Like elsewhere the people of Wolverhampton are hungry for change, something different on the political scene. People of Wolverhampton are losing services and dignity. They are being harassed and tormented by those who should be working with them giving them help and protection. There are stories of police breaking down the doors of the vulnerable and taking them into custody without the least regard for their well being, including the availability of essential medications.
Local community leader, Lance Dunkley, refers to the closure of elderly peoples’ homes when in the coldest of winters there was the sight of frail people being stretchered out through the snow and ice. They couldn’t even wait until it was warmer to carry out the cuts caused by the economic crisis and the greedy bonus grabbing banking fraternity. He talks about the industry that has closed here because factory owners have transferred their businesses elsewhere in the European Union where labour is cheap, encouraged by laws enacted in the European Parliament which encourage the movement of goods and labour throughout Europe,
Arthur Scargill, Leader of the Socialist Labour Party came to the Light House in Wolverhampton on 11th March, almost on the anniversary of the day when British industry had come under attack from the Thatcher government, He spoke to an enthusiastic audience of over 100 who had come from across the Black Country, Birmingham and further afield,
The Wolverhampton based Express and Star sent along their young journalist, Dan Wainwright, to cover the story. He had requested an interview and photo opportunity earlier and so after the meeting Arthur Scargill had a lengthy conversation with him which resulted in a full page article in the paper. Regrettably this does not seem to be included in the e-edition. Dan’s efforts were effectively undermined by a brief editorial which was as short on facts. Arthur Scargill he decided, without having been to hear him today, was yesterday’s man. What a pity, he thought, Arthur Scargill had failed to show a commitment to democracy by calling a ballot before the miners went on strike. It has to be remembered that members of the National Union of Journalists came out in sympathy with the miners and were particularly incensed at the inaccurate reporting at the time. This, and other “facts” have entered folklore and are regularly trotted out when required.
I attended the 25th anniversary of the miners’ strike in Red Lion Square, London, last year. Speakers included a journalist, a lawyer and others who had been involved. The leader of the French Mine Workers Union was there reminding us of the considerable support internationally when families were sent parcels and donations. I remember the matter of the famous ballot coming up. Arthur Scargill was leader of the National Union whereas local areas like Kent and Yorkshire were autonomous. The national leader had no power to override decisions made locally. It seems to me that is illustrative of democracy down through the union’s structure rather than evidence of Scargill refusing to push for a ballot. I understand that he and his fellow leaders were trying to make arrangements for a ballot but time was not on their side. Those who felt the naked brute force of police action unleashed didn’t feel that democracy was available to them.
I feared the worst when I first looked at the account of the Wolverhampton meeting in the Stirrer, however it turned out to be fair enough. Certainly Cadbury’s were being outsourced before the “purveyors of plastic cheese”, Kraft, came on the scene. A point made about immigration made by Arthur Scargill is quite unclear, however. In a characteristically way to illustrate the point that the use immigration as a factor in problems facing the country he reckoned that if all “immigrants” left Britain and were replaced by emigrants from the UK the present population would be 300 rather than 62 million. (Nothing was said about the recent apologies given to those unfortunate children who were sent to Australia and Canada to strengthen the “white” stock, many of whom suffered lengthy periods of abuse).
I am not sure why the decision to fight pit closures is considered more controversial than the decision to close them. Thatcher personally intervened and dictated some directions to the employers who promptly caved in. Jobs were lost in consequence and whole communities suffered – and still suffer – as a result. Scargill points out how “the pyramid was turned upside down” from a 80/20% division between manufacturing and finance industries e have reversed it to 20/80%. The capability of producing real wealth which could afford working people pensions and benefits, the NHS etc. turned into the society which produces little of substance but prints money in order to pay huge unaffordable sums to people who drain us dry. Tax payers money ends up in ludicrous bailouts instead of providing essential services to those in real need. “I wouldn’t give bankers a brass farthing” says Scargill “they ought to be in jail for their actions.”
The well attended Light House meeting was also addressed by Alex Robinson, a student from Bristol and one of two young people on the SLP’s National Executive. He spoke of the huge debts incurred by students and his experience as a carer trying to cope on amounts far less even than benefits. Liz Screen from the Welsh Region SLP chaired the meeting.
t the successful SLP public meeting held in Wolverhampton on the 11th March 2010, the Party Leader Arthur Scargill was joined on the platform by SLP Youth representative and NEC member Alex Robinson. The presentation Alex gave the packed meeting that night is printed below.
Good evening, my name is Alex Robinson, I am from Bristol, I am on the National Executive Committee and represent the Youth Section alongside Andrew Jordan for the Party.
I would like to discuss a few issues that affect young people, such as youth unemployment, I will then go to talk about the costs of education and I will move onto a different topic, a subject which is close to my heart and that is the way carers of disabled people are treated.
First of all I will talk about young people:
Now, I think there are many problems relating to young people today and I for one am quite frankly sick of listening to many negative things about young people and I get the impression that young people are looked down and chastised on by the media. I get the impression that certain aspects of the media would like to demonise youngsters and stereotype them as lazy and rude. There seems to be a certain attitude against youngsters, in respect of “understanding a little less about them and condemning them a little more.” I feel that the problems that young people face are largely ignored, which means they will feel left out and neglected.
I feel that the two major problems facing many youth at the moment are the lack of job opportunities once they leave school and the cost of higher education.
Firstly I will talk about job opportunities, In December 2009 the Independent newspaper published that the number of 16 to 24-year-olds out of work was 952,000 in the three months to October, a quarterly rise of 6,000 and the highest figure since records began in 1992. More shockingly, the Institute for Public Policy Research shows that there is a wide variation in unemployment by ethnic group.
The survey of 7200 young people showed that almost half [48%] of 18-24 year old black people were unemployed, 31% of Asians and 20% of white people were unemployed.
When the leaders of this country are presiding over a youth unemployment crisis I find it offensive that large manufacturing multinational companies are allowed to outsource their production abroad. I am sure that you have heard of the issues from the Cadbury takeover by Kraft foods.
There’s are little story that some of you may be aware of: before Kraft wanted to take over Cadburys, the company had announced that they were shutting down the Keynsham near Bristol Cadburys factory and relocating the production to Poland. Resulting in the loss of 500 jobs. Not only will this result in hugely increased food miles, massively higher carbon emissions, which certainly will not help us meet our carbon emission requirements, but it will sadly devastate the local economy.
A lot of people were rightly sceptical of the Kraft takeover bid, but to their credit they had promised to keep the Keynsham factory open. No sooner had they took over Cadburys, Kraft then punched the workers at this factory in the stomach by announcing that it would continue to shut the factory and the jobs would be lost
Another horrendous example of outsourcing was by James Dyson, the hoover manufacturer, who outsourced production to Malaysia, resulting in 800 workers losing their jobs.
Now every time that a company outsources, we are spoon fed the same rhetoric, it is all about money. The companies that do this must think we are all stupid because the costs of the product never decrease when they outsource, meaning that all this outsourcing is for the benefit of themselves. Even the employees of the company in Malaysia or Thailand will not benefit, there is a good chance they will be treated as slaves.
These are two examples of outsourcing and there are plenty more that we could discuss all night but we have a lot to get through this evening.
However, if we prevented companies from outsourcing then we could retain jobs not only for young people but for everybody. These big corporations bleat on about reducing production costs but the taxpayer will eventually have to foot the bill. If a factory employing 1000 people closes, there will be a huge surge for those looking for work, some will be successful but most will not and whilst they are waiting for a job as the only way for the unemployed to survive will be to claim social security benefits, thus the country derives no benefit from outsourcing labour abroad.
I will now move on to talk about the costs of higher education.
I think that young people are not only being let down in respect of job opportunities, but for those intending to pursue a higher education could be burdened with massive debts.
I am a law student in my final year at the University of the West of England, in Bristol. I want to work as either a defence or prosecution barrister which also means I have to study the Bar professional Training course, I live away from home and whilst I am not studying I am a full-time carer for my ill partner meaning I am not able to work.
I borrow about £6000 a year from the students loan company to pay for tuition fees and housing, I will also have to pay about £12000 to study for the bar professional course, I will have to borrow this money from a commercial bank as the student loans company do not pay for postgraduate courses. Meaning that in 5 years of studying I would have racked up debts of around £30,000.
There are so many other students that will have debts of this size and it seems that studying will once again become something for the ruling classes only, because so many prospective students will feel priced out and be unable to afford the loan repayments after graduation.
The government feel they can justify their high tuition fees by giving students loans but this isn’t good enough, these loans all have to be paid back. They offer students grants as well but this money is never high enough to help students, often many students are not entitled to it. Meaning that a lot of young people from non-privileged backgrounds will not be able to afford a higher education.
Consequently, by allowing tuition fees many young people are denied an education which surely goes against humanitarian rights law.
What the current government and the previous Tory government seem to be doing is neglecting young people. Whilst they are off fighting illegal wars, allowing destruction of our precious industry and wasting money on projects like the ever-failing large hadron collider which I have heard is going to cost more money as more repairs are needed to be carried out.
Is it any surprise comrades, that young people are simply not interested in politics?
We need to help young people before they become too alienated and disinterested in what goes on around them, this can be achieved by the Socialist Labour Party if we start ensuring that there are jobs available for them by keeping industry local and not allowing closures like the impending one at Cadburys in Keynsham.
Furthermore, the costs involved in higher education is far too much therefore we need to stop tuition fees meaning that a lot more young people who normally could not afford a further education will be able to pursue this without the worry of horrendous debts at the end of their education.
Another topic, I would like to talk about which isn’t too relevant to what I have just been talking about is the way that Carers are treated.
As a carer for nearly three years, it did not take me long to start seeing how badly carers are being treated.
First of all, the allowance that a carer gets paid sits at only £53.10 a week. To be entitled to this pittance a carer has to be looking after their caree for at least 35 hours a week. So effectively a carer is being paid the equivalent of £1.51 per hour. Many Carers would tell you that they do a heck of a lot more, meaning that their hourly payment could be as low as 31 pence an hour if they are caring for 24 hours a day 7 days a week. One could argue that Carers are being exploited and they are right.
The 2001 census endeavoured to determine the number of carers. The results showed that there are almost six million people that classify themselves as carers. The 2001 census showed that 58% of carers are female and 42% of carers are male. A study by Carers UK in partnership with the University of Leeds found that all these carers save the taxpayer an estimate of £87 bn per annum.
However, considering the amount of Carers in Great Britain it is surprising that only 496,140 claim the full Carers Allowance of £53.10 per week. There were a further 419,240 people in Great Britain who were entitled to Carer’s Allowance but not receiving any payment as they are receiving another benefit such as Incapacity Benefit or a State Pension. Taking into account both those who are receiving Carer’s Allowance and those with entitlement to it, 915,380 people in Great Britain have made a successful claim for Carer’s Allowance.
There is an enormous injustice for carers who are not entitled to the allowance and this is something that needs to be changed and judging by the manifestos by Labour, Tories and the Liberals they are not promising anything satisfactory for carers.
The carers main complaint is the amount of Carers allowance, the minimum that carers should be paid is minimum wage which currently stands at £5.80 for 35 hours per week of caring.
We can afford this by not wasting money on illegal wars like those in Iraq & Afghanistan and instead of using money to end lives we can use the saved money to help improve the lives of people that desperately need help.
There are other problems facing carers who do not even get carers allowance. Those carers who are in education are not entitled to Carers Allowance and this has been a major issue for me whilst i have been studying , if you are in supervised study over 21 hours a week you are not entitled to the allowance, supervised allowance doesn’t just mean attending classes but it also means work at home as well. Which is ridiculous as supervised study gives the impression of a lecturer stood over you whilst reading a book. As there is a little support for carers who want to pursue an education many carers will be put off from this because of the financial implications of that.
This doesn’t just affect those in education it also affects carers who are able to combine work with caring. At the moment if a carer is working they can only earn £95 a week maximum before being disentitled to Carers Allowance. This means that a carer who is working is restricted to £148.10 a week, so that is just under £600 a month that they can earn. Carers need to be encouraged to work, by having tight restrictions on what they can earn is a disincentive from working and as a socialist party we shouldn’t be penalising carers wanting to work, we should encourage them.
Overlapping rules also affect carers who are receiving a pension, if a carers is receiving any form of pension they are not entitled to carers allowance. There are pensioners that have worked and cared all their lives or have worked and now care and to take money from them at this stage in their lives is disgraceful, there are pensioners too afraid to turn the heating on during the winter and consequently they are freezing to death. It should not be allowed that their entitlement to carers allowance should be taken off them if they receiving a pension.
All these rules need to change and the Socialist Labour Party has the opportunity here to get support from Carers if we can show that we are the only party that actually cares for them and will give them the respect they deserve.
If we show the young voters what we can offer, the opportunities to the party are endless. Also by continuing to show carers that we are the only party for them we can cement our position in British politics and we can become a representative for a huge group of people that have been let down by the mainstream parties thus leading to us gaining vital seats in parliament and making a change that is needed and help put ourselves on the political map.