One step forward
New Labour is trumpeting the raising of the minimum wage above five pounds an hour for the first time. “Over 1.5 million working people are better off” they say, and the unions are reportedly pleased as punch.
Splendid — but we seem to remember this was a union demand as far back as 1997. And the Minimum Wage still falls far short of what the TUC estimates people need to live on.
So why are the TUC so happy? They are like a dog that wags it’s tail when it gets kicked because at least its master/mistress is paying it some attention.
New Labour say they can’t rush things — but there is no such austerity for our elected representatives. MPs have a basic salary of £57,485, plus allowances, fringe benefits and one of the most generous pension schemes in the world, dramatically improved in 2002.
Two steps back
Cutbacks in the NHS may be swelling the death toll of hospital patients from MRSA, UNISON has warned. The number of patients whose deaths were partially attributable to hospital bugs is almost certainly even higher than the latest statistics show, because doctors writing death certificates sometimes ignore such bugs.
It is not difficult to see at least a contributory cause of this epidemic in the cutting and privatisation of hospital cleaning services. Which is why the Tory election posters bemoaning the growth of MRSA are a real piss-take. Who was responsible for this privatisation in the first place?
Karen Jennings, UNISON's Head of Health, points out, “It cannot be a coincidence that, just as the number of cases of MRSA have gone up, so the number of cleaners employed in the NHS have gone down.”
Trade union wrongs
The world’s largest retail chain, Wal-Mart, has just closed one of its stores in Quebec — because workers won trade union rights.The company — who own ASDA — said it was shutting the store in response to unreasonable demands from union negotiators that would make it impossible for the store “to operate efficiently and profitably.” Like having to pay wages people could live on.
The soft sell
Edinburgh Tourist Board are apparently trying to cash in on the influx of anti-capitalists expected at the time of the forthcoming G8 summit in nearby Gleneagles. They are offering walking tours of Edinburgh and even visits to a whisky distillery (please, please take the Wombles…)
A spokesperson said “…many of the people coming are much like you and I: they have mortgages and jobs and stuff.” Definitely aimed at the middle-class anti-capitalist, then. But it is considered unlikely that the venture will net as much as is being blown on the security operation: £150 million and rising.
It is well known that Black and Asian people are being increasingly disproportionately targeted by police using “stop and search" powers. Asked about this on Tuesday 1 March, Home Office Minister Hazel Blears, a long-standing champion Blairite, made a remarkable statement.
“Some of our counter-terrorism powers will be disproportionately experienced by the Muslim community,” she said. “If a threat is from a particular place, then our action is going to be targeted at that area.”
So, according to Hazel, the threat is not from terrorists, it’s from “the Muslim community”. This is despite the fact that the worst terrorist outrage in mainland Britain in recent years was committed by a nazi, David Copeland, against gay people. For encouraging racism in this way Ms Blears ought to be sacked.
Are you thinking what we’re thinking? That we should all go out of the house in the early hours of the morning armed with a can of spray paint and amend the Tories’ new pre-election campaign posters. A little guide on what to write…
On “I mean how hard is it to keep a hospital clean” you could say, “a lot harder since you went and privatised hospital cleaning.”
On “What’s wrong with a little discipline in schools” something like “A lot when there aren’t enough books to go around” might do. But it would be nicer to be a bit more provocative. How about, “Show the Tories some ‘discipline’ when they come around looking for votes.”
I’m sure you can think of snappier responses, the more puerile the better as far as we are concerned.
No problem with not being snappy on their other poster, the one which says: “It’s not racist to impose limits on immigration.”. The only thing to say is simply “Yes, it is.”