Mandelson's lapse of memory over the Hinduja brothers is pretty small beer by the standards of British politics and nothing compared to the Profumo affair, the Poulson scandal or the seedy record of the last Tory government. What is clear is that the Tories, whose collective amnesia over their own sleazy past is remarkable, are going to base their election campaign on personal attacks and innuendo.
Overturning the massive Labour majority at the next election is well-nigh impossible. The best the Tories can hope for is to make a major dent in it by getting their own core voters out and hoping that a significant number of Labour supporters stay at home.
This is the thinking behind the current Tory press campaign. Prominent Labour MPs are targeted for vilification in the hope that it will disillusion Labour voters and buoy up the Tory constituency. We have to make sure they fail.
The most remarkable aspect of the Blair government is not what little it has done for the people who put Labour into office but the fact that those meagre reforms still put Labour light-years ahead of the Conservatives when push comes to shove.
The readiness to play the race-card over the asylum-seekers question and the racist undertones hinted at over the Hinduja brothers show the sort of government the Tories have in mind for the future. The defence of the privatised services, despite the shambles of the railways, and the hostility to organised labour prove that working people can never rely on a ruling class party to defend their interests.
The simple truth is that in today's reality the only alternative to a Tory government is a Labour government. And the real difference between the two major parties is that the Conservatives will always do the bidding ofthe ruling class while Labour can be influenced by the trade union movement and the masses to work for reforms beneficial to the class.
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PRIME Minister Tony Blair last week launched an attack on thk principles of comprehensive education and promised a whole new system of selective secondary schools.
It will mean a return to the days when a child knew by the age of eleven whether it was destined for a high flying career or for the factory floor.
Blair attacked what he called the era of the "bog-standard" comprehensive and announced a complete shake-up of secondary schools, detailed in he Green Paper Schools, building on success.
The new system will, predictably, allow much more involvement for the private sector to make money at taxpayers' expense.
Currently the whole education service is in crisis because so many are quitting the profession - after years of insults and budget cuts and increases in admin work.
Blair plans to solve this problem by promising to pay off the student loan debts of those graduates who go into teaching - over a ten-year period to make sure they stay in the profession.
The new system will create an "academy" for gifted children to be put on fast track teaching, put in express sets within their schools.
Others will be diverted towards specialising in technical skills from the age of 14.
The release ofthe Green Paper was preceded by a lot of prattling about more funding to take working class children to the theatre and the ballet - at a time when, nearly four years into a Labour government many schools are still being forced to make cuts in teaching staff and when there is still a chronic shortage of books.
The Green paper calls on some schools to specialise, for example in sports, languages, sciences and so on. It is easy to see that where a few children will be selected in, the majority will be selected out.
We will virtually be back to grammar schools, technical schools and secondary moderns for the rest. Teaching unions warned the new system will create a two-tier system.
John Dunsford, general secretary of he Secondary Heads Association, said: "I am very disappointed... there remains a substantial risk that this programme will create a two-tier system of comprehensive schools."
David Hart of the National Association of Head Teachers said the changes could lead to a market free-for-all and to the extensive selection by ability rather than aptitude.
Nigel de Gruchy of the NASUWT teaching union warned: "More revolution will drive out more teachers and dissuade many others from coming into he profession, possibly nullifying the measures taken to improve recruiting into training."
This Green Paper is really aimed at a return to the system where working class children were emphatically given the message at the impressionable age of 11 that the best things in this society were not for them, their future was in low paid, drudgery and they had better resign themselves to it.
For our children's sake, we must oppose these changes and defend the comprehensive system which is geared to provide the widest possible opportunities to all children.
Those who claim this system has failed have not compared it with the secondary modern schools that preceded it. It has brought a vast improvement to the lives of working class children compared to that.
Where it has not done as well as it could this is because of decades of budget cuts, shortages of staff and equipment and too many huge changes too quickly over the last decade.
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by Renee Sams
"THE METROPOLITAN Police are still not prepared to tell the truth about the shooting of Diarmuid O'Neill," Gerry Kelly, Sinn Fein Member of the Legislative Assembly, said at a meeting in the House of Commons last Thursday. And, he said, the peace process makes finding out why Diarmuid was killed even more important.
In the early hours of 23 September 1996 in his home in Hammersmith, six bullets fired by two officers hit Irishman Diarmuid O'Neill.
He was then dragged bleeding down two flights of stairs, still alive. He was refused medical help and left on the pavement unattended for more than half an hour.
He was only half dressed. No arms or explosives were ever found at the house.
After the shooting police told the media that there had been a shoot-out with an IRA unit, a statement they were later forced to retract.
Aftera delay of more than three years, the inquest on the shooting of Diarmuid opened on 31 January 2000 in Kingston-upon-Thames.
On the first day the police officer in charge of the operation, Detective Chief Superintendent. John Bunn admitted to Michael Mansfield QC that he had known for some time before the night of the shooting that there were no arms or bomb-making equipment in the house as the police had covertly broken into in and searched it only a few days before.
He also confirmed that at the same time the officers had planted surveillance equipment in the room.
Even more extraordinary, at the end of the inquest Coroner Dr John Burton told the jury: "To return a verdict of unlawful killing would make a martyr of Diarmuid and would give comfort to our enemies."
At last Thursday's meeting, Diarmuid's younger brother Shane, who was living near to his brother at the time of the killing, told the meeting how he had been woken up by heavily armed officers breaking into the house.
They arrested him at gun-point and took him to Paddington police station and locked him in a cell for several hours.
He was eventually told that his brother had been shot and later informed that he was dead. Shane was then left alone in the cell.
In the meantime police had been back to his house where they tore down all the ceilings, ripped up the floors and drilled through every door. Every electrical appliance in the house was broken and left. They also smashed the chimney breasts and dug up the entire garden.
After five days of questioning, Shane was released on police bail, even though he was not charged with any offence. The O'Neill family want to know why Shane was treated in this way.
Solicitor Gareth Pierce said that the inquestraised more questions than it answered. "Why," she asked, "did police use an excessive amount of the most potent and previously untested form of CS gas, when the use of such gas was contrary to their own guidelines?
"Also why did they deliberately misinform the media about what happened?"
Gareth also revealed the shocking fact that Chief Superintendent Bunn told the coroner that "although the original plan had been to make the arrest at a north London storage facility, some of the surveillance teams -- which involved up to 400 officers -- were beginning to get a bit edgy in the days before the raid."
Therefore he decided to make the raid in Hammersmith. It was alter disclosed that he had shown his team video footage of the Canary Wharf bombing at the briefing session shortly before the raid.
Gareth Pierce also said they wanted to know about the conduct of HM Coroner Dr John Burton at the Inquest. Ana why did the Police Complaints Authority take three years to investigate the shooting?
Chairing the meeting, John McDonnell MP recalled the Bloody Sunday shootings in 1972, and the lengths the British state has gone to cover up the truth of that massacre.
"They have given the soldiers anonymity and destroyed the weapons used," he said. "The British must be very, very afraid of the consequences of that massacre if they had to go to these lengths to cover it up."
He also commented on the resistance of the British government to any form of independent investigation in these cases.
"The British state," he said, "has a remarkable ability to close ranks and will use any delaying tactics to cover up and hide information."
Also in the platform was Terry Stewart of the Justice for Harry Stanley campaign. He pointed out that although the killings of Diarmuid O'Neill and of Harry Stanley were differenf "they also had some similarities" since "it was a police armed response unit that shot an unarmed man without warning".
Harry Stanley met his death at the hands of the Metropolitan Police very near his home in hackney, east London.
He was shot twice, once through the hand and once in the side of the head, and, as Diarmuid O'Neill had been, was left lying on the pavement for several hours.
His only crime was to be carrying at broken coffee table leg in a plastic bag.
Terry Stewart told of the distress of his family who were not told of the death until the following day and were then held indvidually under house arrest.
They were made to feel like criminals and even at the funeral, guests were questioned.
"The shoot-to-kill policy which began in Northern Ireland then extended to this country," Terry said. And he added: 'It can effectively make sure that in any shoot-to-kill case it can be guaranteed that the Crown prosecutors will not question it.
Both the Justice for Diarmuid O'Neil campaign and the Harry Stanley campaign are working for a united campaign and are demanding an independent inquiry, and now.
"Justice is a key peace issue, said John McDonnell, "Peace will not be achieved until we know the truth of what happened, who ordered these shootings and why. And the only real possibility of arriving at the truth is an independent public inquiry."
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by Our Middle East Affairs correspondent
NINE ISRAELIS were killed and many more wounded when a Palestinian coach driver ploughed into a bus-stop in Azur, near Tel Aviv on Wednesday. Most of the Israelis were soldiers.
The attack followed days of violence in the Gaza Strip in which two Palestinians were killed and 65 wounded by Israeli troops and a senior officer in President Arafat's personal bodyguard was assassinated.
A Zionist mob chanting "Death to the Arabs" soon gathered around the scene of the biggest resistance action for four years on Wednesday morning. But others were simply stunned by the action.
The driver, a Palestinian employee of the Israel Egged bus company, was chased by Israeli police for 20km, before finally crashing into a lorry. He was shot and wounded and is now under guard in hospital.
The driver, Khalil Abu Albeh from Gaza, had no known links with the resistance but his family said he was angry at what the Israelis were doing in the Gaza Strip.
But the Islamic resistance movement has issued a statement stating that the action was carried out by their military wing in retaliation for Zionist crimes and terror against the Palestinian people.
The Izzedin al-Kassam squads, the military wing of the Hamas Muslim Brotherhood, warned that more operations were in the offing if the Zionists continued their bloody rampage against the Palestinians.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who was in Turkey for talks with the government condemned the violence. "Whatever the cause, we are against the use of violence and, of course, killing people" he said.
But within his own Fateh (National Liberation Front of Palestine) movement there is mounting anger at the latest Zionist outrage -- the murder of Major General Massoud Ayyad serving in Arafat's bodyguard who was killed when two Israeli helicopter gunships opened fire on his car.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) has called for an urgent Arab summit to adopt a common Arab stand following the election of Ariel Sharon as prime minister of Israel. The progressive resistance movement warned that Sharon, a well-known Arab hater, will step up the oppression of the Palestinians.
"The Palestinian people will be made the object of savage massacres, notably after terrorist Ariel Sharon's arrival to power," the PFLP said. "We ask the Arab League to convene an urgent Arab summit to plant a common front in order to face the dangerous events in Palestine".
The next Arab summit is set for 27 March in the Jordanian capital, Amman. But Syria, amongst others, is backing resistance calls for joint Arab action against Israel -- particularly the resumption of the Arab boycott campaign of Israel to cut all diplomatic and trade links with the Zionist entity and any company which trades with it.
Thousands of Palestinians have been wounded and over 320 killed since the uprising began five months ago. Sixty-one Israeli troops and settlers have also died in resistance attacks.
* A British citizen is being held in Israel charged with planning acts of resistance. Jehad Shuman has been held since the 5 January but news of his arrest only became public this week when the Israeli court lifted a gagging order.
Shuman, accused of working for the Hezbullah (Party of God) Lebanese resistance, pleads not guilty and he has accused the Zionist authorities of torture.
This was confirmed by Foreign Office minister Baroness Scotland who said British officials had managed to get an independent doctor to examine him who said Shuman's condition was consistent with "physical maltreatment".
"We have been unable... to satisfy ourselves that the physical maltreatment has stopped," Baroness Scotland said in a statement earlier in the week.
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HUNDREDS of peace protesters descended on Scotland's Faslane nuclear submarine base last Monday to protest at the obscenity of the weapons of mass destruction.
Among the 373 people arrested in clashes with the police, as demonstrators sat in the road to block entrances to the base, were Labour MP George Galloway and Tommy Sheridan, Member of the Scottish Parliament and leader of the Scottish Socialist Party.
Other MSPs were also present among the demonstrators, including Linda Fabiani, Fiona Hyslop, Sandra White, Gil Paterson and Robin Harper.
Demonstrators formed a human chain across the north gate entrance to the base and chained themselves to concrete-filed drain pipes.
Police used electronic wire cutters to separate them and drag them away to a waiting convoy of vans.
Demonstrators cheered those blocking the roads, waned placards and banners with slogans: "Trident the crime", "Resist the war machine" and "Welfare or warfare?". They sang peace songs, beat drums and blew whistles.
George Galloway said: "We are worried about how to pay for the care of the elderly and reducing class sizes in schools.
"However we are spending millions on weapons of mass destruction that will never be used."
And Tommy Sheridan said: "If it is necessary to be arrested to deliver nuclear disarmament, then I am proud to join hundreds of other prepared to make that stand."
He had already served five days in jail for refusing to pay a fine in relation to a protest at the base last year.
The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland came to give his support to the protest, saying: "I am here to demonstrate the Church of Scotland's long-standing opposition to nuclear weapons in general and Trident in particular.
"I am very pleased with the atmosphere and both the police and protesters have been both cordial and courteous."
A message of support was received from Scottish actor Sean Connery.
Meanwhile opposition is continuing to grow to British participation in the planned United States missile defence shield -- "son of star wars".
Involvement would cost British taxpayers billions according to Sir Charles Guthrie, the chief of the defence staff.
The said the matter was a "moral issue" -- a matter of defending the American people against "rogue nations".
Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said the defence system would leave the US feeling more secure and "more able to assert itself in international areas of concern to is" and therefore the Labour government would regard it as "a net gain in security".
The system will effectively abandon many arms control treaties and is likely to spark a new arms race, with countries targeted by America being forced to come together and consider mutual protection.
This will leave Britain as a front line target but without the protection of the system.
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