Solidarity 560, 26 August 2020

Stop the evictions, pause rent bills!

In April the government implemented a ban on landlords evicting tenants. Though eviction orders continued to be lodged, none have been acted upon by the courts. This scheme was due to end on Sunday 23 August, and now has been extended only to 20 September. The Scottish government has extended the ban to March 2021. The housing charity Shelter estimates that 227,000 people are in rent arrears, which amounts to 2% of private tenants. Ben Beadle, the chief executive of the National Residential Landlords' Association is quoted in the Financial Times saying that: “The overwhelming majority of...

Tabloid 9 September

From the next-but-one issue, no.562, 9 September, we will return to our usual tabloid format from this reduced format which we've had to use in lockdown because lack of street activity and meetings made it difficult to circulate the paper. We will use the return to run an experiment of producing a couple of regular issues in the "endorse-folded" format (which we've previously used for "specials" on fighting fascism and on automation) and seeing whether that format sells better than the plain-vanilla version of tabloid. Because of the probability of a second virus surge, we won't run our...

GCSE and BTEC chaos: now redesign the system

The fiasco of A Level results on 13 August was followed by a week of government crisis leading up to 20 August when GCSE grades were announced. BTEC results, due to be released at the same time as GCSEs, were delayed at the last minute. Following a series of protests and government stumbles A Level grades were eventually, overall, boosted by allowing “teacher assessed grades” to count (in fact Centre Assessed Grades, CAGs, which are signed off by Head Teachers and are far from being simple teacher assessments). GCSE results (in England) were notable by a sharp increase in the pass rate (Level 4 and above), by 9%, to 76%. Awards of top grades (Level 7 and above) went up by 5% from last year to 25.9%. BTEC results are now due on 28 August.

Government should bail out universities

The A-levels fiasco will have perverse effects on universities. High-tariff universities have had their limits on student numbers lifted, and been pushed to accept more students than they've planned for. Some are offering money to students who will defer their places for a year. They will probably try to shift more of their increased teaching load onto casualised, insecure, low-paid staff. They will siphon off students from low-tariff universities, which may offer better teaching but rank lower in Britain's university-snobbery system. Some of those low-tariff universities will be at real risk...

Unions: use the lull to organise

Drax power station workers are balloting, 14-25 August, for industrial action against 230 threatened redundancies there. The GMB union has won a 95% majority, on a 67.5% turnout, for strikes at British Gas if the bosses do not back down on a threat to fire their whole workforce and rehire on new terms. The Unite union held a mass meeting of 1,000 British Airways ramp, baggage, and cargo workers near Heathrow on 20 August, and they voted for the union to move for “industrial and legal action” over job cuts, pay cuts, and BA cheating on redundancy pay for workers who have already signed for...

Back to school: workers' control to make it safe

The government has a campaign to persuade parents that it will be safe to send children back to schools in England in September, following the return in Scotland on 11 August. Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Advisor to the UK government, says, reasonably, that it is important that all children are in school and that “the chances of children dying from Covid-19 are incredibly small.” Whitty added that there are no risk-free options but that children would suffer much more from long-term health and mental health problems by remaining out of school than from dangers associated from Covid-19. That is...

Over 230 million people under water

The Greenland ice sheet had an average net loss of over one million tons of ice each minute in 2019, so research published on 20 August showed. One million tons is one cubic kilometre of water; across the year a record loss of over 500 billion tons. That loss from 2019 could contribute well over 1mm of sea level rise globally, as well as diluting the Gulf Stream with fresh water. Antarctic ice loss is also progressing at an alarming rate. The cumulative impact is compounded by thermal expansion of the ocean’s water as the planet heats, and potentially accelerated by positive feedback...

NRPF hits women harder in pandemic

Women’s charities have raised the alarm that victims of domestic violence are being refused places at refuges because they do not speak sufficient English. Those turned away include a mother with a 14-month-old baby who was fleeing violence after being held as a slave by her ex-husband. Karma Nirvana, which supports those at risk from forced marriage and “honour”-based violence, said squeezed services in the lockdown period made it even harder for migrant women to access refuge places. Of 20 women Karma Nirvana could not find a refuge for during lockdown, it said five were turned down by six...

Young Labour: rebuild with internationalist politics

The left-wing tide in the Labour Party which carried Corbyn into the Leader’s Office in 2015 was driven by a surge in engagement in left-wing politics by young people. The elements of genuine socialism in Corbyn’s platform were a source of hope for many young people. That opened the possibility of building a real youth movement, and overcoming the Blairite stranglehold on Labour’s student wing and the sluggishness of a Young Labour that was prevented by bureaucracy and dwindling membership from developing real local roots. Unfortunately, five years on, that promise hasn’t been realised. While...

Momentum Internationalists is relaunching

Momentum Internationalists is planning a renewed drive to raise the politics of class struggle and internationalism in the labour movement. The campaign group was founded by supporters of Labour for a Socialist Europe in the run-up to the elections for the National Co-ordinating Group of the big left-Labour group Momentum. In that election, it argued: • that Momentum should uphold basic norms of labour-movement democracy (for example having an annual conference to set policy, so as to be able to campaign for the sovereignty of Labour Party Conference without looking ridiculous) • that the...

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