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Week commencing 1st October 2004

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You gambled and lost NOW GO BLAIR!

by Daphne Liddle

is plainly desperate to win back support from his party and the country but not yet desperate enough to make a proper honest admission that the imperialist invasion of Iraq has been a fiasco from any point of view and to apologise.

He was desperate enough, in his key note speech to the Labour Party conference in Brighton last week, to drop references to “New Labour” and to “radical reforms” to our public services (meaning further privatisation). It’s not that he no longer believes in these things but that he has just enough sense not to talk about them right now.

 Instead he spoke repeatedly of the benefits of a Labour third term in office for “hard working families” and all the wonderful benefits that Labour has already brought to them – much the same speech he gave to the TUC a fortnight ago.

 He did mention Iraq, he could not avoid it. As one delegate put it, the issue of Iraq was like the elephant in the room, no one could avoid it.

 So he tried to make a virtue out of a necessity by addressing it “head on”, and delivered a confusing message that had the analysts of the press arguing over whether or not he had actually made an apology.

 He said: “I can apologise for the information that turned out to be wrong (but is saying you can apologise the same as actually apologising?) but I can’t apologise for removing Saddam. The world is a better place with Saddam in prison not in power.”
clever stuff

There was a lot more very clever stuff with words that would allow wishful thinkers among the delegates to hear whatever they most wanted.

 Blair acknowledged that he was human and fallible and that the issue of Iraq had split the country. In the version of his speech given to the press in advance he apologised for this split, but then cut it from the speech he delivered at the last moment.

 Clearly he was very nervous. His career is on the line and he will say anything to hang on to power.

 If delegates and union leaders allowed themselves to be taken in they are almost as much fools as he is.

 Blair allowed Bush to cajole him into gambling his career on going to war for Iraq’s oil riches in the face of opposition from the United Nations, most major European countries, the majority of public opinion in Britain and the views of his own party.

 He bamboozled his gullible MPs into backing this spurious war on the basis of false intelligence.

 He thought he would get away with it because he and Bush got away with attacking Afghanistan and he and Clinton got away with attacking Yugoslavia.

 But Iraq was different. It had enough oil for different factions of the global finance ruling class to fall out over it.

For the first time the peace campaigns found they had the backing of bourgeois papers like the Mirror and the Independent. The peace movement was no longer a fringe campaign but won majority public support.

 The UN refused to back the war. Bush and Blair had no legal grounds for their invasion. They refused to allow the UN inspectors to complete their task, because once they had declared there were no weapons of mass destruction Bush would have lost his excuse for the invasion.

 A wiser prime minister than Blair would have stepped back from the brink right then.

 But in his arrogance he thought he knew better than anyone else and went ahead and lost his gamble.

 Now he is arrogant enough to expect people to understand that he is a fallible human being. He is not actually saying sorry and he has no plans to withdraw from the occupation of Iraq but, after thousands of innocent casualties, will we please forgive him anyway and let him have a third term in office.

 One man in no mood to forgive was Reginald Keys, a protester outside the conference centre whose son was killed in Iraq. As Blair spoke this bereaved man threatened to commit suicide by hanging himself from a pylon and had to be coaxed down by police.

 Mr Keyes said he would kill himself if Blair did not ring him. He said: “I staged this demonstration because Blair sent my son to war for the weapons of mass destruction. I waved him goodbye and Tom went with his head held high. That has been proved to be a lie.”

 One of Blair’s few strong points is that he has no obvious successor. The press have made much of the apparent split between Blair and Brown but their politics are identical.

 This gave rise to the laughable spectacle of ardent Blair worshipper Milburn furiously attacking a speech by Brown that had praised Blair and echoed all his policies.

 Fools have tried to read more into that speech than was actually said. They would be very disappointed if Brown were made prime minister.

 Blair has taken care to surround himself with a cabinet lacking in obvious charismatic replacements.

 Yet almost any one of them would have more credibility than Blair right now. Those with real integrity, like Corbyn, Simpson and now Cook, are all confined to the back benches.

 Whoever replaces Blair will hardly be a  socialist, but they could set a firm date for British withdrawal from Iraq and drop the further privatisation of our public services.

 The conference voted by almost a two thirds majority in favour of the renationalisation of our railways. That would be a good policy to top Labour’s domestic agenda in the run-up to the next election. It would certainly win votes.


Brighton rocks

THE LABOUR leadership’s contempt for its own annual conference would be disgusting if it wasn’t so boringly predictable. A decisive vote to renationalise the railways was dismissed by Blair & Co as soon as the votes were counted. Though the demand to restore the railways to public ownership will now become official Labour Party policy the leadership have made it clear that they have no intention of implementing it.

There’s nothing new in this. Labour leaders down the years have routinely ignored conference decisions when they could get away with it. Blair and his followers have got away with plenty.

Past Labour leaders always claimed to listen to the annual assembly of the constituencies and affiliated unions that provide the organisational and financial strength of the party. The Blairites want conference to listen to them. They worked for years to reduce conference to an annual jamboree of loyalty so that they could bask in applause generated by their masters of spin. But the days of manipulation and double-dealing may soon be over.

One delegate had the courage to denounce Blair while the Prime Minister was speaking whilst anti-war protesters and a rabble from the fox-hunting lobby made their presence felt outside the Brighton Centre. Inside the hall Blair’s attempts to whitewash the debacle in Iraq failed for the first time to carry all behind him.

What has Blair got to offer the labour movement today? Endless war in the Middle East and a handful of minor reforms that any Liberal government would have been happy to implement.

Blair’s new watchword is “a better life for hardworking families”. Redolent of the Victorian bourgeois concept of the “deserving poor” it’s a slogan quisling Marshal Petain would have felt at home with in Vichy France.

Blair was pathetic over Iraq, bleating on about “doing what you think is right and sticking to it” and claiming that there was no “third way” out of the crisis. He didn’t explain why British government had broken with its other allies, France and Germany, to support American imperialism in invading Iraq. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s recent remarks on the illegality of the war was ignored; nor did Blair refer to the opposition to the war from the other Great Powers, People’s China and Russia, that sit on the UN Security Council.

Equally pathetic was Blair’s pledge to make the revival of the Middle East peace process a “personal priority” after the US presidential elections in November. Everyone in the Middle East knows that British foreign policy, these days, is identical to that of the United States and if Bush is re-elected the prospects for a peaceful solution to the Palestinian problem are less than zero. George W Bush never listens to Tony Blair. Nor does any other world leader. In fact the only people who do follow every word Blair says are those directly dependent on him for jobs and influence within the labour movement itself.

Blair’s camp claims that the only alternative to themselves are the Tories. That’s not true either. While no worker would want a Tory come-back it’s not likely to happen except by default. The drop in Labour’s overall standing, the disastrous recent by-election results and the slump in individual membership of the Labour Party is due entirely to the mass opposition to the Iraq war and disgust at Blair’s craven support of American imperialism.

Only the defeat of Blair and Brown can guarantee a third term of office for Labour. The militant unions and the rank and file in the constituencies must unite with the opposition within the Parliamentary Labour Party to dump both of them as soon as possible.

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