Saturday 24 March 2012

BORIS: Blame your own Con-Dem cuts, not teachers and schools!

Speaking at the TUSC Election Campaign Launch last week
Boris Johnson attempted to catch the headlines in his Mayoral campaign today by blaming ‘poor schools’ for last summer’s London riots (

Instead of unjustly criticising teachers and schools, Johnson should take the blame himself for the Con-Dem Coalition’s total failure to provide jobs and hope for so many of London’s youth.

Johnson blurts out the truth when he says “there are too many people who feel there is no future for them in this city”. But is it any wonder when his Conservative Party – and the previous Labour Government – have bailed out the the bankers while cutting jobs, youth services, and the EMA?

Figures released by the TUC this month named three London boroughs in the ten Local Authorities where it’s hardest to find a job vacancy. In Hackney, there are 17 claimants for every vacancy. In Haringey, and my own borough Lewisham, there are 20! Is it any coincidence that these were some of the boroughs hit by riots last summer?

Trade unionists and socialists do not support rioting. Instead, we encourage young people and local communities to organise campaigns to demand the decent jobs and services that are so desperately needed. For example, I was proud to support the ‘Youth March for Jobs’ from Jarrow to London last year, where young people marched to demand investment in properly-paid jobs and training, not ‘Workfare’.

Teachers know that education can help young people flourish. But we don’t need lectures from politicians. We are working hard every day to support our youngsters.

It will take a lot more than the improvement in ‘literacy and numeracy’, that Johnson is calling for in today’s Guardian interview, to solve youth unemployment and disenchantment. Big business’ failure to invest in real jobs means the jobs just aren’t there to fill. Even if schools continue to improve exam results, without jobs, it will only result in an even more-qualified dole queue.

But Johnson’s policy to improve schooling will do nothing of the sort. His proposal to ‘intervene’ in education gives poorly disguised support to Michael Gove’s plans to force even more of our community schools into privatised Academies – just as happening in Haringey despite the opposition of local parents. This will create a free-market free-for-all in London which will make education worse, not better.

Johnson wants to cut tax for high-earners so they can get even richer. Regrettably, New Labour’s economic policy is little different. In contrast, the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) believes that this wealth should be used to create jobs with a living wage for all and fully funded public services. That’s the kind of program that can really create hope for London’s youth, not Johnson’s cuts and privatisation.

That’s why I am proud to be one of the candidates on the TUSC London-wide member list for the London Assembly elections on 3 May. If TUSC wins over 5% of votes across London in this section, then, whoever wins as Mayor, they will have to face an elected TUSC Assembly member who can, at last, speak up for the millions of ordinary Londoners who have had enough of big business politicians like Boris.

Martin Powell-Davies, Science Teacher, TUSC Candidate for the London Assembly, and one of the six members of the NUT National Executive elected from the London Region (standing in a personal capacity).       March 24 2012

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