Dave Renton

No Christmas for the homeless

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by Judge Red, Dave Renton

In every city in Britain, this Christmas will see more people sleeping rough than at any time since the 1980s. Officially, street homelessness is increasing by just under 10 percent. That figure is almost certainly an underestimate.

This November in a speech to the business federation, the CBI, David Cameron announced plans to cut the number of Judicial Reviews (JRs). The government hates judicial reviews because it provides a legal means to challenge government when it gets things wrong.

A number of JRs are complaints brought by homeless people seeking emergency housing. Under the Housing Act 1996, homeless adults are entitled to temporary housing as a right.

Unaffordable Justice

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Dave Renton writing as Judge Red

The Employment Reform and Regulatory Reform Bill, currently before parliament, contains a series of measures which are likely to make life harder for every worker.

Press coverage has focused on plans to reduce the maximum compensatory award that an employee can be awarded for unfair dismissal from £72,000 to around £26,000. Few claimants win the maximum award, but it is an important benchmark in high-value cases. These claims usually settle, because employers do not want evidence of bullying, etc, to be in the public domain. The proposals will do nothing other than reduce the financial liability of employers who behave unreasonably.

The Austerity Games

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When Seb Coe invited the International Olympic Committee to select London as hosts of the 2012 Games he justified the bid in simple terms. If London won, he promised, more people would take part in sport than could be achieved by any of London's rivals: "Choose London today and you send a clear message to the youth of the world: the Olympic Games are for you". If London won more would be done for less money than could be achieved anywhere else.

Since London's victory there have been some attempts to keep an eye on whether these two promises have been met. The London Organising Committee (LOCOG) publishes annual accounts, and there has been some scrutiny through the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

It now seems clear that there will be no increase in sporting participation as a result of the Games. In 2008 the last government set Sport England a target to increase adult participation in sport by a million by March 2013.

Tribunal of the boss

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George Osborne used his speech to the Tory party conference to announce that in future employment tribunals will charge fees to hear claims. Under his proposals, claimants will have to pay £250 to issue a tribunal claim, and a further £1000 to have the claim heard. Employers defending a claim will pay nothing.

The proposed fee is punitive: it is around ten times more than it would cost to issue a similar claim in the county courts, on which the tribunals are modelled.

To understand the sheer malice of the announcement, it must be borne in mind that over a third of all tribunal claims in any year are claims for unpaid wages. Many involve employers simply refusing to pay their workers the wages that are owed to them. Around 70 percent of wages claims are won by the workers bringing them.

Fighting Fascism: From Cable Street 1936 to Tower Hamlets 2011

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The English Defence League's plan to march through Tower Hamlets was defeated by an anti-fascist mobilisation. Martin Smith looks at the lessons for the fight against the EDL, while Dave Renton explores the history of Cable Street, where Oswald Mosley's fascists were stopped 75 years ago

Some 75 years have passed since the historic victory at Cable Street. But before the anniversary celebrations could begin, anti-fascists and local people were once again called on to defend the east London borough of Tower Hamlets from the racists. On 3 September 2011 the English Defence League (EDL) said it was going to march through the borough.

The big one

The Memoirs of a Radical Lawyer

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Michael Mansfield, Bloomsbury; £20

Michael Mansfield's memoir is a roll-call of the clients for whom he has acted over the past 40 years, from the Angry Brigade to the Bradford 12, the Birmingham Six, the families of Stephen Lawrence and Jean Charles de Menezes.

One of the best chapters in this book is his account of the 1985 trial of 15 miners who were accused of having rioted at Orgreave, during the miners' strike. The defendants faced a possible maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

A Lesson from Up North

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In response to Jim Wolfreys' article (June SR) there was one area where the BNP expected to make 'multiple gains' in this year's local elections and that was Sunderland.

It stood in all 25 of the seats that were up for election. One tenth of all its candidates were in this one town.

It's easy to see why the city was a target for the Nazis. Since the closure of the mines and the shipyards, there have been few new full-time jobs. Meanwhile, Labour has been in power for decades, without ever delivering the changes that local people want.

A Matter of State

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Review of 'Class Theory and History', Stephen A Resnick and Richard D Wolff, Routledge £16.99

Stephen Resnick and Richard Wolff, two American sociologists, set out to explain in this book the nature of Soviet society. Their argument is that the USSR was 'state capitalist', by which they mean that the economic rules of that society were no different from those of the established class societies of America and the west. Such an argument is timely and important, but not entirely new.

Christopher Hill's Politics

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I enjoyed Brian Manning's tribute to Christopher Hill (March SR).

What a shame that since Hill's death, the right wing press have alleged that as a member of the wartime foreign office he 'must' have been a Soviet spy. The idea that he concealed his politics is laughable. Not only was Hill a prominent, public member of the Communist Party (CP), he was also a dissident intellectual whose ideas were distrusted by the bureaucrats at the head offlis party.

Disco 2002

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The problem I had with Lee Billingham's article on music (October SR) and Muhammad Salleh's letter (November SR) is that both of them said, 'Buy this band, they're political.'

When so much chart music is so shallow, you can understand where they're coming from. But music isn't meant to be journalism with sounds added on afterwards. Interesting art follows different rules.

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