The New Worker
The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 27th May 2005
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over Europe and ID cards
by Daphne Liddle
SPECULATION that Blair
is subtly preparing to resign in favour of Gordon Brown was raised last
week as Brown was brought back on to the Labour Party’s National
Executive Committee during Blair’s shake-up of the inner structure of
Brown has been taking a much more prominent role. A week ago he was
talking to trade unionists, telling them why the Government would not
accept the European Parliament decision to end the concessionary
opt-out clause of the 48-hour working time directive, even though
employers have consistently abused this supposedly voluntary opt-out to
coerce workers into agreeing to work longer hours than are healthy for
Then last Tuesday he spoke to the Confederation of British Industry,
promising to cut “red tape” to allow capitalism to make more profits
with fewer restrictions.
He also promised that Britain will use its six-month presidency
of the EU to reduce “red tape” throughout Europe.
By “red tape”, he means health and safety regulations and other
laws protecting workers. It is a slap in the face to all those around
the country who commemorated Workers’ Memorial last month.
The first objections came from Prospect, the union of
professional civil servants that represent health and safety inspectors.
“If the threat of inspection is removed,” said Prospect assistant
general secretary Dai Hudd, “what incentive have companies got to
maintain best practice? And without inspection, how will the Government
know that a company is failing to meet standards?
“It’s our members experience that only inspection and real
enforcement can protect citizens, whether as employees, consumers,
patients, environmentalists, motorists, travellers, home-owners or
He added: “Along with the TUC, Prospect is especially concerned
that the Chancellor’s anti-regulation drive will endanger the health
and safety at work of millions of employees. Injuries and deaths at
work increased last year and we fear this trend will accelerate that
Blair seems to be dithering and the week has seen a stream of
confusing messages on major policy issues emanating from Downing Street.
On the European constitution treaty first we heard that Foreign
Secretary Jack Straw saying that Britain would wait for the result of
the French referendum, due this weekend, before committing to a
referendum in Britain.
Then we heard that Blair was to make an announcement saying the
Government would go ahead anyway with a referendum here – but the
announcement never came.
Opinion polls indicate that the French are likely to reject the
EU constitution. A referendum in Holland is also likely to vote against
it. If that happens, it is unlikely there will be constitution left for
people in Britain to vote on.
The most likely scenario is that the constitution will be
redrafted and then submitted anew for EU member states to vote on again
– and again and again until they agree to it. But that will take a long
It is true that the draft EU constitution, if implemented, would be a
fundamental attack on democracy and workers’ rights throughout the
continent. But right now it seems less likely to happen than it did
when it was first drafted.
There has been further confusion over the contentious proposals
to bring in compulsory identity cards.
A week ago, Blair seemed in a hurry to get this through
Parliament as quickly as possible and defy his backbench rebels. Then,
on Tuesday, we were told the publication of the Bill might be delayed.
It seems that Blair and Home Secretary Charles Clarke had been doing
their sums and realised that the number of rebels likely to vote
against was bigger than the 19 who voted against the same measure
earlier this year, when the Bill was introduced but ran out of time
before the election.
Gwyneth Dunwoody, Labour MP for Crewe and Nantwich, told Clarke that
opposition to the Bill is now stronger. “There are some of us in this
House who are deeply uneasy about this scheme, who believe that it is a
question of civil rights,” she said.
“It is one that disturbs us very greatly and the history of
police forces or governments holding every element of information about
people’s lives is not that they are always used responsibly, but used
in some instances by governments for the worst possible reasons.”
Clarke’s desperation on the issue was indicated by his appeal to
the Tories to stop hiding behind “fig leaves” and back the Bill – and
rescue Blair in the process.
On Wednesday Blair backed the still unpublished Bill. But he no
longer used the bankrupt argument that it could stop terrorism. Instead
he appealed to people’s fear of identity theft and fraud. The truth is
that computer databases containing lots of personal information about
people – like the one that will be needed for the identity cards –
actually make identity theft a lot easier.
Once someone – for instance a corrupt official – has access to
the database, they can learn so much about their intended victim that
it is far easier to impersonate them. It is much easier and quicker –
and less messy – than raiding their dustbins for thrown away gas bills
Blair is wobbling. He must go now – and so must Brown.
When the spending had to stop
TWO WEEKS ago it was
Sainsburys, last week Boots and this week Marks and Spencer, hitting
the headlines with sharp falls in profits. Consumers are being more
cautious with their purses. It’s true that Sainsburys reported an
increase in sales but it had to cut prices to achieve that so much that
Credit card borrowing fell by £40 million last month,
according to the leading banks. Visa says more people are opting for
debit cards now rather than credit cards.
The number of house repossessions is soaring and last year banks
had to write off £6 billion in bad loans. After hitting a record
£1 trillion total for personal debt in Britain last year,
personal bankruptcies are now also soaring.
Job losses are hitting the headlines again. The Rover factory has
closed with 4,000 job cuts with the knock-on effect of many more cuts
to come in the Longbridge area. Thousands of jobs in the manufacturing
sector are due to go. Marconi, Hotpoint and Waterford are just some of
the big companies shedding jobs. The cuts are affecting other sectors
too. The BBC is planning 4,000 job cuts and the Government is also
planning to cut vast swathes of civil service jobs.
Financial experts are expecting half a million jobs to go in the
next three years. Former Bank of England economist John Butler predicts
225,000 jobs will be gone by the middle of next year.
No wonder people are becoming more wary about over spending.
For the last few years Britain has escaped the economic chill
that has engulfed most of Europe, leading to high unemployment there.
Our economy has been buoyed by high spending, people spending money
they do not have, building up big credit card bills, taking out loans
and second mortgages and then working horrendously long hours to pay
The bosses and the financiers have loved it. Working all those
long hours we have made fortunes for them. They don’t mind a few bad
debts from workers who collapse under the strain so long as the rest of
us keep paying those interest rates – and by working all hours creating
extra surplus value profits for the boss while we do it. We are still
bombarded by advertisements to take out more and more personal loans.
It tends to make us a nation of exhausted, stressed-out
workaholics, who rarely see our children. Some young workers, up to
their ears in debt, can only relax and forget their worries by drinking
a lot of alcohol and behaving badly when they do have an evening off.
Europeans handle booze better because they work fewer hours and can go
about it at a more leisurely pace.
Our employment laws mean we can be hired and fired much more
easily than our European fellow workers. This attracts the worst kind
of employers. It means we have jobs but not secure jobs. And every time
good, well-paid manufacturing jobs are lost they are replaced by
low-wage, insecure horrible jobs. In Britain and in Europe, the
capitalist class screws us one way or another.
But the situation here could not last and now we are seeing the
first frosts of a rapidly approaching economic downturn. Britain cannot
buck the trend of global economic downturn. This is an inevitable part
of the capitalist system.
Capitalists have tried time and again to break the cycle of boom
and bust – through Keynesianism, through consumerism and through
monetarism. All they do is postpone the inevitable for a little and
find themselves in a worse position than before.
It is a system with built-in instability and a tendency to create
international conflict in the desperate scramble for new markets. It is
a system that plunders the planet for a quick buck and makes long-term
It is a system we must get rid of and replace with workers’ power
– with socialism.
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