The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 23rd June 2006




Anti BNP demonstrations

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Lead

LABOUR IN TURMOIL

by Daphne Liddle

TWO-THIRDS
of the Labour Party’s 200,000 members want Tony Blair out of office by next year’s party conference, according to a You.Gov poll conducted in the run up to last weekend’s conference of the pressure group Compass in Brighton.

 The poll also found that one third of the members want Blair gone by this year’s conference.

 It was conducted for a commission on Labour democracy, chaired by Michael Meacher, MP for Oldham and Royton, to investigate the sense of a lack of democratic accountability within Labour.

 When questioned about policy issues, a quarter of current Labour members said they had come close to quitting because of the invasion of Iraq.

 When asked to name the party’s six biggest mistakes, Iraq came top of the list, cited by 52 per cent; subservience to the United States came second on 49 per cent; privatisation of public services came third at 46 per cent and failure to raise the top rate of income tax came fourth at 36 per cent.

 Around three-quarters of Labour members believe that ordinary members have little or no influence on Government policy.
 This coincided with a Guardian-ICM poll, which showed that support for Labour among the general population has now fallen to 32 per cent, compared to 37 per cent for the Tories and 21 per cent for the Liberal Democrats.

 Meacher warned that there is a growing feeling among members that if the party does not change, it is doomed to loose the next election.
 
watershed

He said: “Now is the moment, the watershed, when we have to take stock, to have a debate in the party about the direction in which we go. There is clearly a demand for it.”

 Supporters of Gordon Brown, like Ed Balls, spoke continually of the need for the party to “renew itself”, including at the top – hinting that Blair should make way for Brown as quickly and smoothly as possible.

 Michael Wills MP, another Brown supporter, called for the creation of a constitutional convention of 300 “ordinary people” to be elected to provide a bridge between the “political class” and the public. Anyone who had ever stood for Parliament should be excluded from the “convention”.

 This is pure spin – the creation of a body of well-meaning but tame amateurs that politicians can pretend to consult and then ignore.

 Trade union leaders Derek Simpson of Amicus and Dave Prentis of Unison came nearer the mark when they called for strong new policies to defend workers’ rights to raise Labour’s standing in the polls.

 Simpson said: “Labour will lose unless it recognises the deep concerns of its core supporters. Without a serious change in direction, drawing away from the business agenda that recognises people’s desire to be safe and secure and to be able to have a good quality of life, we will definitely lose.”

 Prentis warned Gordon Brown that he should not take his union’s votes for granted when he sought to replace Blair.

 “You’ll have to earn it,” he said. “We’ve been let down before. We want to work with you to build trust in Labour. That means abandoning ideological attacks on our public services.”

 The current mood within the party clearly has the Blairites worried and they have responded with an attack on Nottingham MP Alan Simpson – a member of the Campaign Group and the Labour Representation Committee – for his attacks on Blair’s leadership.

 Simpson is being officially disciplined for comparing Downing Street under Blair to Franco’s fascist regime.

 But Simpson has refused to retract or apologise. He said: “Downing Street may not have liked my comments about the war, but they need to get out more. It is the party’s self-destructive abandonment of principles that is causing the haemorrhage of support for Labour, not those who try to criticise it.” Other left MPs are backing Simpson – and so apparently is his constituency party.

 This leaves Blair’s leadership looking very weak as the unions and the membership are at last coming together to oust Blair.

 Now the big question seems to be not so much can they get rid of Blair, as can they also get rid of Brown and the “New Labour” policies? It seems there is a real possibility of this.

 The labour movement is a large and cumbersome vehicle but once it starts to move leftwards the momentum could carry it a long way. Sustaining this momentum will require a lot of effort from working class activists.

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Editorials

Democratic Korea has to defend itself

THE DEMOCRATIC People’s Republic of Korea is once again the focus of United States imperialist demands to halt its weapons development programme. They claim the DPRK is a threat to other nations in the region.

 But let us look at the history of the region and work out who is really a threat. In its 6,000-year history, the people of Korea have never attacked or invaded another country – but they have certainly been attacked, invaded and occupied, both by Japan and the US. Even now the country is divided into the independent socialist DPRK and the American-occupied south. Both sides of the imperialist-imposed division, the Korean people long for their country to be peacefully reunited.

 The DPRK has been subjected to US imperialist hostility, threats and blockades ever since the people of Korea, led by Kim IL Sung, fought the invaders to a standstill over 50 years ago.

 The government of the DPRK has not only a right but an absolute duty to defend its people against further attack and invasion.

 And the chief lesson of the Iraq war is that Saddam’s biggest mistake was to comply with imperialist clamour to disarm and to scrap his powerful weapons of defence. Iran is not falling for that trick and neither will the DPRK. They both recognise that to disarm is to lay themselves wide open to attack and invasion.

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More Government computer failures

The National Audit Office last week criticised the multi-billion NHS computer systems upgrade for falling way behind schedule. This is just the latest in a very long line of Government information technology projects that have failed.

 Why do Government private sector computer schemes always go wrong? Ask almost any frontline civil servant and they will tell you the root of the problem is that the people who negotiate with the private computer company are top Whitehall mandarins – graduates who have never served a day in a frontline office dealing with the public.

 When the software designers ask for details of what the programmes will need to do, these mandarins lack the knowledge of the day-to-day operations of their departments – so the software is never adequate to the task.  Then it has to be corrected and often the upgrades and corrections are bolted on to a system that is fundamentally inadequate and further incompatibilities and instabilities result. This process does not bother the private IT companies – it makes more work and more money for them.

 This is happening against a background where the Government is hell bent on cutting civil service numbers. In theory the computers should make their work easier; in reality badly-designed computers make the work harder.

 No wonder so many frontline civil servants in so many departments are feeling overburdened, confused and stressed.

 Let representatives of the frontline workers take part in the system design talks from the beginning – and better still, let the civil service employ its own computer experts and build its own in-house IT systems. And stop cutting civil service jobs. This would cost tax-payers far less than the present system.


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