Mark L Thomas

Striking back after the Trade Union Act

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With the Tories’ latest anti-union attacks set to become law,
Mark L Thomas argues that there are ways to initiate struggle that can help stregthen workplace organisation, and prepare for clashes to come.

The Tories’ new Trade Union Act, which passed through parliament last year, is due to come into legal effect this month. The new restrictions it contains, above all thresholds for strike ballots, will further curtail the legal space for strikes.

How do we best back Corbyn?

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For the second summer in a row Jeremy Corbyn has been out on the road battling for the Labour leadership. Mark L Thomas looks at the dynamics of the campaign and the prospects for the Labour Party once the contest is over.

The summer was dominated by the bitter fight over the Labour leadership. The majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) gambled that the Brexit vote could be used to launch an onslaught on Jeremy Corbyn, who they deemed insufficiently enthusiastic for the Remain cause after he refused (rightly) to campaign alongside pro-Remain Tories or drop his entirely justified criticisms of the EU. The aim was to force Corbyn to resign without risking a vote by the Labour membership.

Signs of recovery

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The junior doctors' dispute has combined with teachers’ anger and the Tory crisis to present new opportunities

The government has stumbled into a key trial of strength with junior doctors, who by the end of April had taken five rounds of escalating strikes, including a full walkout without cover. As the BBC’s health correspondent wrote after the full walkout, “this is going to be a fight to the bitter end…both sides have been briefing about how determined they are not to give ground. But who will break first? Ministers or doctors?” The answer will have far reaching consequences.

Social Class in the 21st Century

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Some books are wrong, but in interesting ways. This is such a work.

Mike Savage and a team of colleagues were the authors of the Great British Class Survey, which they claim as the biggest ever survey of class in Britain with over 161,000 respondents. This book draws on the survey together with a series of revealing interviews about how people perceive and experience class in modern Britain.

Why is Labour so weak?

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After five years of the Tories' austerity programme, and unrelenting assault on the welfare state, Labour should be roaring ahead in the polls. Mark L Thomas explains why this is not the case.

Why isn’t Labour a shoo-in for May’s general election? The Conservative-LibDem coalition has driven through the biggest onslaught on public services, the welfare state and workers’ wages in decades, yet Labour has been unable to develop anything close to a convincing lead over the Tories, and in some polls even falls behind them. As a result, the outcome of the general election remains very unpredictable.

What Green growth means for the left

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The Greens' advance in the polls is welcome because it shows the clear mood for radical change in the UK. But, as Mark L Thomas argues, there are limits to the project the party presents.

One of the most interesting and optimistic developments in British politics is the sudden growth in popularity of the Green Party. Last month the Greens announced that the combined membership of the Green Party of England and Wales and the Scottish Greens, at just under 45,000, had surpassed both the Lib Dems and Ukip. In the 2010 general election the Greens got an average of around 1.8 percent; last year they began to move towards 5 percent in opinion polls. In some recent polls they have hit double figures. That suggests that up to 2 million people are considering voting Green.

How can the left topple the bosses' Europe?

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Syriza demo

The rise of left formations such as Syriza and Podemos presents new challenges

Over the past two months a string of remarkable opinion polls have appeared across Europe that point to big opportunities — and big challenges — for the left. In Greece the radical left party Syriza, which came close to winning the 2012 general elections, has moved to being 5 to 10 percent ahead of the ruling conservative New Democracy party. Some polls in the Irish Republic have seen Sinn Fein nose ahead of both the ruling Fine Gael party and the once dominant party of Irish capitalism, Fianna Fail.

Cameron's headache

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David Cameron probably has had better days as prime minister than when one of his Eurospectic MPs, Douglas Carswell, defected to Ukip. Even worse, Carswell stepped down from parliament to force a by-election which could lead to Ukip’s first elected MP being returned, just months before a general election. This would be used to say that Ukip is not a wasted vote when it comes to parliamentary, as well as European, elections.

After 10 July: escalate the strikes

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10 July is set to see a second round of public sector mass strikes under the Conservative- Liberal coalition government following the pension strikes of June and November 2011.

As such the strike by around 1.4 million workers across schools, councils, fire stations and civil service workplaces breaks an unwritten rule among most of the trade union leadership: that in the run-up to a general election (now less than ten months away) big official strikes that raise the spectre of “union power” in the Tory press are to be avoided in the drive to get Labour into government.

Redistribute work

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Professor John Aston, president of the UK Faculty of Public Health which represents 3,300 public health experts working in the NHS, local government and academia, has called for the end of the five day week.

Ashton argues that a four-day week would reduce high levels of work-related stress, allow people to people spend more time with their families and reduce ill health. It would also lower unemployment. Ashton says there is “a maldistribution of work” and it is damaging many people’s health.

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