The New Worker
The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 23rd July 2004
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BLAIR: NONE SO DEAF...!
by Daphne Liddle
THE VOTERS of Birmingham Hodge Hill and
Leicester South last week gave Blair yet another clear and unambiguous message
that it is time for him to go. But he remains deaf.
The Liberal Democrats took Leicester South and nearly took Birmingham Hodge
Hill. In Leicester the swing to the Liberal Democrats was 21.5 per cent and
in Hodge Hill it was 26.75 per cent. In both seats the Tories fared abysmally.
The message is clear that voters do not want those political leaders
who backed the illegal invasion of Iraq and prefer to support the party that
took a comparatively principled stand against the war.
On Tuesday the Butler Report was debated in the House of Commons –
an opportunity for all those backbench MPs, who now say they would not have
backed the war, to put Blair on the spot with awkward questions.
Clare Short had a go, pointing out that if MPs had been told the truth
about the weakness of Blair’s evidence on the alleged Iraqi weapons of mass
destruction (WMDs), they would not have thought the case for war was urgent.
They would have preferred to allow Hans Blix and the UN weapons inspectors
But, when Blair should have been squirming, Tory leader Michael Howard
let him off the hook by taking centre stage with the most unbelievable assertions.
He claimed that he supported the war and that it was justified in one
breath. And in the next he said that, had he known then what he knows now
about the weakness of the intelligence reports, he could not have voted for
the resolution to go to war.
This contradiction had the whole House laughing and Blair relaxed,
believing he has once again got away with it.
Unfortunately most of the backbench Labour MPs who managed to get a
word in were as limp and useless as Butler and Hutton. The repeated theme
throughout was that Blair “acted in good faith”. Though their claim to know
what was in Blair’s mind – honest or dishonest – is a remarkable claim of
extra sensory powers.
The nearest anyone came to accusing him of twisting the truth to fit
the agenda already agreed between Blair and Bush was when former Tory cabinet
Minister Kenneth Clarke said that Blair’s “good faith” included a lot of
The Liberal Democrats again put up a comparatively principled stand
– to a half empty House as many MPs left the chamber after Howard’s remarks.
The most principled and trenchant attacks on Blair’s duplicity have come
from outside Parliament.
David Kay, a UN weapons inspector hand-picked by the CIA, last week
condemned Blair, saying that Bush and Blair should have known that Iraq did
not have any WMDs.
He maintained that Blair and Bush had an agenda for war and thus ignored
the flaws in the WMD argument.
“I think the Prime Minister should have been able to tell before the
war that the evidence did not exist for drawing the conclusion that Iraq
presented a clear, present and imminent threat on the basis of weapons of
mass destruction,” he said.
Former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, who resigned in protest just before
the war, was very critical of the Butler report in an article the Independent.
In particular he attacked the report’s failure to apportion any blame for
the long catalogue of errors that led up to the war.
“It used to be a standard mantra of Tony Blair’s speeches,” said Cook,
“that ‘responsibility and rights’ are indissolubly linked. It turns out that
responsibility is for job-seekers and single parents, not for our ruling
On the House of Commons debate Cook said: “Anyone listening to him
[Blair] in the Chamber could not have left with anything other than the impression
that he is absolutely convinced he was right and that he would do it all
over again in precisely the same circumstances.”
And he concluded: “The irony is that the only ministers who have left
the Government over the chapter of errors that led us into war in Iraq are
those who could not support the war, and the only people to be sacked are
those at the BBC and Daily Mirror who criticised it.
“Everyone who contributed to the errors of judgement is still in post and
now patted on the head by Lord Butler for doing the best they could.
“That may seem very British and very sensible to Lord Butler. To the
rest of the world it will seem barmy.”
Next week Blair will face another challenge as the Labour policy forum
meets, with the unions and Labour constituency parties working together to
force some pro-working class policies into Labour’s next manifesto.
The unions are demanding changes on labour laws, an end to privatisation
of public services, pensions and support for manufacturing.
There is very strong rank and file support for these changes but unfortunately
history shows that often union leaders can be undermined by New Labour spin
and lies – concessions made that are later withdrawn.
The union leaders must learn from experience and stick to their guns.
One pointed out that policies are more important than personalities,
saying: “If Mr Blair fell under a bus tomorrow we would still have these
issues with Gordon Brown.”
This is why Brown must go too, along with all the discredited right
wing New Labour policies – or Labour stands in real danger of losing the
next general election.
The Writing on the Wall
LAST WEEK’S by-elections were a disaster for Labour. The
Liberal Democrats overturned a huge Labour majority in Leicester South and
they were only narrowly beaten in the other one-time safe Labour seat in
Even the Tories, who also fared badly, are getting the message; though their
weasel words are confined to the issue of whether Tony Blair misled Parliament
while they say nothing the war that they continue to support.
Blair may still believe that the applause of his sycophants in Parliament
will drown the questions raised by the Butler Inquiry over the Iraq War.
He may think that he can brazen it out until the American elections, praying
for the Bush victory that could boost his standing in the polls. But none
of this will cut any ice with the British people.
Blair’s refusal to come clean over the real reasons behind his decision
to back the American invasion of Iraq has created an immense credibility
gap that will haunt Labour for as long as he remains at the helm.
Scraping the barrel
Blair’s new “five-year plan” for law and order is yet another cynical
ploy to distract the public from the central issue of war and peace, and
blame every social problem on every one else. Blair bleats on about the “end
of the 1960s liberal consensus” and “rules, order and proper behaviour” –
but what is his alternative? More spy-in-the-sky electronic surveillance,
community cops and electronic tagging. Doubtless more prisons are on the
way as well.
His merchants of spin clearly believe that everyone is as stupid as themselves.
But the old hanging, flogging and birching brigade is a dying breed confined
almost entirely to the fascist BNP and neanderthal elements within the Tory
party. It’s not going to woo many of the middle strata that are deserting
Labour in droves in favour of the Liberal Democrats over the Iraq War. Nor
does it have anything to over the millions of workers in run-down estates
who want to see real improvements to their lives – not cosmetic gimmicks
or cheap sound-bites about tinkering around with the council tax.
It’s the same on transport. While no one can deny that road congestion is
an increasing problem in all our major cities, simply penalising the motorist
with more road tolls is not the answer. Though congestion charging has worked
in central London, most goods and services are ultimately delivered by road
transport and increased charges are inevitably passed onto the public in
The answer is an integrated and publicly owned national transport system
that would attract more passengers and draw more commercial traffic away
from the motorways and trunk roads. A subsidised rail, bus, and tram system
that delivered an efficient and cheap service would solve most of the problems
that plague our cities today.
That would, of course, mean increasing income tax – and that is the last
thing Blair and Brown want to do. They both must go.
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