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Cressida Dick. Photo: Katie Chan/CC

Cressida Dick. Photo: Katie Chan/CC   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Tory government – seriously annoying

The new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill contains provisions for people to be punished for causing “serious annoyance”. I understand the measures are far-reaching and could incur a sentence of up to ten years.

Critics have complained about the loose definition of what constitutes a “nuisance group”, “serious disruption to life”, “serious annoyance” and “unacceptable noise” levels.

As my life is seriously disrupted by government measures, and I am seriously annoyed by the nuisance group that runs the country in its own interests, would I have recourse to law or will it only apply to the labour movement, women taking part in vigils, environmentalists and striking workers?

Sue Powell, Gloucester

Women and the Met

It’s impossible to overlook the irony that the outrage at the treatment of those protesting against violence against women and in memory of Sarah Everard’s tragic death takes place when there is the first female Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

Cressida Dick has ‘form’ for controversial deaths on her watch. She was a control room commander in the anti-terrorist operation that led to the wrongful shooting and killing of Jean Charles de Menezes in 2005.

A later trial concluded that the police had made a catalogue of errors that resulted in the shooting, but Dick, curiously, was cleared of any personal responsibility. It was Keir Starmer, no less, then head of the Crown Prosecution Service, who upheld the decision not to prosecute the officers in a later High Court appeal lodged by Jean Charles’s family.

Dick’s track record is an illustration as to why it isn’t enough just to have women in positions of power and influence. Her previous actions have proved that first and foremost she is a copper and defender of the status quo, now playing an active personal role in stifling dissent to protect the Tory government.

We don’t just need more women in positions such as this. We need women who place themselves at the standpoint of women and the working class.

Clive Walder, Birmingham

Abolish the Lords

Tory health minister Lord James Bethell says nurses are “well-paid for the job” and in a secure role with “other benefits”. He has certainly benefited from his birth and connections.

Educated at the exclusive Harrow public school, Bethell went on to run a public relations firm, picking up contracts for HS2 and Private Finance Initiatives. His great-grandfather was a Barclays Bank director, Liberal MP, and then made the 1st Baron of Romford.

James, the 5th Baron Romford, was elected to the House of Lords – by 47 Tory hereditary peers.

Jon Dale, Chesterfield

End gender pay inequality

Outrageously, the Supreme Court has ruled that care workers on sleep-ins are not eligible for the minimum wage (see page 11).

Most care workers are women. Like the derisory 1% pay offer for NHS staff, this is yet another example of the way in which work in sectors in which women predominate continues to be devalued.

Since the death of Sarah Everard, many are asking questions about what can be done to eliminate violence against women. A decent pay rise for the lowest paid workers would be a start. Gender pay inequality reinforces reactionary ideas about women’s second-class status which underpin sexist and abusive behaviour. And low pay can trap women in violent relationships.

The trade union leaders should get off their knees and start leading action for decent pay rises for all low-paid workers.

Carol Edge, Waltham Cross

Turkey – protection for women withdrawn

On 20 March, Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan decided to withdraw from the European treaty protecting women from violence. This move is a huge setback for women and encourages both inequality and abuse. With women’s equality being on everyone’s mind right now in the UK, any form of silence and inaction from political bodies is at a high cost that Turkish women can no longer afford.

Berfin Garip, North London

Bristol SEV ban

Bristol City Council is consulting on whether to ban ‘sexual entertainment venues’ (SEV’s) in the city after councillors voted in favour of the proposal earlier this month. If the proposal passes the final voting stage, this would make Bristol the biggest city to ban lap-dancing and strip clubs.

Those who voted for the proposal have argued that SEV’s are linked to incidents of violence against women and that strip clubs “feed the very attitudes that lead to harassment, abuse and ultimately violence against all women and girls”.

While the recognition that the objectification of women and their bodies is linked to the oppression of, and violence towards women, is welcome, closing these venues without any support for the self-employed women who work there to find alternative employment risks pushing over 100 women into poverty.

Many of these women have already suffered financially as a result of not being able to work during the lockdown. There is also the risk that banning these venues will simply push the business underground, where it would be unregulated and could lead to further exploitation of vulnerable women.

The proposal is also revealing of the powers councils currently have to address the gender-based violence Bristol city council is attempting to tackle. All councils have had the power to limit the number of SEV’s in their cities since 2010, but Bristol is thought to be one of only seven councils willing to exercise this power.

And finally, the ban does nothing to tackle the rapes and assaults linked to Bristol’s other nightclubs, nor does it do anything to address the structural causes of the objectification and commodification of women and the gender-based violence this can lead to; an unequal capitalist society which promotes and perpetuates sexism and abuse.

Amy Sage, Bristol

Justice march

Over 100,000 Australians recently demonstrated across the country on the March4Justice, demanding an end to sexual violence against women. The demonstrations took place in capital cities across the country, including a large rally at Parliament House in Canberra on 9 March.

Capturing the anger directed at the Australian Prime Minister, one sign read: “So I have to be your wife or daughter for my rights to matter?” Socialists stand with those marching for justice, and we also point to the need for a new society as the only way to rid ourselves of sexism and other forms of discrimination.

The catalyst for the protests has been the crisis plaguing the government Scott Morrison leads. Former Liberal Party staffer Brittany Higgins opened the floodgates of anger when revealing that, after reporting an alleged sexual assault by another staffer, she was treated as a political problem. Since then others have come forward.

Reports then emerged that a senior minister in the government was the subject of an historic rape allegation. The minister has since been revealed as Attorney General Christian Porter. He denies the allegations and is on leave. The woman tragically took her own life, and the allegation was never formalised with police.

As no police investigation can proceed, there have been calls for an independent investigation to determine if Porter is a fit and proper person to act as Australia’s first law officer. The government has resisted these calls, and now Porter has launched a defamation case against the journalist who broke the story.

With the government in management mode and refusing to acknowledge and act on the issues at hand, people took to the streets to demand change.

The crisis facing the current government underlines the urgent need to build a new party that stands for the rights of women, people of colour, workers, and the environment. We must link up our struggles behind the common banner of socialism. Ultimately, only socialism offers a lasting way forward.

Sasha Doyle, Melbourne, Australia

Dented shield

Government financial support for clinically vulnerable people who are shielding at home will be withdrawn from 1 April. This means that unless clinically vulnerable people are receiving furlough payments or able to work from home, they will have little option but to return to work and risk being infected with the Covid virus.

The government brags that its vaccine roll-out means that around 25 million people have had at least one shot of a Covid vaccine, and infection rates are falling. But that still leaves over half the population unvaccinated and infection rates aren’t falling uniformly. It’s also well known that workplaces are a key hub for transmission of the virus into households.

It’s therefore irresponsible that the government, no doubt wanting to rein in its record public spending deficit, is putting 575,000 people (ONS figures) in the Covid firing line.

Simon Carter, East London

Zoomed out

As a lifelong Labour member, I am totally disgusted and disillusioned by the latest discriminatory decision by the Labour machine concerning the local council elections. Because the elections did not take place last year owing to the pandemic, candidates were already in place. But not all now wish to stand, so short-listing and selection meetings were hurriedly put in place and Zoom meetings arranged.

However, loyal members, most longstanding and hard-working, were suddenly barred from taking part in new selections. Most were not even told that these meetings were taking place, only members with email addresses. I personally argued that the members could perhaps phone in their choice but no, it had to be done by email.

My branch alone had five regularly attending members barred from the meetings, although members who have never attended meetings could take part and make their choice. The Labour Party members banned from our selection Zoom meeting have worked hard for years getting people to vote Labour.

Despite everything now expected to be done on an app, there are still many people who do not have this advantage and should not be left out.

Labour Party member, Yorkshire