The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 26th May 2006

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by Daphne Liddle

on the Tories to get his Bills through is getting to be a habit with Prime Minister Tony Blair and he did it again last Tuesday when 69 Labour MPs voted in favour of a rebel amendment to the Education Bill but the Bill still got through unscathed because the Tories backed it.

 The amendment would have forced schools to hold a ballot of parents before becoming independent trusts but was defeated by 412 votes to 121.

On Wednesday evening the Bill cleared the House of Commons on another vote backed by the Tories. This time 50 Labour backbench rebels voted against the Bill.

 Labour MP John McDonnell, who leads the Labour Representation Committee, commenting on Tuesday’s defeat of the amendment, said: “This is a crippling blow to the Education Bill, which the Prime Minister is only able to force through the Commons on the back of Tory votes.”

 The Bill will now allow schools to become “self-governing” – that is to say governed by private sector sponsors who have forked out a £2 million donation, which is a small fraction of the total cost of the school. The taxpayers, who will meet the rest of the costs, will have little say in the policies of trust schools.

 Blair, and his new Education Secretary Alan Johnson, are claiming these semi-privatised schools will improve education standards in deprived areas.

But schools already in the Government’s £5 billion academy programme have failed to improve results compared to the comprehensives they replaced, according to a study published last week by a senior academic at Edinburgh University.

 The Liberal Democrats supported the amendment. Speaking for the Lib-Dems, Sarah Teather MP said: “This research pulls the rug out from under ministers who have made extravagant claims about the results academies are delivering.

“The truth is that their performance is much less impressive than the Government has spun.”

 Meanwhile popular support for Blair’s government is falling fast according to a Guardian/ICM poll published last Wednesday, which put support for Labour currently at 34 per cent compared with 38 per cent for the Tories and 20 per cent for the Lib-Dems.

 This is the Tories’ highest rating in 13 years and is inspired not so much by confidence in David Cameron as disillusionment with Labour.

 The financial crisis in the NHS, which is cutting swathes of health sector jobs, along with the current shambles at the Home Office are blamed for the falling support – along with all the usual issues like the Iraq war, pensions, privatisation, sleaze and so on.

 NHS officials are now claiming that having fewer beds will improve the health service because new treatments mean that people do not have to spend so long in hospital. So it’s back to the Tory days of flinging people out of hospital as quickly as possible. In theory they go to convalesce cared for by family and by community nurses, GPs and other community support services.

 But, as in the Tory days, the provision of community care is woefully underfunded and inadequate – and much of what there is has been privatised to be supplied by profit-making agencies.

Calamities at the Home Office continue to hit the headlines, with the news that 2,700 completely innocent people have been wrongly labelled as criminals by the Criminal Records Bureau because their personal details were similar to criminals. The Home Office said the mismatches were “regrettable” but failed to apologise.

 Other scandals to hit the Home Office include serious offenders being able to simply walk out of open prisons – with many still at large – and four illegal immigrants found to have been working at the Home Office building in Croydon for several years.

 Newly-appointed Home Secretary John Reid has had no option but to agree that his department is in a mess and to threaten drastic changes – including sackings.

 Like many Government departments, the Home Office is beset by poor communications, inadequate information technology supplied by the private sector and insufficient properly trained civil servants. It is hardly surprising if the civil servants who have survived the culls, facing daily vilification and expected to implement ever more complex Government legislation, become demoralised amid the shambles.

 And the employment of illegal immigrants as cleaners in Government buildings shows that the Government, like any private cheapskate boss, is happy to use the sort of agencies that pay the lowest wages, cut corners, exploit vulnerable workers and infringe the law to keep costs as low as possible.

 The whole Government is a shambles – and cannot be anything else as long as the utterly discredited Tony Blair remains in charge. He must go.


Blair: errand boy of imperialism

THOUGH Tony Blair rarely shows his face in public at home there’s nothing he loves more than strutting across the world posing as an international statesman and basking in the plaudits of the apologists of imperialism on both sides of the Atlantic. Largely dispensing with his own Foreign Secretary, Blair willingly assumed the role of messenger boy for George W Bush in the service of the most venal and aggressive sections of the British ruling class. But these days Blair’s less and less welcome abroad and he’s now been reduced to making a flying visit to Iraq to meet the puppet leaders who serve Anglo-American imperialism.

Needless to say Blair said nothing new during his few hours in the fortified US military compound in the heart of Baghdad that houses the Vichy-type regime that relies entirely on the bayonets of British and American imperialism. Blair told the Iraqi people that there was now “no excuse” for the bloodshed to continue now they had a “new government” that was a “new beginning” which would allow Iraqis to “take charge of their own destiny”. That he clearly doesn’t believe this himself was demonstrated by the fact that a senior official in his entourage told the media that the withdrawal of the present multinational force should be accomplished within four years.

Whether the Iraqi people are going to wait that long remains to be seen. The guns of the heroic Iraqi resistance are blazing throughout the country. The British zone of southern Iraq has erupted into anti-occupation violence. British troops can no longer patrol on foot  for fear of ambushes, while the alternative – helicopter gunships – is becoming equally hazardous.

When Blair threw in his lot with the war party he clearly expected to reap a handsome reward for his services from the United States that would more than compensate for the souring of relations with Franco-German imperialism and the end of British hopes of playing a leading role in the European Union. Events have shown that the leaders of France and Germany had more sense than to get involved in this fool’s errand.

When Blair ordered the army in after misleading the public and lying to Parliament over Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction, he assumed that he would be basking in jingoistic popularity when Iraqi was overrun. His spin-merchants talked about the “Baghdad bounce” that would send Blair’s popularity soaring.  They were soon proved wrong because the British people are much wiser than he.

Britain faced the same problem when it first occupied Iraq after the First World War. The Arabs, who had been tricked into believing that the defeat of Germany and the Turkish Ottoman Empire would lead to their freedom, were furious when they discovered that all they were getting was new chains for old.

The Iraqi revolt made Mesopotamia, as it was then called, ungovernable, provoking an intervention by  Colonel T E  Lawrence, the chief British agent in the Middle East during the war, that still rings true today. Writing to the Sunday Times in August 1920 “Lawrence of Arabia” said: “The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honour. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. The Baghdad communiqués are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows. It is a disgrace to our imperial record, and may soon be too inflamed for any ordinary cure. We are today not far from a disaster”.

Lawrence’s solution was simply to replace the British colonial occupation with a pro-British feudal Arab king, whose family sat on the throne until most of them were shot during the Iraqi revolution of 1958. The age of kings is over even in Arabia but Colonel Lawrence’s general advice is as true now as it was it 1920. There must be an immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all British troops from Iraq.

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