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Monday, 7 June 2010

EDL Run Out of Town

The English Defence League “Double Demo” turned out to be a double failure today. Their boasts about having enough support in Wales to hold two demonstrations, in both Cardiff and Swansea, dissolved into two small protests of just a handful in Swansea and around 200 in Cardiff – only a tenth of what they were threatening to bring.

The antiracist campaign outnumbered the EDL by at least five to one, with around 1000 on the demonstration from Cardiff Bay and more waiting outside City Hall, a short distance away from the EDL protest, where “Welsh” Defence League supporters waved St George’s flags and chanted E-E-EDL.

Police led the march into a street blocked by a high steel fence and initially prevented anyone from leaving. But, despite mobilising across 7 forces, police had to abandon the “soft kettle” to redirect resources when Cardiff City fans clashed with EDL supporters as they emerged from coaches.

The antiracist movement had gathered enough forces on the day to have been able to cut off the city centre from the EDL but unfortunately this force was not organised as effectively as it could have been and the day was marred by reports of groups of EDL chanting in the centre of town unchallenged. Those protesters who were determined to oppose the EDL were left without a means of effectively coordinating their activity when the UAF stewarding team, from which other antiracist organisations were excluded, was stood down before the EDL protest got under way.

Nevertheless, it was obvious the EDL were sweating as they were marched to their coaches, pursued by hundreds of local people, Cardiff City fans and Asian youth. Shoppers shouted opposition to them as they went past, some followed them to the station as they were escorted by hundreds of police through the city. £250,000 was spent by the police on guaranteeing the racists’ right to hurl abuse, while local Cardiff residents were cleared off the streets.

Cardiff Communities Against Racism was set up as an ad-hoc attempt to co-ordinate the different antiracist organisations planning to oppose the EDL protest. It organised open and democratic meetings every week, bringing around 170 different people into discussions about how to develop an effective strategy for defeating racism and the far right. Activists are aware that although the EDL were defeated in Wales again today, scapegoating for the social problems cause by capitalism will continue while public services and jobs are being attacked by big business and the politicians who represent them. Supporters of CCAR are planning to discuss how best to develop their campaign in the period ahead, when the BNP are threatening to stand in the Assembly elections.


Unfortunately, CCAR had to waste time on the eve of the protest defending itself against smear attacks from another antiracist organisation. An email circulated by the local leaders of Unite Against Fascism who split the protest against the EDL in Newport last year (see The Socialist issue 601) made an untrue accusation against CCAR of attempting to split this year’s Cardiff demonstration. CCAR responded by demanding that UAF send out an apology and a correction to prevent potentially dangerous confusion amongst activists on the day but this was ignored.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

An Expected Betrayal

Apparently, on election night Jenny Willott, getting her words mixed, hit the nail on the head. "Tonight," she declared, "we witness a triumph of politics over democracy."

Never has a truer word been spoken. Cameron, the leader of a party that a majority of people voted against, has been made prime minister with the help of Nick Clegg, leading a party that even more people voted against, by the assent of a monarch that nobody voted for.

The Liberal Democrat MPs who couldn't resist joining the tories in government have shattered any illusions their supporters have had in them that they offer an alternative to the main parties and the big business interests that they represent. They did it for the country, they said - for stability and the national interest, so that massive cuts to public services and jobs could be made and the markets reassured. If this was the issue which had such veto-power over all others why not just urge their supporters to vote Tory in the first place?

The yellow ministers have won nothing but an increase in their salaries. Liberal Democrats will be whipped to abstain in votes even on those issues they made manifesto commitments, giving the Tories a majority they did not win at the ballot box. Already, Chris Huhne, Lib DEM MP and energy sec, has admitted that new nuclear power stations could be constructed.

And only is electoral reform of any kind in all likelihood off the agenda (because the Tories' massive campaign chest will be used in a referendum to finance opposition) but the legislation the Libservative government is proposing will technically rule out a vote of no confidence in the government within a five year term. This paper commitment, however, will not live up to the stress and strain of reality - in seeking to make the government stronger they've only made it rigid, and more brittle, and the movement that will develop to fight the cuts in the period ahead will smash it to pieces.

As the Independent joked, Clegg and Cameron are married, "till debt us do part."

Friday, 7 May 2010

We won OUR election campaign

Thanks to everyone who's played a role in our campaign. We didn't win the seat, but we stood out and will be remembered as the organisation preparing to fight the cutbacks being planned by all the main parties. We won't represent Cardiff in parliament but, in the period ahead, we will be the ones to defend its jobs, schools and hospitals.

It's clear that there is a desperate hunger to break the big business consensus. The vote for parties other than the main four increased by a third in Cardiff Central, but not all of that is being steered towards a real alternative for ordinary working-class people. Racist organisations like the WDL are poised to try and hijack the anger at corrupt mainstream politicians.

Thanks to everyone who leafletted, canvassed, put posters up, told their friends and voted for us. Come to the meeting to plan the antiracist protest next Thursday (13th May) at 7pm in the Sandringham Hotel on St Mary's St in Cardiff and get in touch if you want to join us.

Ross Saunders!/event.php?eid=118585388163528&index=1

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Eddie Izzard - Wrong about Bananas, Wrong about New Labour

I slipped on a banana today. Here's the picture of it. Proof that Izzard is wrong that nobody ever slips on a banana skin, and that it's an invention of cartoonists.

His biggest mistake, however, is backing the Labour Party at this election. Not funny Eddie, not funny at all.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Who should PCS members support in tomorrow's general election?

PCS took an important step recently when it voted to begin discussions amongst its members about helping to develop a political voice for the union. This was my response to the Make Your Vote Count campaign questions.

Check out the report of the PCS-organised election debate in Cardiff here.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Save the Vulcan

I sent this statement as an open letter today:

"I am disturbed to hear that the Vulcan, which the hard work of local campaigners saved less than a year ago, is once again under threat.

Throughout its long history the Vulcan has been a meeting place for the workers and students of Adamsdown, and SA Brain's unwillingness to guarantee its continued existence, just days after announcing the company's profits have risen by £2.7 million, represents a disdain not just for the local community now but for all the generations which have passed through the pub's doors. Big business, with the blessing of the Liberal Democrat-run council, has been allowed to run amok through the heart of Cardiff, consuming the local culture of the city and leaving a spoor of car parks and chain stores in its wake.

I campaigned to keep Cardiff Royal Infirmary open when the big parties wouldn't, and I will campaign to keep the Vulcan open. As both a lover of the city of Cardiff and a signatory to CAMRA's Beer Drinkers and Pub Goers Charter, I pledge on behalf of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition and the Socialist Party of Cardiff that we will work to Save The Vulcan."

There is a demonstration planned in support of the pub on Saturday 15th May at 12pm at the Vulcan, Adam St.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Cut bankers' bonuses and MPs' pay, not hospitals and schools.

Where a political party decides to launch its manifesto says a lot.

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition launched theirs last weekend on the streets of Cardiff, amongst ordinary working-class people from all over Wales. We "cleaned up politics" by putting an MP in the bin with his inflated pay and bogus expenses, and invited passers-by to sign a petition in support of our demands.

The Lib Dems, however, launched theirs in the City of London, surrounded on all sides by those profiteering pirates whose greed brought the recession down on our heads.

In the Guardian today, the Tories are described as "the party of choice for rich bankers" said Nick Clegg, Westminster-educated leader of the Lib Dems and himself son of a rich banker. Labour's credibility has been used up and big business is warming up its other team to push through its agenda. But you can't help but detect in the criticism a certain amount of jealousy. The Lib Dems would love to regain their place as capitalism's second eleven and they might not be too far from their goal: according to a poll in the Guardian today, Labour and the Lib Dems are in joint second place. The Labour Party - lost to working people for over a decade now - could be destroyed even as a useful vehicle for the ruling capitalist class is a possibility. That's the legacy of Blair, Brown and New Labour.

But the Lib Dems won't change the situation for us. They've said they'll participate in savage cuts and, like all the other main parties, they plan to hand back the banks to the same irresponsible gamblers that brought about the recession. At most they'll insist their boardroom meetings aare smaller by dividing up the biggest banks. If we want change we'll have to change things ourselves: and more an more people are deciding to do that. The percentage of people intending to vote for parties other than the main three has risen from a very low figure, steady at 1 or 2% for decades, to 12% according to the Guardian/ICM polls. And that figure would rise as a new confidence in a new political organisation for ordinary working class people grew.

Love Eddie Izzard, Hate New Labour

Supporters of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition protested today as Eddie Izzard came to campaign for the Labour Party. Ironically, the spin doctors thought that the Atrium campus of the university of Glamorgan would be a good place to take him, forgetting that - according to one Uni Glam worker we spoke to - the university is threatened with a 16% budget cut this year thanks to the policies of New Labour and the other main parties. Students returned last September to find the courses they were studying had been axed and they had to leave or scrabble around to find something else to study.

Protesters held up placards adapting some of Izzard's sketches, with slogans like "Labour: covered in sleeeeeeaze," "University: now harder to get into than an orange" and "War in Afghanistan: no cake, just death." We got a warm reception from those who turned up and were asked to vote Labour: Izzard fans can spot a joke when they hear one.

New Labour, however, don't have such a well developed sense of humour and watching them scuttling around trying to hide our placards from Eddie with red balloons was, frankly, embarrassing. They physically barred all of us from entering the Vulcan, including a prominent member of the campaign that saved the pub.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Good Luck to PCS members

PCS is challenging in the High Court today the attempt to scrap the Civil Service Compensation Scheme. It seems that these negotiated redundancy entitlements - which were good enough even for Thatcher - are far too generous for the Labour Government, which is attacking the contractual entitlements of their own workforce. These same politicians wrung their hands and said that there's nothing they can do to stop the bankers getting £60billion in bonuses last year, because they've got contracts. Is it only contracts with the rich that have to be honoured?

I travelled with some PCS members in Cardiff on their campaign bus, touring sites in which PCS are organised, including HMRC in Llanishen, Companies House and the DWP offices at Gabalfa. The workers understand that if the government (whichever of the main parties wins this time) manages to clear the way for sacking people on the cheap then they'll be coming for tens of thousands of civil service jobs. Time for a political voice for ordinary working-class people.

Good luck to PCS.

The Lesser of Two or Three [or Four or Five] Evils?

Excellent footage of young people grilling Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats about his expenses.

"when you were put in the practical position to walk what you talk, you did what they all do."

He spent thousand on pruning his plum trees and charged it to us because his garden was an "eyesore". One young person said "People in this country live with gardens that they consider an eyesore. Do you know how many people live in houses that they wished they could [get free money to renovate]?"

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Too busy to post

Socialists are used to working hard to build support for their ideas but the past week has taken things to a new level.

I was up at 4am yesterday to help leaflet the postal workers at the sorting office in Cardiff. We got good support and no wonder: postal workers were facing a vicious assault on the right of their union, the CWU, even to be involved in negoiation! They've won some concessions but management are still out to drive down wages and conditions as low as they can. They just don't get it that the best way to make the postal service more efficient is to kick the profiteering private companies out of the industry, renationalise the sector and run things democratically with the workforce represented in management.

Next we leafletted two of the big council workplaces in Cardiff. Already 350 jobs have been cut and another 650 are predicted to go - 10% of the workforce, leaving those left behind with higher workloads and those who've left with the unappetising prospect of finding another job in the context of the largest number of people not in work since records began.

Then on to the Cardiff University Student Union hustings, where socialist policies beat the policies of job cuts, public service cuts and privatisation pushed by the main parties hands down. I put sitting Liberal Democrat MP Jenny Willott on the spot, asking why is it that her party couldn't find the £3.5 billion needed to abolish tuition fees but supported handing the banks back to the profiteers in the private sector once they've become profitable again. Liberal Democrat leaders ditched their pledge to abolish fees and then backtracked when they realised this would look unpopular. The new line is that they would abolish fees in 6 years, but there's another election between now and then, and there could well be another recession! We can't afford to abolish fees now, claim the Lib Dems, but young people can't afford to wait until it's acceptable to the big business interests the main parties serve - we need an end to fees now! coincidentally, fees could be abolished if the war in Iraq and Afghanistan - costly in lives and money - were ended today. But the Lib Dems don't support bringing the troops home today either...

Friday, 16 April 2010

Campaign to Reopen Llanedern Post Office

Llanedeyrn residents were shocked this week when they turned up at the Post Office and found out it had been closed without warning. So was I! - we were at the Maelfa on Tuesday campaigning to abolish the carpark charges at the Heath Hospital and the Post Office was very busy.

I contacted Post Office Limited today, who told me that there is no re-opening date, that the Llanedeyrn Office has been closed indefinitely and that there is no emergency plan to provide services locally until the Office can be reopened permanently. Many people, including pensioners, are now having to trek all the way to Albany Road to use the Post Office there and fear (justifiably, in my opinion) that the Post Office won't reopen unless there's a campaign to save the service.

Post Office Limited wouldn't comment but there are rumours that the local franchise operators couldn't keep up with their payments and have gone bankrupt.

If this is true, then the finger of blame should be pointed straight at the Labour Government, which - besides carrying out a massive programme of Post Office closures around the country - has cut subsidies to local Post Offices, putting the important public service they provide at risk.

All three main parties, including the Liberal Democrats, plan to push privatisation further in Royal Mail, putting services further at risk. It seems the main parties won't be happy until communities like Llanedeyrn are stripped of every last shop and service. The Liberal Democrat and Plaid Cymru Council Executive plan to close the local high school Llanedeyrn and now it seems the Post Office is at risk.

The Socialist Party and supporters of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition are campaigning for the immediate reopening of Llanedeyrn Post Office and for fair funding and democratic control for all public services. No more treating vital public services like businesses - put services before profits.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Save NHS Facilities at the Royal Infirmary

Plans to break up health facilities at Cardiff Royal Infirmary are rolling ahead but so is the campaign to save them.

Socialist Party members have been at the heart of the campaign since the beginning, and helped to set up CRI - Save Its Services (CRI-S.I.S.) over a decade ago. First, campaigners - with a petition of over 100,000 names - prevented the selling off of the site, then we saved the buiding from demolition, next won £5million for extra services, and now a consultant employed by the Welsh Assembly has confirmed what we knew all along - that the CRI should be restored as a fully-functioning hospital. The pressure from the campaign has forced politicians to restore some NHS services to the CRI, including a badly needed walk-in clinic, but no casualty or triage facility, which the city centre badly needs. Emergency patients at the Heath hospital already face the longest waiting times in the country, thanks to the cutbacks in funding under New labour.

Since when is a "demolition" an "investment"?

The main parties are queuing up to take the credit for this victory (won by campaigning AGAINST them!) and they all support the "investment" approved by Labour's Assembly Health Minister. But we're not laying down our placards yet: take another look at the plans and you'll notice that 10% of the funding announced will be used up in knocking down all but the core of the original infirmary building, with no clear plans to replace. Freedom of Information requests to see a copy of Hunter's report have been denied. If the politicians of the main parties had listened to a previous report, we could have had a fully-refurbished CRI for £16-17 million, a fraction of the cost of this seemingly cut-price version on offer today.

A third of the buildings have gone already, and, if completed, 80% of the bed space which the CRI could house if renovated will disappear under the plans. One Health Board official dismissed this as getting rid of "100 years of tat" but the programme's motivated more by the need to make cuts and sell land off to developers if possible than it is with preserving the building. The Health Trust had its budget slashed by £20million last year, and the Assembly had the Grade II listing status removed from the bulidings so that the wreckers could take them down. If residents in the East of Cardiff aren't careful, they'll end up with another St David's - a small hospital in a massive carpark surrounded by private housing developments.

And we might not see an increase in NHS facilities in Cardiff under the plans. Services in Roath, Splott, Radyr and Butetown could be cut and moved to the CRI.

Liberal Democrats like our sitting MP have refused to say they won't support savage cutbacks in NHS services after the election. But Labour and the Tories - despite their claims to protect NHS spending - will do this same. After all - THIS IS EXACTLY THE PLEDGE THAT MARGARET THATCHER MADE before being elected, and all the main parties .

It's true: we do need to make cuts in the NHS. We need to cut the private profit-makers - like those running the carpark at the Heath and those hoping to make money out of CRI land - out of our public services. No more making money out of people being ill. The only way to cut bureacracy without cutting services is to run the NHS democratically, controlled and managed by health workers who know the job best and the working-class communities who rely on the services. No cuts in Hospitals to pay for MPs' Expenses and Bankers' Bonuses.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Sir Peter Gershon, the Butcher of the Public Sector, has been taken on by the Tories and is calling for £12billion more cuts and another 40,000 job losses in the public sector. Cameron's also calling for a pay cut for public sector workers and higher tuition fees and also for a longer working life.

In other words, the tories will try and make working class people pay for the recession with unemployment, lower wages, cuts to public services, a higher retirement age and by reversing the access to higher education they gained in the past.

Even this, however, doesn't mount up to their full programme of cutbacks. Labour has said that there is a £22bn whole in the Tories' plan and the Tories haven't denied it! They've countered by saying there's a massive hole in Labour's plans too. Both are right, because both Labour and Tories (and Lib Dems, who have refused to rule out cutbacks in the NHS after the election).

But - as a start - why not spend the £4.5bn a year spent on Afghanisan and Iraq by Britain and the £76bn pledged to renew Trident on public services instead? Why not stop private companies from squeezing profits out of cash-strapped public services? These are the real "efficiency savings" that need to be made, but it's only Socialists who are willing to make them.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Cardiff Communities Say No to Racism

There are reports on various internet sites that the English Defence League are planning to organise a protest in Cardiff under the banner of the WDL. I attended both the Swansea counter protest and the Newport Communities Against Racism day of action last year when the W/EDL was targeting South Wales.

Like the BNP, the EDL are anxiously trying to claim that they are not racists, and no doubt some of those people pulled into the orbit of groups like this aren't. But the organisers are not just right wing, not even just convinced racists (that would be bad enough) - they're fascists who are determined to exploit the social crises created by the banks, the bosses and the politicians who represent them in order to bulid support for racist ideas.

With all the main parties planning a massive assault on our living standards after the election, we've got to develop a united campaign to defend our jobs, homes and services. If the ideas of groups like the BNP, the NF and the EDL gain a foothold and they succeed in getting the working class to fight amongst itself, the millionaires will get away with the great bailout robbery. We should organise a show of unity to tell the organisers of the W/EDL that there's no place for them in Cardiff and the rest of South Wales. Join the Facebook group here. That's why we should organise a show of unity on the 5th June in Cardiff and build support in Cardiff's local communities.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Support Union Members' Democratic Right to Take Action to Defend Jobs

Socialist Party members who support TUSC were campaigning today in Clifton Street and Albany Road to scrap the anti trade union laws after another disgraceful decision banning workers from exercising their right to take industrial action. With no political party representing us, trade unions are the only thing standing between those who depend on public services and the main parties who plan to go further even than Thatcher did in slashing them to ribbons.

Hot on the heels of the second BA strike, postponed from its original date on the whim of a millionaire judge, RMT signallers and maintenance workers were due to take action next week to fight against their employers' plan to cut jobs. Network Rail wants to axe 1500 maintenance workers and are ripping up agreements with signal workers as a step towards cutting their jobs and worsening their working conditions. The result could easily be another Paddington, Hatfield or Potters' Bar.

But the courts have stepped in again. Unions are bound by so many requirements that defending services and jobs by taking industrial action legally is becoming impossible.

This year is the thirtieth anniversary of the first of Thatcher's anti-trade union laws and the fact that almost half that period has been spent under a Labour government demonstrates the character of that party today and the urgent need for a "Taff Vale Two" - a move by the trade unions to help found a party that represents ordinary working class people and trade unionists.

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat Assembly Members demonstrated the contempt their party has for trade unions by making a point of crossing PCS picketlines at the National Assembly. Centreforum, A Liberal Democrat think-tank, has effectively called for the expulsion of trade unions from national negotiations over pay, earning the condemnation of Unison, my trade union. And Plaid Cymru members in Caerphilly have embarrassed leaders of their party by withdrawing facilities for trade union reps in the Council in order to try and weaken their campaign against cutbacks.

It's often said that the trade union movement, without a political voice, is fighting with one hand tied behind its back. But, unless it bursts out of the legal constraints binding it today, it will face its toughest fight in living memory with both hands bound.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Visteon - one year on

Today is the 1st anniversary of the closure of the Visteon factories, spun off and left to drift by Ford. Have a look at pictures here.

Ford developed a strategy to rip off the workforce by spinning off Visteon as a separate company and allowing it to go to the wall. At the very least, a Multi-billion-pound company like Ford should be forced to step in and honour its pensions commitments to its workforce. Otherwise big business could slip away from any agreement it makes with the workforce.

Rob Williams, Coalition candidate for Swansea West and convenor at the Linamar (former Visteon, former Ford) factory in Swansea, spoke at the rally to demand justice for pensioners.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Been helping out Dave Nellist's campaign in Coventry today. The Socialists' were a lone voice against the plans to bring private companies into the running of NHS facilities in Coventry. Now, visitors, staff and those needing treatment at Walsgrave Hospital can pay up to £10 a day parking charges. £2.7 million pound of profit has been squeezed out of the ill and their visitors by the carpark owners alone and altogether billions has been handed over to private companies which should have been used to make people well. That's a taste of what we've got in store unless we develop a political voice for ordinary people to stop privatisation and cutbacks in public services.

See more coverage of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition campaign in Wales here.

Dave says:

"It is a myth that the only way to fix the economy is a brutal slashing of jobs and services in the public sector. That is the choice that the three main parties have made - parties who act solely in the interests of big business and the bank-[ocracy].

"We say there is an alternative. That alternative includes genuine public ownership of the banks, taxing the rich and ending all privatisation plans."

Saturday, 27 March 2010


Hello Fitzalan people. Do you miss me?


Check out the Winkball website for a short interview I did with them. Other Cardiff candidates on there too.

Friday, 26 March 2010

TUSC National Launch covered by the Guardian

Article link here.

'[S]enior ranking members of unaffiliated unions [say the Labour Party] is "dead as a political vehicle for the interests of workers and trade unionists and that an alternative is needed".'


'This election coalition challenges the idea that unions are, de facto, in Labour's pocket – a view clearly not shared by some in the unaffiliated sector.'

Overall very good publicity but the Guardian makes the mistake of thinking that TUSC could split the Labour vote in the election ahead. TUSC supporters, angry at Labour, would be more likely to stay at home or look for other alternatives than go to Labour.

A Budget to Soak or Save the Rich?

The Western Mail yesterday proclaimed in its headline "Darling Squeezes the Rich" but how hard is he squeezing them really? It looks to me more like he's gently, carefully shielding them - especially the bankers - from the worst of our protests.

It's true the ferocity of the anger against the super-rich has pushed the political parties that represent them into supporting some minor steps against the most blatant excesses - the increase in income tax for the highest earners to 50%, for example. But are they really feeling the pain in the way that the 46,000 people - the highest number since 1995 - who lost their homes last year, or the two and a half million people out of work at the moment? After, all, for much of the 70s the top rate of income tax was 83% and that was in an era when inequality wasn't as stark as it is today. One report from the Rowntree foundation found that things haven't been as unequal in this country since the Victorian era, when - not uncoincidentally - working class people didn't have a political voice.

The consequences of this are shocking:

"IN ENGLAND, [and there's no reason to think things are different in Wales] people living in the poorest neighbourhoods, will, on average, die seven years earlier than people in the richest neighbourhoods. Even more disturbing, the average difference in disability-free life expectancy is 17 years. So, people in poorer areas not only die sooner they will also spend more of their shorter lives with a disability."

The gap in infant mortality rates, the report says, has widened to 25%.

These are the conditions that the main political parties have allowed to develop in Britain today - and that's during the boom period! Now, ordinary people are being asked to shoulder the full burden of the recession. Darling called yesterday for an extra £11 billion worth of cuts in public services, and post-election there'll be even more. The super-rich, who have enough private wealth not to need to depend on public services, made trilions in profits over the last decade while the rest of us languished. It's like being asked to pay for a party to which you weren't invited.

The budget also announced further "progress" on selling off the family silver - privatisation of public assets. Students - like the BA cabin crew, RMT signallers and maintenance workers and civil servants organised by PCS, will find the agreements they signed ripped up as the government sells off student loans to private companies. Already, the CBI is calling for high, market rates of interest to be applied to student loans.

But the most pitiful measure - embarrassingly inadequate - was Darling's crusade to provide a bank account for all, including the 1.75 million currently without one. Now, the reason I can't win an Olympic swimming event is not that I haven't got a pair of speedoes - it's because I haven't got the body to go in them. People have to have money to put in bank accounts to make them worthwhile, and with the programme of pay cuts and job losses supported by the main parties will take more out of our pockets to protect the profits of big business. The problem isn't "financial exclusion" - it's poverty and inequality.

Darling and Labour, along with the Liberal Democrats and all the other main parties agree that ordinary working class people should pay for the crisis by swallowing job losses and cuts to the services upon which they depend. Otherwise, obtaining credit from the world financial sector will become more and more difficult, economic problems will spiral out of control and public services as a result will suffer anyway. But why should we allow a finance sector which OUR MONEY bailed out to hold a gun to our head? If the finance sector is too important to be allowed to collapse then it's too important to be left in the hands of those who, by playing the economy like a casino, brought the recession down on our heads. We should nationalise it, put it under democratic workers' control and management and use it to do something useful in society instead of waste wealth in unproductive enterprises during the boom and periodically destroy wealth in the recession.

The Contempt for Democracy

The attitude of all the main parties towards democracy became crystal clear yesterday.

In a letter to Cardiff Council, Leighton Andrews, Assembly Education Minister, agreed with the decision of Cardiff Council to close Llanrumney and Rumney High School and Eastern Leisure, and replace these three important community facilities with one school with some scanty leisure facilities attached on the site of Rumney Rec. The community in all likelihood will lose the playing fields there too unless the plans are stopped.

A referendum of local residents voted a whopping 93% against the plan on a turnout higher than the council elections but Andrews, a Labour Minister, nevertheless supported Cardiff's Liberal/Plaid Cymru executive's decision.

I and other Socialist Party members helped to set up the campaign against the plan but had to battle against Labour Party supporters who argued that ordinary people should relax, not cause too much trouble and rely on "their representatives" in the assembly and council to defend the facilities - this despite the fact that Labour councillors sit on the committee that drafted the closures plan, and that Labour (and Plaid) Assembly ministers have created the problems in schools though underfunding.

The way schools are funded sets up schools to fail. Because funding is allocated on a per-pupil basis, if fewer children go a school one year - for whatever reason - the school gets less money. It becomes harder and harder, therefore, to keep schools running and if there wasn't a problem in the school before, after years of not getting enough cash to maintain school buildings etc then one soon develops. It's a deliberate and cynical attempt to cut back education purely to save money which will leave some communities, like Llanedeyrn, without a community school.

Instead, getting slightly less children one year should mean that class sizes become smaller and chlidren get more time with teachers. In that way the quality of education would both increase overall and become more even across the city.

The game isn't over yet. Campaigners from Llanrumney, Llanedyern and Canton, where Lansdowne Primary School is also under threat, should link up with campaigners across Cardiff and stand against the main parties in the council elections this year, demanding an end to the school closures plan. Former First Minister, Labour's Rhodri Morgan estimated that 170 schools would close across Wales, with a devastating impact on the communities which they serve. In Cardiff alone, 600 jobs in 22 schools are threatened by the plans. We've got to get organised to defeat them. We need funding for schools based on need, not on some marketised perversion of education.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Liberals show their true colours.

The rally outside the Welsh Assembly this afternoon demonstrated how determined PCS members are to defend their entitlements. Good luck to them.

Article below from Dave Reid (See full roundup of reports from around the country here):

Despite never failing to speak on PCS platforms in previous disputes to gain a few votes posing as the left alternative to New Labour, Liberal AMs contemptuously crossed PCS picket lines manned by government workers to go ahead with a debate in a largely empty Senedd. The Liberals made it clear which side of the divide they are on as New Labour and the Tories make it clear that public sector workers and public services should pay for the crisis triggered by rich bankers.

For the third strike day in a row the proceedings of the Welsh Assembly were disrupted by the strike called by PCS. Over 200 members rallied outside the Assembly building in Cardiff Bay to hear Chris Baugh assistant general secretary of PCS and Peter Harris, Wales secretary of PCS condemn the current government for its attacks on public sector workers to pay for the crisis in government finances.

Labour and Plaid Cymru members of the Assembly have been prevented from taking part in the Assembly business by the PCS pickets outside the Senedd. In the last strike the plenary session was cancelled, but this time the Liberal Democrat assembly members joined the Tories in making a point of crossing PCS picket lines to go ahead with the session of the Assembly in a largely deserted Senedd.

Speaker after speaker at the rally asked why public services and public sector workers should pay for the crisis caused by the bankers. Meanwhile the main parties are preparing to take an axe to public services. Most worker see this action as the opening shots in the war between the capitalist parties and public sector workers.

Photos from the PCS rally at Assembly today

Video from PCS rally at Cardiff Bay today.

Over 250 PCS members from across Wales protest outside the Senedd at government plans to scrap the Civil Service Compensation Scheme.

Victory to striking PCS members

Pickets outside PCS workplaces in Cardiff today were in relatively high spirits despite the Welsh weather. The strike was supported solidly at every picketline I visited.

Elaine, a rep at Charles St explained that "The press always talks about civil servants as if we all wear suits and are highly paid but we're not. Most are on low pay and some only get barely above the minimum wage." There's a general understanding that the government's looking to cut the compensation scheme as a first step towards making massive job cuts on the cheap after the election. That's why workers of all ages have supported the strike. Youth Fight for Jobs has also sent a message of support to members taking action.

The public understand, as well, that you can't cut jobs without cutting services and with the likelihood of another dip into recession and more job losses on the way, working class people need to defend their rights to unemployment benefit and the services which provide it. Pickets had a good response from passers-by wishing them good luck.

RMT signallers and maintenance workers have also voted to take industrial action over the ripping up of agreements. There's a stark contrast between the apparent fragility of agreements between government and other employers and the workforce and the apparently invulnerable contracts enjoyed by the bankers. If we had politicians offering their services to us instead of to big business has perhaps we'd be able to win the same.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Bring the Soldiers Home to Decent Jobs and Education

We were in Canton this morning campaigning to bring the troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq. I noticed that a lot of people from Ely and other outlying areas of West Cardiff were keen to sign the petition. The recession and the job losses are dealing areas like Ely a hard while they're still suffering from previous ones. A lot of ordinary, young, working class people in areas like these and the valleys see the armed forces as their only route to getting access to training, education and something approaching decent: they're economic conscripts that are dying for the sake of politicians' prestige and the big business profits behind them. The Youth Fight for Jobs campaign is demanding decent jobs and real education for young people in Britain, without the need to get ordered around and shot at to get hold of either.

The British government spent an incredible £4.5 billion on the war in these two countries. This figure would pay the tuition fees of every student in the UK, with a cool billion to spare.

Also went to the National Assembly today to attend a protest of staff and students on childcare courses which are under threat of being savagely cut back. Proposals would cut the teaching time by two thirds and leave students much less prepared to look after children. One student from Llanelli explained to me that she will be the last-but-one student on the full-length course and that those who come after her could have to look after children much younger than those with which they have experience.

We leafletted the Cardiff University Unison AGM later in the day and spoke to Graham Francis, the branch secretary there, and other members about the cutbacks University management is planning. Interestingly, when LEARN, the adult education department in CU was threatened, the gap between its funding and its expenditure was almost exactly the same figure - around a quarter of a million - as the salary of David Grant, the vice-chancellor. Public universities should be under the control and management of ordinary people: they should discuss and set salaries for staff and also decide what the priorities of universities should be - not big business.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Will they get away with it?

We're at risk of being overwhelmed by tidal wave after tidal wave of MPs' corruption scandals.

Full details were finally released yesterday of how Tory Lord Ashcroft was able to buy his way into the House of Lords, even though he doesn't pay taxes in the UK. I think we should call him "The Enemy Not-exactly-within".

After Cash for Honours, Cash for Questions, secret donations from millionaires and countless other examples of corruption, perhaps the footage released by the Sunday Times last weekend of MPs selling their services to private companies should shock us less, but this is the most explicit example I've ever seen of what we've know all along - that the politicians of the main parties are in it for themselves and for what they can do for big business. Stephen Byers described himself as a "Cab for hire" and boasted he'd already helped out Tescos and National Express.

It's wrong to imagine, however, that the corruption is limited to three former ministers from one party. Actually, it's general. The expenses scandal, which implicated all the main parties, showed us that. (I noticed, by the way, that Jenny Willott, Liberal Democrat MP for Cardiff Central, handed us a bill for £23,083 - on top of her £64,766 basic salary - including £499 for a tv and a £933.50 contribution towards her £1,709.60 four-poster bed.)

In reality, all the main parties are touting for (big) business.

I heard during the PCS strike rally on the 8th March that no fewer than 27 Labour ministers who forced through privatisation when in office have been rewarded with grossly overpaid jobs with the companies to which they handed over our public services.

Personally, I don't think people are angry enough; or, rather, the angry people aren't focussed and organised enough so that they can change things. But Ms Willott is concerned about something else - that the tidal wave of public anger at MPs will put some people off the job. But ordinary working class people don't need representative that bury their noses in the trough, and if these people are put off by the spotlight that's been shone onto their corruption, then that's a good thing and good riddance to them.

We need MPs like Dave Nellist, a Socialist MP who took an ordinary worker's wage when he was in Parliament, donating the rest of his pay to local, trade union and labour movement campaigns. He was already publishing his expenses in the eighties, and managed to cope without demanding the working class pays for luxury goods for "their" MP that they could never hope to own themselves. Like me, Dave's been selected as a candidate for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition for the upcoming general election. Now, are we going to let them get away with their corruption or are we going to vote for workers' MPs on a worker's wage?