Stop the bedroom tax

We are being sold a whopper of a lie. The ConDems claim that the current wave of welfare and public service cuts are designed to get the country out of debt and the medicine, while it tastes bad, will work. So why is the public debt getting worse as a result of these cutbacks? Because reducing incomes for the poor by an enormous 38% since taking office in 2010 was always going to stop people being able to spend so create jobs in the economy.

Why are there no jobs? The banks are taking money from the government and using it to speculate in international markets rather than offering it as loans for investment. The result is that the banks get to plug the gaps in their balance sheets and reward each other with huge bonuses while the rest of us find it impossible to find sustained employment. This is particularly true of the young who are finding that the abolition of Education Maintenance Allowance and hiked tuition fees destroy their route into education but there are no jobs either.

Galloway comments on Mail on Sunday story

The Bradford West MP George Galloway today described a news story in the Mail on Sunday as, "being almost totally bereft of truth, potentially actionable and clearly motivated by malice against me. I am writing to the Metropolitan police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe today to ask, among other matters, what guidance his force gave the newspaper and whether the publication of the story potentially compromises a live investigation." 

Galloway pointed out that his parliamentary computer had not been "seized" as the newspaper alleged and, indeed, he had insisted that it was handed in to the Met police, investigating what he described as a 'dirty tricks' operation against him orchestrated by a member of his staff, Aisha Ali Khan, and a senior detective in the Met's anti-terrorism branch SO15, Afiz Khan. Both Khans have been arrested and are presently on bail on suspicion of data protection offenses and also, in his case, of abusing his position as a police officer. 

Labour joins the sinking ship

Tuesday 19 March 2013 is a date that will sit high on the wall in the Labour Party’s hall of ignominy (and a big hall it is). A few weeks ago, Cait Reilly and Jamieson Wilson won a ruling in court that their work at Poundland under the Workfare programme, again forced and unpaid work, was illegal because they were not informed that they could refuse the work.

Thousands have suffered benefit loss for refusing unpaid work under the Workfare programme so the ruling indicated that these people, among the poorest in society, were entitled to a rebate of their benefits.

The Condems were furious with the courts for permitting benefit claimants some rights and choice. Iain Duncan Smith, the sad failure of a minister at the Department of Work and Pensions, brought emergency legislation before Parliament to reverse the court decision and deny the rebate of money to the poorest. 

Workfare gets less people into work

The ConDem and Iain Duncan Smith in particular have trumpeted their desire to bring about ‘a change in culture’ by stopping ‘skiving’ from benefit claimants. Anyone who has been unemployed knows that this whole scenario is a fiction, made up by rich people to dump the blame for economic crisis and joblessness on those that are its victims. 

Their solution, the Workfare programme, brings in private companies with contracts to place claimants in work. They receive start up fees for each claimant of up to £600 but provide very poor, if any, training and support. If the claimant gets a job under their own steam in this time, the company receives a payment while the claimant receives nothing. If the claimant does not manage to find a job, the company loses nothing at all. 

Stakes rise in British society

British politics is now firmly cast upon the sea of uncertainty where ongoing economic crisis and political disaffection are leading to rapidly changing waters. The Respect Party is capable of playing a significant role in political developments in the next few years if it can reach out to construct an activist and membership base now. This was the message from discussions at the Respect Party National Council last Saturday (9 March).

Lessons from November
The November by-elections demonstrated both the possibilities and the difficulties involved in trying to articulate the call for social and political change that challenges the austerity and drive to increase inequality among the three major parties. The elections took place in areas where Respect had no effective presence prior to the campaign. The elections were called at short notice by the Labour Party, mainly for fear of Respect repeating the unprecedented victory of George Galloway in the Bradford West by-election in March 2012. Labour was able to pour resources and party workers from across the country into these elections, making it difficult for Respect to compete with limited resources. 

The death of Hugo Chavez

By George Galloway MP

The death of Hugo Chavez at just 58 is a body blow for the poor and the oppressed, throughout Latin America and the wider world. The most elected leader in the modern era, Chavez transformed Venezuela by the force of his will and a popular revolution which encompassed the marginal, the ethnic minorities, the workers, and key sections of the progressive intelligensia who saw in him a veritable Spartacus.

He rallied an army of not slaves, but those despised by the oligarchy as hewers of wood and drawers of the oil which previously made only the rich richer. Under Chavez’ revolution the oil wealth was distributed in ever rising wages and above all in ambitious social engineering. He built the fifth largest student body in the world, creating scores of new universities. More than 90% of Venezuelans ate three meals a day for the first time in the country’s history. Quality social housing for the masses became the norm with the pledge that by the end of the presidential term, now cut short, all Venezuelans would live in a dignified house.

Chavez’ ambitions were not limited to Venezuela alone. He fostered Latin American unity promoting democratic and socialist movements throughout the continent. He founded a Bank of the South, a University of the South, even a television station of the South – Tele Sur. And further afield he championed the Palestinian cause, giving citizenship to stateless Palestinian refugees. When Israel invaded Lebanon, from where I write, in 2006 he expelled the Israeli ambassador from Caracas – relations which remain severed. He stood up to North American hegemony and with the victims of imperial domination everywhere.

I knew him as a warm gregarious bear of a man, a force of nature. My wife and I spent almost two weeks working in his presidential campaign late last year. It is heartbreaking to be writing what amounts to his obituary so soon after yet another of his great political triumphs. He will be remembered as a man who lived and died for his people, as a paratrooper, a tank commander, a president. Hasta siempre Comandante. Presente.

Published in the Independent

Newham Respect Public Meeting