The New Worker
The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 25th March 2005
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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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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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