BUSINESS AS USUAL IS NOT AN OPTION!

Following the result today of the Scottish Referendum – 55.3% against Independence on an 84.6% turnout – the government has reiterated its commitment to bringing forward draft legislation on more devolution for Scotland in January. If the government and the Labour opposition think that all that’s needed is transfer of some modest tax raising powers for Scotland and some restriction on Scottish MPs voting on English matters where these have been devolved to Scotland, they will be sadly disappointed. The list of constitutional and fiscal matters in the UK that need to be addressed as a matter of urgency is legion. Here are just a few of them:

• The EU. Powers continue to drain away to the unelected European Commission. The latest example of this is the secret negotiations now under way on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTiP) which, when signed up to by the EU, will strip elected governments of the power to resist further privatisation of our public services.

• The unrepresentative nature of the Westminster Parliament. The House of Lords is a retirement home for clapped out politicians. The House of Commons is a sham of democracy, elected every five years (who agreed to that?) on a derisory turnout, peopled by over-paid party hacks and appointees who are elected on the strength of a barrage of propaganda from the capitalist press and a cowed BBC.

• Our enfeebled local government democracy. It’s stripped of revenue raising powers and run by over-paid apparatchiks. The relatively more democratic model provided by the Committee System is opposed by the large parties as it would not support the big salaries for councillors aproportion of which is diverted to financing future elections.

• The absence of democratic control of the NHS which is being privatised piece by piece and which, for us locally, is threatening the existence of Croydon University Hospital.

• The continuing attacks on trade union right and the almost total absence of workplace democracy. The government is even threatening to make illegal strikes and other industrial action that fails to secure a workplace majority of those entitled to vote. Even the decisive vote of No in the Scottish referendum only attained a 46.8% majority – i.e. it would have been inadequate for industrial action.

These and many other issues including education, housing and climate change will be discussed at the inaugural meeting of the Croydon Assembly convened by Croydon TUC on 15 November at Ruskin House, 23 Coombe Road, Croydon CR0 1BD. To register your place, go to http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/croydon-assembly-tickets-9351064285?aff=eac2 .

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A message for Mr Cable

Vince Cable, the Lib Dem Business Secretary, likes to appear mildly progressive in his public utterances, no doubt in the vain hope that we will forget that he and his party will have kept the most rabid Tory government in living memory in power for five years. It was therefore somewhat surprising when, in response to a question from Labour in parliament last week, Mr Cable was largely dismissive of the mildly progressive idea put to him that publicly listed companies should be required to disclose in their accounts the number of employees who are paid less than the living wage. He said he would think about it but added that he was against “coercive measures because these would simply add to unemployment”. Massaging downward the headline figure for unemployment and disregarding the consequential increase in welfare costs – or better, capping them and making the recipients pay – is, of course, a key strategy for the Tories: a strategy that the Lib Dems have gone along with.

The living wage rate is currently £8.80 per hour in London, including Croydon, and £7.65 per hour elsewhere, compared with the minimum wage of £6.31 per hour for those aged 21 and over.

As I mentioned last week, Croydon TUC was calling on candidates in the forthcoming local government elections to commit to ten key policies if elected. One of these policies is that Croydon Council should pay the London Living wage to its staff and insist on its sub-contractors doing the same. While candidates from other parties appear to have ignored the call, Communist Party candidates in Croydon warmly took up this commitment. As communists hoping to be councillors, they recognise that the powers available to elected councils are limited, but a start can be made in the Council Chamber towards building a fairer society. Paying the London Living Wage for council employees, both direct and indirect, and removing such restrictions on employment terms under local government services as not paying carers for their travelling time, represent such a start. As communists, however, these candidates appreciate that tinkering with capitalism cannot bring about the fundamental change they seek. Fair pay for all is the objective, and it cannot, unfortunately, be achieved in the forthcoming local government elections on 22 May, whatever the results. Fair pay for all cannot be achieved without the “coercive measures” feared by Mr Cable, but it does not involve unemployment. It’s a system called socialism, Mr Cable. Try thinking about that!

Martin Graham

OPERATION TROJAN HORSE: WHO ARE THE REAL VILLIANS?

Operation Trojan Horse refers to a leaked anonymous letter – which some say is a hoax – claiming to be sent between Muslim extremists seeking to take over Birmingham schools. Among the claims by whistle blowers are that sex education is banned and boys and girls are segregated in the classroom. Responding to these revelations, Education Secretary Michael Gove has ordered Ofsted inspectors into 15 schools in Birmingham to investigate them and there are now four inquiries underway overseen by a former counter-terrorism chief.

Over-reaction? The idea that our schools are being penetrated by religious groups can hardly come as a surprise to Mr Gove. Impervious to the consequences of religious segregation in Northern Ireland’s schools, he has encouraged the destruction of our predominately secular education system under local government control and is handing it over to a motley band of religious and business interests including, in Croydon, quite literally, carpet salesmen. Our once democratically accountable schools are disappearing – in Croydon this process is largely complete at the secondary level – to be replaced by academies and so called free schools outside the control of the local authority. As part of this programme, pay in what remains of the local authority sector is being held down, Ofsted is employed to keep teachers in this sector focused on the narrowest possible definition of educational attainment and the unions representing the staff in these schools are undermined and attacked.

Croydon TUC has published a list of ten policies which it asks candidates in the forthcoming local government elections in Croydon to endorse. Number 9 is to support our local schools still under democratic, local government control and to oppose the introduction of any more academies and free schools in Croydon. This call has so far been ignored by candidates standing in these elections except for the Communist Party candidates in Bensham Manor, Broad Green and Selhurst. This should not come as a great surprise. The Tories and Lib-Dems are complicit in this strategy and Labour started the whole thing off by starving Local Education Authorities of resources and initiating the academy programme.

Trojan Horses are for hiding in but also, it appears, for hiding behind.

Martin Graham