The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 25th March 2005



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Lead

BLAIR: LABOUR’S ALBATROSS


by Daphne Liddle

LABOUR
is holding its lead in the polls in the run-up to the coming election but only because it has jettisoned some of its most unpopular policies – for now.

These include cuts to public sector pensions and the deeply unpopular Bill to pave the way for compulsory identity cards. Everybody knows these policies will be revived once the election is over.

 Chancellor Gordon Brown a week ago produced a budget that was superficially appealing but actually gave away very little. Many of his apparently generous handouts to families and to pensioners will shrink or disappear after means testing is applied.
 
the better off

For example the £200 awarded to pensioners to help pay their council tax will not bring any benefit at all to those who are already claiming council tax rebate. Only those who are better off a liable to pay the full rate will actually get the full £200. The same principle applies to the family credits.

 But Brown has succeeded in convincing many that they will be better off with him in charge of the economy than the Tories.

 Tory leader Michael Howard continues to campaign by appealing to the worst fears and prejudices of the electorate, picking on vulnerable sections of the community to demonise: gypsies, asylum seekers and women in need of abortions. He has raised the profile of the Tory party in the gutter press but not, it seems, in the opinion polls.

 Education Secretary Ruth Kelly has been faced with a damning report on the lack of success of the trials of the part-privatised city academies and with the Jamie Oliver campaign that has exposed the horrendous condition of school dinners.

 Both Kelly and Blair have met Oliver and promised to introduce minimum standards for school food – but with no extra budget. They say they will introduce better training for school dinner ladies and improve school kitchens.

 It sounds good but the small print says this plan of action will take 15 years to accomplish. During that time a new generation of young people will grow up malnourished with a host of health complaints that will see them die before their parents – unless the Government can be forced to take stronger, faster action.

 A few schools have succeeded in raising food standards by dismissing the privatised suppliers of the appalling food and using the money to do their own catering.

 Trevor Averre-Beeson, the head teacher of Islington Green School said: “We opted out of both LEA and a private catering company. The private caterer has to make a profit and cover its costs and therefore takes 40p of the price of a meal to the students.

 “So a meal costing £1.20 will divide equally between the company (40p), the meal (40p) and the salaries of the kitchen staff. By deciding to ‘go it alone’ and using the 40per to the company (in our case approximately £120,000 per year), we have been able to improve the salaries of our staff, invest in the fabric and capital of the kitchen; maintain prices at 2002 levels; buy produce locally; remove fizzy drinks and some other unhealthy products and give away free fruit.”
 
blight

In a nutshell, the root of the problem is privatisation. Privatisation is also the blight that puts impossible holes in local authority budgets and pension funds. It is the blight that diverts all the extra funding put into the NHS and education into private pockets. It is the blight that cripples our public transport system, making it expensive and unreliable – leading to more use of private cars, more pollution and more damage to the planet.

 The Blair government cannot and will not sign up to anything that reverses privatisation – nor would the Tories or the Liberal Democrats.

 Privatisation is the policy of the global ruling class and the reason why there is so little difference between the policies of the three main parties on so many vital issues.
 
mobilised

Even if the Greens or Respect were ever elected to a position of power, they would not be able to reverse the process of privatisation without challenging the power of world capitalism – and it takes more than crosses on pieces of paper to do that. It takes a united, mobilised and armed working class.

 The global ruling class is united on privatisation. But it is anything but united over the biggest issue that Blair will face in the coming election – Iraq and America’s greed to control all of the world’s oil.

 On Wednesday Foreign Secretary Jack Straw announced new measures on dossiers to prevent a repeat of the intelligence failings just before the illegal invasion of Iraq, tightening up the Government use of secret information.

 It is of course a cosmetic operation. But it is also a subtle, back-handed admission that the war has been a huge mistake. Time now for Blair to take this to its logical conclusion, to apologise, to resign and let a better person lead the Labour party into the general election – even if that means a postponement. That really would secure a certain victory for Labour, which is the best the working class of Britain can hope for until we are mobilised and ready for a revolution.

 *************
Editorial

Blair backs down

TONY BLAIR backed away from confrontation with the public sector unions over plans to raise the retirement age and thus averted the walk-out of over a million workers this week.   The Government has made commitment to re-start talks and it has revoked changes that would have forced local government workers to carry on till 65 to get their full pension.

The TUC has been asked to intervene and a new tripartite committee is going to be set up to deal with the long term future of the local government pension scheme.

There can be no doubt that without the threat of mass industrial action the unions would have got nothing out of this government. And the unions won their point because an election in the offing has clearly brought Blair and his minions down to earth. All Labour governments ultimately rely on the votes of millions of working people – votes that Blair and his cronies have taken for granted for too many years. Now with the Liberal Democrats creeping up in the opinion polls Blair is beginning to realise that he cannot take Labour’s core working class vote for granted any longer.

Pandering to cranky Christian pressure groups and the racist hysteria stirred up by the reactionary press will get Labour nowhere in the election stakes. Ignoring the millions who want British forces out of Iraq and who made their point forcibly in London and all over the country last weekend will play into the hands of the Liberal Democrats who are making the war an election issue. Extending the privatisation of what’s left of our public services to enrich the asset strippers and speculators will only encourage abstentions when it comes to the vote.

The millstone around Labour’s neck is, of course, Tony Blair and his “New Labour” cronies. Blair’s personal standing is rock bottom in the opinion polls and he rarely shows his face in public except to hand-picked special interest “forums”.

Gordon Brown tells us Britain has the fourth strongest economy in the world. Sure, Britain has become a paradise for the capitalists, landowners, spivs and speculators. They’ve never had it so good. But what does it mean for the workers?

Soaring house prices because council houses are not being built; poor wages because the unions are still denied the free collective bargaining rights they enjoyed until 1979; unreliable and expensive commercial rail networks; a declining health service and a meagre state pension.

The Labour Party as a whole still has a comfortable lead in the polls.  Few working people want the Tories back. They still remember the harsh days of Thatcher and Major. But even fewer want what Blair & Co are dishing up for us today – imperialist war, declining services and mediocre education.

Britain is indeed an immensely wealthy country and the rich have enjoyed continuous tax breaks since the Tories won the 1979 election. Now’s the time for them to pay.

Labour must return to its core policies to keep its core voters. The “Welfare State” and the public sector must be restored and higher rate income tax raised to 1979 levels to help pay for it. 

The labour movement has the power to change the leadership and the direction of the Labour Party and the Labour government. That change is needed more than ever now.

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