The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 24th March 2006

100,000 march in London

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by Daphne Liddle

last Wednesday presented his 10th budget, which many believe will be his last before taking the premiership from Tony Blair. It was a budget full of sunshine, green and happy things – like more sports for schoolchildren, bus passes for pensioners, warm woollen mittens, whiskers on kittens and brown paper parcels tied up with string.

All his targets had been met: inflation at two per cent; growth at 2.5 per cent, productivity 2.3 per cent up and economic growth at 2.5 per cent. Brown declared he had met his “golden rule” on public borrowing and was on target for a £16 billion surplus over the economic cycle ending 2010-11.

 Nothing sinister or unpleasant was mentioned. Bad words like “pensions black hole”, “NHS cash crisis”, “manufacturing industry”, “record personal debt” and “water shortages” were not allowed to spoil the moment.
Pensioners throughout the country will get free off-peak bus passes. But nothing was said about rocketing fuel prices and whether or not pensioners would get their annual £200 winter fuel allowance at all – never mind upgraded in line with costs.

Household heating is one cost which, along with housing, travel, council tax and other essential day-today living expenses, is not included in official inflation figures and makes a mockery of them.

This leaves those on fixed incomes and those public employees whose wages are to be fixed at 2.5 per cent with a steadily declining standard of living.

Brown did say he would spend money to recruit much-needed science teachers for schools and fund after-hours science clubs in schools. But he also spoke of summer schools for “entrepreneurs” and scholarships to American universities.

Brown said that resources would be redirected from “failing” college courses to ones that employers want to see.

His proposals to tackle the serious shortage of affordable homes was to allocate £970 million for shared equity schemes to help 35,000 people get on the housing ladder. This will push prices even higher and is woefully inadequate. London alone has more than 60,000 homeless families.

 As expected he introduced new taxes for big “gas-guzzling”, high polluting cars and talked of “smart metering” to makes homes environmentally friendly.

 He also proposed a £20 million World Bank scheme to invest in new forms of energy in developing nations – a bit like the little boy in the advert who thought his dad could buy a new car for 50 pence!

 Brown boasted of saving £6 billion by cutting thousands of civil service jobs. Now he plans an increase of £1 billion on defence spending – of which £200 million will be used to “promote peacekeeping in the most troubled countries of the world”.

 Brown clearly had the 2012 Olympics in mind when he proposed an annual schools’ Olympics and a new national sports foundation supported by £4 million from the Government and private sector companies. There will also be £2 million for evening sports clubs for young people. These will be run by the police, premier league football clubs and community groups.

This is a budget that avoids all the serious issues facing this country’s economy. It is a budget for show, for political posturing. It is a budget aimed to ensure that Brown’s succession to Number 10 is as smooth as possible.

 It is also a budget that backs all of Blair’s worst policies – sending British troops abroad to support United States intimidation and invasion of Third World countries and continuing privatisation in education.

 The NHS is abandoned to economic failure, ageing workers are abandoned to a life of poverty when they reach pension age and manufacturing industry is abandoned to further collapse. Those in deep debt are left to the mercy of the loan companies.

 This is a reckless, laissez-faire budget that will leave millions of working people facing a grim future.


Who pays for the party?

TRANSPORT and General Workers’ Union deputy general secretary Jack Dromey, who is also the treasurer of the Labour Party, last week delivered a bombshell into Tony Blair’s lap when he revealed that party leaders had accepted loans of millions of pounds from rich capitalists to fund last year’s election campaign without telling him.

 Since then, a number of the chief lenders have been awarded peerages and the total sum involved has been revealed as over £14 million. But Dromey was not the only person in the dark. It seems that Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott was not told and nor was Chancellor Gordon Brown; only a tiny clique in the party had any idea where their campaign funds came from.

 It has embroiled the Labour Party in the kind of sleaze scandal that sank the Tory party in the mid 90s. The Tory party is no better. It borrowed even more from rich businessmen to fund its own campaign. 

 Both parties had found a way round the law passed by Labour not long after it came to power in 1997 which compelled all donations over £5,000 to be declared openly. The law had not mentioned loans.

 Last year, in the run-up to the general election, the Labour Party was very short of funds. The unions, who had founded and funded the party to fight for working class interests, were angry over continuing privatisation of the public sector and the continuing debacle in Iraq. Some unions had reduced their donations. Blair knew that to get more money from them, he would have to make some policy concessions. He preferred to get the money from his big business friends who liked his zeal for privatisation.

 The breaking scandal over peerages for cash has led to renewed calls to change the way that peerages are awarded and the way that political parties are funded. Tory leader David Cameron has seized the initiative and come up with a set of proposals that include a cap of £50,000 on the size of donations from single individuals or trade unions and that political parties should be at least partly funded by the state – by taxpayers.

 This is an attack on the power of the organised working class. Trade unions are not individuals. They are composed of millions of members who have voted to retain the political levy – their contribution to Labour Party funding, so that the working class can have a voice in Parliament to defend the interests of labour against the capitalist ruling class.

 State funding of parties would force us all to contribute to a number of different parties, regardless of whether we supported their views or aims. It also would undermine the influence of the unions, of the organised working class, on the Labour Party. If the leaders of any party do not depend on the members and supporters for funds, they become less accountable to them.

 Many believe, wrongly, that this has already happened. Blair’s “New Labour” policies are so right wing they are barely distinguishable from those of the Tories. They are the policies of the ruling class, which that class seeks to impose regardless of which party sits on the front benches. They are not the policies of Labour.

 Blair is not the Labour Party – he is its worst enemy and if not stopped soon he could destroy it. The battle raging inside that party to get rid of Blair and his policies is the front line of the class struggle. The ruling class wants to see all trade union influence in Parliament ended, it wants the party divorced from the unions and destroyed. We must resist this at all costs.

 We will not achieve socialist revolution through Parliament but until the working class is ready to overthrow our oppressors, it needs its voice and its influence to be reasserted inside Parliament.

 It would be easier to rally the working class behind this struggle if union leaders and backbench MPs were to put up a better fight against the Blair clique.

 This latest scandal has sent support for the Labour Party into freefall. Blair is disgraced yet again. Our union leaders and Labour MPs must act now to remove Blair – while they still can.

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