I note that the last time I posted in memory of Pauline Campbell was in 2010, so has everything improved for vulnerable women who end up in our appalling institutions? Pauline died in 2008 still grieving for the daughter she lost in Styal Prison. Before that she would mount a campaign outside the prisons where another woman had died while in the “safe keeping” of HMP. In an article in the Observer a former governor of Styal Prison comments.
Why are so many women is prison? Pauline continually made that point as she stood outside prison gates. She would stop the privatised prison van from entering and ended up being assaulted by burly police and security officers.
Prisons? A euphemism for human dustbins and a convenience for the inhuman uncaring society we have become for avoiding dealing with need. Mental health, poverty, victims of abuse. The throw away society does not exclude the people that we expect it to protect.
Arthur Scargill returned to Saltley Gate 40 years after leading class action where miners were struggling for decent wages and conditions. There were 3000 of them highly depressed following a long and bitter strike. Then suddenly from all directions came Birmingham workers, thousands of them, in solidarity. The cry of “Close the Gates” went up and because of the vast crowd a decision was taken to do just that. The consequences were immense.
In his speech Arthur Scargill reminded us of the result of solidarityand put it into the context of today. He was well supported by Ken Capstick, at the time Deputy Leader of the Yorkshire miners and one of those involved in the dispute. Although not at Saltley them he was back in Yorkshire organising events from there.
Banner Theatre performed an excerpt from their show “Saltley Gate”, first seen in the 1970’s, containing interviews with those involved in 1972. The full show is due to be revived later this year.
Michael Gove is fast losing his department as his officers depart leaving a vacuum of experience and expertise. Never mind in Gove’s world the less know about education and learning the better. A source close to the department said: “There are persistent rumours of the tensions of working with this Government. Civil servants are told ‘we’ve already made our minds up’. They have no input into the process.” (source The Independent).The last people this government wants to hear from are practitioners working on the ground, as in other areas. As in the health services every teachers association is fundamentally opposed to this education blitz.
Experiments in setting up Academies – that’s very much what it is – are not going the government’s way. Not that the opposition cab say much because it is they who beagn the push to them, if not the so-called Free-Schools which are moving further and faster away from accountability and democratic control. Public money is being fed to the private sector. It they don;t work there will be nothing left to rebuild another service. Now in Birmingham the desperate Gove is forcing primary schools with Montgomery Primary School to the fore. Angry parents and teachers are mounting a vigorous campaign with the Birmingham Anti-Academy Alliance.
It will not only be government departments that are cleared out, but as new rules come into force pay and conditions change – considerably for the worse, so there is the prospect of an exodus of well qualified staff here too. The new panaceas will be able to bring in anyone they like. Retired army personnel seem to be sought after so we are likely to see something akin to boot camps emerge.
On 10th February we’ll be gathering at Saltley Gate because this was the place and time that workers stood together supporting miners who had been on strike over pay and conditions. This is a message for 2012 when once again the working class are under attack from a bloated and uncaring elite. Those who created the economic crisis remain untouched and free to repeat their actions. Financial institutions are free to ignore rules and use other peoples money to speculate and gamble – and to buy off any opposition from those we elect to serve us.
Arthur Scargill who led the action on that day will return to speak along with another veteran of the miners’ strike, Ken Capstick, former Vice-President of the Yorkshire mIners, and Ricky Tomlinson, once imprisoned when building workers took strike action in Shrewsbury, but now better known for his role in the Royal Family. Banners will be in evidence again, including some from Socialist Labour Party regions, the party Arthur Scargill currently leads.
The extent of cutbacks seems to have no end scything through services and initiatives affecting the most vulnerable. In 2009 the City Council crowed about its core values with businesses set up to employ the “disabled” like Shelforce “Disabled” is not a term that the organisation uses believing that focus should be on peoples’ abilities rather than any attribute that might disadvantage anyone. Now the rug is being pulled away from a group who find employment problematic. Since this is a business then the City Council needs to put a bit of effort into making sure it works. It hasn’t found difficulty supporting Capita, which practically runs the Council, through thick and thin success and failure. What Capita is successful in is avoiding paying taxes and its able bodies (maybe it does employ some who might otherwise go to Shelforce, I don’t know but would take a guess). The demise of the Connexions service is another wonderful achievement of the Birmingham version of the ConDems who, as we in Birmingham knew, foreshadowed the bunch now ruling the country. The ability of a united workforce to topple them would be a just response to their action against the people. The reactions of Thatcher followed by Blair took away jobs and rights in an attack on what Maggie called “the enemy within”. Just who is the enemy within to most of us has become abundantly clear as our productive industry was cut back from 80% to 20% allowing the unproductive financial services (of which Capita is a supreme example) to take us over. The events at Saltley Gate elicited a profound response.