The New Worker
The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 27th October 2006
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SAY: BRING THE TROOPS HOME
by Daphne Liddle
TWO MAJOR 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withdrawn from Iraq as soon as possible – regardless of whether or not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
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that 62 per cent want British troops withdrawn from Iraq as soon as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
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
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
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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