End child poverty, photo Staff Sgt Alex Fox Echols/USAF/CC

End child poverty, photo Staff Sgt Alex Fox Echols/USAF/CC   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

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Poverty, poverty, poverty

In Britain, 1.3 million children under five are living in poverty. On Newsnight, Emily Maitlis asked what needs to change.

A photo was shown of people queueing at a food bank in Hartlepool. Many of the parents queueing have been furloughed, suddenly thrown into relentless poverty.

A volunteer tells of a woman crying because she feels ashamed of needing to rely on charity. One woman using a food bank tells of how she only eats one meal a day, in order to ensure her kids get three. Another how she dreads her kids growing out of their shoes or winter coats, as she can’t afford to replace them.

This dire poverty also leads to the use of loans, basically from loan sharks with high interest rates. The money isn’t used for luxuries, but for food and children’s clothes – in other words for living.

A Tory MP interviewed had the audacity to portray himself as caring for the plight people are in. However, it turns out he voted for the bedroom tax, against increases in disability benefit, and against public spending increases. He’s a contemptuous toad.

Meanwhile, the UK’s six richest individuals are wealthier than the poorest 13.2 million people, and this gap is widening.

So back to Emily Maitlis’ question. What needs to change?

If capitalism can’t afford to give us a decent standard of living, then we can’t afford capitalism. Forward to socialism

Elaine Brunskill, Gateshead

Looking after number one

The monarchy is seen by a lot of people in Britain as a quaint, if ludicrously expensive, tourist attraction. But it turns out that her majesty does a bit more than rubber stamping legislation that is passing through parliament.

The Queen and Prince Charles use their powers to vet legislation before it even gets debated in parliament.

You could assume her power of “consent to debate” to be a purely formal procedure.

But it actually gives palace lawyers 14 days to vet proposed legislation and “request” alterations. There is evidence of successful royal lobbying.

Most changes demanded have been to keep royal finances secret. Even the monarchy understands that, particularly in an age of austerity and in the middle of a pandemic, there’s only so much that people will tolerate.

The workers’ movement needs to be wary of the institution of the monarchy. It is not a neutral anachronism. It will always act in the interests of protecting itself.

And it would attempt to prevent any socialist government acting in the interests of the working class. Abolition of the monarchy has got to be one of the policies of the workers’ movement.

Alison Hill, Waltham Forest, east London

Starmer brings back Mandelson

Labour leader Keir Starmer has got Peter Mandelson in to advise him. It’s like playing an old, cracked record: back to cuddling up to big business.

Jeremy Corbyn temporarily rescued the Labour Party from spiralling down into irrelevance and boosted the membership. Now we see a return of the failed Blairite shadows of the past – witch-hunts, privatisation, etc.

The right wing is firmly in the saddle. Even the most ardent left wingers still inside Labour must now be getting the message. Socialists in the Labour Party face years of futile ineffectiveness, suspensions, expulsions and morale-sapping disappointment.

Terry Pearce, Bracknell

Adopt socialist policies? Nah! Get a ‘New’ Labour war criminal who helped destroy Corbynism. Blairites leading Labour – Labour is finished.

John Williams, Cardiff

Handforth Parish Council

That acrimonious Handforth Parish Council meeting, I think it was so funny. But it does strike me Jackie Weaver isn’t elected. Essentially she’s a clerk, who may not be accountable.

In London, loads of spineless councillors are deferring to unelected council officers to steamroller decisions. The councillors at the Waltham Forest planning meeting on 27 January, when we spoke out against the monster blocks, seemed silent in the face of the property developers and council officers (see ‘Save our square: we need social housing and public services’ at socialistparty.org.uk).

I got chucked out for shouting: “This is what New Labour did to the northern working class, betraying them over decades.” Not sure about that parish council meeting, but if she was unelected she shouldn’t have the right to chuck people out.

Nancy Taaffe, Waltham Forest, east London

Hywel Francis missed chance to challenge Blairism

The ex-Aberavon Labour MP, Hywel Francis, has died. His father, Dai Francis, was a leader of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in south Wales during the 1970s strikes. They were both Communist Party members in their youth.

He wrote important books which are worth studying, including The Fed: A History of the South Wales Miners, and Miners Against Fascism: Wales and the Spanish Civil War. The latter is uncritical, in my view, of the counterrevolutionary role of the Stalinists in that struggle. But it does give an important view of working-class fights against fascism, mass unemployment and the means test, through oral history collected from miners themselves.

Hwyel did vote against the 2003 Iraq invasion, but served in a Blairite government which inflicted damage on his own working-class community, and voted for repressive attacks on democratic rights.

I met Hywel when preparing my dissertation at Swansea University, as a young member of Socialist Party Wales. He was helpful, while we also had very sharp political debates.

Matt Dobson, Glasgow

Tories ‘celebrate’ IWD

The Tories are proposing schools fully reopening on 8 March – International Working Women’s Day. But it looks unlikely that all the safety concerns of school workers will be resolved by then.

How else would you expect the Tories to celebrate International Women’s Day, except by putting a predominantly female workforce at risk?

Iain Dalton, Leeds

Dentist or slam-door method?

Dental health is as popular a subject in the media as talking about 100,000 shortage of staff in the NHS. The best dental care is reserved for the wealthy.

£2,000 I borrowed for a bridge, now I need the other side done! Now people are extracting teeth by the slam-door method, or whiskey and pliers! Don’t try this at home!

Mike Marx, Southampton