Price of democracy

Manny Neira responds to the witch-hunt against Manchester City councillor, Liaqat Ali

Democracy may be worth dying for, but apparently it is not worth £20 an hour. That at least is the view of Richard Leese, Labour leader of Manchester City Council.

His comments followed the election of fellow councillor Liaqat Ali by the people of the Longsight district. Ali is a Liberal Democrat, who narrowly took the seat from its Labour incumbent. He is also a Pakistani refugee who speaks little English: the £20 an hour in question is the cost of his interpreter.

Councillor Leese is furious: “What some in Longsight are saying is they have a councillor unable to represent them in council because of his English and the council will have to pick up the bill for translation. It’s about competency and cost.”

Would Leese have objected to the election of a deaf candidate, who might have required similar help? Does he object to the cost of producing government papers in braille for blind home secretary David Blunkett? “There is an easy difference. Mr Blunkett can go to as many classes as he wants, but he won’t learn to see. Mr Ali could have learnt English before putting himself up as a candidate. It’s an issue of cost. The Lib Dems presumably knew about this before they picked him.”

Leese clearly regards Ali’s failure to become fluent in English as a sign of moral laxity. Blunkett is blind, but he cannot help it. Ali could have studied. He is appalled that the local Liberal Democrats so ignored this lack of effort as to select Ali as a candidate.

He is not alone. The Sun was outraged: was there “no trick” the Liberal Democrats would not pull to get votes? The fact remains that the “trick” in question was to stand a candidate whom the majority wished to vote for. If the local people had agreed that Ali’s lack of English made him an unsuitable candidate, they could simply have refused to vote him in. They did vote for him, and ultimately it is their decision, and their right to make it, that the Manchester Labour Party and the tabloid press are challenging: and that all communists must defend.

Where, otherwise, do such arguments lead? Longsight is home to many who speak English as a second language, if at all. Will the council not bear the cost of translators to hear these people speak, or communicate its decisions to them? Is good English to become a condition for the granting for that most basic of all human rights: democracy?l

Manny Neira

The Sun says ...

The Sun is clearly appalled at the financial strain interpreters are placing upon the state. To avoid aggravating the problem, therefore, the Weekly Worker offers the following translation of their editorial into English entirely free and without charge to the taxpayer.

Just when you thought the asylum situation couldn’t get any crazier ...
The British government sometimes allows residency to those who have suffered political oppression or torture abroad, often at the hands of governments it has supported itself, and despite the fact many of them are not white. Some ‘cheats’ even abuse this system because all they are escaping is grinding poverty and despair. Or perhaps their ‘crime’ is that they want a better life. As if that were not bad enough …

Along comes Liaqat Ali, from Pakistan, a new Liberal Democrat councillor for an area of Manchester where immigrants live.
Along comes Liaqat Ali, who is not white, and has been elected as a councillor in an area of Manchester where lots of people aren’t white, and have cynically escaped the suffering they have a moral duty to endure abroad.

He can’t read, write or speak English -
He is linguistically equipped to write for The Sun -

- and he’s been waiting five years for his asylum-seeking case to be decided.
- and the home office have made his life a misery of uncertainty by prevaricating over the application of their insulting and inhuman asylum criteria for five years: a delay which he is clearly responsible for himself.

We salute anyone who’s public-spirited enough to serve their fellow citizens.
We salute anyone who’s white, likely to be elected into power, and avoids interfering in newspaper and broadcasting monopolies.

But there’s something wrong when a councillor needs an interpreter at his side.
But there’s something wrong when a man who needs an interpreter is allowed to represent a community merely because the majority of them voted for him.

Especially when the taxpayers have to foot the £20 an hour bill.
Especially when … well, consider this. During the 90s, Newscorp Investments (which owns The Sun) made a little over £1 billion in UK profits, but despite the 30% corporation tax rate, used clever accountancy and political might to avoid making any net tax payment at all. If the cost of this translator were carefully saved, this £300 million loss could be recouped in less than 60,000 years.

It just shows there’s no trick the Lib Dems won’t pull to get votes.
It just shows there’s no brazen, illogical, racist, anti-democratic, insulting and inhuman garbage The Sun won’t print.