Nigel Farage, in full wader mode, has proposed spending foreign aid money on flood damage.
Working on the assumption (which I hope is true) that most readers of this blog are not regular readers of the Daily Mail, I thought it might be a good idea to let you know that the Mail’s petition calling for foreign aid money to be diverted to the UK flood crisis has achieved over 100,000 names in support, and a Comres poll for ITV showed that 73 per cent of Britons agree. The above information comes from today’s Daily Mail, so of course should be taken with a healthy pinch of salt. But the rising tide of anti-foreigner, anti-EU and anti-foreign aid xenophobia at the moment cannot be denied. The words of sanity that have been expressed on the subject of migration, by EU commissioner Laszlo Andor and his splendidly combative colleague Viviane Reding, have been of little avail: the UK public seems to be in the grip of isolationism, whether that be anti-EU sentiment, anti-immigration hysteria, or even the slightly more rational reluctance to endorse foreign wars. The current floods have given the fanatically anti-EU Daily Mail the opportunity to bring all these currents together into a vicious, nationalistic and semi-racist campaign against foreign aid: the anti-EU idiot- ”left” should take notice … but, sadly, they seem too stupid to do so:
The Guardian‘s development network (which is linked to ’EurActiv‘) reports:
A campaign by the UK Independence party (Ukip) and the Daily Mail newspaper to divert Britain’s overseas aid budget into domestic flood relief has been condemned as “disgraceful” by Lord Deben, the former Conservative environment minister.
Aid agencies, MEPs and officials from the EU and UN also told EurActiv that such a move would breach Britain’s international obligations.
The Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, riding high in polls for European elections in May, first raised the issue on a visit to flood-hit parts of Somerset last weekend, saying it would take “a tiddly per cent of the overseas aid budget” to help flood victims.
The Daily Mail picked up the issue, running a front-page editorial on Tuesday calling on its readers to “put UK flood victims first” and “tell the PM where our foreign aid is needed” in a petition it initiated.
The tabloid, which has often championed climate-sceptic views, railed against “waste” in the UK’s €13bn (£10.6bn) aid budget and called for the money to be spent at home.
“Britain has given hundreds of millions towards flood relief overseas,” the editorial said. “Today, it is our own people who are enduring the misery, and the Mail believes there could no better use for the aid budget than alleviating Third World conditions at home.”
But the hint of a gathering bandwagon around an issue that had previously been the domain of the far right sparked condemnation across the political board.
“It is a disgraceful proposal to take from the poorest people on earth in order to avoid paying the cost of flooding from Britain’s own resources, resources which the prime minister has already promised,” Lord Deben told EurActiv.
Since 2000, overseas aid spending has notched up some significant successes. It has funded the vaccination of 440 million children against preventable diseases and the immunisation of 2.5 billion children against polio.
Aid spending has also provided antiretroviral drugs for 6.1 million people and helped detect and treat 11.2m cases of TB worldwide. Much of this work has taken place under the aegis of the UN’s eight millennium development goals for 2015.
European aid, in particular, has helped almost 14 million new pupils enrol in primary education and connected more than 70 million people to improved drinking water, since 2004, according to the European commission.
“You simply cannot compare the resources of the UK with those of the poorest countries in the world, where they go to bed hungry, lack any access to water, sanitation, electricity,” Alexandre Polack, an EU development policy spokesperson told EurActiv. Claims of waste were simply not true, he added.
One UN official said that channelling overseas aid into domestic flood relief would risk isolating the UK in talks about a post-2015 successor to the millennium development goals, which David Cameron previously chaired.
“Overseas aid is part of the UK’s foreign policy and how they position themselves in the world and contribute to development discussions on the post-2015 dialogue,” the source said. “How can they contribute to that if they have no money to offer the causes that may arise out of that by 2015?”
“Overseas aid is meant for overseas,” the official continued. “If we spent it on national issues, it would be a perversion of its original intent and a breach of regulations governing that part of the budget.”
Headlines in the UK have been captured by the floods, which have submerged large parts of the country’s south-west, and thousands of homes have been evacuated from towns around the river Thames.
But Cameron clarified on Tuesday that the question facing his government was “not either protecting our overseas aid budget or spending the money here at home. What we need at home will be spent here at home,” he said.
Graham Watson, the Liberal Democrat MEP for the UK’s storm-battered south-west, said that there was little support in his constituency for the Daily Mail’s campaign. “Most people recognise that it is an attempt to mix chalk and cheese,” he told EurActiv. “We have a duty to help people in difficulty everywhere, and our aid budget is being extremely well spent.” Watson queried why Farage’s “blind opposition to everything European” prevented Ukip from supporting a relief application to the EU’s solidarity fund. “I have been pressing the government to make an application, and they have three weeks left to do so,” he said. “I have had talks with the commissioner and with government ministers and I am [still] hoping they will. At present, the Treasury is resisting as we will lose some money from our rebate, but there would still be a net gain for the UK, and as taxpayers have paid into the fund I think we should be taking advantage of it.”
Oxfam said that money should be redistributed from the UK’s wealthiest population sectors to help alleviate suffering in the sodden flood plains.
British bankers had received more than €70bn in bonuses since the onset of the financial crisis – far more than the UK’s aid budget, according to a statement by the aid agency. “At the same time, billions of pounds of tax are dodged by companies and individuals who are not paying their fair share,” Max Lawson, Oxfam’s head of policy and advocacy said. “The choice should never be between helping those overseas or people in the UK when there’s enough money to do both.”
Reports in the mainstream media that Ed Miliband is about to “break the link” with the unions, are somewhat exaggerated – or at least, premature. The main thing about the Collins report (examining the Labour/union link in the aftermath of the Falkirk non-”scandal”) is that, while it doesn’t change union representation in the LP immediately, it contains a “time bomb” promising to change it in 5 years’ time. It’s obviously important to oppose that, and the ‘Defend The Link’ campaign’ will be producing a briefing in the next few days. However, silly people who think there’s something “progressive” about breaking the link will, no doubt, seize upon the Collins recommendations (to be pushed through the Party NEC tomorrow, before a special Party conference on 1st March) to pronounce the link either dead already, or not worth defending.
Up until now, the only people within the labour movement publicly arguing for breaking the link have been the Socialist Party and the treacherous Blairite scum of ‘Progress’. But now, some serious people ostensibly on the left within the labour and trade union movement seem to be taking up what is, essentially, a defeatist position. Some influential people around Len McCluskey are taking about disaffiliating if Labour loses the next general election, and the Daily Mirror’s respected columnist, Kevin Maguire, argues, in today’s edition, for unions to break with Labour and “issue bold agendas and seek to radicalise Labour from the outside, instead of swallowing abuse on the inside. ” In other words, a “left wing” version of the relationship that US unions have with the Democrats. It sounds very radical, doesn’t it? In reality, it means giving up on the idea of the working class having a party of its own. We republish Maguire’s piece (below) so that activists know the sort of arguments to expect from so-called “left-wingers” in favour of breaking the link:
Mirror columnist Kevin Maguire argues that it’s time the unions left what he calls “their abusive relationship”:
It’s time for the trade unions to march proudly out of Labour’s front door instead of being slowly bundled out of the back.
Rather than enduring a thousand indignities, organised labour should take its money and people and abandon institutional links with the party it fathered, nurtured, saved and continues to sustain. However Ed Miliband dresses up these far-reaching reforms, which were triggered by his blind panic over the selection of a parliamentary candidate in Falkirk, the truth is he wants union cash but not the unions.
The Labour leader elected on the back of members is terrified of the “Red Ed” tag, never forgiving those who awarded him the top job. Miliband’s treatment of the unions reminds me of the Tony Blair era when the general secretary of the TUC, John Monks, complained they were treated like “embarrassing elderly relatives” by an ungrateful leader.
Votes were fixed weeks ago to pass Miliband’s package at this week’s meeting of Labour’s national executive committee and a shamefully short two-hour conference on St David’s Day.
Yet speaking to very senior figures in the biggest unions, including Unite, Unison and the GMB, I know they feel they get poor value for money as they begin contemplating a moment when they could formally break from the party. They shouldn’t be afraid when a split might benefit both, mutual interests better served by space when living in each other’s pockets creates an unhappy marriage.
It’s an issue I’ve wrestled with for years, listening to the arguments from both sides.
The great Jack Jones counselled “murder yes, divorce never” but I believe Labour and the unions are a couple who need to go their separate ways.
The argument for one member, one vote in Labour will always trounce justifications of creaking federal structures. Miliband changing how leaders are elected prompts questions he hasn’t thought through about his own legitimacy under a discredited system.
And he’s in La-La land if he thinks anything short of outlawing union membership and transporting activists to Australia would end Tory smears.
But Miliband can do his job and union leaders can negotiate policies for donations rather than handing over millions of pounds in return for sniping and ingratitude. The party over the past few decades got more out of the link than the unions. A prominent Labour figure, a supporter of party ties, told me it was frustrating that unaffiliated unions such as the teachers, cops and nurses were courted while affiliated unions were vilified. A Labour MP, a champion of the union link, whispered that he was afraid Ed is opening a Pandora’s box.
Left-wing unions withholding up to £4million from Labour under a new membership system, he said, would have the resources to fund a rival party. Creating a UKIP of the Left would be self-defeating for indulgent unions, with Tories the only winners if a weakened Labour is electorally drained. The challenge for independent unions would be to issue bold agendas and seek to radicalise Labour from the outside, instead of swallowing abuse on the inside.
Miliband’s reforms are essentially a power grab dressed up as democracy.
He is a leader who strengthened his patronage by abolishing elections for Labour’s Shadow Cabinet and Chief Whip. Emperor Ed raising from 12.5% to 20% the number of MPs required before a candidate may stand for the leadership is a narrowing of Labour politics intended to stop a Leftie winning a party vote.
The rule would’ve barred Ed Balls, Andy Burnham and Diane Abbott, limiting the last contest to a family affair, with elder brother David likely to have beaten the younger Miliband the most delicious irony of the reforms.
Tellingly, not one union has affiliated to Labour since the Second World War and a couple, the RMT railworkers and FBU firefighters, departed. The other unions should call Miliband’s bluff and leave by that front door. Once out, they’ll never want to go back in.
Given the importance of the Grangemouth dispute, the scale of the defeat and the implictions for British trade unionism, we make no apology for returning yet again to the subject. This article by Dale Street, analysing the pathetically inadequate, self-deluding and unserious response of much of the British left, first appeared in the AWL‘s paper Solidarity.
Above: Stevie Deans in his Grangemouth office
The Unite union’s defeat by Ineos at the Grangemouth oil refinery and petrochemicals plant in Scotland merits serious analysis and discussion by socialist organisations. We need to understand what happened and draw appropriate lessons in order to minimise the risk of such defeats in future.
Much of the left press has been desperate to spin a narrative of a militant workforce champing at the bit to take radical action, but being held back (and, ultimately, stitched up and sold out) by a capitulatory bureaucracy.
Workers Power told us: “The workers and their shop stewards, who bravely campaigned for a ‘No’ vote (i.e. rejection of the new terms and conditions), refused to be blackmailed.” By contrast, “McCluskey shamefully fled the battlefield at the first threat from Ineos billionaire boss, Jim Ratcliffe.”
The WP version of reality continued: “What followed (after Ineos announced closure) was an utter disgrace to trade unionism and a total betrayal of the loyalty of the workforce to its union. So-called socialist general secretary and darling of most of the left, Len McCluskey, not only accepted all of Ineos’ demands but ‘embraced’ a deal that extended the strike ban for three years.”
A common pattern. But is it what happened in this case? A statement by Ineos Unite convenor Mark Lyon said: “I made the call to accept the company terms and it was not at all easy. The decision was made by me but with the full endorsement of our stewards and our members. I make no apology to anyone for this decision.
“It is our judgement that they (Ineos) were prepared to close the site down and our members preferred to keep their jobs and take a hit on terms with the plan to work our way back.”
“Len McCluskey came to Grangemouth to give us support and solidarity. He did that but did not make this decision… we did.”
The eventual deal at Grangemouth represents a huge setback for workers, but it is simply not consistent with facts to suggest it was foisted on an unwilling workforce from above by Unite’s national leadership.
Both Socialist Worker and the International Socialist Network paint a similar picture, with both deeming Unite’s affiliation to the Labour Party a central cause. Socialist Worker said: “Despite McCluskey’s often fiery rhetoric, his strategy rests on winning a Labour election victory, not on workers’ struggle.” And, according to the ISN, “Unite’s leadership was still distracted, playing games in the Labour Party. Not only did they lose those games, they took their eyes off what was happening to their actual members.”
The SWP and ISN’s starting point is not an analysis of the actual events at Grangemouth, but their own position on the Labour Party (that it is an irrelevance and a diversion, and that no struggle against its leaders using the existing Labour-union link is possible). The facts are then interpreted to justify the preconceived position.
Such an approach entails ignoring events in the real world which contradict that “analysis”. Thus, when Mark Lyon’s statement was posted on the ISN website over a week ago, the response from the ISN was… not to respond at all.
This was despite the fact that the person who posted Mark Lyon’s statement was the author of the article which it contradicted! But what did reality matter for the ISN when compared with an opportunity for (inaccurate) denunciation?
And if events at Grangemouth unfolded as claimed by the SWP and the ISN, then one would expect no shortage of Unite members in Grangemouth to be criticising their leadership (at plant, Scottish and national level).
But neither the SWP nor the ISN articles (or any other article written from the same angle) carry any quotes from Unite members in Grangemouth criticising their leaders for having sold them out.
In fact, the best that the SWP could come up with by way of a Unite activist providing the obligatory statements about “bullying bastard bosses” and “what was needed was to occupy the plant” was a Unite convenor in Donnington in Shropshire (who has been providing similar on-cue and on-message quotes to the SWP for over a decade).
The ISN’s references to “playing games in the Labour Party” and Unite taking its eyes off “what was happening to their actual members” merit particular attention.
The mainstream media, the Tory leadership, and Tory strategists like Lynton Crosby have launched countless attacks on Unite’s alleged activities in Falkirk Labour Party, using them as their central conduit for their attacks on the Labour Party.
But the ISN majestically dismisses the focus of those attacks (i.e. Unite’s involvement in the local Labour Party) as a mere case of Unite “playing games”.
ISN is right to insist that Unite focus on what’s happening “to their actual members”. But one of those “actual members” is Stevie Deans.
When Unite defended him — not just in Ineos against management’s attacks. but also in the Labour Party against attacks by party officials — it was not getting bogged down in “playing games in the Labour Party”. It was defending one of its “actual members” — which is what trade unions are meant to do.
In contrast to the above analyses, the Socialist Party (SP) focused heavily and sympathetically on the dilemma facing shop stewards in the plant itself. But it too approached the situation by looking for opportunities to justify its own dogmatic and sectarian position on Labour. Labour’s pro-capitalist policies, the SP said, were “holding the union back,” Labour “does not support workers in struggle,” and Unite should therefore “come out clearly in favour of a new mass workers party.”
In other words: Unite should pull out of the Labour Party in exchange for… the SP’s spectacularly unsuccessful Trade Union and Socialist Coalition.
The other curiosity about the SP’s analysis was what was not in it: a call for a general strike.
This was not an oversight. The SP leaflet distributed at the rally in Grangemouth on 20 October also made no mention of a general strike. Nor did the SP’s model motion for union branch meetings, drafted in response to Ineos’ announcement of closure of the plant.
For the SP, a general strike is something to demand in motions to TUC congresses and trade union conferences or when Cameron suffers a defeat in Parliament (e.g. over Syria). But when a potential major industrial and political dispute looms on the horizon — the call for a general strike suddenly disappears. Perhaps the reason is that it’s a sloganistic article-of-faith designed to catch a mood, rather than a serious strategy proposal.
What characterises much of the left analysis of Unite’s defeat in Grangemouth is:
• Substituting a simplistic notion of workers-want-to-fight-but-leaders-sell-out for serious analysis (and, even if that simplistic notion were true, failing to explain how the leaders managed to get away with selling out such a highly organised workforce).
• Adapting their analysis in order to fit in with their own pet themes and hobbyhorses.
Above: Stevie Deans
For once, the Guardian got it right about an industrial dispute:
“Not so much victory from the jaws of defeat, as defeat from the jaws of devastation. After two terrible days in which workers at Grangemouth thought they had no future whatever, they breathed an almighty sigh of relief when they learnt that they would not be out on their ears, but would hold on to jobs with terms entirely rewritten to suit owners, Ineos. Compared with the threatened alternative of mass local unemployment, the outcome is infinitely preferable – especially as a £300m investment should safeguard jobs at the plant for many years to come. But a settlement in which the bosses have humiliated the union, dismantled pensions and frozen pay for years on end leaves a bitter taste.”
The scale of the defeat inflicted upon Unite and the workforce at Grangemouth cannot be exaggerated. Ineos has had its way on everything: pay will be frozen until 2017, the shift allowance will be slashed (from £10,000 to £7,000), the final salary pension scheme will be replaced by a ‘defined contributions’ scheme, enhanced redundancy terms will go, Unite’s collective bargaining rights will be curtailed, and there will be a three-year no-strike deal.
All that was in place before the latest news that convenor Stevie Deans has tonight resigned from his job with immediate effect.
Inevitably, sections of the left are already screaming “sell-out” at Unite. Shiraz doesn’t have any inside information at this stage, but we are aware of credible reports that, following the closure announcement, Unite came under considerable pressure from its Grangemouth membership to accept the Company’s terms.
The most detailed report so far published in the left press has come from The Socialist, which noticeably avoids any crude charge of “sell-out”, though it is critical of Unite. The article is marred by the ridiculous suggestion that Unite’s failure to call for nationalisation earlier than it did was a result of its policy of ‘reclaiming’ the Labour Party. The article also states that “the Unite Scottish secretary, Pat Rafferty, supported by the Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, was at that point [ie after the closure announcement] urging that the union sign up to the company’s demands” as though Rafferty and McCluskey were trying to force Ineos’ terms onto a reluctant membership – something that does not seem to have been the case.
Nevertheless, as far as we can judge it’s a reasonably accurate report, and worth taking the trouble to read:
Trade Unions must learn lessons from Grangemouth setback
Ineos and billionaire owner Jim Ratcliffe have announced a reversal of the company’s plan to shut the petrochemical plant at Grangemouth. This follows a significant defeat for Unite on workers’ terms and conditions, demanded by the brutal Ineos management as part of their “survival plan”. While playing Russian roulette with the lives of thousands of workers, the billionaire Ratcliffe was sailing his £130 million luxury yacht around the Mediterranean. He recently applied to build a £5 million mansion in Hampshire.
There were cheers at the mass meeting when the workers were told the plant would re-open. Having been told on Wednesday that 800 jobs were lost, it is understandable that the announcement was welcomed – at least for now. It will also bring relief to the around 2,000 sub-contracted workers at the site who were in the midst of being laid off.
Ineos had said they were going to liquidate the company that ran the petrochemical plant. This would have meant workers lost thousands, and in some cases tens of thousands of pounds, in redundancy payments. Under current statutory redundancy terms post-liquidation workers would have been entitled to a maximum of £13,500.
As part of the deal Ineos will be bailed out to the tune of £134 million in Scottish and UK government grants and loan guarantees. The company claims it needs this to ensure a £300 million investment at Grangemouth over the next few years. After claiming the business was on its knees, Ineos is now saying the site has a 15 to 20 year future ahead of it. This is further proof that the company was lying about the so-called “financial distress” of the plant.
If this u-turn by the bosses was a result of being forced into a retreat by collective trade union action by Unite members, including an occupation of the plant, the reopening of Grangemouth would be seen as a step forward by trade unionists at the plant and beyond. However, this was not the case. Instead Unite has agreed to sign up to the company’s “survival plan”. This includes no wage rises until 2016, cuts in bonuses resulting in a loss of up to £15,000, the tearing up of the final salary pension scheme, a three-year no-strike deal, and an end to full-time union convenors on site.
There was huge pressure on the shop stewards at Grangemouth following the closure announcement on Wednesday 23 October. More than half of the permanent workforce at the whole Grangemouth site had been told their jobs were gone. The oil refinery was closed. According to Ineos it would remain so, unless the union agreed to huge cuts in workers’ terms and conditions. The possibility of closure enduring was a real one. In addition, the Unite Scottish secretary, Pat Rafferty, supported by the Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, was at that point urging that the union sign up to the company’s demands.
In the absence of a fighting strategy by Unite to save the plant, including the occupation of the site and the building of a mass campaign across Scotland to demand that the Scottish/UK governments nationalise Grangemouth, the pressure proved too great for the shop stewards to resist. Nevertheless we recognise the commendable role the stewards and union activists have played at Grangemouth over the last years in defending trade union rights and conditions at the plant, which was emphasised by the successful strike in 2008. Read the rest of this entry »
By Daniel Cooper, ULU Vice President, and Rosie Huzzard, NUS National Executive, on behalf of AWL Students
This year a large part of the SWP’s “Marxism 2013” event is taking place at University of London Union. This has led to controversy among ULU activists concerned and angry about the SWP’s handling of recent rape allegations against one of its leading members, including on the ULU executive. ULU has issued a statement.
The AWL is involved in ULU; Daniel is one of its four sabbatical officers, sitting on the executive as Vice President. Most of the rest of the ULU leadership is made up of comrades we work with closely, and whose anger at the SWP leadership’s recent conduct we entirely share. We therefore want to make our position clear. It is particularly important we do so as it has become evident that our thinking on this issue represents a minority position within the ULU executive.
The booking for “Marxism 2013” was made commercially through ULU’s booking department, which does not require prior authorisation from ULU’s political leadership to take bookings. We were the first ULU activists to notice this, about a month ago, and Daniel proposed to the ULU executive a) that the booking should not be cancelled and b) that ULU should issue a statement explaining this decision while also criticising the SWP’s record.
We did not argue against cancelling the booking on the grounds that it would be impossible or difficult to do so. We argued explicitly on the grounds that, while cancellation was possible, it was not the right thing to do. While there was eventually a majority against cancellation, most exec members did not share our broader thinking.
Our draft for the ULU statement linked the SWP leadership’s behaviour in the rape case to the organisation’s more general political trajectory – what the AWL has elsewhere called “apparatus Marxism”, ie putting perceived organisational advantage and organisational self-defence above assessing things in the world clearly and above political principles, in this case the principles of transparent and democratic functioning, accountability of leaders and women’s rights. Read the rest of this entry »
Comrade DK writes:
There seems no doubt in the author’s mind that a mass party can be achieved. But then again if his definition of mass party doing well is a limited relationship with one medium sized union and getting 3-5% of the vote in the places it stands then it probably wouldn’t be too much of a stretch.
By Cathy Nugent (from the AWL website and their paper Solidarity)
In an online article the Socialist Party’s Hannah Sell tries to convince activists not to sign the statement initiated by Unison activists Marsha-Jane Thompson and Cath Elliot (“Our movement must be a safe place for women”).
“Safe Place for Women” is an unarguable appeal to the left and labour movement to stand in solidarity with women who are victims of male violence, especially when an incident takes place within our own movement.
Sell cannot directly contradict that sentiment so she takes the line “context is everything”. She says the statement will be used by the right-wing in the labour movement, and society, to witch hunt the left. It will distract from fighting capitalism and women’s oppression.
Readers who are familiar with the Socialist Party (SP) will recognise two of their techniques here.
First, using the line “You can’t say that against the left/the SP/the union because the right wing will use it” as a way of shutting down debate.
Second, the “sledgehammer and nut” approach. A tediously long exposition of how capitalism perpetuates women’s oppression precedes the “dangerous distraction” argument.
But what of the details of Sell’s right-wing backlash?
Sell says the Savile scandal has created a febrile atmosphere which will make an attack on the left more likely. That’s possible but, as Sell herself says, far, far better that such scandals are out in the open and discussed.
Second, Unison’s right-wing leaders and their friends in the Labour Party will seize upon this statement to attack the left… because that is what they do. But if it wasn’t this issue, it would be something else, surely?
Third, the Daily Mail etc. will seize on anti-left criticisms because of “a correct fear by sections of the ruling class that, given the profound crisis of capitalism, the socialist movement will be able to become a mass force in the coming years.” I hope that is true. But more likely this Marxist “prediction” is randomly inserted here to boost the argument. Read the rest of this entry »
Above: Hedley verbally attacks a Jew who dared challenge him; another chosen victim, close to his lumpen heart…
Today (8 Mar 2013 -SS) I would like to show my solidarity with women all over the world on International Women’s day and to raise the issue of domestic violence against women. The RMT have released a model domestic violence policy for the transport industry which I hope gets rolled out to every employer.
I’m Caroline Leneghan, I’m a member of the RMT and assistant Branch Secretary of my RMT branch. Until recently I was in a relationship with the RMT Assistant General Secretary Steve Hedley. During the relationship I experienced physical and mental domestic violence which made me feel hopeless to challenge. In January I reported a violent assault to the police that took place the previous year. On this occasion he kicked a pot of paint at me, threw me around by my hair and pinned me to the floor repeatedly punching me in the face. The extent of my injuries meant I couldn’t go out for weeks. I had severe bruising and swelling to my face and body and he had pulled out clumps of my hair. I have decided to make a public statement about this because of his public position in the union and because I want to encourage other women to come forward who have faced similar abuse.
Additionally, as I am a member of the RMT I felt that it was important to raise my assault with the RMT. I believe that he will continue to perpetrate abuse and is a threat to female members. I want to continue my activism within the union but I do not feel safe to do so unless this matter is dealt with properly.
When I raised the assault with the union, I was subjected to what is known as as ‘victim blaming’. I was distressed and astonished at the questions I was asked and the investigating officer displayed a total lack of respect and sensitivity, and a lack of understanding of domestic violence. The investigator tried to make a link between my mental health and the assault and deemed it appropriate to inquire about my personal history, but has not deemed it necessary to look into Steve’s, despite the fact that it is his behaviour that is being called into question and not mine. The investigatior attempted to focus his attention on anything about me which could exonerate or mitigate Steve’s behaviour.
I was also shocked that the investigator asked to explain how someone of Steve Hedley’s build and proficient at boxing did not cause me more injuries. The investigator also accused me of causing the injuries myself. It is outrageous that when a woman reports an assault it would be considered feasible that she severely beat up her own face and further to also attempt to make a link with her mental health is collusion with the tactics of manipulation that abusers use to silence their victims. I felt degraded and that I had done something ‘wrong’ in reporting the attack.
These actions contribute to a culture where perpetrators of violence are never punished for their behaviour. It is a well known fact that women do not come forward when they have faced abuse because they fear the treatment they will get. Since receiving help from Victim Support I have learnt that it is common for perpetrators of domestic abuse to deflect blame for their actions onto their victims and attempting to discredit their claims and to shame them into remaining silent.
I think it is important to say that I am a proud member of the RMT because I thought it was committed to fighting for justice and equality for all workers. I had hoped that it would take seriously a claim against a senior elected representative and treat me with respect when I have made such a serious allegation. I am shocked and saddened that instead I have had to undergo a character assassination. No aspect of my life has been spared from scrutiny, using any detail, no matter how sensitive, used in a horrible and insensitive manner to undermine my claim.
I am writing this because I feel it is imperative that all organisations on the left take a look at themselves and question whether they are doing all they can to support their female members and fight sexism and abuse, in all its guises. I believe that we need strong unions and organisations like the RMT to fight all forms of inequality in society. It cannot do this if it allows sexism to go unchallenged and it fails to investigate its elective representatives seriously.
Women do not have equality in the labour movement or the left. This is a struggle and a fight that goes on everyday at work/ in our unions/ at home/ in meetings, etc. To women; we are what militant trade unionists look like. The labour movement continues to heroises a macho, aggressive archetype of what a good trade unionist looks like. Recently highlighted problems on the left (e.g. the SWP rape case handling) have demonstrated the need for radical change. A support group made up of women from the left and labour movement to support women and challenging abuse and sexism should be set up.
In the past week my case against him was dropped by the police due to falling foul of their timescale for submitting a complaint. Steve has made an official statement to the RMT that the case was dropped and he was found innocent and exonerated. This is completely untrue. The investigating officer said the CPS would not prosecute because the incident had not happened in the past 6 months. Furthermore, I have been told that, had I reported it within 6 months, they would have had enough evidence to charge him with common assault. But due to the lapse in time, they instead had to arrest him on suspicion of ABH. However, the CPS sets a very high bar for chances of conviction (I was informed that they will only bring forward to trial cases that they believe have a 90 per cent chance of conviction).
Please note: *trigger warning*. I’ve included these photos because I feel I need to show people how ludicrous his story that I beat myself up is.
If you would like to contact me please email firstname.lastname@example.org
(NB: Shiraz Socialist has had cause to comment upon Mr Hedley before: here; this creature must be removed from all positions within the labour movement, forthwith).
Will the “left” play into Gove’s hands on Europe?
Since the 1960′s it has been an article of faith for most of the British left to sort-of oppose the EU and its foreunners, starting with the Common Market. The basis of this ‘sort-of’ opposition has sometimes been superficially leftist (“it’s a bosses club,” etc), sometimes psuedo-democratic (“Brussels bureaucrats,” etc), but always fundamentally foolish and reactionary: based on the ludicrous notion that separating a country from the rest of Europe will insulate it from the laws and trends of global capitalism. Very occasionally, the more fanatical of the “left” opponents of the EU let slip their real agenda: a Westphalian defence of the nation state and opposition to all forms of supranationalism.
The results of this confusion on the “left” have usually been pretty irrelevant, as the anti-EU agenda has always been set by the nationalists and racists of the hard-right. But it has resulted in grotesque spectacles like the No2EU campaign, the Socialist Party and the RMT supporting the People’s Pledge, an anti-EU campaign drawn up by right-wing Tories.
There is some evidence to suggest that the saner (or more cynical, depending on how you look at it) elements of the anti-EU “left” are aware of what a foolish stance they’ve adopted, and are doing so mainly for opportunistic reasons. But, opportunist or not, the anti-EU “left” seems likely to soon be put on the spot. With the eurosceptic Tory right (encouraged by Michael Gove) on the offensive and polls showing a majority of UK voters wanting to exit, Cameron seems almost certain to go into the next election offering a referendum on continued membership. And given Miliband’s craven appeasement of the eurosceptic right, Labour may well do the same. Then it will be make-your-mind-up-time for the UK’s anti-EU “left.”
I described the UK “left” opposition to Europe as “sort-of” opposition because it rarely spells out where it stands on the central issues: do they welcome and support the re-erection of barriers between nation-states and a “repatriation” of powers, resulting in the abolition of swathes of employment protection legislation? Most of the anti-EU “left” limits itself to “no to the bosses’ Europe” sloganising, thus avoiding the central issue. They have their cake and eat it: they chime in with populist-nationalist sentiment amongst the most backward sections of society (including lumpen elements of the working class) while suggesting that they’re not really anti-European, just against the “bosses’” character of the EU.
As if the EU is somehow less capitalist, anti-worker and neo-liberal than its component member states. In Britain more than any other EU country we have seen successive governments, Labour and Tory, repeatedly objecting to EU policy and legislation as as too soft, too “social”, too concerned with civil liberties and workers’ employment rights. That wilkl be the basis upon which the anti-EU camapaign around a referedum will be conducted.
So now we have to ask the idiot -”left”: do you really want to see the EU broken up? Think about the consequences seriously, for once in your lives.
The freedom for workers to move across Europe would be lost. “Foreign” workers in each country from other ex-EU states would face massively increased, and state-approved, racism.
There would be a big reduction in the productive capacities of the separate states, cut off from broader economic arenas.
Governments and employers in each state would be weaker in capitalist world-market competition, and thus would be pushed towards crude cost-cutting, in the same way that small capitalist businesses, more fragile in competition, use cruder cost-cutting than the bigger employers.
There would be more slumps and depression, in the same way that the raising of economic barriers between states in the 1930s lengthened and deepened the slump then.
Nationalist and far-right forces, already the leaders of anti-EU political discourse everywhere, would be “vindicated” and boosted. Democracy would shrink, not expand. The economically-weaker states in Europe, cut off from the EU aid which has helped them narrow the gap a bit, would suffer worst, and probably some would fall to military dictatorships.
Before long the economic tensions between the different nations competing elbow-to-elbow in Europe’s narrow cockpit would lead to war, as they did repeatedly for centuries, and especially in 1914 and 1939.
The left should fight, not to go backwards from the current bureaucratic, neo-liberal European Union, but forward, towards workers’ unity across Europe, a democratic United States of Europe, and a socialist United States of Europe.