Friday, August 26, 2005

Why did Paul Coker die?

by Daphne Liddle

AROUND 100 family friends and supporters of Paul Coker, who died in mysterious circumstances in Plumstead police station on 6th August, held a protest vigil outside the station on Tuesday evening.
The event was supported by the Families for Justice Campaign, the Uhuru Movement and Greenwich Council for Racial Equality. It attracted support from many passers-by who had been unaware of the tragedy.
Paul came from a mixed family – an African father and English mother. They were present with his girlfriend, his sisters and their children as well as uncles and aunts, all deeply shocked by Paul’s sudden, unexplained death.
He had been arrested, allegedly for causing a disturbance, subdued by several police officers and then put in a cell. The next thing the family knew was that the police were informing them that Paul was dead – with no explanation of how it happened.
The tragedy is being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. While that investigation is proceeding, the police are refusing to tell the family anything. An official post mortem has been inconclusive.
Feelings ran high a few times on Tuesday evening, with some of Paul’s friends expressing their anger to the police very forcefully.
Police officers based at Plumstead Police station over 10 years ago significantly failed to arrest the racist killers of black teenager Stephen Lawrence.
After the McPherson inquiry into Stephen Lawrence’s killing, which exposed the deep-seated institutional racism of the police who dealt with the case, big changes were supposed to have happened at Plumstead police station and it seemed in recent years that relations with the local black community had been improving.
Paul Coker knew Stephen Lawrence; they had attended the same school. Paul was the son of Sam Coker, a former councillor and political activist who had been among many at an anti-racist meeting at nearby Welling library that was attacked by British National Party thugs. Sam, a former Nigerian army PT instructor, had leapt out of an upstairs window in order to grapple with a couple of fascists in the street below. Paul also kept himself very fit.

won case

Paul Coker had won a compensation case against the police six years ago and had initiated a second legal action against the prison service, claiming he had been assaulted by a prison officer while serving a one-year sentence for burglary.
On 6th August police were called to Paul’s girlfriend’s flat because of a disturbance, the two had had a loud argument. By the time the police arrived the argument was over but 10 officers arrested Paul anyway.
Lucy, the girlfriend, said that police had barred her from the flat during the arrest. She said she could hear him screaming: “You are killing me. You are killing me,” in a way she had never heard a man scream before. Then all went quiet and the police carried Paul out. He was not struggling.
He was found dead at 6.45am but Lucy was not told until 11am and Paul’s mother was not told until 3pm.
Markhan Bajwa, who chairs GCRE, said: “Most of these deaths in custody involve young black men. I don’t know what happens when people go into a police station and end up dead. How can a fit young man go into a station and be dead within two hours?”

as long as it takes

During the picket of the police station last Tuesday there was a short ceremony as the family laid flowers by the police station entrance and their vicar said a prayer. Paul’s mother made a brief speech in which she pledged to her son to fight for justice for as long as it takes.
She told the crowd that Paul had been a fit and healthy young man and had written some poetry. One of his poems was entitled “Time is the master”. Patricia Coker declared: “Indeed time is the master and time will see that justice is done for my son.”

Gate Gourmet talks break down

THREE-WAY talks between the Transport and General Workers’ Union, the airline catering company Gate Gourmet and British Airways broke down in acrimony last Tuesday.
Talks may resume again within a few days but TGWU chief negotiator Brendan Gould said: “I am despondent and disgusted at the way things have been concluded and I feel very frustrated at the lack of progress. Everything we were working towards has collapsed.”
The sticking point in the negotiations is the refusal by Gate Gourmet to reinstate all the workers sacked three weeks ago after deliberate and calculated provocation by the company led to a walkout.
They have agreed to reinstate most of those sacked but still want to exclude those they label as troublemakers – meaning union activists and those who will encourage their fellow workers to resist cuts in wages and conditions. The TGWU is adamant that all must be reinstated.
This was part of a strategy by Gate Gourmet to replace its existing workforce entirely with an even lower paid one. The sacking led to an unofficial solidarity walk-out by BA’s baggage handlers that halted all BA flights from Heathrow over three days and cost BA millions.
The Texas-based Gate Gourmet claimed financial difficulties and says the terms of its contract to supply BA with airline food are causing its operation in Britain to make a loss.
During negotiations it set a deadline of Tuesday night for BA to come up with an improved contract – or Gate Gourmet would put itself into administration.
BA claims that just such a contract has been on the table for some weeks. But it said that Gate Gourmet must resolve its dispute with its staff before it can be implemented.
There are reports that, behind the scenes, the Government is putting pressure on Gate Gourmet to agree to a settlement because it is concerned that further strikes could paralyse Heathrow.
The sacked catering workers are mainly from the local Asian community, which supplies most of Heathrow’s staff. There is a high degree of sympathy for the sacked workers because of the way in which they were treated.
The TGWU asserts that Gate Gourmet’s threats to go into administration are simple blackmail.
TGWU general secretary Tony Woodley told a packed meeting of sacked workers and their supporters in a local Sikh temple that the company had planned to go into administration as a tactic to cut the workforce and wage levels.
“They always planned to do it,” he said. “They planned to go in and out of administration to put more pressure on BA so they could fulfil their cynical and well-thought-out plan. There was no consideration whatsoever for the effect on you, your families or the communities you live in.”
He said the dispute had implications for labour relations throughout Britain. “This is an issue for the whole country. Can a company walk into Britain and plan the cynical sacking of innocent men and women to cut costs and be allowed to get away with it? I say no.”
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber told the meeting: “I sense the British public share our outrage about what has happened. For a company in Britain today to say ‘you are sacked and you are sacked and you are sacked …’ – that is not the way we do business. If this dispute is not resolved, that message will just not just go around this country but around the world.”
Local Labour MPs John McDonnell, Anne Keen and Piara Khabra are backing the sacked workers, many of who are facing serious financial hardship.
The root of the problem lies in Britain’s anti-trade union laws, dating back to the Thatcher era, which forbid solidarity strikes and prevent the unions defending the workers effectively.
The Blair government is also blocking the implementation of the European Union’s “Agency Workers Directive” which would provide temporary workers with same pay and conditions as permanent staff.
Trade unions throughout the EU have been lobbying hard to get this law approved.
If enacted, companies like Gate Gourmet would no longer be able to use agency staff as cheap labour at the expense of full time workers.

The mystery of the missing footage

LONDON Underground managers and police officers last week clashed over the disappearance of crucial CCTV footage at Stockwell station on the afternoon of 22nd July, when the innocent Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes was shot and killed by undercover police, who mistook him for a terrorist suspect.
Two Brazilian government officials arrived in London last Monday to conduct their own investigation after last week’s revelations that the police allowed a host of misleading and inaccurate versions of the events at Stockwell to prevail.
The leaks came from the investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Authority (IPCC) and show that, far from fleeing the police and vaulting the ticket barrier, Menezes, unaware that police were tracking him, entered the station calmly, took up a free newspaper, used his oyster card to go through the ticket barrier normally and walked on to the train normally.
He was not wearing a padded jacket but a light denim jacket on that hot day and police had overpowered him before he was shot eight times in the head and shoulder.
Yet just hours after the shooting Metropolitan Police chief Sir Ian Blair told the world’s press the misleading stories about a hot pursuit into the Tube station, the ticket barrier being vaulted and the padded jacket that might have concealed a suicide bomb.
Now Sir Ian Blair says he was not even told that his officers had shot the wrong man until 24 hours after the event.
Police are denying a cover up but the disappearance of the CCTV footage is all the more damning.
A police document states that none of the cameras at the scene of the shooting were working on 22nd July. They told the IPCC that the cameras in the station and on the train were not operating on that day. This is totally at odds with what the Tube station manager says and the company that operates the station – Tubelines.
The police written statement says: “Stockwell station and environs has been surveyed and all existing CCTV has been seized.
“During the course of this it has been established that although there was onboard CCTV in the train, due to previous incidents the hard drive has been removed and not replaced.
“It has also been established that there has been a technical problem with the CCTV equipment on the relevant platform and no footage exists.”
Since then Tubelines has told the press: “We are not aware of any faults on CCTV cameras at that station on that day. Nothing of that nature has been reported to us.”
However one union official pointed out that Met officers had emptied the cameras the day before, in order to investigate the failed 21st July attempted bombings.
The Tubelines report says that Jean de Menezes would have passed eight cameras – two in the station entrance pointing at the ticket barrier, another two at different points on the escalator and another at the bottom. More cameras at each end of the platform would also have caught him on film.
Meanwhile, from his holiday resort in Barbados, Prime Minister Tony Blair is giving full support to Sir Ian Blair.
But former Cabinet Minister Clare Short said that it was now clear the public had been misled about the shooting. “We’ve been lied to. This should be bigger than just calling for Sir Ian Blair to go. We need to find out exactly what happened. Who was telling us the lies?”

TGWU to sue Stratford food company

AMBALA, a food company based in Stratford, east London, faces legal action over claims that it mistreated workers during a pay dispute earlier this year.
The Transport and General Workers’ Union (TGWU) has instructed lawyers to prepare a case against Ambala Foods in Bridgewater Road.
Staff at the factory, which produces hand-made Indian sweets, started a series of one-day weekly walkouts in April in protest at a two-year pay freeze.
Many workers earn just above the minimum wage for skilled, labour-intensive work. The dispute soured when two part-time workers said they were sacked for taking part in the strikes and the company claimed non-striking staff suffered harassment.
TGWU officer Bill Hodge said lawyers were preparing a case against the company over terms of employment and matters arising from the dispute.
The company claims that it is willing to negotiate with the TGWU. It says that workers are paid on average £7 an hour and that no one is paid less than the Government minimum wage. It also claims that it cannot afford to increase wages.
“If we increased the pay then the company would not make any profit. If the company’s earnings and productivity improved then wages, which currently run at 35 per cent of total revenue would improve,” said one company spokesperson.
Bill Hodge said: “There are a number of areas where we believe that the employer has acted unlawfully in the treatment of members of the TGWU union employed at Ambala.
“We have instructed lawyers to examine matters closely and make an application to the employment tribunal on behalf of those affected.
“This company has some of the worst employment processes I have experienced in the last 20 years. However, previous attempts to secure the interests of our members have been to no avail. Therefore we are obliged to take the final course of action available to us.”

Dinner ladies victory

THE GMB union has won sizable compensation for 17 dinner ladies employed by the London Borough of Brent in an out of court settlement against school meals private contractors Scolarest and Caterhouse Limited.
The women called on their trade union GMB for help when Brent’s schools meals contract was awarded to Scholarest and Caterhouse private contractors and the women’s right to keep their jobs while transferring to their employment contracts to the new employers was questioned by the private contractors.
Mary Turner, GMB National President and former dinner lady, will be presenting the cheque to the women on Thursday, along with GMB Organiser Tony Warr outside Brent town hall.
Anita Vadgama of Thompsons solicitors took the case on for GMB members.
GMB national president Mary Turner said: “GMB has won justice for these women who provide a vital service to the children and parents of Brent and who’s right to continue to do so was questioned by private contractors watching out for their profit margins.”

Friday, August 19, 2005

What's New on London Communists?

Our Communist Heritage
Four new entries including the pub that Lenin used; streets named after Lenin and Marx;Brixton prison and British communists on stamps.

Ernie Trory Books
Three essays by Ernie added.

More New Worker reports and archive at:
The New Worker Online digest

Irreconcilable differences

BRITISH AIRWAYS services from Heathrow Airport last weekend were brought to a standstill by an unofficial walkout by baggage handlers in solidarity with the sacked catering workers at Gateway Gourmet, the American-owned company that supplies in-flight meals to BA.

The reaction was spontaneous at the appalling and provocative way the Gateway Gourmet workers had been treated. The company had long been in financial trouble and had been locked in negotiations with the Transport and General Workers’ Union over redundancies.

In the middle of these negotiations the company introduced 130 new temporary seasonal workers – on lower wages and reduced conditions. No wonder the Gateway Gourmet workers were shocked. If the company needed extra workers, why was it trying to make redundant the workers it already had?

It was all part of a carefully worked out plan to sack the entire current workforce and take on instead a new workforce at much reduced wages and conditions. The workers, as expected, stopped working. While in the company car park they were told by megaphone that they had 20 minutes to return to their posts or be sacked. The message was garbled and many did not hear or realise what was happening.

The company then sacked its entire staff, including those on holiday or off sick, on the grounds that they were taking part in an “illegal strike”. The sacking notices had been prepared beforehand, as had the new lower-paid workforce.

Then the Daily Mirror published a leaked company memo, revealing that a year ago Gateway Gourmet had planned exactly such a manoeuvre to provoke its workers into a strike in order to sack the lot and replace them with a cheaper workforce. The chances of such a strike spreading within the airport had been recognised but discounted.

As news of the company’s cynical tactics spread, solidarity has poured in for the workers from all around the globe. The irony is that in Britain, the TGWU is barred by law from supporting the strike by the Gateway Gourmet workers and the spontaneous solidarity action by the baggage handlers. All the union can do is to act as a go-between, trying to negotiate a settlement and it must dissociate itself from the strike – or face bankruptcy.

This case like no other illustrates how Britain’s anti-trade union laws allow outrageous employers to walk all over the workforce. The company claims it wants to get rid of “outdated 1970s working practices” – meaning workers having any rights at all. They seek to replace 1970s working practices with the “master and servant” laws of the 18th century.

TGWU general secretary Tony Woodley calls for the repeal of the anti-union laws that breach the conventions of the International Labour Organisation – to which Britain is a signatory. Our working class has fewer freedoms and trade union rights than those in Europe or the United States and bosses take advantage.

Woodley goes on to say that this case highlights the dangers of the contracting out culture where large “respected” companies like BA sub-contract work they used to do themselves to cowboy companies like Gateway Gourmet who will cut wages and conditions to a bare minimum using the most outrageous manoeuvres but allowing BA to pretend the dispute is outside of its control.

But Woodley also says that repealing the anti-union laws will improve workplace relations and this will benefit everyone involved.

He’s wrong. Like many other social democrats he rejects the concept that there is an irreconcilable difference between what is good for the bosses and what is good for the workers. He tries to appeal to the better nature of the capitalists, asking them to recognise that solidarity and collective bargaining is a natural impulse for workers. The employers know it only too well, which is why they ban it if they can.

This is a class war. The contradiction between the interests of the bosses and the interests of the workers is the fundamental driving force that will eventually lead to the overthrow of capitalism.

The bosses know it and our trade union leaders should know it too. It is a no-holds-barred war. Asking nicely is not good enough. The organised working class must be organised strongly enough to be in a position to demand or it will always be weak and outmanoeuvred by greedy bosses.

America’s obligation to Vietnam

by Rob Laurie

A JOINT delegation lead by Len Aldis, Secretary of the British Vietnam Friendship Society, which included Dr Madeline Sharp of Medical and Scientific Aid for Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia Aid (MSAVLA), recently held talks with the United States Embassy in London to appeal for the United States Government to assist Vietnamese in overcoming a particularly tragic legacy of America’s war in Vietnam.

Unexploded ammunition, in particular landmines are a common hazard in many former war zones. But Vietnam suffers from even graver problems. It is 30 years since American forces were forced out in 1975. In the course of the war over three million Vietnamese people lost their lives. As if the injuries of the survivors were not enough, a new generation is paying the penalty for America’s war of aggression.

During the 21 years of the war the US forces sprayed a total of 82,000,000 litres of the defoliant Agent Orange over vast areas of South Vietnam to deny forest cover to the Vietnamese resistance. The barren hills of southern Vietnam are testimony of the effectiveness of this poison.

Agent Orange has left a dreadful legacy. Environmentalists say that it will take 150 years to even begin to restore the forests, but the human legacy is even more devastating.

Shortly after the war there were many children born with horrific deformities. Today this is being repeated as children born to parents who themselves were not even born during the war have defects. Vietnam has the highest number of conjoined twins in the world today while cancer rates are very high. Medical opinion has not yet established if this is a result of a genetic mutation or if it is caused by Agent Orange entering the food chain. It has been clearly established by many scientists including those in the American National Academy of Sciences that Agent Orange is responsible for such widespread illnesses and defects.

Soldiers and their families from America’s allies in Australia, New Zealand and south Korea have also suffered. Many American veterans including Colin Powell have suffered from the effects of Agent Orange. They have been compensated following the 1996 announcement by President Clinton to pay compensation to the American Vietnam veterans “to ease the suffering our nation unintentionally caused its own sons and daughters by exposing them to Agent Orange in Vietnam”.

It was unfortunate that at the time no mention was made of the sons and daughters of Vietnam exposed to Agent Orange.

While the Vietnamese government and Red Cross do what they can the only overseas support comes for charities such as the MSAVLA and an International Friendship Village in Vietnam founded by an American veteran to provide sheltered accommodation and workshops for victims.

At the London meeting the delegation urged George W Bush, who is visiting Vietnam, to see for himself the consequences of Agent Orange and to provide adequate compensation to the victims. A letter to this effect was handed over to the incoming Ambassador. Anyone wishing to support this campaign can sign the online petition at

This now has 690,000 signatures from across the globe. Labour MP Harry Cohen has put down an Early Day Motion (605) calling for the United Nations to make 10th August, the day Agent Orange was first used an International day for Victims of Chemical Weapons.

* Protesters from the Alliance of Patriots for the Re-foundation of the Congo
(APARECO) and the African Liberation Support Campaign (ALISC) last Wednesday mounted a demonstration outside the heavily fortified United States Embassy in London’s Grosvenor Square. They were protesting against the invasion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire, and earlier the Belgian Congo) by Rwanda. This invasion is effectively supported by George W Bush and his sidekick Tony Blair who are arming Rwanda in order to further their neo-colonialist struggle to secure control of Congo’s huge mineral wealth which includes gold and diamonds.
Over four million people have died in the war in the Congo; this is only one of many proxy wars in Africa by which arms companies in the imperialist countries grow rich by selling weapons to their stooges.

Cowboy caterer faces collapse

by Caroline Colebrook

GATEWAY Gourmet (GG), the American owned company at the centre of the strike that paralysed British Airways services from Heathrow Airport last weekend, is likely to lose its contract with BA after the Daily Mirror published evidence that the company had deliberately provoked the strike.

The evidence took the form of a leaked internal company memo from a year ago planning to provoke just such a strike. It detailed six steps:

1) recruit, train and check drivers;
2) announce the company’s intention to the trade union;
3) provoke a strike;
4) sack the current workforce;
5) escort them off the premises;
6) replace them with new staff.

BA is likely to lose £40 million because of last weekend’s strike and, like many other airline businesses, it has been struggling financially in recent years.

This is why a few years ago it sold off its own in-house catering concern to GG, a cowboy company – part of the Texas Pacific Group – that uses American union-busting techniques to drive down wages and conditions of food preparation workers.

The company is already embroiled in industrial disputes in the US, where it is using similar techniques to try to break unions and drive down costs and maximise profits.

The contract with BA was unrealistic and the London wing of GG was losing around £25 million a year. It told the unions it was in deep trouble and there had to be redundancies.

The Transport and General Workers’ Union was negotiating staff cuts with the management. The union argued that the pain of job cuts should be shared by workforce and management.


So the company promptly promoted some workers to management level and then made them redundant. This dodge angered the union but did not in itself cause a strike.

Nor did the $10 million birthday party staged by David Bonderman, the American boss of GG – while telling the workers they must face cuts.

Then the company produced 130 new seasonal workers – while it was arguing that redundancies were necessary.

The workforce was outraged and spontaneously downed tools. Management declared the unofficial walk-out an illegal strike and sacked the entire workforce of nearly 800 workers – by megaphone message while most were assembled in the car park.

They then expelled the workforce from the premises and barred them from returning.

Those who could not hear clearly did not realise they were being sacked. The sacking applied also to those on holiday of off sick – though the company has since retreated a little on this.

The workers – many of them women – were mainly from the Asian community of west London, which supplies much of the workforce for the entire airport.


Baggage handlers employed by BA were so outraged they walked out in sympathy with the catering workers, bringing BA services to a halt.

One of the women workers said: “I work for Gate Gourmet but some of my relatives are baggage handlers. I am very proud of the fight we are showing. They treated us terribly. We were held in the canteen for hours then they just pushed us out of the building. I worked there for six years. I think they have made a big mistake.”

The union held a solidarity meeting on Saturday in Southall Community Centre. It was packed by around 1,000 supporters of the sacked workers. TGWU national officer Brendan Gold said: “The meeting was a real demonstration of community solidarity, with scores of women dressed in traditional colourful saris, many of them bouncing their children on their knees, but wondering quietly what future they would have if they did not fight back against this injustice.”


Shop steward Mrs Attwal said: “The sacked workers and their families have been very encouraged by the meeting. They want to go back to work and feel hopeful.

“They have been devastated by this week’s events. One husband and wife who both work for Gate Gourmet described how they are now so very worried about paying their mortgage. People are very upset but determined that we will go back to work.”

Since then the TGWU has negotiated a return to work by the baggage handlers and has been engaged in talks with GG at the arbitration service Acas over the fate of the GG workers.

The latest report indicates that GG is now ready to reinstate most of the sacked workers but is refusing to take back union activists. But the union is insisting that all sacked workers are taken back and the talks have broken down.

BA has intervened with a public claim that it offered GG a more generous contract in mid-July that would have dealt with the company’s financial problems and given it long-term stability until 2010.

Meanwhile messages of support and solidarity have been arriving from the international trade union movement, including from the Teamsters in America who are also fighting GG.

Police shoot to kill fiasco

by Daphne Liddle

THE REPUTATION of London’s anti-terrorist police is in shreds after leaked documents from an inquiry by the Independent Police Complaints Commission show that the innocent young Brazilian shot at Stockwell Tube station on 22nd July had been overpowered and held by police before being shot eight times.

The documents leaked to ITN last Tuesday also exploded many myths that have grown around the shooting.

The tragedy began when officers from the CO19 firearms squad were watching a block of flats in Scotia Road, Tulse Hill in south London. They were looking for Osman Hussein, a man suspected of involvement in the failed Tube bombings of the previous day.

Under the exceptional circumstances they had been given permission to shoot to kill if necessary – that is to say if they thought their suspect was likely to detonate a suicide bomb at any moment, endangering public safety.

But they were told that it would be preferable to apprehend him before he had a chance to get on to any public transport.


When Jean Charles de Menezes appeared from the flats they mistook him for their target. One of the officers designated to confirm identity was away relieving himself at the time but it is not known if this made any significant difference to the events that followed.

Menezes took a bus to Stockwell Tube station and entered the station, totally unaware that he was being followed by police.

He walked at a normal speed, picking up a free paper on the way. At the bottom of the escalator he began to run – to catch a train waiting at the platform.

He boarded the train and sat down. Armed plain clothes police then burst into the carriage. One witness said they heard shouting, including the word police as the police turned towards Menezes.

One police officer told the inquiry: “He immediately stood up and advanced towards me and the CO19 officers … I grabbed the male in the denim jacket by wrapping both my arms around his torso, pinning his arms to his side. I then pushed him back into the seat where he had previously been sitting … I then heard a gunshot very close to my left ear and was dragged away on to the floor of the carriage [by his colleagues].”

Menezes fell on the floor where another 10 shots were fired, seven of them into his head and three missed.

It soon turned out they had got the wrong man. And that’s when a whole string of myths were fostered by police that might make their mistake seem less culpable.

Sir Ian Blair, chief of the Metropolitan Police, told the media that he had been told Menezes had been wearing a suspicious padded jacket with wires attached, that he had fled his pursuers onto the Tube, vaulting a ticket barrier on the way.


“His clothing and behaviour added to our suspicions,” he told the press.

It could be this myth arose from a witness report who saw a plain clothes police officer vaulting the ticket barrier and mistook him for the target.

But Sir Ian Blair was happy to let this myth flourish and later add to it that Menezes may have run because his visa to stay in this country had run out – which was totally untrue. Blair also delayed the IPCC inquiry while the attempted bombings on 21st July were investigated.

It later emerged that while the police were shooting Menezes, the real Osman Hussein left the country on the Eurostar from Waterloo – unchallenged. He is now being held in Rome pending extradition proceedings.

The family of Menezes are calling for murder charges to be brought against the police involved. His cousin Alex Alvez Pereira said: “the officers who have done this have to be sent to jail for life because it’s murder and the people who gave them the order to shoot must be punished. We won’t rest until we have justice, even if it takes years.”

Friday, August 12, 2005


Robin Cook

THE UNTIMELY DEATH of the Scottish MP Robin Cook last weekend has been a bitter blow to the parliamentary opposition to the invasion and occupation of Iraq and a personal tragedy to his friends and relations.

Cook originally entered the House of Commons in 1974 with left social-democratic credentials and he soon won a reputation for himself as a skilful parliamentary debater. A member of the Tribune group, he was a supporter of unilateral nuclear disarmament and an outspoken critic of the right-wing policies of the 1970s Labour governments led by Harold Wilson and James Callaghan.

These pacifist and “left” views were soon forgotten as Cook gravitated more and more towards the dominant right-wing bloc during the long period when Labour was out of office, aligning himself first with Neil Kinnock, then John Smith and finally ending up as a supporter of Tony Blair and his “New Labour” project. His reward was the Foreign Ministry when Labour won the 1997 general election.

He was a mediocre Foreign Secretary who tried to pass off the stale old aggressive policies of British imperialism as “ethical” and “independent” while his initiatives over Palestine and Kashmir failed because they simply did not have the blessing of US imperialism.

Cook was a keen supporter of integration within the European Union and had no problems in endorsing the attack on Yugoslavia or the criminal blockade of Iraq when these policies were also those of France and Germany. But Blair turned increasingly towards the most aggressive, venal and reactionary sections of the British ruling class: the war party who see their best interests served in exclusive alliance with US imperialism. Cook’s pro-European stance became an embarrassment and his demotion to Leader of the House was inevitable after Blair won another landslide victory for Labour in 2001.

Cook’s pro-European sentiments, essentially in support of those elements within the ruling class that aligned themselves with Franco-German imperialism, led to his isolation within the Blair Cabinet, though he remained publicly loyal up to the eve of the invasion, resigning on 17th March when it became clear that Blair was going to war without the fig-leaf United Nations mandate that France and Germany had denied him.

Cook put to shame those “left” posers who jumped on Blair’s band-wagon seeking fame and favour and betrayed the movement that had put them in Parliament in the first place by supporting and justifying the criminal onslaught against the Iraqi people. Cook ridiculed the claim that Saddam Hussein held weapons of mass destruction and he rallied a considerable number of Labour rebels against the war and stiffened the anti-war position of the Liberal Democrats and those pro-EU Tories like Kenneth Clarke who also spoke out against it.

Though never a part of the anti-war movement, Robin Cook will always be remembered for taking the principled stand in resigning from the Blair Cabinet in protest at the Government’s decision to join forces with the United States in the invasion of Iraq and for his later attempts to bring down the Blair government. In doing so he marched in step with the demands of millions of working people who want an immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all British troops from Iraq. It is not surprising that at the last general election in May 2005 Cook was one of the few Labour MPs to actually increase his majority.

Like Kenneth Clarke, Robin Cook represented the alternative leadership the pro-European camp hoped would eventually triumph over Blair and the Tory Euro-sceptics. It may be some time before they can find some one else to step in Cook’s shoes.

On 6th August Robin Cook collapsed on rocky terrain while hill-walking on Ben Stack in Sutherland, Scotland. He was taken to Raigmore hospital in Inverness by helicopter where he was pronounced dead on arrival. The post-mortem revealed that he had died of hypertensive heart disease.

Dramatic rise in racist attacks

POLICE forces throughout Britain have recorded a steep rise in racist attacks since last month’s London bombings. Most are directed at Muslims though Sikhs, Hindus and Buddhists have also come under attack.

The Metropolitan Police reported a 600 per cent rise in faith-hate crimes compared to the same period last year. West Yorkshire and the West Midlands have seen similar rises. The level of attacks in south Yorkshire has just about doubled, from 48 in July 2004 to 137 this year. Nationally there has been a 24 per cent rise.

The Islamic Human Rights Commission says there is a growing feeling of fear among Muslims. Right-wing Tory MP Gerald Howarth added fuel to the flames by saying that extremist Muslims, even those born in Britain, should leave the country.

Speaking for the Muslim Association of Britain, Anas Altikriti replied: “Mr Howarth must realise that his own statement will have a real and serious bearing on the street. “There are people who will take his words and understand them in a particular way and this will induce further harm rather than good.”

Many blame the gutter press for stoking racial hatred in the wake of the bombings as they point out that a couple of the alleged bombing suspects had claimed benefits – as though that were also a crime comparable to bombing – and printing misleading opinion polls about the views of Muslims living in Britain.

For example, a Daily Telegraph piece claimed that “thirty-two per cent of British Muslims think western society is decadent and immoral and should be brought to an end” – failing to point out the final phrase “but only by non-violent means”, with which 31 per cent of respondents agreed. Only one per cent agreed with the final phrase “is necessary by violence”. Statisticians regard a figure of one per cent as meaningless.

Furthermore the paper failed to point out that a large proportion of the general non-Muslim population also agreed with the first statement.


The neo-Nazi and racist organisations have reacted violently and aggressively; their websites urging members and supporters on to the streets to attack and assail Muslims. There have been several fascist marches and demonstrations directed against the Muslim community in Britain.

On Sunday 24th July, in the pouring rain, there were two separate fascist marches in West London, both targeted at the Regent’s Park Mosque. Around 200 members and supporters of the newly-formed United British Association assembled in the Hobgoblin pub in Balcombe Street, near Baker Street Tube, and set off at around 2pm, shepherded by hundreds of police. The group included football hooligans, former squaddies and Nazis. They carried just one flag and with no banners or placards, few passers-by had any clue who or what they were.

Police drew them to a halt several hundred yards away from the mosque and directed them to a specially prepared pen for them to conduct a small rally. They refused to enter the pen. Sharp words and gestures were exchanged with the police as they expressed their disappointment at not getting even within visual distance of the mosque. The stalemate lasted a long time as the rain continued to pour. Eventually the march turned around and headed back in the direction of Baker Street Tube.
As they did so, in the distance they could see the second march, organised by the National Front and about 20-strong.

The UBA march had one final humiliation. It had begun in a pub and after what seemed like ages hanging around in the rain, by the time they reached Baker Street Tube, many of them were desperate for access to a toilet.

There was no way the police were going to allow that many to abuse some back alley so they penned them in again and tried to negotiate with local pubs to allow them to use their facilities. The pubs, unsurprisingly, categorically refused. So the “hard men” of the hard right had to wait in discomfort.

Last Sunday ten members of the National Front tried to demonstrate in Crawley against a peaceful procession of local Muslims to their mosque. Police had them firmly hemmed in some distance from the procession.

Hiroshima remembered and anti-nuclear pledges renewed

by Rob Laurie

LAST SATURDAY lunchtime saw well over 200 people assemble in London’s Tavistock Square to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Americans dropping the atomic bomb of Hiroshima. The event was overlooked by the still boarded up windows of the British Medical Association Headquarters which were damaged in the 7th July bombing.

The Workers’ Music Association Choir conducted by Aubrey Bowman opened proceedings, which included speeches from the Mayor of Camden, representatives from the Battersea Peace Pagoda, Stop the War Coalition, and CND before flowers were laid at the commemorative cherry tree planted in 1967.

A number of speakers including former CND leader Bruce Kent made the important point that when the bomb was dropped the Americans knew that the Japanese were on the point of surrendering and that many senior American military leaders, including future Republican President Eisenhower were opposed to such devastating action.

The gathering did not merely seek to commemorate the 140,000 killed in the attack on Hiroshima and the 80,000 killed three days later at Nagasaki but stressed the importance of the continuing the struggle against the new generation of nuclear weapons which are being built or planned.

These horrific new weapons are not intended as a so called “ultimate deterrent” but being smaller are intended as routine battlefield weapons.

Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn concluded the meeting by calling upon those present to redouble their efforts to build “a world of peace, a world of justice”.

This was better than more weapons of mass destruction and anti terror laws which destroy civil liberties.

While many veteran activists were present, including former Labour leader Michael Foot and veteran Communist Jack Gaster, it was very encouraging to see a large number of young people present.

• In an NCP solidarity message to the 43rd International Anti-war Assembly in Japan, NCP General Secretary Andy Brooks referred to the “tragic and needless atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the United States when Japanese imperialism was on its knees and already begging for an armistice” adding that “the fight for peace is inexorably linked to the struggle for justice. The campaign for peace must inevitably challenge world imperialism which is the greatest threat to peace. The challenge to imperialism must present an alternative to the capitalist system of oppression and exploitation that is the root cause of all conflicts in the world today”.

New banner for Camden Trades Council

CAMDEN Trades Council, the body representing trade unions in the north London borough of Camden unveiled their new colourful banner at a recent public meeting.
The banner illustrates the statue outside the Trades Union Congress building which is in Camden and incorporates the names of the former boroughs making up the present borough.The banner was expertly made by Ed Hall of south east London who has created a number of banners for the labour movement. His work is of extremely high quality and is done for modest cost. Organisations wanting a new banner can contact him by telephone at

Thursday, August 04, 2005

The New Worker on sale in London

The New Worker is available in London at:

* Housemans Peace Bookshop, 5 Caledonian Road N1

* West London Trade Union Club, 33-35 High Street Acton W3
* Battersea Food & Wine,  109 - 111 Falcon Road, SW11

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6 weeks....... £6.00
3 months..... £20.00
6 months..... £30.00

Send your cheque or postal order with your order to:

NW Subs
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