Monday, October 31, 2005

New Workers' Party

New mass workers' party:

Conference for action needed

IN THE first of two articles, PETER TAAFFE, general
secretary of the Socialist Party, says that the time
for stepping up the campaign for a mass workers' party
in Britain is not just ripe - it is rotten ripe.

THE RECENT Labour Party conference has once more
underlined how the New Labour leadership is completely
disconnected from the problems and concerns of
ordinary working-class people. This was highlighted by
the thuggish treatment meted out to 82-year old Walter
Wolfgang, a refugee from Nazi Germany, who dared to
shout "Nonsense!" in response to Jack Straw's
statement that opponents of the Iraq War were like
pro-Nazi sympathisers!

Walter Wolfgang was held and questioned by police
under Section 44 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
The attack on civil liberties by the New
Labour-dominated state is mirrored by its
authoritarian and intolerant approach towards its own
party's members.

Even worse was the brutal restatement in Brighton by
the New Labour leadership - Gordon Brown as much as
Tony Blair - of their neo-liberal mantra of no
concessions to the trade union clamour for the
abolition of Thatcher's law preventing 'secondary
solidarity action' by fellow trade unionists.

Further privatisation, particularly in the NHS and
schools, which will have calamitous consequences, was
promised. No action on the desperate housing problem,
support for big business to get its clutches into
children's education through a massive introduction of
academies; all of this was spelt out in Brighton. In
other words, more of the same, only worse, for
working-class people was the unmistakeable message.

Those who hoped that Gordon Brown, like a 'socialist'
St George, would slay the New Labour dragon once he
was in the saddle were dashed by his interviews and
speeches at the conference. He re-stated his
enthusiastic support for the New Labour 'project'.

Despite this, the trade union leadership and the Lefts
who remain within the party continue to believe, in
the teeth of all the evidence to the contrary, that
New Labour is redeemable and can be transformed in a
socialist direction. They point to the conference
decisions against further privatisation of the NHS, on
housing and even on 'secondary action' against the New
Labour leadership as proof of this.

But nothing could be further from the truth. No sooner
had the hypocritical singing of the 'Red Flag' died
down at the end of the conference than Blair spelt out
bluntly his view of his own party. He said on Sky TV
that those trade unionists and constituency delegates
- who voted 99% and 40% respectively in favour of
'secondary action' - were "crazies". This for daring
to defend the democratic rights of trade unionists!

Incredibly, Blair or Brown are less likely to repudiate
this and the other ten pernicious
anti-union laws introduced by Thatcher than the
Liberals were in 1906. The Liberal government, under
pressure from the newly created Labour Party, did
repudiate the House of Lords' anti-union Taff Vale
judgement, which allowed heavy fines - 'damages' -
against unions taking industrial action.

Yet the equivalent of Taff Vale today is precisely the
prohibition of 'secondary action' which effectively
neuters workers from taking industrial action in
support of their brothers and sisters fighting against
pernicious bosses and slave-like conditions and wages.
This has been amply demonstrated by the Gate Gourmet
dispute and its outcome, which was unfortunately not a
total victory for the working class.

Big business party

THE LABOUR leadership's stand on this issue alone is
enough for serious trade unionists to decide that this
party now represents big business and is always on the
side of the employers on decisive issues.

This is further underlined by the government's stand
on the retirement age of public-sector workers: "Work
till you drop." Forced to retreat from raising the
retirement age of the present workforce, it still
intends to create a 'two-tier' workforce for all new
entrants to the public sector.

On top of this, we have the obscenity of the Iraq War
with a majority - 51% at least - calling for the
withdrawal of British troops, while Jack Straw said on
Newsnight they could be in Iraq for another five or
ten years.

Is there a chance that all of this could be stopped by
a resurgent trade union movement together with
indignant Labour Party members? About as much chance
as a snowball in hell. A fervent and slavish supporter
of Blairism in the past such as Polly Toynbee
confessed: "Brighton has exposed Labour as a sham
deserted by its members." [The Guardian]

Even Blair admits that party membership is down from
400,000 in 1997 when Labour came to power to an
"official" 200,000 today. In reality, its only
'activists' at local level are usually a dejected
collection of demoralised councillors. These cling to
the battered wreckage of the Labour Party in a stormy
sea because there is no other lifeboat present to pick
them up.

A new mass party, even the first steps towards the
creation of one, would attract those who still 'hope
against hope' that in some undefined way Labour can be
transformed, because no mass alternative yet exists.
It would win greater numbers from young people.

Walter Wolfgang was courageous to raise his voice
against Straw's lies but not one other delegate on the
floor of the conference joined in, so politically
backward, cowered or intimidated are they by the
Blairite machine.

He stated that the party had been "taken over by a
gang of political adventurers. I will remain a member
for the simple reason that we can outlive them."
[Daily Mirror 29 September.] The courageous Walter
deserves full marks for his perspectives on his own
longevity but not for the Labour Party itself.

The Campaign Group of MPs also entertains the forlorn
hope that the Labour Party can be transformed. It has
been suggested that they put up a 'stalking horse'
against Blair that could trigger an electoral contest
for the Labour leadership in 2006. Even if successful,
the victorious candidate that could emerge is likely
to be Brown, the replacement of Tweedledum by

The disappointment of the last eight years of Blairism
will be compounded by an epoch of Brownism. It could
pave the way for the return of the hated Tories,
perhaps given a facelift by some kind of
Cameron-Clarke duumvirate. At the same time, the daily
drip-feed of attacks on the working class, which can
be enormously aggravated by a new world economic
recession or slump, will continue apace.

NO! THIS is not the time for false hopes or
prevarication. Bob Crow, who has courageously
planted the flag for a new mass working-class party,
has suggested recently that the RMT could call a
conference in early 2006 of organisations and parties
to discuss this idea.

The Socialist Party supports all steps of this kind
which bring together genuine left, fighting and socialist
forces to discuss the programme and character of a mass party in
Britain, or even, in the first instance, a serious
step towards such a party.

If Bob Crow is unable or frustrated in calling such a
conference, then the Socialist Party will explore -
through a campaign with trade unionists,
environmentalists, young people, community activists
and leaders - the idea of calling a conference on the
issue of a new mass party.

The campaign would involve testing out the support for
a new party, the programme, structures and
organisation that would be necessary with, possibly, a
consultative conference next spring.

The Socialist Party has championed the idea of a new
party for more than ten years. In this time we have
had the experience of the Socialist Labour Party, set
up by Arthur Scargill, heroic leader of the miners in
their battle against Thatcher. However, he
unfortunately insisted on exclusive conditions for
membership and activity in this party. Consequently,
it has been sidelined.

That unfortunate experience was repeated in the
Socialist Alliance - which Militant Labour (now the
Socialist Party) originally helped to set up - when
the Socialist Workers' Party (SWP) entered it. Instead
of opening up, they actually narrowed the structures
of the Alliance, so only those who marched to the
drumbeat politically and organisationally of the SWP
could remain.

They have, unfortunately, repeated this experience
with 'Respect' in alliance with George Galloway. The
basis of this party is too narrow, appealing in the
main to one section of the population, some Muslims,
many of whom have deserted Labour because of the Iraq
War and have cast around for an alternative.

At the height of the antiwar movement the Socialist
Party discussed with George Galloway and expressed our
preparedness to launch with him and other left
organisations a broad, left party, so long as it was
open, democratic and specifically socialist. Such a
party could, at the height of the antiwar movement,
have attracted broad swathes of left forces.

In discussions with us George Galloway indicated that
he was thinking of the Albert Hall - which holds 6,000
people - for its launch. Nothing came of this project
but after his expulsion from the Labour Party,
together mainly with the SWP he launched Respect.

Contrary to the impression he has given in some of his
public speeches, the Socialist Party did not turn its
back immediately on this initiative but waited, as
some other leftward-moving workers also did, to see
what this formation's political character was and,
crucially, what kind of structures would be set up.

Our suggestion, shared by others, for the setting up
of a loose federal structure that would allow
discussion, debate and action was rejected by Respect.
In particular, at the national conference of Respect a
proposal to allow 'platforms', as is the case in the
Scottish Socialist Party, was also refused when it was
suggested by some lefts who looked towards Respect

These are amongst the reasons why Respect is unlikely
to make a significant breakthrough amongst broader
layers of the working class. It is not excluded that
in George Galloway's own constituency of Bethnal Green
and Bow in Tower Hamlets council a number of seats
could be gained. However, this is unlikely to be
repeated on a similar scale outside of areas with a
high concentration of Asians or Muslims.

It is vital that any new party appeals to this section
of the population, amongst the most alienated and
oppressed layers. But nowhere can a viable mass party
be built on just one section of the working class.
Fighting programme

HOWEVER, THE urgency to create such a party is
underlined by the success of the Left Party in Germany
with 8.8% of the vote and 54 MPs following the general
election. The repercussions of this development will
be felt throughout Europe and not least in Britain.

The difference in the objective situation in Britain,
compared to Germany, is only one of degree. Blair and
Schroeder - despite the latter's protestations to the
contrary - had a shared agenda of Thatcherism,

The main difference was that in Britain these policies
have been introduced over time - Thatcher first, then
Major, then Blair - whereas the German workers have
experienced 'fast-track Thatcherism'. The shock and
consequent political reaction, therefore, has been
more immediate in Germany. However, the same
underlying conditions exist in Britain.

The crucial subjective difference is that no major
left figure or trade union leader in Britain - apart
from Bob Crow - has called for or taken action to
create the conditions for a real new mass party. It is
urgent for the working class that such a step is taken
and is the reason why the Socialist Party intends to
energetically pursue this campaign.
Basic fighting demands for a new party

The programme and structures which will emerge out of
a process of discussion cannot be fully anticipated in
advance. We would, however, suggest that agreement
could be reached on a number of basic fighting
demands. The most important of these include:

The immediate abolition of the legal ban on 'secondary
industrial action' and the repeal of all Thatcher's
anti-union legislation.

* No to privatisation in schools, hospitals, the
civil service, etc.
* For a fully funded, democratic socialist health
service and for the immediate taking into public
ownership of the pharmaceutical monopolies,
compensation being only on the basis of proven need.
* A living national minimum wage at the level of
at least the European decency threshold and a living
pension for all, as well as opposition to the
government's programme to raise the age of retirement
for public-sector workers.
* For a socialist, democratic housing programme
and a crash programme to build cheap, 'social housing'
for those most in need.
* For a democratic socialist plan to save the
environment, both in Britain and worldwide, with
concrete measures to undo the environmental damage
done by unrestricted capitalism.
* For the public ownership of the 'commanding
heights' of the economy.

These are just some of the demands around which a
discussion could unfold.

In relation to structures, as we will explain in an
article in the socialist next week, it is vital that
the most democratic, federal and loose type of
organisation is adopted in the first instance. Above
all, the acceptance of the right of all trends and
tendencies to participate, including the right to
publish and distribute material such as newspapers,
bulletins and journals, as well as the right to form

These proposals are made in order to set the
discussion in motion, which we hope will take place at
all levels of the working-class movement, amongst
young people in universities and colleges, in the
workplaces and union branches, in the environmental
movement and amongst all of those dissatisfied with
ailing British capitalism and searching for an

Sunday, October 30, 2005

How the other half lives?

In Antibes, where I was just on holiday, there is a marina full of yachts of all shapes and sizes, including one which looked a little the worse for wear and had the name "Ca Suffit" up to the million dollar variety which looks like it comes from a James Bond movie.

Within five minutes walk of the marina there are people begging in doorways. On the last day I was putting out the rubbish and an old woman told me she left any food left-overs in a bag on top of the bin "for the unfortunates".

But it isn't "misfortune." The poor are begging in doorways *because* the rich are living the life of Riley at their expense.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Name and Acclaim

One of the uneducational and threatening terms which have become current thanks to politicians and journalists is "naming and shaming." The West Sussex Teachers Association is happy to name and acclaim schools which adopt a TLR model which satisfies staff rather than slavishly following the flawed non-statutory guidelines of RIG and alienating them. The same applies to schools which refuse to replace teachers with unqualified staff.

The comprehensive advice to reps is available for download from the NUT website . This advice is better than the non-statutory guidance provided by RIG which is wrongly being used as if it were carved on tablets of stone in some schools.

Although the TLR proposals are described as "not an assimilation exercise" this simply means that there is not a given formula by which schools automatically assimilate teachers from MAs to TLRs. It does not mean that sensible heads cannot make it an assimilation exercise to minimise the disruption and ill-feeling which would be generated by pay cuts.

Retreat on pensions

Preview of this week's Socialist article by Martin Powell-Davies of Lewisham NUT

FACING THE possible threat of the biggest strike movement since 1926 it appears that the New Labour government has partially retreated from some of its plans on public-sector pensions - such as increasing the retirement age of existing public-sector workers from 60 to 65.
The government has outlined a framework agreement where existing members of the civil service, health and education schemes have their current conditions protected. This is a significant retreat by New Labour and has come about because of the threat of strike action.
Yet, the underlying fear and anger workers feel over their future pension rights will not go away on the basis of the deal. In the private sector many workers still face huge cuts in their pensions. The lesson that the threat of militant, industrial action brings concessions will not be lost on them.
The government has no doubt also looked at the strike action of workers in France and Belgium against pension changes and thought better of taking on public-sector workers at this stage, despite Blair’s confrontational statements at the TUC.

DESPITE THE government’s partial retreat, it still appears to be the case that the government want to introduce a two-tier pension system throughout the public sector, with new entrants working till they are 65. And changes to the local government and fire service pension schemes – including raising the retirement age – still remain.
Last week the local government sector executive of UNISON, the largest local government union, took the decision to ballot for strike action if the government goes ahead and imposes the changes by 3 November.
The TUC says, however, it hopes to “see the same progress made in local government.”
The deal for health, education and civil service workers is now “being recommended to public-sector unions for endorsement.”
Members of unions in those sectors will be keen to see the details of the proposed deal and how it affects not only them but future generations of entrants into those sectors.
They will also want to consider the consequences of accepting what will effectively be two-tier conditions for the public-sector workforce, and in particular what it implies for possible future battles over job cuts and spending cuts.
According to the TUC, “the government has accepted that today’s public-sector staff should not have their pension promises broken and need suffer no detriment in their pensions arrangement”. But it’s clear that this will not apply in the same way to the next generation of public-sector workers.
Union members in the civil service, health and education will need to ensure that the full details of any deal are given to all the members for consultation and put to special conferences or members' meetings or ballots.
Possibly the cabinet may have done its sums and decided that, despite Blair’s intent to take on public-sector unions, that the savings it hoped to make by increasing the retirement age did not merit facing the threat of a virtual general strike of public-sector workers. Even the pro-Labour Daily Mirror said in its 18 October editorial: “It would be a serious mistake if the government tried to impose a higher retirement age on public workers.”
Yet, with the Turner Commission reporting at the end of November and flagging up possible increases in the state retirement age to 67 or 70 then the TUC Congress decision to call a national pensions demo – uniting public-sector workers, private sector workers and pensioners – is still an urgent necessity.
And the government still want to make huge savings in cutting pension entitlements for all workers and future generations of pensioners. The trade union movement still has the responsibility to conduct a struggle that ensures working-class people as a whole suffer no further detriment to their pension entitlement – now and in the future.
That means mobilising the latent strength of the workers’ movement to fight for decent pensions for all through struggle to end the nightmare of insecure retirement that the capitalist system means for most working people in this country.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

TLRs Bucks NUT advice

The following has been posted to the blog
Other news about TLRS will appear on as we get it.



By now you should have seen the heads proposals for the change over to TLRs at your school.
The NUT has urged heads and governors to follow a minimum change model where no one suffers a pay cut. This is what is happening in most schools we know about - most headteachers value their staff and don't want to cut their pay.
But if that isn't happening we want to help:
The NUT is urging teachers to stay united to say no to any pay cut - and wants to ballot for action in every school where cuts are proposed.
The NUT will conduct an indicative ballot if:
• You are being refused consultation - or
• Consultation is being unreasonably delayed - or
• The heads draft proposals suggest any NUT member suffers a pay cut - or
• The Governors final proposals suggest any member suffers a pay cut.
We will go back to the head after we have the indicative result to try to persuade them to change their proposals.
If that persuasion doesn't work we will ballot formally for "sustained, discontinous" action. That means we will pay you to be on strike - and that we will call you out for action say for a day a week until the school backs down. We will also help you to submit a grievance and if possible lodge an employment tribunal appeal.
We can win and stop the pay cuts if members in schools stick together.
But the union has to know what's happening if we are to help. If there are any pay cuts threatened at you school please get in touch a.s.a.p.

Monday, October 17, 2005

TLRs - pay cut for teachers

The next two months see the introduction of TLRs (Teaching and Learning Responsibility allowances) in schools which are intended to result in a lessening of the pay bill for schools over the long term.

At the moment some teachers receive Management Allowances for co-ordinating subjects in schools or for pastoral work. All this is to be swept away with the introduction of TLRs. This change is only opposed by the National Union of Teachers.

Most are unaware that a pay cut is proposed. The government can be expected to stand up on TV hand on heart and claim the new system is "rewarding good teachers" implying that the thousands who will lose out are bad teachers. In many cases they are just unlucky to be in schools which are strapped for cash.

Sunday, October 16, 2005


Is Halliburton an agency of the US state or is the US state a branch of Halliburton? An analysis released by a Democratic senator found that Vice President Dick Cheney's Halliburton stock options have risen 3,281 percent in the last year. That is rather more than one percent for each American life lost.

“Halliburton has already raked in more than $10 billion from the Bush-Cheney Administration for work in Iraq, and they were awarded some of the first Katrina contracts," Lautenberg said in a statement. "It is unseemly for the Vice President to continue to benefit from this company at the same time his Administration funnels billions of dollars to it. The Vice President should sever his financial ties to Halliburton once and for all.”

Cheney continues to hold 433,333 Halliburton stock options. The company has been criticized by auditors for its handling of a no-bid contact in Iraq. Auditors found the firm marked up meal prices for troops and inflated gas prices in a deal with a Kuwaiti supplier. The company built the American prison at Guantanamo Bay."


Wednesday, October 12, 2005

General Teaching Council

General Teaching Council Fraud
I received news of the latest appointment to the General Teaching Council. The individual Robert Millea is a chartered accountant.

There are several bodies for Chartered Accountants. For example, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales was incorporated by Royal Charter in May 1880 and as far as I know it does not have any teachers on its governing body. Its governing body, unsurprisingly, is elected by Chartered Accountants.

Bl**dy cheek.

However, this is typical of government thinking. New Labour is wary of an independent body representing teachers as a profession and insists on having it tied to government's apron strings. It is also packed out with cronies. Its first leader was a film director with no classroom experience whatsoever but impeccable New Labour credentials.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


I remember Naomi Klein using Bushisms as one of her reasons for crossing the picket line and voting for the Democrats. She argued that the low level of political debate under Bush would come to an end under a more wily representative of the capitalist class!

So on the whole I do not pass on Bushisms, but this is a very special compilation:
of all your old favourites with a new twist.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Bullying at work - teachers shouldn't put up with it.

Bullying and Harassment

The text of Briefcase can be found here

It details (anonymously of course) cases of bullying and what can be done to deal with the problem. The union is doing something about it but can only do it with your help. Whether you want to help or you need help, ring up the union, the number is on your card.

"Unteachable" pupils and manic teachers!

One comment on the TES website about the TV program "The Unteachables": "I preferred the original verison with Eliot Ness."

Apart from David Blunkett I doubt anyone thinks there is one right method of teaching. Actually it is a pretty poor teacher who has *one* method of teaching. Some methods work better for some pupils. The most "unteachable" pupil for me will respond to someone else who finds some of my pupils "unteachable."

And not all pupils respond to manic teachers, although they make more interesting TV.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Bush has a direct line to God

Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen and foreign minister Nabil Shaath describe their first meeting with President Bush in June 2003. Shaath quotes Bush as saying at the time "I'm driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, "George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan." And I did, and then God would tell me, "George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq …" And I did. And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, "Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East." And by God I'm gonna do it,'" Shaath quoted Bush as saying. The White House denied Bush made the comments, calling them "absurd."

I wonder if anyone has told Bush that the only reason God sends people to the Middle East is so they can be crucified.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Rally for Socialism in London 12 November

A socialist world is possible

Rally for Socialism

6 - 9 pm Saturday 12 November 2005

Friends Meeting House
173 Euston Road, London NW1 2BJ
(Nearest tube and station: Euston)

The evening will include:

Footage from G8 make poverty history & Gleneagles protests

Speaker from International Socialist Resistance (ISR)

Jean Charles de Menezes campaign

Gate Gourmet workers

Mark Serwotka (General Secretary of the PCS, civil servants’ union)

Tommy Sheridan, Scottish Socialist Party MSP

Film footage from struggle of the Gama Workers in Ireland

Joe Higgins, Irish Socialist Party TD (MP)

Peter Taaffe, general secretary of the Socialist Party

and more…

Get tickets from

Straw Poll

I do not know if Straw's big speech made any converts to the war, judging from this morning's Observer it at least caused Colin MacCabe to tear up his party card. The fact that there was no debate at a political conference about the major foreign policy issue was symbolised by Walter's ejection from the conference.
Walter and Colin were among those who opted to stay in the Labour Party despite Blairism, perhaps the time has come to call it a day.
Anyone who wants socialism will have to seek elsewhere. One wonders how long the union leaders can resist the pressure to start running candidates against New Labour (against war and against privatisation).

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Some consolation

It is some consolation to Walter Wolfgang after being manhandled out of the Labour Conference that nobody will remember what on earth Straw thought he was talking about but everyone will remember this vivid demonstration of how the last vestiges of democratic debate are being crushed in the Labour Party.

Perhaps the most telling comment came from Kevin Maguire in the Mirror

"The rows of empty red seats suggested they should have been hauling people in off Brighton's streets instead of chucking them out. Fears are growing Blair will leave a demoralised, divided party and unintentionally open the door a few inches to the Conservatives."

All serious political debate in the Labour Party is stifled. Workers' opposition to the war and privatisation agenda is shrugged off as irrelevant.How long can union leaders go on propping up this sham? It is time to build a party of the working class.

Separated by a common language?

George Mikes once advised new immigrants to Britain that it is traditional on entering a railway carriage to shake hands with everyone and introduce yourself. This wind-up article appeared recently in an American magazine. I am unreliably informed that it was taken seriously by a lot of people...

The Brits have peculiar words for many things. Money is referred to
as "goolies" in slang, so you should for instance say "I'd love to
come to the pub but I haven't got any goolies." "Quid" is the modern
word for what was once called a "shilling" - the equivalent of
seventeen cents American.

If you are fond of someone, you should tell him he is a "great
tosser"- he will be touched. The English are a notoriously tactile,
demonstrative people, and if you want to fit in you should hold
hands with your acquaintances and tossers when you walk down the

Since their Labour government whole heartedly embraced full union
with Europe the Brits have been attempting to adopt certain
continental customs, such as the large midday meal followed by a two
or three hour siesta, which they call a "wank." As this is still a
fairly new practice in Britain, it is not uncommon for people to
oversleep (alarm clocks, alas, do not work there due to the magnetic
pull from Greenwich). If you are late for supper, simply apologise
and explain that you were having a wank - everyone will understand
and forgive you.

British cuisine enjoys a well deserved reputation as the most
sublime gastronomic pleasure available to man. Thanks to today's
robust dollar, the American traveller can easily afford to dine out
several times a week (rest assured that a British meal is worth
interrupting your afternoon wank for). Few foreigners are aware that
there are several grades of meat in the UK. The best cuts of meat,
like the best bottles of gin, bear Her Majesty's seal, called the
British Stamp of Excellence (BSE). When you go to a fine restaurant,
tell your waiter you want BSE beef and won't settle for anything
less. If he balks at your request, custom dictates that you jerk
your head imperiously back and forth while rolling your eyes to show
him who is boss. Once the waiter realises you are a person of
discriminating taste, he may offer to let you peruse the
restaurant's list of exquisite British wines. If he does not, you
should order one anyway. The best wine grapes grow on the steep,
chalky hillsides of Yorkshire and East Anglia- try an Ely '84 or
Ripon '88 for a rare treat indeed. When the bill for your meal comes
it will show a suggested amount. Pay whatever you think is fair,
unless you plan to dine there again, in which case you should simply
walk out; the restaurant host will understand that he should run a
tab for you.

Public taxis are subsidized by the Her Majesty's Government. A taxi
ride in London costs two pounds, no matter how far you travel. If a
taxi driver tries to overcharge you, you should yell "I think not,
you charlatan!", then grab the nearest policeman (bobby) and have
the driver disciplined. It is rarely necessary to take a taxi,
though, since bus drivers are required to make detours at patrons'
requests. Just board any bus, pay your fare of thruppence (the heavy
gold-colored coins are "pence"), and state your destination clearly
to the driver, e.g.: "Please take me to the British Library." A
driver will frequently try to have a bit of harmless fun by
pretending he doesn't go to your requested destination. Ignore him,
as he is only teasing the American tourist (little does he know
you're not so ignorant!). For those travelling on a shoestring
budget, the London Tube may be the most economical way to get about,
especially if you are a woman. Chivalry is alive and well in
Britain, and ladies still travel for free on the Tube. Simply take
some tokens from the baskets at the base of the escalators or on the
platforms; you will find one near any of the state-sponsored Tube
musicians. Once on the platform, though, beware! Approaching trains
sometimes disturb the large Gappe bats that roost in the tunnels.
The Gappes were smuggled into London in the early 19th century by
French saboteurs and have proved impossible to exterminate. The
announcement "Mind the Gappe!" is a signal that you should grab your
hair and look towards the ceiling. Very few people have ever been
killed by Gappes, though, and they are considered only a minor
drawback to an otherwise excellent means of transportation.

One final note: for preferential treatment when you arrive at
Heathrow airport, announce that you are a member of Shin Fane (an
international Jewish peace organization-the "shin" stands
for "shalom"). As savvy travellers know, this little white lie will
assure you priority treatment as you make your way through customs.
Safe travels and Bon Voyage!