Here are some personal musings on today's lobby.
Please add any other experiences, anecdotes, quotes and so on from a
really good event (well the press probably won't so we may as well do
The ESOL Lobby 28th February 2007: a view from the queue
It is only a couple of hours since the lobby of Parliament finished, so
there is still time for it to appear on TV or in tomorrow’s papers. But
at the moment it is conspicuous by its absence, which does give me a
certain feeling of déjà vu…
But whatever the media do or don’t report, hundreds of ESOL teachers,
managers, principals, trade unionists, politicians and above all ESOL
students from all parts of the country today queued for hours to
express their opposition to cuts in ESOL funding. After a very long wet
wait some colleagues from Greenwich Community College and I got into
the Palace of Westminster to find it buzzing with groups of people
talking to their MPs, waiting in the corridor for their MPs to arrive
and filling in requests for meetings. There was a day long programme of
talks organised by the UCU, with sympathetic politicians, (150 approx
have signed early day motion 383 opposing the cuts) and representatives
from organisations such as NATECLA, WEA etc. I happened to hear the MP
for Croydon, home of the infamous Lunar House, accuse the government of
basing some of these cuts on a myth; the myth that the Home Office will
turn around asylum applications within 8 weeks.
By the time we got in, the word was that Bill Rammell had announced
some concessions, seemingly about making the means test easier to
“pass” to qualify for fee remission. But as speaker after speaker said,
this is simply not enough. We need free ESOL classes widely available
to all who need them.
My final thought on leaving Parliament was this: New Labour and the
media have spent a huge amount of energy blaming migrants for an
unwillingness to integrate. It has insisted they take a test and do
voluntary work in the community before they can get a passport (the
most recent preposterous suggestion), or even learn English before they
come to the UK. But this very rhetoric and these very policies
succeeded today in giving asylum seekers, refugees and other migrants
the best possible lesson in active citizenship and participatory
democracy, organising against the very policies that would wish to
silence, slander and disempower them.
I felt proud to be there, proud to be an ESOL teacher and proud to be a
member of the UCU. Thanks to everyone who was there, and all who were
there in spirit!
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