Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1077/30417
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How do you escape justice after being found guilty of kidnapping, forced return, torture and a campaign of intimidation? That's right, by being Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid al-Maktoum the billionaire ruler of Dubai (and vice-president and prime minister of United Arab Emirates, and owner of Godolphin horseracing stables).
His highness's recent high-profile court case in London - which found in favour of his sixth wife, the estranged Princess Haya, who fled Dubai last year along with her two children - revisited the kidnapping by the Sheikh's operatives of his 19-year-old daughter Sheikha Shamsa from Cambridge in 2000. Then, the police were blocked by the CPS and frustrated by the Foreign Office from pursuing their investigations.
And why was that? Only cynics would say that it was because the UK government has extensive military, trade and diplomatic relations with Dubai.
Still, as horseracing owners are meant to be 'fit and proper' he might not be able to shake the Queen's hand in the royal enclosure at this year's Derby!
Simon Carter, East London
Grounded by Flybe
I'm one of the screwed over Flybe passengers. Off to Jersey in three weeks' time for a chess competition, and I've just had to panic-book trains and a ferry, along with a one-night hotel stay in Poole on the way back.
I'll try to claim the flights back on the travel insurance, although who knows what horrors could be lurking in the small print? And even if I get it back, it's still working out more expensive, and much longer and more awkward travel times than flying direct from Cardiff.
Nationalise Flybe to protect the 2,000 jobs as well as the passengers. What happened to the bailout money and the initial large investment when it was taken over by the Virgin-led consortium last year?
They don't deserve compensation - someone has clearly rinsed the business. But even if they did, surely it's better for a government to pay to do so rather than throwing money into a black hole only to see it go under later anyway.
Phil Holt: broad left pioneer
Phil Holt, Militant supporter, Broad Left pioneer and national executive member of the Post Office Engineering Union/National Communications Union has sadly passed away at 71.
In their heyday in the 1970s-80s, some Broad Lefts transformed unions into fighting organisations capable of winning longstanding concessions from employers, probably best demonstrated in the CPSA/PCS and the POEU/NCU (forerunners of the CWU). Those times pre-dated the collapse of Stalinism and the huge effect which that had on socialist consciousness generally. Some broad lefts later turned into little more than electoral machines.
Was it wrong to build them in the first place? Of course not. Is it still possible to build them? Yes - but the starting point has to be a clear programme of action. Currently that would include a commitment to fight all cuts, including campaigning for councils to set needs budgets, a call for renationalisation and a plan for the democratisation of union structures.
This is also relevant for building a left network of union members in your workplace. Draft a programme, get fellow workers to endorse it, then organise a meeting to work out how to pursue aims or grievances.
Obviously at this time, thoughts are with Phil's wife Beryl and family, including Katie and Audrey (who younger readers may wish to know has her own chapter in the annals of Militant - visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-nsTYGuocBk ).
But let's ensure the pioneering work done by many, including Phil, isn't just a footnote in history. We need fighting unions; they need to be built from the bottom up.
Dave Gorton, former-Communications Broad Left editor
The article on the BBC was interesting ('This is the BBC: Fight the cuts - and the capitalist media' socialistparty.org.uk). However, what the Socialist has been quiet about is the continuing persecution and torture of Julian Assange, for the 'crime' of exposing US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Not only is this a threat to a free press and independent or investigative journalism, but to free speech and democracy itself.
Even the right-wing press are waking up to the serious implications of this.
It was good to see on last month's march for Julian Assange through central London banners and placards by NUJ and Women Against Rape, as sections of the media are still trying to smear him with rape allegations for which no charges were brought.
Keith Hussey, Hertfordshire
- See 'Assange arrest: US and allied governments seeking revenge for exposing dirty wars' on socialistparty.org.uk
TV: Expensive and low quality
The Socialist recently did a two-page feature about the BBC and the capitalist media. (See 'This is the BBC: fight the cuts - and the capitalist media' at socialistparty.org.uk.)
Modern television is not worth the fee. I do not pay it, and watch my friend's TV. We share the 65p cost of a TV Choice magazine, but it is a fact of my life that I can only find around five hours' viewing from a weekly schedule, such is the quality of the product.
My friend and I pay £17.80 per month for the cinema and attend two to three times per week because of the poor Freeview on offer. It's not 'free', it's £12.88 per month for the licence fee. I am not sure that the pay-to-view services offer value for money, and in any event my friend and I have no ambition to make Rupert Murdoch any richer.
The same goes for his newspapers. The Socialist remains my favourite read, and at £4.50 per month, to the door, it is excellent value.
Returning to the BBC, your comments concerning Laura Kuenssberg and pro-establishment bias were spot-on. The Socialist must continue to make articles, and come the revolution we will have a media for the people, one that is not driven by capitalism.
Adrian Rimington, Chesterfield
Hero to zero
Disappointingly, actor and former worker-militant Ricky Tomlinson and anti-racist campaigner Doreen Lawrence are supporting Keir Starmer in the Labour leadership contest. Mainly, it seems, because of his previous legal help with their high profile cases for justice. That's partly understandable but not nearly reason enough to decide the next Labour Party leader.
Keir Starmer was also legal counsel for me, Lois Austin and many others over our false imprisonment ("kettling") by the Met police during a May Day demo in 2001.
We found Keir Starmer personable enough - we had many good chats about politics and all our activist pasts, and our legal case which ran for years. We shared an antipathy to Blairism.
Then Keir became Director of Public Prosecutions. When heading the Crown Prosecution Service he refused to prosecute the Met Police over the death of bystander Ian Tomlinson, struck by a police baton during an anti-capitalist protest in the City in 2009. He cracked down hard on teenagers in the 2011 riots and, as an MP, abstained over cruel Tory welfare cuts in a parliamentary vote. He was also, unsurprisingly, a coup plotter against Jeremy Corbyn.
It's not personality or past human rights advocacy that's essential but political programme, ideas and politics. Keir Starmer is not the continuation of Corbynism but the slide back to Blairism, even if he'd never admit so.
Niall Mulholland, East London - via facebook
The virus is spreading
From Wuhan to Reading
Coughing and sneezing
Folks gasping and wheezing
The killer virus has hacked up here
There's no need to panic and no need to fear
A brand new virus is at large
But fear not Britain, Boris is in charge
Aided by Matt Hancock and Jacob Rees-Mogg
Who suggest we wash our hands after using the bog
So sleep safely loyal citizens of Uxbridge and Grantham
Just wash your hands and sing the national anthem.
Mel Hepworth, Doncaster
I was thinking of the importance of working people and how much the multi-billionaires' corporate industries rely on them. It just goes to show that the now number one world terrorist - coronavirus - is spreading worldwide and has a direct effect on global stock markets (see pages 2&3). The importance of people's health and well-being is one of the most important facts for a healthy planet.
It was Priti Patel who said we should treat Extinction Rebellion as terrorists, yet because of pollution it has been said that life expectancy has now reduced and people's health has declined as a direct result linked to it.
She and the government are overlooking that pollution is becoming the true number one terrorist of the world and only a socialist government can overcome the problem. Would someone tell them their billions are not worth anything if the planet dies?
Tim O'Connell, Bristol
In The Socialist 11 March 2020:
Campaigns and party news
Women's and trans rights