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Ineos taking us for a ride
It's expected that professional road cycling Team Sky (the squad of 2018 Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas) will have a new sponsor in 2020 - the chemical conglomerate, Ineos. This is the equivalent of swapping Lucifer for Satan - anti-trade unionism billionaire Rupert Murdoch for anti-trade unionism billionaire James Ratcliffe.
Of course, all big business sponsors of professional sport are odious. But new sponsor Ratcliffe is particularly so, not simply because, like Murdoch, he's a notorious tax-dodger (saving £4 billion a year by clearing off to Monaco) but, again like Murdoch (who sacked hundreds of unionised printworkers at News International in 1986), as head of Ineos, Ratcliffe reportedly victimised trade unionists during a bitter industrial dispute at Grangemouth oil refinery, Scotland, in 2013.
Stevie Deans, Unite the Union convener at Grangemouth, was witch-hunted out of his job by Ineos after Labour's Blairite leader Ed Miliband accused Deans, chair of Falkirk Labour Party, of involvement in rigging the Labour Party's candidate selection procedure prior to a parliamentary by-election in the constituency.
Labour even called in the police to investigate. No rigging was found, but Ineos allegedly used the media furore to suspend Deans and to investigate whether his activities were 'in line with his role as an employee and a convener'.
Unfortunately Unite's leadership retreated by calling off a planned strike to reinstate Deans. Unite's 'concession bargaining' tactics cost unite members their final salary pension scheme, the loss of bonuses, a three-year pay freeze and no-strike deal,
I'll be cheering on Geraint Thomas to retain his Tour de France crown this year but jeering his sponsor.
Simon Carter, East London
Firefighters' union solidarity
A local member of the Fire Brigades Union attended our Socialist Party meeting recently after we sent a message of support to them.
The support is because Hereford and Worcester Fire Authority want to change shift patterns, leading to insufficient numbers of firefighters overnight and to crews potentially not having the right mix of skills to attend incidents.
There would also be reduced night cover with the time taken to get to incidents increased in a largely rural county. The firefighters in our county attend incidents on the river Severn and others on a regular basis, but the changes would mean fewer staff qualified for this work. The update from the Fire Brigades Union member was very helpful to help us understand the real situation firefighters face.
Pete McNally, Worcester
I was interested to read the article on Alice Wheeldon in issue 1033 of the Socialist (see 'History: Alice Wheeldon - an anti-war socialist persecuted by the state' at socialistparty.org.uk).
In Leicester, there has been a year-long celebration of another Alice - Alice Hawkins.
Both Alices were working class, both were members of the Independent Labour Party and both were suffragettes in the Women's Social and Political Union.
But unlike the Derby Alice, Leicester's Alice broke ranks and joined with the Liberal government and its allies in supporting World War One.
She publicly called her Independent Labour Party comrades cowards for following party policy.
She supported the Women's Social and Political Union middle-class line that everything else could wait until women had got the vote.
It did not seem important to her that she was consigning thousands of working-class people to their deaths in the cause.
Hawkins is seen as a suffragette heroine and her contribution as a working-class woman shouldn't be forgotten, but I find her support of World War One a stain on that memory.
Tony Church, Leicester
Did your Labour MEP back Venezuela coup?
The European Union is an undemocratic elite club that cares not a jot for democracy or for the human rights of the global working class. This much was made abundantly clear on 31 January 2019, when members of the European Parliament overwhelmingly backed a motion that urged the EU to accept the Venezuelan right-wing opposition leader, Juan Guaidó as "the only legitimate interim president of the country until new free, transparent and credible presidential elections can be called in order to restore democracy."
Socialists should be forthright in opposing this attempted coup, but must remain critical of Nicolás Maduro, the incumbent leader of Venezuela. This critical position is maintained by the Socialist Party but unfortunately is not reflected in the past actions of Jeremy Corbyn.
Nevertheless Jeremy Corbyn, was opposed to the recent coup, as was his party's shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry, who clearly stated that it was wrong to recognise Juan Guaidó as the interim president of Venezuela. But when it came to the vote in the European Parliament, the majority of Labour's Blairite MEPs either voted to support the motion or gave it passive support by abstaining.
The Labour Party has 19 MEPs and only six correctly voted to oppose the anti-democratic motion. Four Labour MEPs voted for the coup motion and a further five abstained.
Finally, it worth highlighting the voting record of the 'Eurogroup' within which many Blairite MEPs reside - the so-called Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats. Of the group's members who were present at the Venezuelan vote, only 16 opposed the motion, with 105 supporting the anti-democratic motion, and 35 giving it passive support by abstaining!
Michael Barker, Leicester
In The Socialist 20 March 2019:
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