Birmingham Covid-19 measures: Blame politicians, not workers and young people

1.6 million people in Birmingham, Solihull and the Black Country were banned on 16 September from visiting or hosting people indoors or in private gardens unless they are already in a support bubble.

All of the most affected places have large amounts of overcrowded housing where social distancing is impossible. They also have large numbers of precarious workers who worked throughout the pandemic because they are too scared to speak out against unhealthy working conditions and poverty. Birmingham has some of the most deprived neighbourhoods in the country.

Despite this, the local Labour politicians who collaborated with Matt Hancock on this decision parrot Tory propaganda. Blairite Birmingham Council leader Ian Ward said data showed “the infection rate has risen mainly due to social interactions, particularly private household gatherings.”

Tory West Midlands mayor Andy Street says that workplaces and commercial premises that are allowed to remain open have been prepared in a Covid-safe way and have been examined for safe return. Yet Birmingham Council has just announced that a restaurant has had enforcement action taken against it for not having a reliable and trustworthy test-and-trace system.

The Tories are trying to regain lost political support because of their disastrous handling of the pandemic by transferring the blame to young people and fostering division between generations.

Young people won’t accept this blame lightly. Many can see the contradictions in being allowed to see your friends in the pub but not in their house, or the assumption that all workplaces and commercial premises are Covid-safe but their houses aren’t.

The difficulties in enforcing the restrictions, and impossibility of verifying membership of a support bubble, make a high degree of non-compliance likely. So does the fact that the politicians making these decisions are the same people who treat working-class people with contempt by cutting public services rather than standing up to the Tories.

We shouldn’t just hope that this will hole the Tories below the water line, but should energetically campaign for the pandemic response to be democratically controlled by local authorities and the NHS, for workers to have the final say on when a workplace is safe, and for genuine community control on any restrictions of movement.

By Clive Walder, Birmingham South West Socialist Party

Striking for jobs and journalism

It’s “nepotism not journalism” said one picket. The Bullivant Media NUJ chapel were out on their first ever strike on 25-26 August, opposing compulsory redundancies, demanding to be paid in full and wanting to protect high-quality journalism.

Warwickshire and Worcestershire newspaper publisher Bullivant Media Limited is owned and ran by the Bullivant family. One family member has started publishing their own ‘cut-and-paste’ type stories while bypassing editorial staff and undercutting news quality.

At the same time, the actual journalists – some on minimum wage – were not paid in full for three months.  Some received next to nothing and had to go to food banks as a result. There was no warning before these pay cuts – the workers just found out when they opened their bank statements!

Also undercutting news quality will be the proposed job cuts, including a compulsory redundancy that targets an NUJ member in blatant trade unionist victimisation. These cuts will result in higher workloads for the remaining staff, who are already overworked as management demand more journalistic output. Distribution staff have already been made redundant.

On 21 August, when Acas talks between the union and employer ended, Bullivant confirmed three jobs would go, including one compulsory redundancy. While better than the five posts originally under threat, the chapel remains steadfastly opposed to any compulsory lay-off.

The 18 journalists produce nine weekly freesheets, including the Coventry Observer and Redditch Standard. The chapel voted unanimously for and is 100% solid behind the four-day strike, set to continue on 1-2 September, with pickets at the company’s Redditch office.

The NUJ chapel has received solidarity and financial support from trade unionists across the UK and Ireland. Donations, labelled ‘Bullivant strike’, can be made to the NUJ strike hardship fund: sort code 60-83-01, account number 20049274, account name NUJ Manchester. Emails raising concerns and asking for the dispute to be resolved can be sent to Bullivant’s managing director – chris.bullivant@bullivantmedia.com

Black Lives Matter – learning from the Black Panthers – organisation, defence & demands

Young socialists against racism
Open air meeting – all welcome!

Birmingham meeting

Monday 15th June 6pm @ Centenary Square (in front of new library)….
(there is cover in case it does rain! …fingers crossed suns out 😊)

(This will be a socially distanced event with 2m gaps and no more than clusters of 6 – we encourage mask wearing & we have a megaphone to help ensure people can hear everything.)

Young members of the Socialist Party are hosting this open air meeting for all those wanting to discuss organisation, defence, demands and other lessons from the Black Panthers and to also discuss how we can best help mobilise for further BLM protests across Birmingham, the Black Country and surrounding areas.

This is a not a meeting claiming to be the leadership or organisers of the BLM demos, but a meet up to help bring together all those wishing to learn and discuss what we can from the Black Panthers and past struggles against racism and for black liberation. To discuss what we can do to be prepared and organised against the increasing threats from the far right, the state and police.

‘’Seize the time!” – Bobby Seale, Black Panthers
Fight racism and class inequality
Fight capitalism.
Join the socialists!

07530429441
birminghamsocialistparty@gmail.com
www.socialistparty.org.uk

Here are some links to just few bits of our recent and past work fighting racism, the far right and the state!

“We’re going to fight racism and capitalism with socialism”
Extracts from a speech by Deji Olayinka, Birmingham Socialist Party, at the protest on 7 June.
https://m.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/30877

Black and Asian Covid-19 deaths: an indictment of capitalist inequality by Jim Hensman, Socialist Party BAME group
https://m.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/30804/22-05-2020/black-and-asian-covid-19-deaths-an-indictment-of-capitalist-inequality

Stephen Lawrence murder – the untold story
How socialists and the local community fought back against racism and the BNP
https://m.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/13470/11-01-2012/stephen-lawrence-murder-the-untold-story

Hugo Pierre asks: Reform or revolt? How was the slave trade abolished?
https://m.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/2210/22-03-2007/how-was-the-slave-trade-abolished?fbclid=IwAR2k74KdgYSdRuqG_eu0FpNx2ocSYpOPrADp0dv_1Xk4h35ktuK_x9KDKHM

Windrush: Whitehall demo shames Tories and Blairites
https://m.socialistparty.org.uk/keyword/Socialist_Party_and_CWI_public_figures/Hugo_Pierre/27280/02-05-2018/windrush-whitehall-demo-shames-tories-and-blairites

Who was Malcolm X?
https://m.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/23778/12-10-2016/malcolm-x-hero-of-black-liberation

1993: BNP racists forced off Brick Lane
http://m.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/778/17352/04-09-2013/1993-bnp-racists-forced-off-brick-lane

Police Racism – Caught Red-Handed
https://m.socialistparty.org.uk/html_article/2003-322-pp6

Soweto uprising 1976 – The powder keg ignites
http://m.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/445/5293/22-06-2006/soweto-uprising-1976-the-powder-keg-ignites

We support and urge everyone to build and come along to the following protests taking place across the West Midlands organised by various BLM, justice and campaign groups.

Stafford – Saturday 13th June 2pm Market Square

Worcester – Saturday 13th June details tbc

Nuneaton – Sunday 14th June 4pm @ Harefield Rd/by bus station

Birmingham – Friday 19th June 6pm @ Victoria Square – https://facebook.com/events/s/birmingham-peaceful-protest-fo/1334259970103186/?ti=icl

Wolverhampton – Sunday 28th June 3pm @ St. Peter’s Square

Let us know of any others!

George Floyd’s Life Mattered: Thousands protest in Birmingham

4June
Protesters listen to Socialist Party member and trade union activist Dave

Several thousand people joined the 4th June Birmingham protest as part of the global outrage following the racist murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

Centenary Square was absolutely packed with protesters from across the city and from all over the West Midlands. Even when many marched off to demonstrate outside the police station, the square was still bursting at the seams as more arrived.

The thousands of young people on the demo showed they are not the ‘snowflake generation’, but that they want to actively fight for a better future. The deafeningly loud chants included ‘I can’t breathe’, ‘black lives matter’, ‘no justice, no peace’ and ‘Tories out!’

Hundreds listened to speakers at the Socialist Party stall. To massive applause and cheers, Deji said how socialist change can deliver justice for the victims of police brutality, Generation Windrush deportations, and the Grenfell Tower fire. Kris said how the city’s Labour council had worsened inequality in Birmingham by carrying out Tory cuts and privatisation. Firefighter Dave spoke about how racism is used to divide the working class, but that working class unity and organisation can change that. Go to https://www.facebook.com/pg/Birmingham-Socialist-Party-308234912522491/posts to see pictures and videos.

Queues were formed to take Socialist Party leaflets, placards and copies of the Socialist. See the leaflet here: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/txt/552.pdf

The Birmingham protest showed deep rooted anger at the institutional racism in both the US and UK and the unjust capitalist system that it helps protect. But the determination for struggle to fight for a new system was even clearer.

West Midlands Socialist Party public zoom meeting
Monday 8th June, 7pm
How can we build a mass movement to smash racism?
Speakers:
Jai Chavis – an activist from the US Independent Socialist Group on the mass anti-racist protests and workers’ action across the country.
Deji Olay – of Birmingham Socialist Party on the relevance of what’s taking place in the USA with the struggle against racism in Britain and the fight for socialism

If you would like to join in the meeting, text/call 07539429441 or 07447425494, or email birminghamsocialistparty@gmail.com

WEST MIDS SOCIALIST PARTY DISCUSSES FIGHT AGAINST CORONAVIRUS IN WORKPLACES

Tories killing us
On Workers’ Memorial Day, April 2020

Socialist Party members in the West Midlands met online in a forum to talk through workplace situations during the coronavirus pandemic, and discuss strategy to defend workers’ health against some truly despicable management practices from the private and public sectors.

The meeting included tax officers, teachers, union staff, probation officers, railway staff, shop and warehouse workers and more, as well as workers recently made unemployed.

We heard that some MoJ and HMRC office management have been flagrantly ignoring government advice on working from home, that most supply teachers have been furloughed but no money has been paid out from the furlough scheme yet, that rail staff have had to fight for weeks to get social distancing in work. Despite heaps of praise for shop workers by their employers, supermarket upper management have utterly failed in protecting their staff by denying them PPE and anything close to social distancing.

Success in health and safety has only been won by the organised determined action of workers. Vigilant campaigns have ensured adequate PPE, social distancing, remote working, and even furloughing at 100% pay.

In an incredible success of worker action, one non-unionised office in the West Mids organised their own rotas to ensure skeleton staff to keep the office functioning, keeping the majority of workers home and the rest safely distanced. Management there had insisted they would all need to be in office, but the workers forced the managers to adopt their rota model!

Many workers have successfully struggled to ensure their safety from coronavirus in the West Midlands and across the country, but too often this has been with the absence of trade union leaders.

The leaderships of some of the biggest unions in the UK representing hundreds of thousands of workers have failed to lead the fight to defend their members’ safety. In this meeting Socialist Party members spoke out against union right wingers and careerists who have been far too concerned with bureaucracy and stalled negotiations with the government and employers, risking workers’ safety week after week in a rapidly changing situation.

RMT right to strike
RMT union members demonstrating against Boris Johnson’s threat to the right to strike in December 2019, photo JB

During and after the coronavirus crisis there will be massive attacks on workers as the capitalist class seek to recuperate their losses and minimise any increased consciousness among workers. Events so far have only been a small test in terms of what fighting leadership is needed from trade unions as the core organisations to defend the working class.

The Socialist Party branches and union caucuses continue to meet online regularly, discussing political and workplace situations and organising for militant working class action.

We fight for socialism -for workers’ democratic control and management over the economy- and will push the case for a determined fight for socialist change within the trade unions. Only the working class finally taking control will end the endless battles with bosses that workers face even during a global pandemic!

JOIN US! – IT’S EASY TO GET INVOLVED!

THE WEEK WHERE GOVERNMENT LIES CAUGHT UP WITH THEM!

89959713_3105349109477710_3543507942307266560_oTHE WEEK WHERE GOVERNMENT LIES CAUGHT UP WITH THEM

  • If we’re to beat Covid 19, it can’t go on like this!
  • One of the worst death rates in the world.  
  • Testing doesn’t meet needs
  • PPE shortage letting down our health and social care workers
  • Care homes becoming death traps
  • Government then blame health workers for misusing PPE!!

This has been the week where much has been revealed. The lack of preparation for the virus, the weakened state of the NHS   due to austerity and privatisation for profit is broadly recognised by people. Many people of course want to get on with fighting the enemy at the door, Covid 19, rather than argue about things.

But failure of both our economic system and government has consequences, different responses have different outcomes.

There is still much for the British people to learn and absorb about the lack of preparation that has left us short of PPE, staff, ventilators and the rest – not least the ignoring of operation Cygnus in 2016 that warned we were unprepared for a pandemic.   But it’s also the week the government tried to shift the blame, and largely failed.

London Transport workers fighting private companies and TfL to secure health and safety

Postal workers’ anger over profits before health and safetyPostal workers’ anger over profits before health and safety

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BLAME THE POPULATION….NOT THE PREPARATION ?

From PPE, ventilators, testing, delayed lockdown, considering ‘Herd immunity’ (which would have led to 500,000 deaths) the government’s lack of preparation and slow reaction has hamstrung our reaction to Covid19. Now, even ‘The Times’, a Tory supporting paper, has joined the condemnation of the wasted months (in an astonishing attack). Faced with this the Government moved to shift the blame and shift our gaze, with a “Don’t look there, look here” policy.

It started with “blame the public” -get us all to blame each other re shopping or going out in public. It was classic divide and rule, but the reality was very different. Of course, social distancing is vital and that it came too late has allowed to virus to kill over 20,000 already (16,000 in hospitals, 4000 in care homes and community as of 20 April) **

Then it was footballers – note: not billionaires, or more ‘upper class’ entertainers.

Then the biggest mistake of the government, they tried to start blaming health and care workers for the lack of PPE. As health workers saw increased deaths amongst colleagues and feared going to work, that the government tried to blame them brought howls of outrage across the country.


OBEYING THE LOCKDOWN: You wouldn’t think it from government and media blaming and shaming, but the public response to social distancing has been remarkable. With rare exceptions, the lockdown has been well observed and community support for one another has soared. We’ve seen the best in people. Many have been surprised at how well people have recognised the rules. Especially young people, for whom misleading talk might have led them to believe they would not be affected.

That didn’t stop TV pictures of a couple walking a dog in the big spaces of the Peak District. Of one woman alone on a beach being moved by police, or of Central News last Friday showing pictures of (much reduced) traffic on the M42 asking ‘where are they going?’ Yet on the mile long section of road filmed, there were only 4 cars!

But, as government finger pointing at the public went against what most of us experienced, and even the Government had to admit “they were surprised at the public response to supporting lockdown” (BBC), they had to start ‘backing off’.

FOOTBALLERS: Matt Hancock pointed the finger at wealthy footballers not donating. There can be few of us sports lovers who welcome the huge salaries for the minority of super-successful footballers, but this attack was not made on absentee, Tax dodging billionaires, or the less working class elements of the entertainment industry and just revealed Tory dislike of working class kids doing well. But to their credit, footballers organised themselves to donate directly to health services and not hand money back to their often very wealthy owners. Again the government had to back off.

HEALTH WORKERS ‘MISUSING’ PPE. The government shot themselves in the foot here. Some Trusts were close to or actually running out of PPE over the weekend. Dr Rob Harwood chair of the BMA Consultants, said: We “should not expect people to expose themselves to potential risk to their lives during the course of their work. It’s a real disappointment to us that Government has been unable, even after a month, to address this progressively worsening shortage of PPE”.

Note from his comment that the situation is “worsening”. Ministers have tried to claim it was a distribution problem but it’s becoming clearer it’s a supply problem. Meanwhile they admit to 27 health workers dying from Covid, As of April 18, The Guardian says it knew of at least 58, the Times confirms this figure.

If we might advise the government: people are sick of this deflection and hiding. If there’s a shortage, say so. Don’t keep pretending there’s enough and blame shifting. Get on with putting it right! Stop debating contracts with private firms, and mobilise the relevant parts of British industry to get the stuff made.

To add to all this, is the horrible truth coming out about infections and deaths in care homes, the deaths of transport workers and while Mr Hancock claims cancer and other treatments should be carrying on, there has even been talk of up to 60,000 deaths from other illnesses that are not fully treated as hospitals are diverted to Covid treatment.


DOES ALL THIS MATTER FOR THE IMMEDIATE FUTURE?   –   SIMPLE ANSWER ‘YES’.

WHEN GOVERNMENT SUPPORTERS SAY ‘KEEP POLITICS OUT OF IT’ ARE THEY RIGHT?  –  SIMPLE ANSWER ‘NO’.

As we all fight to win against Covid, we want the best ways to win. It is widely recognised now that the government squandered time despite the warnings from China and Italy. Sir Jeremy Farrar of the government’s own SAGE committee said ‘UK is likely to be one of the worst, if not the worst in Europe’ for deaths and infections.

Government supporters cry that ‘Politics should be taken out of it’, but the problem is two-fold.

First that past ‘politics’ got us ‘behind the curve’ in the first place, with decisions to run down pandemic preparation due to austerity, decisions to break up and fragment health and social care for their ‘market’ in health care that has led to uncoordinated procurement of materials and uncoordinated Laboratories, decisions to rely on ‘just in time production’ and to outsource production of vital materials to cheap labour economies. This has already cost thousands of lives.

Secondly, we want to win the war against the virus and we don’t think this lot are up to it. We had the wrong preparation and then the wrong response. The Times revealed government simply didn’t take this seriously enough. Fortunately for us all, the government dropped ‘herd immunity’ and started using the state to organise, but their love of relying on the market means they are still way behind catching up with the virus. Cabinet members who ‘hate the state’ are clearly unsuitable for the job.

These issues are biting government now and instead of spending time covering their backsides at press conferences, they need to get on with it and mobilise all resources to fight this virus.

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HOW TO GET OUT OF THIS?

The growth of the death rate appears to be levelling off but we are not out of the woods by a long way. The ‘plateau’ that they talk about looks like hundreds of deaths per day for a significant period. Without adequate testing any attempt to leave lockdown risks a deadly second wave and cycles of release and lockdown.

The only way out until a vaccine is available for all, is by testing, tracing isolating – hunting the virus down and keeping people away from it, and to stop it spreading in hospitals and care homes protecting our health, social care and other workers.

But with testing at only 20,000 per day when what’s needed is 500,000 per day, things don’t look good. That’s why there’s cabinet division on coming out of lockdown.

What is required is a huge mobilisation of our industry and our labour to provide a system of testing tracing and isolating. Something we simply aren’t seeing.

SOCIALISM

Against their will and to save capitalism amidst the greatest economic crisis since the 1930s, the capitalists and their parties have been forced to use massive state intervention. However the example of the nationalisation of the Banks in the crisis a decade ago shows they will bail out the bankers and wealthy shareholders at the expense of the working class.

An editorial in the recent issue of ‘the Socialist’ commented: “A genuine exit strategy – not just from the pandemic, but from the austerity, poverty and exploitation that the capitalist profit system generates – will only be possible in a fundamentally different kind of society.

“This would be based on public ownership of industry, services and finance, in which the planning that governments have been randomly groping towards in this crisis – to build the hospitals, secure essential equipment such as ventilators and masks, distribute food, etc – could be extended to the whole of the economy.

“Working-class people could then democratically decide and prioritise where the enormous wealth that already exists, and will be created in the future, should be spent.”

JOIN US!

**BREAKING: APRIL 21ST OFFICE FOR NATIONAL STATISTICS (ONS) REVEALS THAT DEATHS ARE 40% HIGHER THAN GOVERNMENT FIGURES.

COVID-19 hypocrisy of Tories and their billionaire backers

If thousands of beds can be found for Nightingale hospitals, why couldn’t they be found in the past when the NHS was stretched to breaking point?

When on so many occasions people were forced to wait in ambulances or trolleys?

Coronavirus response could create ‘very serious unintended consequences’ says the HSJ (Health Service Journal)

HSJ says ‘Non-coronavirus patients at serious risk due to huge focus on fighting virus’

‘National NHS leaders are to take action over growing fears that the “unintended consequences” of focusing so heavily on tackling covid-19 could do more harm than the virus, HSJ has learned.’

NHS England analysts have been tasked with identifying patients who may not have the virus but may be at risk of significant harm or death because they are missing vital appointments or not attending emergency departments, with both the service and public so focused on covid-19.

A senior NHS source was quoted: “There could be some very serious unintended consequences. While there will be a lot of COVID-19 fatalities, we could end up losing more ‘years of life’ because of fatalities relating to non-COVID-19 health complications.

“What we don’t want to do is take our eye off the ball in terms of all the core business and all the other healthcare issues the NHS normally attends to… People will be developing symptoms of serious but treatable diseases.”

Unless urgent action is taken people suffering strokes, or from cancer, heart conditions and more could end up as part of a silent death toll.

A member comments: “What does the Catherine Armstrong case tell us?

Scotland’s chief medical officer was the public face of the TV campaign to get people to stay at home and then bobs off to her second home for two weekends!

The lockdown is being largely effective because of the responsible actions of millions of working people and the bravery of others. Yet, every day people are being shamed for being 10 yards apart in a park while the chief medical officer does this!

I’ve met no-one who isn’t shocked at the selfishness and stupidity. And few who aren’t angry at the ‘one rule for us, another rule for them’ mentality.

Doesn’t it echo the MP’s expenses scandal and many similar stories we’ve heard? Where expenses claims were beyond the outrageous. Where Ian Duncan Smith could proclaim ‘the end of something for nothing’ regarding Benefits and at the same time make expenses claims for a hair-cut? (What hair?)

Just how corrupt or out of touch are those who climb the greasy pole to the top of our system?

For a chief medical officer to tell people stuck in flats, often with kids and no gardens to go in, that they must stay at home while not only can she go to her first home’s considerable garden but buggers off to a second home (a pre-requisite it seems for our upwardly mobile upper professional class).

How is it they can feel no pressure from the rest of us to be accountable or even considerate, never mind do their job properly?  Is it the breakdown of social solidarity following the “no such thing as society” mantra of Thatcherism? The mantra that meant MP’s could fiddle their expenses without a tinge of guilt? Or what else could make them feel no connect to others in society, no being bound by the same rules as the ‘rest of us’?

Whatever it is, we must fight to put an end to this hypocritical ‘I’m alright Jack’. There needs to be a huge democratic and accountability shake-up to end a situation where elected and appointed officials feel no connection to we ordinary millions. The ordinary millions without whom nothing would work anyway.

We should ensure that democratic and accountable bodies run our public services. Public representatives like MP’s should get the wage of an average skilled worker not way more. Stop the gravy train where people stand to be reps to fill their pockets instead of fighting to improve conditions for all. Then they can rise with the rest of us.”

Reports are emerging that MP’s are to get an extra £10,000 to work from home. This can’t be true, someone tell us it’s fake news….

Tories lecture us on selfishness while Branson seeks a bail out

After years of telling us ‘there’s no such thing as society’, that we’ve ‘all got to look after number one’, and of MP’s feeding in the trough and of taking lucrative executive positions in private companies, it’s a bit rich of Tory ministers to tell people not to be selfish!

And while they pick on predominantly working class footballers, demanding a pay cut, they don’t talk about the billionaires and super rich in society. Indeed one of them, Mr Branson is appealing for a public bailout for his company despite having a personal fortune that could cover those financial issues many times over.

And, while there’s talk of hoarding…  What about £13 trillion hoarded in tax havens around the world? Money that could be used to improve economies and peoples’ lives across the world.

Corona crisis: A commentary on some of the major issues so far

We have brought together below a series of short stories about the coronavirus crisis from members stuck in isolation and those still at work .

A Nuneaton nurse made this desperate comment: We’re “like Lambs being led to the slaughter”, as heroes are put at risk because of a lack of protective equipment and testing.

LACK OF VIRUS TESTING – becoming a national scandal.

Testing of Health workers in England began on Saturday 28th March – 58 days since the first case of Coronavirus!

How crazy is it that Health workers have not been tested from the start? Health workers staying at home isolating in case they have the virus may not have it, and health workers remaining at work could be infected and spreading the virus to patients and each other.

Health workers risking their own lives to treat us are not tested and scandalously, still don’t have anything like enough access to Personal Protection Equipment that would make them much safer, and therefore able to carry on treating us.

The almost criminal lack of testing means that Government advice if you get symptoms, is “Stay at home and isolate”, ‘Don’t go to hospitals or doctors surgeries’.

But, apparently not everybody. Eyebrows were raised when Prince Charles with “mild symptoms” went to hospital and was tested. Then Boris Johnson has the same and gets tested immediately. Meanwhile Health workers and the rest of us don’t. One rule for them, another for the rest of us.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says ‘test, test, test’ if you’re to successfully fight the disease. But that advice has not been followed to date and is jeopardising us all. Simon Stevens, NHS boss says they’ll do hundreds of tests this weekend, but there’s hundreds of thousands of health workers! What’s needed is tens and tens of thousands.

And what’s the point of thousands of retired NHS staff volunteering to return to help if the government is going to let thousands of staff disappear from the service because they fall ill? Or of workers infecting patients because they don’t know they have the virus?

All of this starkly reveals to us all the way in which the underfunding of our NHS and the lack of preparation for a pandemic by government, is now endangering us all.

Where are we with testing?

“You cannot fight a fire blindfolded…test, test, test” said the director general of the World Health Organisation regarding fighting coronavirus.

Yet last week only 3,746 patients were tested per day. This compares to say 15,000 in Korea, 40,000 in Germany. Consultant Cardiologist Mark Gallagher called this a “policy of surrender.” “They are abandoning the basic principles for dealing with an epidemic… test whenever possible, trace contacts and contain.”

Johnson says the government is “ramping up” testing to 25,000 a day, but it could take 4 weeks to reach this level.

The editor of the medical journal the Lancet said “these dangers were clear from the very beginning. We have wasted seven weeks.” There must be an immediate massive injection of money and resources into the NHS and social care to expand the supply of beds, equipment and staff. All private medical facilities and testing and processing facilities should be requisitioned and integrated into the NHS.

A HEALTH SERVICE UNDER-FUNDED AND UNDER-PREPARED:

The crisis has revealed how the cutbacks in NHS spending have left the service inadequately prepared. Already overstretched every winter and recently most of summer as well, Government policy, combined with privatisation in the service had led to a huge under-capacity of beds, Intensive Care beds, doctors and nurses even in normal times. It has left workers with too little Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and the service short of ventilators. (ventilators pump oxygen into seriously ill patients).

They have run the NHS at 99% capacity with no slack in the system to deal with any exceptional situation. Running hospitals like a car factory – ‘maximum efficiency’. But the NHS isn’t a car factory, it’s a care system for humans.

Some facts:

  • Italy had TWICE our number of Intensive Care beds.
  • The UK has one of the lowest number of doctors and nurses per head of population (in OECD countries)
  • The UK has fewer acute beds relative to its population than many comparable health systems
  • Government failed to increase Nurse numbers –not helped by starting to charge people to train as nurses!
  • Hospital beds halved over the past 30 years, from around 299,000 in 1987/88 to 141,000 in 2018/9
  • This is A HEALTH SERVICE UNPREPARED BY YEARS OF AUSTERITY AND INCREASED PRIVATISATION:

One vow we must all make is that we will never let our NHS be made so weak ever again.

As the deadly pandemic spreads what has been revealed is that years of government austerity had left our NHS unable to cope with such a virus. We should have known, as there were enough reports of the health service struggling every winter and even in summer.

It’s now obvious that the NHS had too few beds, too few doctors and too few nurses.

Numbers not helped by the governments attack on Junior doctors, by their charging fees for people to train as nurses which dramatically cut the number of trainees and numbers reduced by the pressure of work which drove many prematurely from the service.

But even when it was known the virus was coming (while some believed it was only flu and were unprepared, that’s ok because it isn’t the public’s job to know, but it was the governments job to know and prepare) the lack of preparation and time wasted to take measures about the lack of ventilators, intensive care beds, staff and testing was a failing.

Has Government acted quickly enough?

Lack of preparation, a changed strategy and the gap between words and deeds

We’ve all seen reports ‘we’re 2 weeks behind Italy’ and events are truly scary there. That health workers have only just begun to be tested, and in small numbers, and many still lack protective equipment shows how inadequate the response here has been.

Last week’s dramatic increase in cases seems to have moved the Government from complacency to panic stations. All talk of ‘herd immunity’ was dropped after the Imperial College study indicated that 500,000 deaths could ensue, and necessary social isolation was increased.

But inadequate action was taken over testing despite the World Health organisation saying it was vital to combat the virus –and we won’t be able to emerge from lockdown until huge scale testing is available. That, combined with austerity and the historic lack of beds, doctors, nurses, ventilators and vital protection equipment has meant desperate catch up measures by a government forced to drop its free market ideas – temporarily at least.

But the gap between the promises and reality still looms large. Government statements say they’ll do all that’s necessary without ever saying what exactly.

They failed to be part of an order organised by the EU for ventilators because ‘they didn’t see the e-mail’.   They claim to have lots of PPE but every day some doctors and health staff say they’re not getting enough.

Health experts are saying that lack of action could lead to thousands of extra lost lives. Crowded public transport and who are essential workers is still unresolved. The self-employed ‘will be helped’ –but not til June at least. People trying to access universal credit joined queues of hundreds of thousands! Disabled and seriously ill people struggle to access food deliveries – supermarkets still claim not to have had list of the 1.5million vulnerable people from Government.

From Zeroes to Heroes ……….and back to zeroes afterwards?

No Prince, Prime minister, Lord or Dame has failed to point out how they took to the streets to join the rest of us in applauding Health-workers, be they nurses, cleaners, doctors or whatever.

Plainly, all should applaud the NHS and other essential staff. However it has taken a pandemic to remind some in this country that without cleaners, binworkers and the like we’d all die anyway, -to remind us that all workers are useful.

What a contrast with beforehand. As part of its’ ‘assault on the public sector’ the government not long ago sought to encourage Junior doctors to stay in the NHS by pushing them out onto strike! One newspaper – you can guess which – editorialised that all the doctors should be sacked. MP’s also cheered after voting to restrict nurses pay and they began charging fees for people to train as nurses.

Hospital parking charges: – meanwhile our heroes have been charged to park for just going to work and risking their lives to help us all. They’ve happily been charging workers for years. At Coventry’s UHCW the private company (under the Private Finance Initiative – PFI- deal) made £2.7 million profit in its first year, which last year that rose to a staggering £8 million +. None of this goes back into healthcare, but is a flow of £1 coins into a multi-national’s bank account.

As public support for health-workers soared and petitions gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures the government realised that they’d better be seen to do something. Firstly, well done and thank you to all of you that surged to sign our petition against parking charges at Coventry’s hospitals and to the at least 400,000 who signed a national petition.

NHS minister Matt Hancock said the charges would be dropped. But it’s not clear how this will work for PFI hospitals. Hancock merely said he “urged” Hospital Trusts to drop the charges. We’d be interested to hear from Health workers at UHCW what’s actually happened.

So let’s keep the pressure up, and health service Trade Unions, Get onto this!

And as this pandemic fades, don’t let workers be pushed back from Heroes to Zeroes.

Worker at a major food distribution centre: “Amid the chaos of coronavirus, it is interesting to note that on the Tory governments list of key workers not one billionaire is mentioned.”

We’re all socialists now?

The Coronavirus crisis and the utter incapacity of the ‘free market’ to deal with it have forced the government into dramatic interventions. Tory ministers have been forced to rip up all their old ideas.

They cut and privatised in the past, now they are nationalising and spending! Governments around the world are abandoning their neo-liberal ‘let the market decide’ policies. One commentator in the Telegraph said “To avert socialism, we must briefly become socialists, we must spend whatever it takes to save free market liberalism” In other words, they are currently scared their system is being exposed, but as soon as possible they want to return to their old ways.

Millions who’ve suffered or seen poverty and insecurity will ask themselves why can’t governments act for us in normal times? Why if billions of pounds (magic money trees) can be found now, why was it not available when we were struggling under austerity? And why should these measures only be used briefly to save capitalism and not to save society?

Only a few months ago Corbyn was ridiculed for saying money should be spent to invest in improving our society, when he argued for rail nationalisation -which has now happened in practice – they said it made him ‘unfit for government’.

Government has asked firms to convert production, so why can’t production be re-purposed all the time to make socially useful products jobs and skills and to help society?

A US doctor made a plea for “a plan” to cooperate and collaborate in dealing with the crisis, but Socialists argue that you can’t organise production and distribution for need while big business puts profits first. A Vaccine was close to production for a previous corona outbreak, but it was never finished because the virus didn’t become widespread enough for a big enough ‘market’ to make profits from. Understandable for a private firm, but incomprehensible in societal terms.

Big pharma should be integrated into the NHS to guarantee research and the production of medicines, vaccines and treatments.

This lack of planning comes from a system driven only by profit and not human needs. More and more the state is having to intervene to overcome market inadequacies. It reveals the need for planning the economy to coordinate production and distribution of goods, services, medical supplies etc. That can only be done if the major manufacturing, service and finance industries are taken into democratic public ownership.

The supporters of the free market will want to go back to it as soon as this blows over, we must stop them and win support for a new Socialist and democratic way of organising society

Is a cure on the horizon? by former GP Jon Dale

‘Testing large numbers is critical to fight epidemics. Small biotech companies employing 20-30 scientists are rapidly developing faster, more accurate tests. But they may be too late for this pandemic.

Private investment in these bio-tech companies between 2015-19 was 6 times less than in companies researching treatments where higher profits are hoped for. (one expert commenting on inadequate diagnostics) said it was “a market failure” that diagnostics were less valued than treatments.

Large companies making diagnostic tests don’t invest in tests that may not be needed, they want guaranteed sales. A Socialist plan of production would combine laboratory research with modern purpose built factories, prepared for new infectious outbreaks.

Public ownership and investment, not short term profit hunting, would save many lives.’

Tests for all now! Nationalise production and research. While we await a cure, we can cure the system that holds us back in the our fight against epidemics

Council cuts could cost Labour another general election

Rebecca Long-Bailey - would you stand firm against the capitalist class? photo Paul Mattsson

Clive Walder, Birmingham South West Socialist Party

150 people tuned out in Birmingham to hear Rebecca Long-Bailey’s pitch for the Labour leadership. The decline in Momentum’s influence and the partial demobilisation of Labour members is reflected in the fact that Jeremy Corbyn spoke to an audience of 800 in the same venue in 2015.

A Birmingham Labour councillor, reflecting public despair at the relentless cuts in council budgets, asked what she would do to help Labour councillors who didn’t want to vote for cuts. All she said was that she would enable councillors to show people how good things could be under a Labour government, while they are cutting services beyond the bone!

There was no mention of no-cuts budgets or using borrowing powers and reserves to protect services. She was also taken to task by a Labour member for signing up to the International Holocaust Remembrance Association’s definition of antisemitism.

Rebecca made many good points that Socialist Party members would agree with. Building 100,000 council houses a year, providing secure, well-paid employment, ending the race to the bottom and blaming the near collapse of public services on underfunding not immigration.

She talked about aspirations for improved conditions of life, but this wasn’t linked to the need for socialist policies or the need to change society. The word ‘socialist’ was only mentioned once.

Rebecca Long-Bailey is a long way from the socialist leader that workers need. The battle for a worker’s party needs to continue.