LABOUR VERSUS BLAIR
by Daphne Liddle
BLAIR’S days in office are numbered. Within the last week he has
faced two significant backbench revolts – on foundation hospitals and the
future of the fire service. He faces more on tuition fees and House of Lords
A senior member of his Cabinet, Clare Short, has resigned with an acrimonious attack on his leadership and broken promises over Iraq. The judiciary is opposed to his changes in the law and sentencing rules that will breach human rights legislation.
And the trade unions are becoming more determined in their fight against privatisation and are calling for more democracy within the Labour Party.
Kevin Curran, general secretary elect of the GMB general union, last week put on hold a £40 million package of financial aid for the Labour Party because, he said, Blair’s “love affair with the private sector” is tearing the party apart.
He said he would reconsider the plan next spring, when the union had completed a review of its links with Labour.
The Fire Brigades Union is also considering its position on this issue.
The giant public sector union Unison pays the Labour party £1.5 million a year. But this weekend, at its annual conference in Glasgow, it will consider a motion reviewing its constitutional ties under the “partnership in power” pact, adopted five years ago.
The motion calls for urgent reform and warns that Labour Party membership is falling and lamenting a “declining interest” among members in taking part in the policy process.
The motion marks the strong contrast between the “sterility” of Labour’s spring conference in Glasgow and the “vitality” of the Stop the War demonstration outside, which attracted thousands of marchers.
The motion effectively calls for a restructuring of the policy making process within the Labour Party, to become more continuous and inclusive, with opportunities for greater participation from the membership.
Unison is particularly critical of Labour’s refusal to abide by its own conference decisions. One resolution urged the Government to restore the link between the state pension and average earnings. Another demanded an inquiry into the private finance initiative.
Unison’s revolt is targeted not just a Blair, but also Chancellor Gordon Brown and Health Secretary Alan Milburne.
The rail union TSSA is also considering its relationship with the Labour Party. In recent years the GMB, RMT and CWU have all reduced their contributions to Labour in protest over anti-working class policies.
The unions have been infinitely patient and willing to negotiate with Blair and his clique but to no avail. He still insists on opening up our remaining precious public services like health and education to the vultures of private enterprise.
And so he must go. Even his former best friends are aware that he has become a liability and are making their own contingency plans for when he goes, distancing themselves from him and allying themselves to potential replacements. The rats are leaving the sinking ship.
But the opportunists, like Clare Short, although ready to jettison Blair, want to hang on to his policies and head off the growing revolt within the party, persuading it to settle for a new leader, not much different, such as Brown.
Blair has publicly admitted that just before the war on Iraq, his career was hanging by a thread because of public opposition.
He had hoped that when that war was quickly brought to the conclusion the imperialists wanted, people would change their minds. He was hoping for the “Falklands factor” that saved the career of Margaret Thatcher.
But that has not happened. Nobody is much surprised that a giant super-power, armed to the teeth, and its tame ally, Britain, were easily able to smash the defences of an impoverished Third World country and occupy it.
Other imperialist countries were opposed to this war of greed for oil and the rifts created have left Bush and Blair isolated in the world.
Thousands of Labour supporters and activists were appalled by the decision to go to war in the teeth of United Nations and popular domestic opposition.
This includes members of the parliamentary Labour Party, many that once were New Labour “Blair babes” and sycophants. Even they can no longer stomach his servility to United States imperialism and the global finance fat cats.
Clare Short came to Blair’s aid before the invasion of Iraq, when he faced a possibly damning vote against the war in the House of Commons.
First she supported him, then changed sides very publicly, making friends within the peace camp. Then she backed down, again publicly, at the crucial moment before the vote, undermining the peace position.
Now, as Blair again faces the end of his career, she has resigned from the Cabinet, once again appearing to be in the camp of those who oppose Blair. Once again, her role is to confuse the issue and head off the rebellion.
This time she is suggesting that Blair step down, to make “an elegant succession” for Brown to take over – with much the same policies.
The unions and Labour membership will see through this drama queen act. They want a real change, elegant or otherwise.
It will not of course be possible to get real socialism from any parliamentary Labour government – that requires a revolution.
But a revolution requires a confident and organised working class and getting rid of Blair, all his clique and his policies will be a big step towards building working class and union morale.
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