A matter of immediate concern is the unsavoury presence in the urban heartlands of the north of England of neo-nazi groups. The British National Party (BNP), National Front (NF) and others have focused their small but poisonous groups of followers in parts of Lancashire and Yorkrhire.
They carry racism like a fly carries dirt, and like flies they spread their filth around. It is vital these racists meet vigorous opposition wherever they show up and are exposed and condemned by the decent majority in all communities.
The fascists aim to capitalise on local problems and use them to gather support and stir up racism and trouble. And it has to be said that this is all too often made easier by the lurid reporting of events in the right wing press and by insensitive policing that makes minorities fed vulnerable.
That the northern towns and cities are being targeted should surprise no one since the north has suffered much higher levels of unemployment than the south, and with manufacturing industry continuing its downward slide, the future looks even bleaker for working class families and young people in the region.
And like everywhere else, the long-standing government imposed cutbacks in local authority spending have stretched public resources to near breaking point. With so little to go around in the way of decent jobs, good affordable housing, local services, and public amenities, it is not surprising that white and Asian communities each end up believing they are getting the short straw while others are getting more.
Of course the report produced by Sir Herman Ouseley is correct to point out the need for greater dialogue and a coming together of the different ethnic groups in the city. But while that may help to dispel unfounded fears and misunderstandings, it won't in itself solve the underlying economic problems.
On this score the immediate demands need to be radical and extend throughout the country. It's not enough for central government to just make a one-off grand gesture of cash -- a face-lift here and there, a children's playground or two and a centre for teaching skills the jobs market still won't be able to absorb.
There needs to be a reversal of the year-upon-year cutbacks in local spending so that all the public services and amenities that have been whittled away or actually lost over the years can be restored, along with local democratic accountability.
In particular the government should be pressed into restoring local authority housing programmes with a stock of good quality, affordable housing. This should be under local council ownership and control and free from government constraints and private profiteering.
Rates support by central government should be paid to local authorities at the level needed to restore services, improve local facilities and, in the process, provide more jobs for local people.
No doubt Tony Blair, like his Tory predecessors, will claim the country can't afford to significantly increase spending on local authorities. This is an issue we all have to fight on -- the government can find the money but chooses to use it elsewhere. Only this week the government pledged to spend £1 billion on three new warships for the Navy.
We say, the working class of Britain doesn't need new warships it needs new homes, well resourced schools, adequately staffed hospitals and improved local services.
At the same time racism, which is designed to divide the working class and weaken organised labour, has to be tackled head on. There needs to be much faster progress in eradicating institutional racism from our police forces and other public bodies. We all have a responsibility to counter racism wherever it appears.
The new Home Secretary needs to give a clear lead in publicly condemning racism and in leaving neo-nazi thugs in no doubt that their activities and publications will be closely watched and any breaches of the law dealt with.
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by Theo Russell
SINN FÉIN president Gerry Adams, and the new MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone Michelle Gildernew, took time off from intensive talks with the British and Irish governments at Weston Park in Staffordshire to address republican supporters in London on the crisis in the peace process last Tuesday.
At a packed meeting in Westminster Central Hall, Adams said the British government's approach to the process "can be best characterised as making all other issues secondary to the issue of IRA arms -- this issue has been made a precondition for progress on all other issues."
He traced the roots of the current crisis to "the side-letter that Tony Blair gave to David Trimble hours after they had endorsed the Good Friday Agreement," a letter which was "outside the scope or terms" of the agreement.
Adams said that "those officials within the British system who have continued to seek the defeat of the IRA" had ensured that the enabling legislation for the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning "would have the effect of strangling the work of that body even before it began."
As a result, the objective of conflict resolution "was diluted and made subject to the old Unionist and securocrat agenda," and in Adams' view Tony Blair was responsible for this. "His government," he said, "is responsible for permitting a virus to remain at the heart of the Good Friday Agreement," which was now being used by David Trimble "to commence his effort to hollow out the agreement."
"For my part, I believe that the issue of arms can be resolved," Adams said, but "not on British government or Unionist terms, or on the basis of threat, veto or ultimatum. This is not within the gift of Sinn Féin to deliver."
In the north of Ireland, Adams pointed out, loyalists and British and state forces continued to use their weapons. "This year alone loyalists have carried out over 100 bomb attacks on Catholic homes, businesses and churches, shot dead two Catholics in recent days, and erected a barricade to prevent Catholic children from going to school in North Belfast."
"Also, at this sensitive time, the RUC in North Belfast have fired at nationalists with a new and more deadly plastic bullet."
Adams said that David Trimble was making "a huge mistake" by saying that he and Tony Blair have no responsibility to influence republicans on the arms issue. "We have tried to help David Trimble -- but what has he done to help this process?"
Adams pointed to Trimble's vetoing of the work of Sinn Féin's ministers in the Executive, and his blocking the all Ireland institutions. "But more importantly than this, he has signalled to republicans and nationalists that he is not committed to the Good Friday Agreement except on his terms."
"If this phase of the process is to succeed then the two governments and all the parties need to return to the Good Friday Agreement. It contains the template for dealing with these issues, and many other aspects that need to be resolved as part of this conflict resolution process."
The British government, he pointed out, "is committed to delivering on a range of key issues," including an acceptable and accountable police service, a fair and impartial system of justice, equality in all aspects of society, and "the demilitarisation of our society."
"They have not delivered on these issues. They have not created the level playing field the Good Friday Agreement was designed to provide. Instead there has been delay and dilution."
"On policing the British government engaged in chicanery and duplicity... there is no fair system of justice, the equality agenda is subjected to continuous dilution, and proud republican heartlands continue to suffer British military occupation."
"This process has brought Unionism once again to the crossroads. I am convinced that the overwhelming majority of Unionists want the Good Friday Agreement to work but they are not being given consistent leadership at this time. This crisis has also brought the British government and Mr Blair to a defining moment."
Adams said that when Blair inherited the peace process "it is fair to say that he responded positively to the challenge... I commend Mr Blair for doing so." But, he continued, "he now has to decide on his vision for the future.
"Is it to be one of continuous crisis management? Or will this newly elected government use its huge and unprecedented mandate to usher in change based upon equality and justice for all the people of the north of Ireland?"
"This evening I am calling on him to fulfil his obligations under the Good Friday Agreement. This means facing up to rejectionists and sceptics and cynics within his own system, as well as within rejectionist Unionism. It means facing up to the reality that the only threat to the process comes from loyalist guns."
"In conclusion I would like to reiterate Sinn Féin's commitment to the peace process and to the Good Friday Agreement. Despite the current difficulties it remains my conviction that this process will succeed."
"The only way this process can fail is if people like us give up. We have no intention of doing so. No one said that this process was going to be easy. That is something I am sure that even the Unionists can agree with us about."
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by Caroline Colebrook
THE GOVERNMENT is considering giving private companies a controlling interest in the governing boards of state schools, which would give them control over teacher promotion and discretionary pay awards, teaching unions warned last week.
The proposal is to be published in the Schools White paper, due later this month. It was revealed at a meeting of the governors' advisory group at the Department for Education and Skills by Schools Minister Lady Ashton.
It would allow outside bodies, including the church and non-profit-making organisations, a 51 per cent stake in governing bodies when taking over "failing" schools.
Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, warned: "This is privatisation by stealth.
"By side-stepping the protection afforded by legislation to public service workers, whose employment is transferred to the private sector, this move is even more sinister than straightforward privatisation.
"It is alien for teachers to work in an environment where their efforts
are directed at maximising profits instead of wholly at pupils' needs."
Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers, said the idea was lifted "straight out of the Railtrack book of management chaos".
And he added: "It's about time the Government woke up to the extremely damaging and demoralising stories that are being engineered, almost on a daily basis, all of which suggest that private is good and public has failed."
The proposal has also met opposition from Graham Lane, the Labour education
chairperson of the Local Government Association and David Hart, general
secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers.
Graham Lane said: "It's a recipe for confrontation. Company members on boards of governors could sack anyone they wanted and hire anyone. I think it must be financially very dubious and lead to corruption.
When Lady Ashton responded saying his criticism would be taken into account, implying that the idea could be dropped, Graham Lane said: "If this one goes forward in its present form, I'm afraid there will be massive opposition from all of us in public education."
David Hart said: "I believe there is a case for private sector involvement in appropriate circumstances and I have long argued for governing bodies to have the power to make the changes within a school and reward staff appropriately.
"But I believe giving them a majority shareholding is a step too far because it actually doesn't meet the real need. We can introduce private sector management to schools without giving them powers they don't need to have. We need to keep governing bodies free from private sector control," he added naively.
Companies already involved in supplying education services to local education authorities include Nord Anglia.
o Schools are to be given greater powers to exclude violent and disruptive pupils permanently and targets to cut the number of exclusions will be abandoned.
Panels hearing appeals against exclusions will, for the first time, be able to take into consideration the effect of a child's behaviour on the school.
The teaching unions have welcomed this. Nigel de Gruchy described it as "a badly needed if belated step back towards common sense".
But the tragedy is that the measure is needed so much. It must be a priority to ensure that teachers and other pupils have a safe and undisrupted environment in which to work.
But the roots of the problem lie in decades of education cuts which have led to the loss of special needs teachers and to growing class sizes in secondary schools.
This means that the needs of pupils with learning or behavioural difficulties are not met. Over time they become discouraged, frustrated, bored and alienated.
Teachers of large classes have no time to address their needs. By the time they become violent and disruptive, too much damage has already been done.
And statistics show that exclusion is a measure disproportionately used against certain ethnic minority groups so that schools can become effectively institutionally racist.
This must be addressed though results have shown that simplistic solutions like limiting or banning exclusions do not work.
The real solution lies in more teachers, whose ethnic mix reflects that of the children they teach and a better understanding of racism so that children who are victims of it do not feel they have been abandoned and left unprotected by the school system.
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by our Middle East Affairs Correspondent
THOUSANDS of Palestinians marched through Gaza City on Monday demanding UN intervention to free prisoners held in Israel. They called for international observers to end Zionist aggression and demonstrated their support for the continuing uprising against Israeli army and settler violence.
Fighting continued in the occupied territories this week making a mockery
of the "cease-fire" the Zionist entity claims to support.
Last Tuesday Israeli troops moved into the Gaza Strip and Arab Jerusalem to smash Arab homes they said were used by the resistance or had been erected illegally. The same day Israeli premier Ariel Sharon called for the expansion of Jewish settlements on Syria's occupied Golan Heights.
But the resistance has struck back. A senior Israeli officer, Major-General Shai Shaloum Cohen was killed in a suicide attack by the resistance this week and Islamic resistance has warned Tel Aviv that there's plenty more to come.
Vowing to avenge the death of an 11-year-old Palestinian boy murdered by the Zionists on Saturday, the Muslim Brotherhood Hamas is threatening to return to full-scale bombings.
"There are 10 martyrs waiting inside Israel. They are ready at any moment to get revenge on the Israeli killers," Hamas militants declared. "If the Israelis have big bombs, we have human bombs," they chanted during the boy's funeral last weekend.
In Tel Aviv the Zionist media is speculating on leaked plans of a major Israeli offensive right across the West Bank which would lead to bloody clashes with the armed units of the Palestinian Authority and could trigger a wider regional conflict.
Western efforts to defuse the crisis have ended in shambles. The Americans, who ultimately call all the shots in Tel Aviv, focused on trying to force Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to his knees to appease Sharon. Predictably they've achieved nothing except to frighten the oil princes into urging a more even-handed approach.
Fearful for their own thrones the Saudis and the other oil sheikhs want some sort of token concession to the Palestinians to head off the rising temper of the masses throughout the Arab world.
This has had some effect. Washington has expressed its concern at this week's demolition of Arab homes by the Israeli army. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw echoed them on Tuesday.
"I was deeply concerned to hear of the demolition of Palestinian houses carried out in Jerusalem on 9 July," Straw said in a statement in London. "There is a clear risk that such actions could inflame an already volatile situation. I was equally concerned at developments overnight when Israeli forces demolished Palestinian houses with tanks and bulldozers in Rafah".
Calling the Israeli actions "provocative" the Foreign Secretary also pointed out that Israel's actions "raise the temperature on the ground and undermine the efforts of those who are working to rebuild the basis for peace between Israelis and Palestinians".
Words come cheap in the Middle East and Anglo-American imperialism will have to come up with more than platitudes if they hope to avoid the explosion to come.
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THE PRIME Minister last week decided to force through the partial privatisation of the London Underground network in the teeth of opposition from Londoners, Tube workers, the unions and London's mayor, Ken Livingstone.
Tony Blair's decision followed London Transport commissioner Bob Kiley, appointed by Livingstone, and given control of the public-private-partnership negotiations by the Government just before the general election, reporting to the Government that there was no prospect of agreement with the companies bidding for the job over his demands.
These demands centred on him having day-today centralised control over safety issues.
Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT transport union, commented: "It is not difficult to conclude that ministers' previous commitments to work with Mayor Livingstone's transport commissioner Bob Kiley, to create a unified management structure for the Underground, were nothing more than a cynical move to help get the Government re-elected.
"When Kiley, probably the world's foremost transport expert, says the PPP is fatally flawed and unsafe, who will those ministers blame should disaster strike on the tube in future?"
Blair claims his decision was necessary to get the PPP up and running so that the desperately needed repairs and refurbishment to the Tube could begin.
Ken Livingstone replied, describing Blair's decision as a tragedy: "Bob Kiley, London's commissioner of transport has brought together the best group of transport specialists in the world. They are capable of delivering a world class transport system for the capital. The Government is trying to replace this professional expertise with Treasury dogma of the type that has given us unprecedented crisis on the national rail network."
He added that Kiley had recommended to Tony Blair "that the PPP scheme be abandoned and that the underground be transferred to Transport for London without further delay.
"He would then immediately set about delivering the investment, with maximum private sector participation, to start putting right the years of neglect.
"Even now this would deliver more rapid improvements to the Underground
than the Government's PPP - and it would do so safely."
A 55-strong group of backbench Labour MPs have signed a statement supporting Ken Livingstone's'' position and describing the Government'' plans for safety on the Tube as flawed.
They urged both sides to re-open negotiations.
* Fifty million fewer rail journeys have been undertaken since the Hatfield rail disaster last October according to the Association of Train Operating Companies. They say they have lost £300 million in fares.
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