Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/959/26013
The Socialist inbox
Do you have something to say?
Send your news, views and criticism in not more than 150 words to Socialist Postbox, PO Box 24697, London E11 1YD, phone 020 8988 8771 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We reserve the right to shorten and edit letters. Don't forget to give your name, address and phone number. Confidentiality will be respected if requested.
Views of letter writers do not necessarily match those of the Socialist Party.
Labour's poverty pay for sleep-in carers
Good to see the piece in issue 958 of the Socialist by Katie re the scandal of poverty pay for sleep-in care workers.
It's a disgusting fact that not only Tory councils have sold off these services that provide support to our most vulnerable citizens - Labour councils are just as guilty. The selling off of quality in-house services for vulnerable adults is a total disgrace and Labour should be ashamed.
I'm glad the Socialist Party has highlighted this. I have worked in local government for 30 years and feel angry and ashamed this is happening.
As a Unite shop steward for a very active, fighting-back branch, I am proud that we fought to keep my service in-house. But I know we have to be on the watch all the time to see what future threats may come from a Labour council implementing Tory cuts and Tory philosophy.
Thanks for raising this in the paper.
Daniel Cohen, Greenwich Socialist Party
I spent a few hours standing on the picket line with striking Serco staff at Barts Health NHS Trust. The porters and cleaners at Bart's Hospital were getting cars and vans to honk support.
But after a while I noticed none of the vehicles going into the hospital were NHS vehicles. They were all private companies, from eCourier Medical to ERS Medical. They were dropping off patients, medicine and supplies.
It was eye-opening how far privatisation has gone in the NHS.
Helen Pattison, Leytonstone
Just back from what seemed to be a regular building inspection of my tower block. The staff present spent more time reviewing cleanliness than fire safety. In particular, dust.
In fact, if I hadn't been there, the ever-open fire doors to utility cupboards and the ongoing shortage of fluorescent strips in the stairwells would probably not have been noted. I know this because these problems have been evident for some time without being rectified and have been flagged up previously by me and others.
It's like fire safety is a secondary matter and dust takes precedence. I don't think the housing officer was happy with my presence and fiercely defended Metropolitan Housing when I raised the matter of the ever-open fire doors.
At one stage it was like talking to some very old Stalinist defending the Soviet invasion of Hungary. The line must be defended at all costs! Forwards to a dust-free future!
Steve Nally, Oval, south London
Recently, on passing through Birmingham Airport, I noticed a number of staff wearing high-visibility jackets with "great volunteer" on their backs.
On enquiring, it appears the airport has taken on a number of "staff" on a volunteer basis to cope with the summer rush. These volunteers receive no pay whatsoever. They are meagrely offered discounted meals and transport costs.
Considering the airport achieved a profit of £25 million in 2015-16, and clearly these are jobs that are needed, it is astonishing they are using people in this way. It seems they are not even prepared to offer minimum wage.
I sincerely hope this is not a new trend or we will all be doing voluntary work before long to ensure the bosses reach their profit targets.
Mark Andrews, Birmingham
Right-wing Labour MP Frank Field has been in the news again, using the situation in Venezuela to try and undermine Corbyn and his leadership. This former friend of Thatcher would seemingly rather have a Tory government than a Corbyn-led one.
This is the same Frank Field, MP for Birkenhead, who told us, the Birkenhead Land Registry branch of civil service union PCS, that there was no point fighting privatisation as we couldn't win.
Well, we ignored him, campaigned, got members active, and defeated privatisation.
This month, as a direct result of that victory, we secured 366 permanent jobs across Land Registry offices, approximately 30 of those in Birkenhead. Conversely, had we been privatised, there was a real chance our office would have been closed under restructuring plans.
It really shows the value of fighting and campaigning and exposes the political bankruptcy of Field.
Time for Labour to kick out treacherous Blairites like Field and develop a full programme of fighting, socialist policies.
Dave Lunn, Wirral
Polly Toynbee's Guardian column said Knowsley "has been savaged by Tory cuts."
This is an important point to raise. However, the main underlying issues aren't raised by Toynbee, who supports the Blairite wing of the Labour Party.
Knowsley has been hit hard, perhaps hardest - but everywhere has. The borough is one of only three in the country to not offer A-levels, the other two being the bankers' City of London and the tiny Scilly Isles! This loss of A-level provision is down to financial decisions: cutbacks.
Eight years ago, there were about a dozen institutions offering further education - with £159 million pumped in via PFI. The result today is complete academisation of the area's schools.
I'm assuming Toynbee's assertion that the borough loves right-wing Knowsley MP George Howarth is born out of voting figures. But that couldn't be further from the views of the residents who step into my taxi!
After taking on Tory governments for decades, the postwar revolt in the Mersey area against Tory decision-makers has been passed down from generation to generation.
Howarth is an MP who does virtually zero campaigning and votes to bomb Syria while doing nothing to relieve frustrations. The vote for Howarth is not because he works for us, it's because the Tories don't, so the borough votes Labour.
The higher vote at this year's general election was in spite of Howarth. It was instead for Corbyn's anti-austerity programme, as working class people will hope these mean a return to some of Labour's more left-wing policies of the past, including the fighting, socialist campaigning embodied by the Militant-led Liverpool City Council of the 1980s.
Neill Dunne, Knowsley
On 3 August in a council byelection in Marine ward, Beccy Cooper, with 1,032 votes - 47.4% - became the first Labour representative on Worthing Borough Council for more than 40 years.
The Conservative runner-up got 846 votes - 38.8%. The byelection was prompted by a Conservative standing down because of ill health, and Labour's share of the vote soared by 27.9 points.
The ward is in a leafy area, not an obvious Labour target. Labour's efforts had been concentrated in Central Worthing in the local elections and general election. But much has been made of the changing demographic of the town as young people have moved there, forced out of Brighton and Hove by astronomical housing costs.
Coupled with the same-day capture in Thanet, east Kent, of a seat in Margate Central ward with 454 votes - 57.5%, +23.7 points - from Ukip, -25.2 points, it fuels the thought that few places should now be regarded as out of bounds for Corbyn-led Labour.
Andy Barber, Brighton
Fully automated capitalism?
Silicon Valley: the road to Armageddon or utopia? The future is violent revolt or harmonious use of artificial intelligence (AI) depending on who you speak to - as revealed by the BBC's 'Secrets of Silicon Valley'.
AI can be used to diagnose disease from a CT scan in a fraction of a second. Uber can drive impoverished taxi drivers to suicide. Airbnb claims to help people earn money while they travel abroad, with catastrophic effects on working class rents in Barcelona.
The industrial revolution was nothing compared to what is coming, says one tech genius whose software could partially replace doctors. Another idealistic techie predicts a life of leisure for the masses who will be paid a decent income for not working while new technology will create the necessary wealth to fund it.
But the key question is the ownership of these wonders. It is certain that dystopia awaits us if they remain in private hands.
Ultimately, on the basis of capitalism, the rule of the market will apply to AI: deliver the highest rewards to shareholders, and if that means dispensing with millions of workers' labour then so be it. This programme provided further evidence that socialism cannot be postponed much longer.
Tony Mulhearn, Liverpool
- 'Secrets of Silicon Valley' is available until 9 September on BBC iPlayer
In The Socialist 23 August 2017:
What we think
Socialist Party news and analysis
Workplace news and analysis
Fighting the far right
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
Socialist readers' comments and reviews