Writing on the Wall

On your marks, get set...work

THE Blair government’s obsession with “vocational education” — which is actually just training for the McJobs that the working-class kids who take it will have to get when they leave college — took an entertaining new turn recently when Britain was announced as the host of the 2011 ‘World Skills Games.’

Around 700 young people will compete in the games, attempting to best each other in the fields of landscaping, welding, hairdressing and other “vocational skills and specialist crafts.”

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Oaten crunch

ON a lighter note, we note with amusement erstwhile Lib Dem leadership candidate Mark Oaten’s explanation for his now well-known indiscretions: he was losing his hair. That’s right, it made him depressed and going bald can make you gay, you know, even if you’re a right-wing family values freak...

There are worse things to lose, though, than your hair. I wonder what Menzies Campbell’s excuse is for coming out in favour of Post Office privatisation? Maybe he’s losing his marbles?

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...And what happens to it

SERCO is one of the government’s favourite PFI firms. Among its many public sector contracts is one for running the electronic tagging scheme for convicts on early release. The company is required only to report breaches of court orders by tagged offenders within 24 hours — fairly simple, you would think — but in a remarkable 22% of cases they fail to do so. While Serco were failing to report one offender’s disappearance to the police in 2003, he was committing a murder in Nottingham.

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Where the money goes...

TONY Blair said something quite revealing to the “New Health Network” bosses’ forum at the end of April. He said that the Tories’ health “reforms” in the 80s and 90s — such as the internal market and GOP fundholding, both of which Blair was against — were right, but had failed because the Tories didn’t invest enough in the health service.

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Hot shoe reshuffle

RUTH Kelly is to leave the Department of Education and take up responsibility for local government, which has provoked sighs of relief in some quarters, particularly teachers and parents not keen on religious schools. Surely her more off-the-wall, Catholic fundamentalist opinions will have no effect in her new job?

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The power in the union?

The most obvious and entrenched pay gap under capitalism is that between men and women. “Women’s work” is everywhere less well paid, for a variety of reasons. Unionising and fighting for women’s rights as workers is a big part of the solution to that problem. That is why it is heartening to see in the UK more and more women joining their union. (Although it is less good to see that while women’s rate of unionisation is increasing, male unionisation is declining.)

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Mind the gap

On 1 May hundreds of thousands (and probably more) US immigrant workers will take to the streets to protest against the immigration reform. The US government was to crack down on migrant labour — despite the capitalist reliance on such labour.

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Unhappy Meals

>“McDonald’s is in some ways a toy company, not a food company,” says one retired fast food executive. In fact, in its desperation to sell its unhealthy products to small children, McDonald’s sells (or “gives away” with food) more than 1,500 million toys a year, worldwide.

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Outsourcing Madness

Trust the BBC to come up with a particularly absurd example of the privatisation craze. Many jobs in the corporation’s human resources department are being “outsourced” to notoriously incompetent and anti-worker contractor Capita. But staff who are worried about this can contact a special helpline set up by BBC bosses, for the good of their mental health (isn’t that kind?)

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A fresh view

>“The way things are happening in Respect is pure opportunism. Obviously I am in favour of working with Muslim groups, but for socialists the goal must be to win followers of religion to our own point of view, not to leave them in their entrenched positions.”

An AWL speaker? No, the words of Tariq Ali, the leftist commentator who Solidarity has more than once criticised for his reflex, negative “anti-imperialism”, not least his support for the“resistance” militias in Iraq.

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