The New Worker
The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 11th July 2003
NEW LABOUR ‘WASHED UP’
by Daphne Liddle
“THE NEW LABOUR project has failed. If we don’t produce a programme
which has popular support by traditional Labour supporters, we run the risk
of allowing the Tories to come back at the next election,” Labour MP John
McDonnell told a conference last weekend.
The conference, in London, was organised by the 35-strong Socialist
Campaign Group of MPs and delegates included Labour activists, union leaders
and academics who had come together to launch the New Left Project.
Speakers included the campaign group’s honorary president Tony Benn,
Labour MPs Dianne Abbott and Jeremy Corbyn, as well as union leaders Tony
Woodley, Kevin Curran, Bob Crow and Billy Hayes.
The campaign group said: “The writing is on the wall for New Labour
and the breakdown of trust between the Government and party members is transferring
itself to the electorate.
“Dodgy dossiers, Cabinet resignations and the botched reshuffle on
top of the appalling local election results indicate a government rapidly
losing touch with its own supporters and gradually falling apart.”
The conference considered practical ways to fight to regain the party.
John McDonnell pointed out that the Government’s decision to withdraw
its compromise amendment to the Hunting Bill, allowing those calling for a
complete ban to win the vote, was evidence that backbenchers could influence
Four big unions: Unison, the Transport and General Workers’ Union,
Amicus-AEEU and the GMB have agreed to meet in the coming weeks to devise
a strategy to “take on the unelected minority that runs New Labour”.
But they are cautious about cutting funding to the party as this could
lead he New Labour clique to seek funding from big business, or introducing
state funding for parties – and that would undermine any efforts to regain
working class control of the party.
The unions intend to use all their power to force through changes
in Government policy.
Already the public sector union Unison has written to the secretaries
of dozens of local Labour parties who receive money from the union, urging
them to put pressure on MPs to support a rebel motion against the creation
of foundation hospitals.
And last Tuesday that campaign paid off, with 60 Labour MPs rebelling
against the Government and voting for the amendment. The Government’s majority
was cut to just 35 – the smallest it has been so far.
One Unison officer said: “There is a lot of bitterness and sour feelings
towards the Government, particularly on the issues of PFI, privatisation and
on the war in Iraq. Dave Prentis [general secretary of Unison] has said he
will meet the other union leaders to discuss tactics of opposition. There’s
a pretty fraught time ahead.”
The joint union campaign against foundation hospitals is set to grow
a lot bigger in the coming months.
The GMB general union, at its recent conference, faced calls to break
off funding to the Labour Party altogether.
Those calls were defeated but the union agreed to use its financial
sanctions in a more intelligent way to ensure that the Government listens
to the views of its members.
GMB general secretary Kevin Curran said the union would “now concentrate
more on the relationships with the party, rather than the funding question”.
He said: “The trade unions are the easiest way of getting in touch
with the Labour Party members. We need to be used more as a conduit to get
those views of party members through to the Government.”
Amicus general secretary Derek Simpson, who last year stunned New Labour
by winning the election for general secretary against the Blairite favourite,
said: “Our future is with the Labour Party and we won’t look at moving our
support from the Labour Party. We have our difficulties with the Government
on some issues.
“We will fight for changes but we remain staunch in our support for
The TGWU, under newly elected general secretary Tony Woodley, launched
a sweeping review of its relations with the Labour Party at its Brighton conference
two weeks ago.
It called on its members to engage in renewed political activity in
local constituency Labour Parties and a raised level of lobbying at a national
and regional level.
Meanwhile the row over Blair and Campbell’s “sexed-up” dossiers on
the alleged weapons of mass destruction and the BBC continues to escalate.
Both the US and British governments were perfectly well aware that
Iraq did not have any weapons of mass destruction. Any it ever had had were
destroyed in the first Gulf War in 1991 and close sanctions and surveillance
by Britain and the US made it impossible to obtain or build and more.
Both governments lied through their teeth about the reasons for going
The Foreign Affairs Select Committee may have cleared Blair and Campbell
but very few believe them.
Labour MP Alice Mahon campaigned against the war from the beginning. Last
week she issued a statement: “The Foreign Affairs Committee report and the
Prime Minister’s appearance before the Liaison Committee did little to persuade
the majority of public opinion that the British government was right to take
us into a war in which at least 6,000 civilians are reported to have been
killed and tens of thousands more seriously injured.
“The electorate deserves better than to be left with a lot of unanswered
questions. The Prime Minister owes Parliament and urgent explanation about
the many issues outstanding.
“This was not forthcoming at today’s Liaison Committee. Only an independent
inquiry can bring this to a satisfactory conclusion.”
Meanwhile the “Easter egg hunt” for the weapons of mass destruction
in post-war Iraq has been dropped.
And the latest opinion polls in Britain show that a majority now believe
that Blair was wrong to invade Iraq.
A lesson in bourgeois democracy
THE BIG SPAT between Alistair Campbell, Tony Blair
and the BBC, over changes to the dossiers on Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass
destruction, is turning into a heavy-weight slanging match between the giants
Two parts of the state are slogging it out with accusation and
counter accusation like Godzilla versus the Swamp Monster.
The toothless Foreign Affairs Select Committee has exonerated Blair,
Campbell and the rest of that gang while offering mild criticisms to both
sides. It never stood much chance of getting at the truth without being able
to inspect the original intelligence briefings that were supposed to have
been “sexed up”. It was Campbell’s word against the BBC.
Campbell has admitted to a handful of mild alterations to the reports
concerning the elusive Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. But these do not
appear to amount to the “sexing up” of the report to make an immediate and
urgent case for going to war against Iraq – as was claimed by BBC reporter
Andrew Gilligan and his unnamed source in the intelligence service.
But Blair and Campbell are far from off the hook. They may be technically
exonerated but that doesn’t cut much ice with public opinion, the press
or other powers. On the whole, people are more inclined to trust the BBC –
which has better, more discreet spin-doctors.
The root of the spat is the indecent haste with which Blair and company
pressured Parliament into backing Bush and Blair’s adventurist war against
Iraq for its oil. And on that issue neither Downing Street nor the BBC has
shown any decent principles.
With or without the dossiers, sexed up or otherwise, there never was
any legitimate reason for going to war.
What we are seeing is two parts of the state at war with each other,
representing two divided factions in the ruling class. It is a battle between
the pro-dollar faction in Downing Street and the pro-euro faction who are
furious at the damage Blair has done to Anglo-European relations by going
to war without backing from the United Nations.
They have decided that the Blair faction must go. Elements within
the intelligence services are now using their links with the BBC and other
parts of the media to undermine Blair and his allies and he is panicking.
Campbell is digging his heels in and throwing the accusations back but when
he attacks the BBC he only undermines his own credibility.
It is heartening to see for once the Blair clique getting some of
the treatment they have handed out to so many others. But is this really
a proper way to change a government?
It is a sharp reminder to the working class that Parliament and the
elected government are by no means rulers of the state. The ruling class allows
Downing Street to administer the country – as long as it keeps to the unspoken
rules and guidelines. When it oversteps the mark, the mysterious “men in
grey” step in – as they did to remove Margaret Thatcher when she got too
big for her boots. Her crime also was upsetting the pro-euro lobby.
This is why elections can have only a limited impact on the way the
country is governed. Whichever party sits on the government benches, the capitalist
class still rules and Number Ten has to do its bidding. This is a dictatorship
of the bourgeoisie.
Whichever party is “in power” will obey the World Bank and maximise
profits by helping big business to plunder and privatise at home and abroad.
The ruling class does not have a formal central committee with an
exact political line; its members are guided by the need to preserve their
power and wealth. The money in their pockets acts like a magnet guiding them
along the path of greatest greed. Currently there are widening differences
of interest and that class is very divided.
One of their guidelines is not to upset the masses too much – and
two million protesters on the streets earlier this year was a bit too much
– the working class might just begin to realise its own potential power.
If that kind of pressure can be mobilised against war, it could also be mobilised
against privatisation – against greed and exploitation.
That could lead to a real challenge to ruling class power and wealth
– a revolutionary challenge.
And that is the kind of challenge that really could make a difference.
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