Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials, 5 November 2007

5 November 2007

 Jean-Charles de Menezes: "legal" murder?

Last Thursday, an Old Bailey jury found the Metropolitan police guilty of breaching health and safety rules on 19 counts and therefore failing to protect the public during their pursuit and execution of Jean Charles de Menezes in July 2005.

Breaching health and safety rules? Is that all? When the police had shot a suspect on sight, without even identifying him, in a tube carriage full of passengers, using 7 dum-dum bullets which explode on impact and then discovered that it was all a mistake?

Yes, of course that is all! How else to protect those who were responsible for the murder of this innocent young Brazilian electrician? If the chain of responsibility is followed, from the hysterical "special officers" of so-called CO19 unit who did the shooting, all the way through police command, the judiciary and the Home Office, it can only end right at the top - not just with "Sir" Ian Blair, but with Tony Blair. Yes, the prime minister who will always be known for his invasion of Iraq, and one of its domestic consequences: home-grown suicide bombers. Because this is the root cause of the murder of Jean Charles de Menezes two and half years ago.

So the outcome of this absurd trial, which was actually intended, right from the word go, to avoid every single one of the real issues involved, should come as no surprise. It was deliberately designed to allow all those who have Jean Charles' blood on their hands to go scott-free. The judge decided that "no individual was responsible" and that this was a "corporate failure."

As all workers know only too well, "corporations" and those heading them do not get jailed for killing people when they have breached health and safety. They get fined. And just so, in this case. The officer in command of the operation, Cressida Dick, was specifically mentioned, praised and exonerated by the judge. And the Met will have to pay a fine of just £175,000 and £385,000 costs... for putting the public's lives at risk!

But even this was too much for Mayor Ken Livingstone. He declared that this judgement was "disastrous". He asked how Londoners would be able to feel safe in the future if armed police had to think twice before pulling the trigger on terror suspects? Perhaps he should address this question to the surveillance officer who had a gun pointed at him just after Jean Charles was shot, because the CO19 shooter did not know who he was. Or the two postal workers from Forest Gate - one of whom was shot - who had nothing to do with terrorism, but became suspects anyway, thanks to a neighbour's petty mischief. Anyway, the answer is obvious. We would all feel much safer!

Yes, what this trial showed up - and in that it was probably some use - is that this system protects its own, but certainly not the rest of us.

 Another trick to cut the jobless headcount?

The government minister for Education, Ed Balls has claimed that one of the bills to be announced in the Queen's speech this Tuesday will be "probably the biggest educational reform in 50 years". It is aimed at raising school leaving age to 17 years by 2013 and to 18 years by 2015.

But instead of focusing on the dire need for school and college places and facilities which is already a problem - and how the government is to tackle this - the first thing Balls tells us about, is the "robust regime" which will force 17 and 18 year olds to comply! Apparently there will be spot fines and penalties, (like ASBOs) and court action, with "support", of course...

Balls - and this government - have finally admitted that too many teenagers are leaving school at 16 (if not earlier!) without qualifications, and that this is happening in Britain much more than in other European countries. But where is his answer to the question "why"?

It is estimated that at least 10% of over 16s are "Neets" - not in education, employment or training, that is around 200,000 16-18 year olds. And if 18-24 year-olds are included, there are 1.1m! Of course, it is not the idle children of the idle rich who are counted as "Neets", but the children of the poorer sections of the working class, disadvantaged from the word go.

Balls said that by 2013, 90, 000 new apprentice training places will be created - which may be a 60% increase, but it's not enough and also means that today there are fewer than 40,000 places! Is it any wonder that so many youths end up at a loose end? Just as well that Balls has delayed his "big" reform until 6 years time then, when this government is unlikely to be around anymore.