Solidarity 587, 7 April 2021

Scrap the Police Bill, don't just amend it!

Protests against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, mostly more or less ad hoc, continued on the weekend 3-4 April, almost a month after the Tories pushed the Bill through its first parliamentary vote on 9 March. There's talk of a national day of action on 17 April, but varied local protests are likely to continue too (best followed on Instagram). The Bill limits the right to protest already hemmed in by the Public Order Act 1986 and the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. It increases criminal penalties for people who fall foul of police-imposed conditions, establishes new...

Momentum primary results due

In March, Momentum ran a “policy primary” for the first time — a one-member-one-vote email ballot of its members to decide what motions Momentum should take to Labour Party conference. This was a step forward for democracy in Momentum, but still limited: making decisions by email referendum is a partial form of democracy, and one which favours central control. Momentum had some democratic structures prior to 2017 which were based on meetings of representatives of local groups. But the unelected office staff are central to shaping and holding email ballots: indeed, they get to set the questions...

Win on disability rights

Disabled people’s organisations have scored an important victory as the government has announced that local councils will no longer be excused from meeting their social care obligations. A year ago, the Coronavirus Act included provisions for councils to apply for “easements”, under which they would not have to provide assessment and care under the Care Act. Eight councils had used this provision, including — shamefully — two Labour councils. But campaigners had objected throughout the year and their pressure has finally been rewarded. This follows the withdrawal late last year of the...

No Singapore on Teesside

Listening to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, billionaire Rishi Sunak, you could be lured into thinking that the establishment of so-called Freeports in the UK is the cure-all for British economic ills, the “Big Idea”. Sunak has been banging on about Freeports for years, as he did in his recent Budget speech. What’s all the fuss about? Actually — not very much. A Freeport is an area, often around a port or an airport, where the normal rules of import-export do not apply. Imported goods that do not go outside the boundaries of the Freeport are not subject to the usual tariffs, customs duties...

The enemy is capital, not London

The Northern Independence Party, now promoting a candidate in the 6 May Hartlepool by-election, looks to me like all the worst traits in Corbynism solidified into a bad joke. It even has a whippet in its party logo. There is no real call for “Northern Independence”, but there is an increasing rise, at least where I live in Yorkshire, of regional identity and calls for Yorkshire “home rule”. You see way more Yorkshire flags than you used to. Yorkshire Day has become an actual thing observed by councils and companies rather then a joke involving Yorkshire puddings. Much of this cultural...

Class inequality and racism: the travesty of the Sewell report

The government-commissioned Sewell report into “race and ethnic disparities” (which can be read at bit.ly/sewellreport) has been widely panned as minimising the reality of racism and racial disadvantage in the UK, and rightly so. I don’t know to what extent the report reflects the honestly held views of the Sewell commission’s members, and to what extent they were just keen to ingratiate themselves with the Tory hierarchy and get ahead. Though overwhelmingly black or Asian, they are a privileged and conservative bunch even by the standards of such things, including six holders of MBE or CBE...

Hong Kong activists face sentences on 16 April

HKCTU general secretary Lee Cheuk-yan (centre) On Thursday 1 April nine leaders of Hong Kong’s Civil Human Rights Front were convicted of organising and participating in an unauthorised assembly. Those convicted include most of the long term leading activists of the movement for democracy in Hong Kong, including 82 year old Martin Lee, Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) leader Lee Cheuk-yan and socialist activist Leung Kwok Hung (“Long Hair”). Sentencing was delayed for two weeks to 16 April. Prison sentences of up to five years for each offence may be handed down. Whilst waiting...

Shrewsbury 24: learning the lessons

On Tuesday 23 March 2021, the Court of Appeal overturned the convictions of 14 North Wales trade unionists who had been sentenced for picketing in the 1972 building workers national strike. They were part of the "Shrewsbury 24": 24 workers were originally put on trial 48 years ago. The appeal was granted because original police trial statements had been destroyed and the defendants had not been informed of that, or of the reason why. The secret destruction was uncovered a decade ago by the Shrewsbury 24 Campaign’s researcher, Eileen Turnbull. The discovery included the following note between...

Send in the commissioners?

Despite Thatcher being Prime Minister, the BBC still managed to get away with making socially relevant dramas in the 1980s. A particularly memorable one was United Kingdom, a play by Jim Allen, which imagined a Tory government sending in Commissioners to take over a town in the north of England

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