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From The Socialist newspaper, 27 June 2018

The Socialist inbox

The Socialist inbox: letters to the editors, photo Suzanne Beishon

The Socialist inbox: letters to the editors, photo Suzanne Beishon   (Click to enlarge)

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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

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.

Homelessness and housing costs

In the case of both migrants and people already here without a house to live in, council houses aren't being built and empty properties aren't being used for these people. This keeps house prices high and rents high.

Basically homelessness is helping to keep rents high by holding ordinary people to ransom, which is good for landlords and bad for everybody else. High rents create homelessness and homelessness creates high rents.

The knocking down of council estates, particularly in London, and their replacement with luxury flats for the super-rich, unaffordable to ordinary people, doesn't help either. This makes the housing crisis even worse.

Our demands should be more council house building, and private housing monopolies to be taken over by the state, so everyone can have somewhere to live.

Andy Atkin, Bristol

More privatised rail chaos

Virgin Trains photo Virgin Trains East Coast/CC, photo Virgin Trains East Coast/CC

Virgin Trains photo Virgin Trains East Coast/CC, photo Virgin Trains East Coast/CC   (Click to enlarge)

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling gave a statement in parliament on 4 June about the chaos on the Northern Rail and Govia Thameslink franchises.

He could have saved a lot of breath by just saying "trust me, it will be all right on the night" and then sitting down.

He basically said he had had assurances - from the very people who said there would be no problems in the first place - that these problems would be sorted... sometime.

Some of the criticism of the debacle of cancelling trains at the same time as introducing a new timetable has been personalised - the press calls him "Failing Grayling" and so on. He is clearly out of his depth. However, it is the privatised franchise system which is failing - because there is no overall plan for services, connections, staffing or training.

Each train-operating company does its own thing. If that means poaching drivers or other staff from another company, then so be it, as long as 'our' trains run.

Experienced rail workers would think long and hard before attempting to introduce a new timetable, as everything else then changes, connections, the effect on rosters, breaks, training.

It seems managers are unwilling to oppose such schemes as they do not want to be seen as weak, even when they fear the schemes will fail.

Grayling said the two franchises could borrow drivers from other companies if needed. At best this is robbing Peter to pay Paul. But he didn't say which companies or drivers would be helping out.

I am not holding my breath. Most train-operating companies have an agreement with train drivers' union Aslef allowing drivers to work on rest days.

As they cannot staff services with the resources they have, rest day working - doing a full shift on a day off - is used to plug current gaps.

It is hard to imagine drivers from other franchises voluntarily going to face the wrath of Northern and Govia Thameslink customers when they can experience much the same by staying put - and that's even if they have the required route and traction knowledge to transfer.

The transport secretary blames the train-operating companies, they blame Network Rail, and so it goes on.

Without a long-term national and local plan, fully funded under public ownership, democratically produced by passengers and the workforce through our trade unions, the rail industry will remain subject to private companies squeezing profits out of what should be a public service.

An Aslef member, Worcestershire

Unison witch-hunter elected

The Blairites are still firmly holding onto most significant elected positions within the Labour Party, be they MPs or local councillors. But that is not enough, and the Blairites want more power still.

Take the case of well-known Blairite Linda Perks, who until recently was the London regional secretary for public service union Unison.

Perks won the selection process to become a Labour Party council candidate for the Charlton ward in Greenwich, south London, and was subsequently elected.

In this case, the incumbent Labour councillor since 1998, Gary Parker, is one of the few Labour councillors in the country who publicly defended Jeremy Corbyn against the 2016 leadership coup led by Blairite contender Owen Smith.

Perks' credentials are, however, about as far removed from Corbyn's anti-austerity leadership as could be.

Indeed, just four months before being selected as Labour candidate, she was strongly criticised by a judge for having abused her authority within Unison.

Evidence came to light that she had told her staff to campaign during work time for right-wing general secretary Dave Prentis during the 2015 Unison election.

Perks has form on such matters. In 2007 she was at the centre of the scandal regarding Unison's witch-hunt against four members of the Socialist Party.

In this instance, after a long battle for justice, the four Unison branch secretaries were reinstated - as detailed in the Socialist Party pamphlet 'Unison Bureaucracy Unmasked'.

At the time, Labour backbencher John McDonnell actively opposed the witch-hunt against socialists, making it clear: "I am a Unison member myself and I therefore want to go on record as pledging my support to those activists now being witch-hunted by a section of the union."

One can only wonder what McDonnell now thinks about the ongoing attempt by Perks and her fellow Blairites to oust Corbyn-backing Labour councillors.

I say "wonder" because so far Labour's left leadership has done nothing to head off such problems, and has singularly failed to encourage the Labour membership to organise against the Blairite enemy within.

Mike Barker, Leicester

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In The Socialist 27 June 2018:


30 June NHS demo: prepare for a mass movement

Fight to save the Wales NHS

Gosport opioid deaths scandal: we need democratic control of our NHS

Socialist Party news and analysis

Walk out on 13 July against 'Kid Cager' Trump

Tottenham block evacuations a test for 'Corbynista council'

The bosses are 'dishonest' - not Militant and its supporters

Them & us

International socialist news and analysis

The gathering new world disorder

Turkey's 'strongman' Erdogan tightens grip on state power

Socialist Party women

Defending women's services

Workplace news and analysis

PCS union pay strike ballot - win the vote, win the claim

Unite union conference - drive out the Tories!

East Dunbartonshire council workers strike to stop pay and leave cuts

Unison union conference: delegates can't be cowed

NHS Mid Yorkshire strike suspended

NSSN conference, 7 July 2018: fighting back against the Tories and bosses

Homes and Communities Agency workers vote to strike over pay cuts and inequality

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Thousands snap up issue 1000 of the Socialist

Fighting for rights for Windrush generation and other migrants

Fight to save Devon hospital services

Support growing against incinerator in Washington

Hull unions organise 'Engage for Change' festival

Huddersfield set to lose two town centre post offices


Prison: life inside a living hell

Blairite cuts and restructures make social work dangerous

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