Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Public sector workers strike

When hundreds of thousands of public sector workers go on strike, the government should take note. These are not the ‘militants’, the ‘extremists’ or the ‘bully boys’ that feature in the fantasies of the Tory media.

These are hard-working, mostly low paid, men and women who keep our vital public services going despite inadequate resources and ever worsening conditions. When these people, who are at the heart of our communities, feel they have no other choice but to walk out, we should all realise that there is a serious grievance that must be addressed.

What on earth does Labour leader Ed Miliband mean when he opposes the strikes by saying, “we are on the side of parents and children"? As if the hundreds of thousands of strikers are not themselves parents or users of the very same services that they work so hard to provide!

Public sector pensions are under attack from a government that values the work of the millionaire banker more than they value the work of a classroom teacher. Home care workers who do the most difficult jobs looking after vulnerable elderly and disabled people face massive cuts in their wages, and changes to their working conditions, that would make it impossible for many of them to survive.

First and foremost, this is an issue of justice. Low-paid public sector workers are not responsible for the economic crisis we are in. Yet they are the ones who will struggle to pay their mortgage, and put food on the table, while Tory bankers only struggle to think how to spend their obscene bonuses.

Yes, people will be inconvenienced by strikes. That is because the services these workers provide are so important to our society. But on this issue we really should be “all in it together”. Those men and women who take strike action this week are fighting for us all

Arrest of leading Palestinian activist

Protests have been called across the country in response to the arrest of leading Palestinian activist Sheik Raed Salah in London. He had been due to speak at a meeting in the House of Common this evening organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign attended by Labour MP's including, Jeremy Corbyn and Birmingham's Richard Burden.

A vigil is being held at 6.30pm today outside Waterstones in the city centre. Please email the Home Secretary and request a reconsideration of the deportation order to allow a court appeal. Call the Rt Hon Theresa May on 02072195206 or email at: mayt@parliament.uk

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Brian Haw Rest In Peace

Some sad news. After a long illness the peace campaigner Brian Haw has died. Brian was the instigator on June 2 2001 of the peace camp opposite parliament. He maintained the camp for 10 years, literally around the clock, in opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Explaining his motivation, Brian said, 'the children of Iraq and other countries were every bit as valuable and worthy of love as my precious wife and children. I want to go back to my own kids and look them in the face again, knowing that I've done all I can to try and save the children of Iraq and other countries who are dying because of my government's unjust, amoral, fear - and money-driven policies'.

For his conscience and dedication, we are all in his debt. May he rest in peace.

Solidarity with Saudi women car drivers

The struggle for women's rights in Saudi Arabia put down an important marker on Friday when at least 29 women defied the country's de facto ban on driving.

The campaign has been inspired by Manal al-Sharif, a young mum and computer expert who has received international attention, and a week in jail, for posting a film of herself driving on YouTube.

Although women are not formally banned from driving, to all intensive purposes they are. Women who drive get harassed and arrested by the authorities. In 1990 50 Saudi women were sacked from their jobs and banned from foreign travel for organising a similar protest.

Saudi Arabia is a deeply reactionary country. Women are banned from voting and must get 'written permission from a male relative – even an underage son – to work, travel, seek treatment or study'.

Protests are banned and there is great fear about expressing even the most elementary of rights, especially if you are a women.

And yet... these handful of women are scaring the daylights of Saudi authorities fearful that any campaign for more equality could inspire calls for more widespread democratic reform.

They are right to be scared. As the Arab Spring highlights, once people who have been oppressed get a taste of freedom, who knows where things will end up…

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Dutch Muslims and Jews unite to oppose ban on religious slaughter

In a sign of growing religious intolerance in Holland, the Dutch parliament is set to introduce a law which will essentially ban kosher and halal slaughter. The proposals has united a coalition of animal rights and anti-Muslim groups.

The measure is being viewed as part and parcel of a European wide attack on multiculturalism: ‘Many Jews and Muslims see the ban as part of a growing European hostility to immigration and diversity. Geert Wilders the far-right Dutch politician, has called for the Netherlands to ban the burka after France curbed the public wearing of the Islamic face veil; politicians including Germany’s Angela Merkel and Britain’s David Cameron have proclaimed the failure of multiculturalism; and anti-immigration parties such as Finland’s True Finns have been increasingly successful at the polls’.

The Amsterdam Jewish-Moroccan Council has organised protests against the law with imams and rabbis marching together in opposition to it.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

CRISIS AT SOUTHERN CROSS

Jamie Buchan Chief Executive of Southern Cross recently told national media that "if the company does not reach agreement with its landlords and lenders the group is unlikely to be able to continue to trade."

So Southern Cross could go under at anytime since the rents it pays on the homes is £100m too high. If they do, the world of the 31,000 residents in their care will be turned upside down. To say nothing of worlds of the 44,000 staff and the residents' families.

The residents, their families and the staff in the 736 care homes all over UK are living in a state of massive uncertainty. No one should suffer this kind of worry, least of all the elderly and the vulnerable: those least able to defend and protect themselves.

Only the government and politicians have the power now to end this uncertainty. Only the politicians can answer the question who will look after the 31,000 elderly and vulnerable if Southern Cross goes under.

These care homes, run by Southern Cross, are not factories that are failing from lack of demand but are an essential part of every community which now face ruin due to the combination of privatisation and private equity. Everyone knows, moving the elderly and vulnerable is the worst thing that can happen to them and can lead to premature death.

Support the Connexions service

More than a million young people are unemployed. Yet the government is taking an axe to Connexions, a vital service that helps young people find work, education and training.

An early day motion has been tabled in parliament that calls on the government to “reverse its policy and instead to provide sufficient funding to the Careers and Connexions Service to help our young people plan and organise their futures”.

The Early Day Motion, and the names of the MP’s who have signed it, can be viewed here.

If your MP hasn’t signed it yet, please contact them and ask for their support. You can contact your MP directly, using this website: www.writetothem.com

University campuses are not 'hotbeds of radicalisation'

With the government set to release a revamped version of their counter radicalisation strategy, Prevent, I am expecting there to be new clamp downs on freedom of speech.

The 'mood music' for this has been created by right-wing think-tanks and commentators who have been creating the impression that our universities are virtual breeding grounds for violent extremism among Muslim students.

Well, not according to chief executive of Universities UK, Nicola Dandridge.

In an interview in the Daily Telegraph she upholds freedom of speech, dismisses claims that 'that because wild things are said at university that automatically equates to radicalisation”, and cites advice from the security forces that “that there is not necessarily a link that they can prove between open debate in universities and violent extremism subsequently.”

More here.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Announcement of new Gaza aid flotilla marks anniversary of Mavi Marmara attack

Yesterday was the first anniversary of the Israeli massacre of nine Palestinian solidarity activists aboard the Mavi Marmara.

The Turkish ship was bringing humanitarian aid to the besieged population of Gaza.

Among those present were two friends of mine, Kevin Ovenden and Sarah Colborn.

The murders were a shocking blow to the international Palestinian solidarity movement, but it has since emerged unbowed and undeterred.

Turkish NGO's have announced plans for a new flotilla, comprising 15 ships and intending to bring 1500 human rights activists, politicians, artists, and journalists to Gaza this June.

There could be no better tribute to martyred Palestinian activists than to see the international solidarity movement they made the ultimate sacrifice for reemerging strengthened and unbowed.

Germany to go nuclear free

The German government has announced it intends to shut all its nuclear plants by 2022.

It intends to become a 'trail blazer' for renewable sources of energy.

At present nuclear energy provides 23% of Germany's total energy needs.

The change in policy comes against a background of Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster and pressure created by a powerful anti-nuclear movement in Germany.

The move has been widely welcomed, though not by everyone.

The utility companies are threatening legal action and have warned the phasing out of Germany's reliance on nuclear power will lead to winter black-outs.

This has been dismissed by the German government, who are planning their own green new deal, with massive investment in more solar, wind and hydroelectric power.

At present Germany employs around 370,000 in the renewable energy sector. This is expected to increase significantly. As Chancellor Angela Merkal said:

"We believe that we can show those countries who decide to abandon nuclear power - or not to start using it - how it is possible to achieve growth, creating jobs and economic prosperity while shifting the energy supply toward renewable energies."

The counter argument is that whatever its dangers, the benefits of nuclear power outweighs them and help reduces the greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the warming the planet, causing floods, droughts and rising sea levels.

With more nuclear power plants planned in this country, we are led to believe that there is simply no alternative. There is a political consensus that nuclear power is intrinsic to meeting Britain's energy needs.

The issue has even divided stalwarts of the environmental movement, like George Monbiot and Caroline Lucas.

However, if an environmentally conscious country like Germany can decide to end its nuclear porgramme, and in a way that will create jobs and economic growth, isn't it time for policy makers here to start having a serious debate about our reliance on nuclear power, instead of just dismissing it?

Rafah crossing reopens today

One of the most dramatic consequences of the overthrow of the Mubarak regime has been the decision of the Egyptian government to reopen the Rafah crossing. This is an important step in the lifting of the siege of Gaza which has been in place since June 2007. You can read Israeli and British coverage here and here. The video is from the Iranian news channel, Press TV.