Solidarity 577, 13 January 2021

Rishi Sunak tries to hide plans to cut Universal Credit

The press reports that the Tories are preparing to cut Universal Credit by rescinding the £20 a week (£1040 a year) increase to the standard rate conceded last year. They are trying to cover up this assault and minimise outrage by giving all current claimants a one-off payment of £500. Chancellor Rishi Sunak held a meeting with Boris Johnson and Work and Pensions Secretary Thérèse Coffey to discuss how to avoid making the increase to UC permanent. There is an immediate issue that a one-off payment will not help future claimants, including the large numbers likely to lose their jobs after the...

To beat the pandemic, beat poverty: good sick pay for all!

There is growing noise in the labour movement and more widely around the issue of sick pay. We urgently need a bigger campaign on this issue. Despite right-wing agitation about people flouting lockdown regulations, the evidence suggests something like 90% general compliance (British Medical Journal). But much lower numbers of those infected or in contact with the infected are self-isolating fully: more like 20%. Unlike hand-washing and social distancing, self-isolation often requires material resources and support, particularly sufficient space and an income. Data from the first lockdown...

Starmer wraps himself in the flag

Keir Starmer’s 5 January address to the nation had a surreal quality. Hunched before a Union Jack, he fretfully listed groups of people who would be inconvenienced by the new lockdown and its “difficulties”, before rallying to tell us that the “strength of the British people” will see everything right, and in particular that Brits will get vaccinated before any foreigners do. It was as if a distressed and confused performer had been forced by his employer to go on TV to do Captain Mainwaring impressions. Politically, Starmer gave no indication that he was the leader of the political wing of...

Condemn Starmer u-turn on free movement

The Labour Campaign for Free Movement is seeking signatures and Constituency Labour Party and union motions calling on the Labour leadership to support democracy, migrant rights and the 2019 Labour Party conference decision on free movement: see here (up with other motions here). This is a response to Keir Starmer saying on 10 January, when asked if Labour would stick to its free movement policy: “I don’t think there’s an argument for reopening those aspects of the treaty”. A year ago, asked when running for Labour leader whether he would bring back free movement for EU citizens, Starmer said...

Storming the Capitol: strange comparisons

Ever since Trump’s election in 2016, there have been some on the left who’ve resisted the idea that he is anything particularly out of the ordinary in terms of US bourgeois democracy. In particular, many of these people deride any suggestion that Trump and the movement behind him can be considered fascist or “proto-fascist.” Some of the people downplaying the Trump threat are, in fact, advocates of variants of third-period Stalinism – i.e. people who think Trump is, objectively, preferable to Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden. It’s difficult to work out exactly where the Morning Star stands on this...

Activist agenda

As well as campaigning against Keir Starmer’s u-turn on free movement, the Labour Campaign for Free Movement is organising an anti-deportations meeting for late January. The “Free Osime Brown” petition has just passed one-third of a million signatures, and now 58 MPs have signed the Early Day Motion against deportation. The LCFM steering committee also heard a briefing from Rosie Newbigging about the campaign to stop Yarls Wood expansion. Neurodivergent Labour last year submitted a summary of its manifesto to the Labour Party policy review. That submission was the second most popular in the...

Chinese policy is eugenics, not liberation

Twitter has removed a tweet by a Chinese embassy account spreading “violent propaganda” about the alleged sterilisation of Uyghur Muslim women after receiving several complaints. The embassy shared an article from state-run media China Daily, which claimed the “eradication of extremism” in Xinjiang, an area of China with a large Uyghur population, has given women “more autonomy”. It said: “Study shows that in the process of eradicating extremism, the minds of Uyghur women in Xinjiang were emancipated and gender equality and reproductive health were promoted, making them no longer baby-making...

University rent strikes escalate

Groups of students at around fifty unis are now withholding rent for halls of residence, or about to start doing so. The advice to most students not to return to campus until mid-February at earliest has given the rent strike wave fresh impetus. What’s the point of paying for accommodation you can’t use for at least six weeks and possibly longer? The movement is beginning to consolidate organisation, with meetings being held, reps elected and a national network. The grievances, anxieties and consequently demands for undergraduates go beyond paying for accommodation that isn’t occupied. They...

Why banned pesticide is being used

Twenty-twenty: an epidemic proliferated across Europe, wreaking devastation, hitting the South of England badly, and continuing into 2021. The government is legislating emergency measures. No, I’m not referring to CoV-SARS-2. I’m talking about Beet Yellows Virus. On 8 January, the government authorised use of thiamethoxam for tackling BYV. Thiamethoxam was banned in 2018 across the EU, with UK support, as part of wider restrictions on the neonicotinoid family of pesticides. There is no relevant change in the evidence for restricting those pesticides. The virus infects and kills sugar beet, the...

Support British gas workers!

British Gas workers struck from 7-11 January, resisting their employer’s attempts to level down conditions by sacking workers en masse and rehiring them on worse contracts. The strike was extremely solid, with activists reporting that its strength grew as it went on. The workers’ union, GMB, is set to announce further strikes. Workers’ morale is high, bolstered by significant engagement with and support for the strike via social media. Workers report numerous instances of self-employed gas contractors committing on social media to take no work on British Gas strike days. British Gas bosses are...

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