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Labour baroness wants politics kept out of the Forest of Dean
Mark Harper, the Tory MP for the Forest of Dean, has 'concerns' about job security, but that is all he has in common with the millions of public sector workers whose jobs are currently under threat. This slick politician who spoke at a local anti-cuts rally in 2006 and praised his constituents for fighting hospital closures and NHS cuts, is now telling them to 'wait and see' before deciding whether privatising half of the Forest of Dean will be a bad thing.
Sue Powell, Gloucestershire Socialist Party
Locally, Harper is being called a traitor and a turncoat (that's the polite version). No one is in a mood to wait; they already know how the cuts will affect their community and fear that they will lose the very hospitals they fought so hard to save.
A magnificent protest movement, including a 3,000 strong demo in the forest on 3 January, has been organised by Hands Off Our Forest (HOOF). However, under the helm of Labour's shadow leader of the House of Lords, Baroness Jan Royall, the campaign has declared itself to be "non-political".
At a public meeting in December, amidst numerous demands to look into the right to recall MPs and unseat Harper, she explained: "I know and like Mark Harper ... he's a good MP but I believe he is fundamentally wrong about the forest".
Royall separated privatisation of the Forest of Dean from the other forests, which she will not campaign for. According to Royall, privatisation of utilities and transport is fine, but privatising "our forest" is not.
There is no wall between the Con-Dem plans for forests and plans to dismantle public ownership and services. People in the Forest of Dean see the cuts as a class issue.
The latest local media survey shows just 2% in favour of forest privatisation. Only 14% think the government is doing a good job, 81% say they are not.
Four days after the HOOF rally, Socialist Party member Lee Hyett accompanied a constituent to Harper's surgery.
Lee asked Harper if he could guarantee job safety for the 49 Forest of Dean Forestry Commission workers. Harper refused to give that guarantee.
When asked why the usual parliamentary procedure of a white paper preceded by a green paper along with a consultation process had not been observed, Harper replied that he didn't know!
The campaign to save local libraries has already had a big impact. In the private sector, 200 Unite members at the Ribena plant in Coleford are being balloted for strike action over a wage dispute. These campaigns need to be linked together to create a mass campaign together with trade unions.
In The Socialist 12 January 2011:
Youth fight for jobs
International socialist news and analysis
National Shop Stewards Network
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news