acknowledged the good work done by voluntary services in the city. However, he sought to blame the Tories for the cuts, rather than taking any responsibility himself for their implementation. He said that services had to go out to tender, as this was “the way of the world”, and that the council had no choice except to cut the overall funding pot. He failed completely to address the points relating to the failings of the council’s own report. Rather patronisingly, the groups were reminded that they could also apply for external funding and were offered assistance with this.

The response from both the Council of Faiths and TREC was that they already routinely approach external sources of funding, and that TREC had exceeded the council’s own agreement as to the services it provides, with a 98% satisfaction rate from users of the service. In the past year, TREC had dealt with 794 enquiries, and faced a 70% increase in cases of harrassment. Since 1967, an estimated 150,000 people had benefited from their support.

Mayor Soulsby went on to admit that a total of 18 other services were having to go through similar reviews, such as children and adult services. It is obvious therefore, that the cuts being made by the council are widespread and affect the most vulnerable people in our society disproportionately – in the case of TREC, asylum seekers, refugees and people experiencing discrimination or harrassment. TREC works with all communities in the city.

However, Soulsby offers no strategy to stop cuts to services. We were left wondering – what was the point of voting in a Labour Mayor, or 52 Labour councillors, if they then fail to provide any meaningful opposition? In the 2015 elections in Leicester, the Socialist Party as part of TUSC (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition), will provide such a principled opposition. If any Labour councillors are prepared to break ranks and vote against cuts, then we will support them in their stand. However, we are seeking to put forward as many candidates as possible against councillors who cut services. We will also look to stand against Soulsby in the mayoral elections, in order to save jobs and vital services in the city.

The Socialist Party would scrap the tendering process, it merely adds bureaucracy and opens up public services to the private sector. Instead of wasting resources in drawing up tender documents and having to justify themselves to the council, services should simply be able to get on with the job they are supposed to do.

We point out that the council has a choice – it could refuse to implement cuts and use its £150 million reserves to buy time to build a campaign to force the government to back down on its austerity agenda. If Leicester united with other Labour councils across the country, and built support amongst council trade unions for united strike action, the government would face massive opposition and could be forced into a position where it had to back down. However, if Labour councillors are not prepared to fight, and the overwhelming evidence is that the vast majority of them will do nothing – then they should stand aside for others who will.

The Socialist Party has a long track record of fighting successful battles against cuts – for example Liverpool Council’s fight against Thatcher from 1983 to 1987 and the mass non-payment of the Poll Tax in 1990. We will continue to fight against all cuts to services, whichever party is implementing them.

Why we should get rid of the Mayoral system- From the Leicester Mercury

April 22, 2014

Save our Services- Sack Mayor Soulsby

First Person: The electorate should finally have its say on Leicester’s mayoral system

By Leicester Mercury  |  Posted: April 22, 2014

Leicester Against The Cuts protestor Steve Score

Leicester Against The Cuts protestor Steve Score

 Leicester Against The Cuts protestor Steve Score says we should get a vote on whether to keep the city’s mayoral system.

In 2011, Leicester elected an executive mayor. Today, this one person has more power over council services than all of the 54 equally democratically elected councillors. The previous system, where the councillors elected their own leadership and had more power to make decisions, was replaced without asking the people of Leicester.

In other cities, a referendum was held to decide on the change, most deciding against. In Leicester, we did not get the opportunity to vote.

Yes, the executive mayor is an elected position, but in his four-year term of office he can do virtually what he wants.

Councillors are…

View original post 375 more words

No more cuts – save our hospitals

January 27, 2014

My local hospital, University Hospitals Leicester, has had to apply for financial support from the government, after it has forecast going into the red this year by £40m. Tragically, it is planning to cut £45million pounds in a “cost improvement plan” in 2014. This will only mean the loss of more staff, and further exacerbate the problem rather than providing a solution.

Portering and estates staff have already been replaced by Interserve, a private company, which will look to profit by cutting staff costs, which means cutting jobs or not replacing people who leave. As a result this has meant more charges and bureaucracy and a poorer service. So called “backroom” staff are equally important in keeping hospitals clean, safe and infection-free.

Many hospitals across the country are in a similar situation. Crippled by exorbitant PFI (Private Finance Initiative) deals, many of which involve contracts of 30 years to private companies, much of the NHS is struggling financially. This is not surprising, as budgets have been frozen and not adjusted to meet rising costs and demands on the service.

The Con-Dem’s Health and Social Care Act has opened the NHS up to the private or voluntary sectors. The time of managers is diverted, not into improving patient care, but in finding ways to calculate waiting times to keep commissioners, the people who buy our service, happy. NHS staff are constantly faced with the uncertainty that their service may be taken over.

A recent inquiry into the failure of North Staffs NHS Foundation Trust, prompted by an increased death rate due to budget cuts, recommended an increase in qualified medical staff on wards. Yet hospitals are forced to rely on agency staff due to chronic underfunding. In Lewisham, 25,000 people marched last year to save their beleaguered Accident and Emergency service; they correctly blamed the government rather than staff for the NHS’s failings.

Despite pre-election promises that there would be no major re-organisation of healthcare, the Con-Dem government is opposed in principle to the idea of the NHS, and wants to hand over our hospitals to big business. They are trying to force hospitals to become Foundation Trusts, which can be sold off to any willing provider. Private companies can cherry-pick profitable parts of the service, while the state is left to deal with more complex cases. Yet Foundation Trusts were created under New Labour, who were also enthusiastic about PFI deals. They offer no alternative to save the NHS, and will need to be pressurised by mass action into even repealing the Tories’ Health and Social Care Act. When British Rail was privatised, Labour initially said it would be renationalised, but the party went back on their word as soon as they were elected.

The example of Lewisham shows that the public do not believe the government’s lies that cuts need to be made, and are prepared to fight to save services. The trade unions in the NHS should organise co-ordinated industrial action, along with other public sector workers, firefighters and civil servants, in defence of jobs and services.

The Socialist Party puts forward renationalisation of the NHS. We advocate a democratic takeover of our hospitals and a fully-integrated, nationwide service. The bureaucracy of tendering out services needs to go. We would invest in the health service and kick greedy fat cats out of our hospitals. We would nationalise the drug companies which make billions from inflated drug prices. Only by taking control of the running of hospitals ourselves can we have a truly efficient health service.

Save Our Adventure Playgrounds

November 19, 2013

Over 100 children, parents and members of the community surrounded the entrance to Leicester Town Hall last night, chanting, “No to cuts!”. Leicester Council is shamefully considering cutting its funding to adventure playgrounds by 40%, putting nine adventure playgrounds across the city at risk as a result. These are sited in areas of deprivation, and allow children the freedom to play safely in supervised surroundings. They have been a feature of growing up in Leicester since the nineteen-sixties and seventies. The council’s actions have been announced, without even the usual pretense of consultation.

More protests are planned, and the campaign will not give up. As the Labour council in Leicester has a huge majority, with only one councillor in opposition, it is not surprising that people are asking themselves why can they not stand up against Tory cuts to the budget?

I am a member of Leicestershire Against The Cuts, a body which seeks to unite opposition to all cuts to services across the city and county. The principle we must apply is “an injury to one is an injury to all” – that if one service is threatened, the whole community must gather round to protect it, whether they themselves are affected or not. Organised at very short notice, the protest drew together groups of people from across the city – this must be replicated wherever cuts are made.

Leicestershire Against The Cuts and the Socialist Party, instead of capitulating to Tory cuts to council budgets, would put forward a fighting programme – of building opposition to the council’s plans in every estate in the city, of linking up with other councils willing to fight, and of putting forwards a needs budget, to win necessary resources back from central government. We believe that there is no need to make cuts to any services.

These cuts are on top of the council passing on the Tories’ bedroom tax, and cutting council tax benefit, both of which are hurting the disabled and the poor disproportionately. We are also organising campaigns, together with Unite Community, to blockade people’s houses if anyone is in danger of eviction. We must resist all cuts and in elections, we stand as part of TUSC (the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition), standing against privatisation and cuts to services.
However, Labour councils up and down the country have shown themselves to be unwilling to participate in this struggle, shrugging their shoulders in apology, but still adhering slavishly to Cameron’s austerity programme. It is because they can see no alternative to austerity, and are wedded to this system of capitalism. However, just as PASOK (the equivalent of New Labour) has lost much of its support in Greece because of its capitulation to the demands of the EU, and Socialist Alternative is challenging the Democrats in the US, on the back of the Occupy movement and the shutdown of government caused by the impasse around the budget deficit, in Britain too, people will look for an alternative.

For socialists, that alternative is democratic planning and decision making, bringing companies into public ownership, and an equal distribution of the wealth which is in society.

It wasn’t ordinary people who created this economic crisis, it was speculation by bankers, gambling on mortgages, which were paid with money people simply didn’t have. We should not be the ones who have to pay the price.

Leicester Pride

September 1, 2013

This is an article I wrote for Leicester Socialist Party on the 10th anniversary of Pride, celebrating the battle to have a Pride event in Leicester at all.

Yesterday, we had a lively stall, against academy schools, many of which are attempting to bring back homophobic regulations, reminiscent of Thatcher’s hated Section 28, banning the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ (whatever that is supposed to mean). We marched behind the Leicester and District Trades Council banner, forming a left / trade unionist contingent. Unions had stalls at the event and the NUT were also campaigning against academy schools. In Leicester, Rushey Mead School (where I worked quite a few years ago) is under threat of academisation, and we must build a huge campaign to stop this from happening.

In 2000, the first Leicester Pride event (then called the Mardi Gras) was threatened by the far-right National Front and BNP. The organisers cancelled the event because of threats of violence.

Yet a varied group of people, including Socialist Party members, other political activists and the LGBT community in Leicester, established a campaign “Unity Against Prejudice. On 29 July 2000, despite further threats of violence and a National Front mobilisation attempting to block its route, the Pride event still took place. This fore-runner of today’s Leicester Pride has been forgotten by most. But its beginnings should be celebrated.

The far-right BNP and EDL still threaten to divide our society. We still need to educate and organise against hatred and prejudice.

A sustained and poisonous campaign attempted to link gay men to paedophilia, included the setting up of a group “the silent majority”, which attempted to get the Mardi Gras banned. Letters appeared in the Leicester Mercury, and a petition was taken to the council. The organisers of this campaign were neo-nazis, and used it to try to build their far-right groups.

A Socialist Students meeting at the university discussed LGBT rights. It was attended by people with a number of political stances and they all agreed to the idea of a public meeting in the city centre to discuss putting on an event anyway. We would not stand for any event being cancelled because of threats by the far right. If they could attack Pride then they could do the same to trade union demos and cultural events, such as the Mela or Caribbean Carnival.

Building the campaign

70 people attended the initial meeting and agreed to set up the UAP campaign as well as organising a march from the City Centre to an event on Abbey Park where the original Mardi Gras was to be held.

Unity against prejudice (photo courtesy of Outrage)

Our Aims

We agreed that the march had two aims:

To enable people to celebrate LGBT lifestyles.

To build unity of gay, straight, black and white and all groups of ordinary people against all forms of prejudice.

We built a broad movement, which involved communities, students unions, trades unions etc.

Standing up to far-right threats

During the campaign we were repeatedly threatened by the far right, and many obstacles had to be overcome, but the event went ahead with great success. 400 people marched through the city centre to the festival at Abbey Park. 70 far right protesters turned up but were unable to stop our well stewarded event.

The following year, a Pride event took place without hitch and has become an accepted and established event in Leicester.

Fight for your rights!

Today homophobic crime and prejudice still exist in society; the gains that have been made by the working class, will always be under threat in a capitalist society. Campaigning against all forms of prejudice, whether it be homophobia, racism, sexism or on grounds of disability etc. must continue.

You can help support the Socialist Party by buying a short book of my poems, ‘Little Red Poetry’: Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

We need to fight to protect the welfare state – no to benefit cuts

November 11, 2012

This is an appopriate video for Remembrance Day, as those who fought in the Second World War demanded a “land fit for heroes”. This resulted in the creation of the welfare state, the NHS and the nationalisation of some major industries. Today, all these gains are being taken away from us. We need to fight to defend benefits – the above video is of the Socialist Party stall I was on, campaigning against cuts in benefits for the disabled, the unemployed and people on low incomes.

We need to build a mass, left-wing alternative to austerity. The only party arguing against cuts to working-class people is TUSC, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, in which the Socialist Party is playing a leading role.

Rob Windsor – comrade and friend

January 16, 2012

Sadly, Rob Windsor (ex-Socialist Party Councillor in Coventry) passed away on Saturday after a long illness and complications following a major operation, which paradoxically he hoped would help him regain his health.

Rob was an inspirational character with a great sense of humour. One special memory I have of him is when I went down to Coventry in 2006 to help campaign for his seat in St Michaels ward or for Dave Nellist. After an exhausting day canvassing and standing on polling stations for 10 hours, and then going to the count afterwards, looking at the piles of votes cast, it was clear that Rob had regained his seat. The teller said in suprise, with a big smile on her face “a socialist won the seat?! Windsor, that is a bit of an unfortunate name for a socialist though, isn’t it?”

I last saw Rob in November, just before he went into hospital. Characteristically, he did not complain and led his canvassing team around Dave Nellist’s ward. He will be remembered for his role in many campaigns from the Poll Tax, to campaigning against PFI schemes at Coventry’s Walsgrave Hospital, and being a class fighter for his constituents. It is hard to imagine that he won’t be there with his broad grin next time I go down to Coventry to campaign.

Condolances to Isla and Rob’s family, comrades and friends. Rob will be very much missed by all who knew him.

La lutta continua.

Campaigning against the BNP

July 13, 2009

I had a busy weekend – on Saturday I went to Lincoln for an anti-fascist protest. It was supported by the NUT, PCS, Socialist Party and Lincoln Trades Council. 100 people turned up and we marched through the city centre to voice our opposition to the BNP, chanting “jobs and homes not racism, stop the BNP”.

A grand total of 6 football hooligans made fascist salutes and unfurled a St George’s cross with “BNP” on it. We pointed out that St. George was Turkish. Another slight disturbance happened when a BNP supporter grabbed at our banner, but he was arrested – presumably for mouthing off at the police who were having a word with him.

The demo was a huge success, building on the public support shown for earlier LARF (Lincoln Against Racism and Fascism) demos. We are also holding a Rock against Racism gig at the Duke of Wellington later in the month.

On Sunday, I went over to Nuneaton to leaflet for Steve Gee the Socialist Party candidate in a ward where we are standing for the first time, against the BNP. It was very positive to hear someone say that he would vote for us, but if we weren’t standing he may have voted for the BNP. It is an indication of the lack of a mass, working-class alternative to the three main parties of sleaze and corruption that the BNP can pose as a party of the left in some of its propaganda. We had an excellent response in Nuneaton and I am going back there on Thursday to help get our vote out on polling day.