The New Worker
The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 13th June 2008
Public sector pay protests -
Welcome To Our Weekly Digest Edition
Please feel free to use this material provided the New Worker
BROWN SCRAPES VOTE ON 42 DAYS
by Daphne Liddle
PRIME Minister Gordon Brown last Wednesday evening just scraped
home with a majority of only nine in the crucial House of Commons vote
on extending the period that terror suspects can be held without charge
from 28 to 42 days.
The vote was 315 in favour and 306 against. Thirty-seven Labour MPs
joined the Tories and Liberal Democrats to vote against this assault on
our civil liberties with nine Democratic Unionist MPs from the occupied
north of Ireland made the crucial difference by voting for the 42 days.
There was a massive turn-out of MPs with Foreign Secretary David
Milliband being brought back from the Far East and some MPs dragged in
from their sick beds – one a cancer patient – to cast their vote in
this crucial debate.
There were reports of amazing deals and arm-twisting going on
behind the scenes as the Labour Whips tried to turn their rebels into
supporters. Commentators claimed that the Government offered a change
of policy on trade with Cuba and full compensation to former miners
suffering work-related illnesses in an effort to seduce left Labour MPs.
If this is true it makes a mockery of the Government’s previous
position on these issues and exposes the hypocrisy of the Government.
Brown also made this an issue of the Government’s survival,
knowing his own position would be in serious trouble if he lost the
vote. He raised the spectre of a Tory victory at the next general
election and demanded loyalty to the New Labour line on that basis.
To their credit 37 rebel Labour MPs ignored that blackmail and
voted with their consciences, regardless of what a win would do to
their personal careers.
The Bill will now pass to the House of Lords where the vote is
likely to go against the 42 days’ detention, and as Liberal Democrat
leader Nick Clegg pointed out, this measure will probably not make the
statute book so civil liberties campaigners can take heart and keep up
During the debate rebel Labour MP Diane Abbott (Hackney North and
Stoke Newington) accused Brown of political positioning, trying to make
Tory leader David Cameron seem soft on terrorism while “playing ducks
and drakes with our civil liberties”.
The Government’s case was based on claims that terrorism is a growing
and more complex danger, and though the 42 days’ detention measure has
not been needed so far, it is necessary to have it available in a
crisis – just in case.
They claim it will not be abused or used in any but a very
serious crisis situation – but other “anti-terrorist” measures have
been routinely abused and used against peace campaigners, elderly
Labour Party conference delegates and others who are plainly not
The Government’s claim that we should trust them was further undermined
on Wednesday when a member of the public handed in to the BBC an
envelope found abandoned on a train at Waterloo containing top secret
intelligence assessment reports on Al Qaeda and the military situation
in Iraq. The papers belonged to a very senior intelligence official
working in the Cabinet Office.
The Government also offered many concessions on the 42 days’
detention issue to try to sway Labour rebels, including promises of
Parliamentary scrutiny of individual cases.
This blurs the line between Parliament and the judiciary – which
should in theory remain politically independent.
During Wednesday’s debate one Tory MP pointed out that there were now
so many concessions that the law would be so complex it could never be
put into practice.
Writing in the Independent on Wednesday morning, Labour rebel Bob
Marshall-Andrews (Medway) said: “Even the so-called safeguards rely
upon trust. Parliament is to be given a power to review the 42-day
extension period in individual cases. This quasi-judicial role is
totally unworkable. Parliament has neither the capacity nor the
constitution to investigate individual cases.”
This all highlights the contradictions and failings of bourgeois
“democracy”, where the deepest historical traditions of liberty are
laid aside so easily.
As Bob Marshall-Andrews wrote: “If Labour MPs of principle accede
to the whip tonight they will deserve the censure that will inevitably
follow led by the strangely united political forces whose opposition
this folly has provoked.”
And it is a safe bet that though the Tories opposed 42 days’
detention; if they came to power they would not rush to repeal it.
crisis to crisis
LABOUR’S STANDING is at an
all-time low following the disastrous May elections; Gordon Brown’s
government is tottering from crisis to crisis. The unions and the
Labour left are calling for a radical rethink of Government policy to
regain the trust of millions of workers who supported Labour in the
past. But the Government seems determined to carry on as if nothing has
Over health the Tories and the British Medical Association are posing
as defenders of patients’ rights in the row over Government proposals
to introduce polyclinics across the country. Health Secretary Alan
Johnston claims that the polyclinics would be in addition to current
services and would receive new funding but the Tories and the BMA argue
that polyclinics, already operating in some parts of London, would lead
to the closure of smaller surgeries and force many patients to make
much longer journeys for treatment.
There is nothing intrinsically wrong with polyclinics. In the old
Soviet Union polyclinics were established to combine the work of
hospital outpatients department with that of the doctor’s surgery. Many
were built in the factory complexes. Special children’s polyclinics
were in the heart of town. The Stalin leadership established a Soviet
national health service that was a model for the world. Soviet
citizens got free and highly qualified medical assistance and annual
check-ups from clinics well within easy reach of their homes or
work-places while every city had comprehensive ambulance and emergency
care centres that could respond within minutes to a call. At one time
the USSR had more doctors than the United States, Britain and France
The Health Secretary claims these reforms will enable the NHS to
deliver a better service overall but the only people who are clearly
going to benefit from Government’s proposals are the corporate vultures
who will be paid handsomely to build and administer NHS health centres,
using sub-contracted GPs.
The Health Ministry concedes that the health gap between rich and poor
is widening. And it’s not just over health.
The Department for Work and Pensions revealed this week that the number
of children living in poverty has actually risen for a second year. The
total increased by 100,000 in 2006-2007 to 2.9 million before housing
costs. Pensioner poverty also rose for the first time since 1998, by
300,000 to a total of 2.5 million. Both figures are higher still after
housing costs have been taken into account.
A government that can find billions for a new generation of nuclear
weapons and the illegal and criminal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could
easily restore the National Health Service and state welfare that
Labour once used to justify its existence. Sure the rich would have to
pay more tax and they can and should pay at least what they did in 1979
when progressive income tax and the nationalised industries
underwrote health care and education.
The Brown leadership thinks it can ignore the views of organised labour
forever and it certainly could. But it will pay a heavy price at the
next election for its grovelling class collaboration and so will
working people if the Tories return to power. The answer is to mobilise
mass opinion within the labour movement to force Labour, which is
almost entirely dependent on union funding, to respond to the
legitimate demands of the class for social justice and peace.
For communists the struggle must be widened to include the demand for a
democratic Labour Party that carries out the decisions of the millions
of affiliated members, whose subs fill its coffers every year – and the
fight for the communist alternative, socialism, that can only come when
the working class as a whole moves to sweep the whole rotting edifice
of bourgeois rule into the gutter.
To the New Communist Party Page