'3 major parties complicit in Israeli terror'

'The Israeli assault on Gaza is barbaric. Women and children are being targetted and murdered. If overwhelming military force was used on any other ghetto with 1.5 million people in it, there would be a major outcry from governments across the world. Because it is an Israeli attack, our government is spineless and our loyal opposition embarrassed and embarrassing.' So said Catherine Higgins, Respect's prospective parliamentary candidate in response to the air and naval attacks on Gaza on Wednesday, 14 November.

'This war is not going to end quickly. Israel has made it clear that it intends a ground invasion to destroy a democratically elected government in Gaza. It is an overcrowded ghetto that will rise in its own defence. While the 3 major parties are complicit in Israeli terrorism, the people of Britain must show support for the Palestinians now. The only option for peace is the unconditional withdrawal of Israeli troops, aircraft and ships and the relief of the siege of Gaza. Respect wants peace.

'He can be The Croydon People's Champion'

An amazing gathering took place last night planning the launch of Lee Jasper's election campaign for Croydon North.

Activists from all over London and the South East, black and white men and women, Muslims Christians Sikhs Hindus, young and old, pledged themselves to four weeks hard work to change politics in Croydon for good.

"I had the privilege of serving in Parliament for many years with the late Bernie Grant MP - known to all as the People's Champion" said George Galloway MP, the campaign organiser.

"I believe Lee Jasper is the true heir to that accolade. He can be Croydon People's Champion" said Galloway.

"Lee stands for Justice, Peace and Equality. He stands for Respect".

Respect Yourself. Respect Croydon. Vote Lee Jasper. That was the message from the meeting. The battle for Croydon North has begun.

Speak Up for Manchester

The Respect Party will contest the Manchester Central by-election on 15 November. The party has selected Catherine Higgins, a 40 year old mother of 6 children who lives and works in Manchester. Catherine’s platform is to ask the people of Manchester to speak up rather than being a ladder for the political establishment only interested in the ‘Westminster bubble’.
Catherine is of Sierra Leonean descent and has lived in the UK for over twenty years. She is a local community advocate and political campaigner in Manchester with a strong record of helping with benefit, housing and immigration issues. She has consistently worked in the voluntary third sector and has a passion for helping improve facilities for working class areas.

She intends to stand for election on a platform of opposition to the growing inequality and degradation of our communities.
  • More social housing built rather than student residences and supermarkets.
  • Free school meals and more school places with more teachers employed.
  • A major programme of creating community facilities starting with youth centres.
  • Abolish tuition fees.
  • Restore Education Maintenance Allowance.
  • Bring the troops home from Afghanistan.
In accepting the party’s selection, Catherine explained, ‘the Human spirit is being drained as Job centre Plus has sub-contracted job seeking to private companies...who really do not show due care to their customers, hence leaving unemployed people treated like second class citizens. I have slowly watched my neighbours, friends and families lives deteriorate due to the economic climate.
‘I put myself forward because I have a great yearning for real change, not one that is scripted, dictated then abandoned but one that is practiced. George Galloway’s stunning election victory in March is a model for an election campaign that can bring real change. It is time for the same in Manchester.’

Lee Jasper is Respect's candidate in Croydon North

The former policy adviser to the London Mayor is Respect's candidate for the Croydon North by-election.

'If I could have composed the perfect candidate to fight this seat then it would be Lee Jasper,' said George Galloway, the Respect MP. 'Lee has a stellar track record in activism and community involvement. As well as being a crucial member of Ken Livingstone's team in governing London, as Director for Policing and Equalities. His record of public service is unequalled.'

'I'm delighted to be the Respect candidate,' said Lee Jasper. 'Following George's amazing victory in Bradford West I welcome the opportunity to offer the people of Croydon North a viable alternative to the tired and failed politics of the mainstream political parties. The responsibility for the economic crisis lies with banks and not the people of Croydon North and yet they are seeing their services cut and the welfare reforms are causing real hardship and acute distress.'

Jasper said that the focus of his campaign will be to speak out for the poor, the elderly, the vulnerable, highlight and challenge the shared consensus on cuts and the austerity agenda, supported by Conservatives, Lib Dems and Labour. 'There has to be a strong argument in defence of the unemployed and the working poor and in favour of creating jobs and opportunities. We need fresh and dynamic approach to reducing crime, supporting the victims of the riots in their quest for compensation and tackling the strained relations between young people and the police are just some of our priorities.

'I will be a minority of those articulating that there is another way. I will be arguing against the austerity programme and for investment in public services and jobs. I am looking forward to taking these argument to the voters of Croydon North.'

The Croydon North by-election is likely to take place on 29 November

London Met crisis attacks all students

by Mary Robertson

The absurdity of the government’s xenophobic immigration policy was thrown into sharp relief yesterday as the UK Border Agency (UKBA) revoked London Metropolitan University’s right to authorise visas, effectively meaning that London Met can no longer accept international students. The announcement coincided with the release of figures showing immigration levels well above the government’s arbitrary and irrational 100,000 per year target. It is at best a desperate attempt to hit that target, irrespective of its pernicious consequences for higher education. At worst, it is a continuation of the government’s efforts that began in winter 2010 to systematically denigrate UK higher education.
The effects of UKBA’s decision will be most cruelly felt by those international students already half-way through their degree at London Met who, despite having already shelled out tens of thousands of pounds in tuition fees, are now unable to finish the courses they started. Not content with destroying the futures of young people in Britain, it would seem, the government is now applying itself to shattering those of young people from abroad. One student told the Guardian yesterday that his father in Nigeria had had a heart attack on hearing that his son will not be able to finish his degree.

The decision will also have more far-reaching but no less destructive consequences on other students. UK universities are increasingly dependent on overseas tuition fees (much higher than those for domestic students) to make ends meet. By sending a clear message to international students that they are not welcome here, UKBA’s decision is likely to deter future international students coming to the UK and put this important source of funding in jeopardy.

It is absurd that international students, who come to the UK temporarily - and are of great economic benefit to the British economy - are included in immigration figures. But as worrying is the fact that the effects of this absurd policy will not be equally felt.

Unlike Britain’s elite Russell group universities, whose visa-granting rights have not been put into question, London Met caters to local students from poorer and ethnic minority backgrounds. Two thirds of its students come from local communities, three fifths are non-white, and 96% come from the state sector. Last year overseas student fees accounted for 15% of London Met’s income and in interviews yesterday, the Chancellor of London Met was unable to rule out the possibility of closure as a result of UKBA’s decision.

The London Met decision therefore shows the government’s xenophobic and cynically opportunistic attempts to cut headline immigration figures dovetailing with its willingness (even wilfulness) to see non-elite higher education institutions fail. It is an attack both on international students and on students here whose life chances have been dramatically improved through the existence of institutions like London Met.

The tragic irony is that in the last year London Met has enthusiastically embraced the government’s vision for a marketised higher education system by outsourcing its services and slashing courses while cutting fees. That this compliance has only made London Met’s future more vulnerable is a stark reminder of why we need a properly funded education system - one that meets the needs of all young people, whether they are already here or are wishing to come from abroad.

Another squalid housing rip off

The ConDem government has released a report on the housing shortage in the UK today. The Montague report advocates the relaxing of planning restrictions and permission, allowing private investors to build on public land, the relaxation of affordable housing criteria and a voluntary code for what constitutes a reasonably constructed home. It represents a sick joke to the 2 million families that cannot find permanent accommodation in the UK at present.

There is a major housing crisis developing in Britain that is not being addressed by the ConDem government or the Labour Party in opposition. The end of the property boom and cheap mortgages has left the vast majority of people unable to afford to buy. Deposits alone are likely to cost £50,000 in most parts of the country. Private rents are soaring as a result with the average now being £722 per month, far too high for most families to even consider saving towards a deposit. The myth of the aspirant working class that can benefit from a ‘property owning democracy’ has been evicted.

Another whopper from the energy monopolies

The energy giant SSE has started another round of fuel prices rises in the UK. It claims that it cannot 'absorb' costs any more so must increase gas and electricity prices by 9% from 15 October. This is despite the wholesale price of gas and electricity power falling in the first half of 2012. In the US, the fall has been between 38-45% while it has been up to 13% in Europe.

Further, these rises are not the first that have come in well above the inflation rate. Gas prices were increased by SSE by 9.4% in December 2010; in September 2011, it increased electricity prices by 11% and gas by 18%. After being forced to cap its prices because of the public outcry, it has now returned to its profiteering pattern. 

The energy market is rigged by the big companies which are profiteering. SSE reported a 2% rise in profits to £1.33 billion yet pretends that it cannot absorb cost rises that do not exist. Ian Marchand, its Chief Executive, was paid £1.1 million in the last year.The regulator, Ofgem has been investigating alleged attempts by the energy companies (including SSE) to overload the national grid with electricity, switch off power plants and wind farms then claim compensation from the taxpayer totalling over £600 million in the last five years. A scam.

Meanwhile, working class people continue to struggle with pay failing to keep up with inflation. People's living standards are collapsing even before the capping of housing benefit. The astronomical increases in energy costs are creating fuel poverty across the country as people can no longer afford to put electricity or gas on for more than a few hours per day. It will lead directly to more illness and death among the elderly. It is callous profiteering that has to be stopped.

Richard Lloyd, of the consumers' association Which?, told the BBC that "we can't go through another winter with people worrying about their energy bills, the government and the regulator must reform our broken energy market."

There certainly needs to be reform and urgently. These thieves represent everything that is wrong with this society. We have reached the point where most people find their bills unsustainable due to private monopolies being allowed to fleece us. It is another example, alongside the railways and banks, of how the private sector is not good for us. Asil Nadir has been prosecuted for stealing from his companies 25 years ago yet the present day robber barons are being allowed to plunder the UK with impunity. We need to stop this and put them behind bars

Will benefit cuts help patients? No.

by Dr Kay Phillips, a GP in Manchester.
David Cameron's recent pronouncements about ending the ‘something for nothing' culture around welfare made me shudder in horror. He talked about working-age people being ‘encouraged to sit at home' on benefits, and the need to end this ‘culture of entitlement'.

This amounts to nothing more than scapegoating the poorest in our country and a strategy of stoking resentment between the poor and the very poor. I've always been proud of the welfare state and thought of it as being the bedrock of decent society in Britain.

When travelling around other parts of the world you appreciate the fact that we have a safety net, whereby the poorest and most vulnerable are looked after. We have a right to medical care, education and enough money to be able to eat and feed our families. None of us know whether one day we may fall on hard times and need the welfare state to be there for us.

Our NHS is our common wealth

The notion of madness is widely understood as a health condition that requires treatment. Market madness is not. If we are to save the National Health Service, there must be treatment for this appalling condition that now afflicts our hospitals and GP surgeries.

In South London, a hospital trust is collapsing due to its debts. Fifty more hospital trusts around the country are in a similar position. Why? Because both Labour and Conservative governments insisted on cooking the books to make it look like they were investing in our healthcare. They did this by giving private companies very lucrative contracts to build and maintain hospitals. These contracts allowed these companies to charges huge interest rates on loans that they gave to allow the NHS to build hospitals. Because these loans would need to be paid off over 25-30 years in most cases, the cost would be more than ten times the cost of direct government investment to build a hospital and would entail a very large amount of profit for the private financers. This policy was called the Private Finance Initiative (PFI). It is a disaster for the NHS and government finances.

The capital cost of rebuilding Calderdale Royal Hospital in Yorkshire is £64.6m but the scheme will end up costing Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust a total of £773.2m. Building the new Walsgrave district general hospital in Coventry will jump from an initial £379m to an eventual £4bn.

Current estimates of the final cost of the PFI programme in health and education are £301billion in repayments. These repayments do not come from the idiotic politicians obsessed with the notion that the private sector does things better (take a look at the mess in the banking system) who organized and negotiated these awful contracts. They do not come from the politicians and private financiers who cheerlead this private money making scheme at the expense of our health. It comes from the taxpayer who now has huge governmental debt built in for the next 30 years when all the investment could have come at less than a tenth of the cost.

The Labour government moved to creating an internal market in the NHS by launching the Foundation hospitals and trusts. The layer of managers and accountants that Margaret Thatcher brought into the NHS swelled in this internal market. Now the logic of a market has hit home as some will be wealthy while others collapse. The problem is that this means hospitals closing, poorer standards of care, less staff being paid lower wages and more selective healthcare with those most in need being turned away.

What is the solution of the ConDems? To increase the market in healthcare by getting GPs involved and letting private companies take over parts of the health service. When a cure doesn’t work, just do it more and more while looking the other way and hoping no one blames you. Since sliding into government, the ConDems have quietly added 39 new PFI contracts and £5.36billion to the debt. It has been quiet because both parties attacked Labour for going for PFI.

The National Health Service is one of the greatest prides of British social life. It is the most wonderful gain for working people in the last hundred years. It is now in real danger from the profit takers and the politicians who do their bidding. It must be stopped.

These contracts should be scrapped and replaced with direct government investment in health care. If effective taxes were levied against the financial sector and the private hospitals that make people pay for health care, the government could afford this investment. If the layer of managers and accountants were removed from the NHS, it would free significant resources for health. If the false market was removed, health care could be more organized and effective.

This country needs more nurses, more hospitals and clinics and less debt so why are the politicians helping the corporate looters to destroy our NHS. It is too important to lose and an alternative strategy is urgently needed.


Bradford West MP George Galloway met the Secretary of State Michael
Gove today (Thursday) to discuss the crisis in Bradford secondary education,
where the GCSE results are among the worst in the country.

'It was an extremely productive meeting,' said Galloway. 'Both of us
agreed that the London Challenge had raised standards in
London schools. I suggested a similar approach, a Bradford Challenge.'

The London Challenge school improvement programme was established in
2003 to improve outcomes in low-performing secondary schools in the
capital. The programme uses independent, experienced education
experts, known as London Challenge advisers, to identify need and
broker support for under-performing schools. The advisers are supported
by a small administrative team based in the Department for Education
(DfE). The cost of the support and the services brokered comes
directly from the DfE and is spent as the adviser directs. Many of
these advisers are also National or Local Leaders of Education.

The Secretary of State accepted Galloway’s invitation to come to
Bradford in the autumn, bringing with him educationalists who had been
at the heart of the London Challenge project. They will meet with,
discuss and have lunch with community groups and others on a
fact-finding visit. Following that visit, the Secretary of State and
George Galloway will look forward to receiving proposals for a pilot