The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 27th October 2006

Black history month feature - Toussaint  L'Ouverture

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by Daphne Liddle

separate opinion polls conducted within the last week both showed that around two thirds of people in Britain want our troops withdrawn from Iraq as soon as possible – regardless of whether or not Blair believes the “job is done” or whether the United States wants them to stay.

The ICM poll conducted for the Guardian found that 61 per cent of the public want British troops to leave by the end of this year. In a similar poll conducted a year ago, just 51 per cent backed troop withdrawal, with 41 per cent saying the troops should stay “until the security situation in Iraq had improved”. Now, only 30 per cent believe this.

 The Communicate Research poll conducted for the Independent found that 62 per cent want British troops withdrawn from Iraq as soon as possible, while 72 per cent believe the war is unwinnable.

 The same percentage says that Blair’s total support for George Bush is evidence of his poor political judgement.

 The previous week Britain’s army chief, Sir Richard Dannatt, had spoken out in favour of a quick withdrawal, saying that the presence of British troops was making the situation worse.

 Military leaders on both sides of the Atlantic are now pressuring both Bush and Blair for a quick withdrawal and it would appear some exit strategies are being hastily cobbled together. Predicted time spans are ranging from 12 to 18 months.

 But that is a long time in politics and Bush, Blair and their spin doctors are well known for saying anything to appease critics when they are under pressure and either forgetting or changing their minds later.

 If the imperialist powers stay in Iraq, it is very unlikely that there will be less violence by this time next year, as the level of fighting is intensifying month by month. Some 90 American soldiers have died within the last month.

 The people in Britain and the US are now aware that the invasion has been a political and military disaster. Bush is revealed as a dangerous fool and Blair even more so for being Bush’s compliant lap-dog. The longer they cling to power, the worse their standing will be.

 When Prime Minister Anthony Eden made a similar political blunder over Suez exactly 50 years ago, he at least had the sense to resign quickly and so avoided making the situation worse and dragging his party down with him.

 Blair has no such sense. A third opinion poll last week, an ICM poll for the Guardian published on Wednesday, found that only 29 per cent of the electorate would vote for Labour now, compared to 39 per cent for the Tories with 22 per cent for the Liberal Democrats. This is a fall of three per cent for Labour since last month.

 Iraq is not the only issue losing votes for Labour. Voters are also angry at the changes to the NHS. Blair’s leadership is proving a catastrophe for Britain, for Iraq and for the Labour Party.

 Remaining in Iraq will simply extend the agony for all concerned but mostly for the people of Iraq and the unfortunate squaddies who are forced to stay there.

 But on Wednesday Blair was claiming that a swift withdrawal from Iraq would be a “betrayal” of the sacrifices already made by British troops. This is the worst possible excuse to extend unnecessary bloodshed. It is a betrayal of those who are now alive but will soon be killed or seriously injured just to save Blair’s pride.

 Blair has turned a deaf ear to demands from MPs for a new Commons debate on the state of the war.

 Meanwhile Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett has hinted in an interview on Radio Four’s The World at One that Britain is prepared to see Iraq carved up into three parts – along ethnic lines exaggerated by the occupation troops as part of their divide-and-rule tactics.

 The British people want Blair to go, the rank and file Labour Party members want him to go, the unions want him to go, the military want him to go and the suffering people of Iraq want him to go. Only Bush wants him to stay. They must both go and the troops must come home.



THE WAR between the Government and the people of Britain over the future of the NHS is intensifying. New attacks on the NHS are coming thick and fast since last spring’s huge financial crisis rocked the service and led to swaths of  cuts in jobs and services.

 The latest was a declaration from the Department of Health that England’s NHS trusts could save £2.2 billion a year by “eliminating wasteful procedures” and increasing “productivity” and copying the practices of the “smartest” 25 per cent of trusts. These cuts include reducing patients’ length of stay in hospital – which could save £975 million – and not bringing patients into hospital until the same day as their operation, saving £510 million. They also include getting GPs to do minor ops and to treat angina and asthma attacks in the community rather than as hospital in-patients.

 All these changes are being driven purely by financial considerations, not by what is best for the patients. And they have all been tried before by the Tories in the early 1990s. Then it led to heart surgery patients being discharged from hospital the day they left intensive care into the care of terrified relatives. These patients were still highly dependent on constant skilled care. This was supposed to be delivered by visiting community nurses, GPs and family members. The funding just wasn’t there to provide the necessary community services and families were left alone to cope. There were scandals of elderly people who lived alone being discharged, put to bed in their own homes by ambulance staff and then just left alone for days unattended, because somewhere between the hospital and the local services information got lost about the date of discharge.

 There were countless cases of patients being discharged and then readmitted within a few days because complications had developed – in other words they had been discharged too quickly. This was a disaster for patients but hospital mangers could point to it as a success because each admission, each treatment, was counted separately and the more people they admitted and then discharged as quickly as possible, and the more episodes of treatment delivered the better their statistics looked. “Productivity” soared but patients suffered.

 Now former Health Secretary Alan Milburn has proposed giving patients NHS “credits” to “spend” on their own choice of healthcare. “choice” is of course ruling class jargon for two-tier services and those with the money get the best. Milburn says this will “empower” the poorest patients – but of course not as much as those patients who can top up the credits with their own cash and the most powerful will always get the best while the poor get the rest.

 Choice in the provision of healthcare is a myth, especially for those on a limited income. People in need of NHS care are, in almost all cases, unwell. The exception of course is that pregnancy is not an illness but mothers-to-be still need care and attention. The one thing they all have in common is that it is difficult and uncomfortable for them to travel any distance. They all need good services close to hand. If all services were excellent, choice would not be relevant.

 Much bigger savings could be achieved by scrapping the lethal PFI contracts that drain billions from NHS trust budgets.

 Milburn’s proposals are yet another nail in the NHS coffin. But throughout the country a massive army of resistance is coming together. Led by the health service unions, the level of protest against the attacks on the NHS is building into the biggest campaign on a domestic issue seen since the poll tax. It is involving millions of people who have never been involved in any other kind of political activity – because the NHS touches everyone and every family in some way or another.

 We have seen public interest and participation in political parties fall away dramatically in the last two decades and we are told that people are becoming more and more apathetic; political activists are portrayed as some sort of slightly weird eccentrics.

 But the NHS campaigns and the campaigns against the Iraq war show that millions of people are just as concerned and ready to fight as were their parents and grandparents.

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