The New Worker
The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 29th June 2007
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GONE BUT NOT FORGIVEN
by Daphne Liddle
TONY BLAIR has at last gone – four years later than he should
have and amid staged scenes in Parliament more reminiscent of a
Hollywood musical than a political process.
In the run up, press and television have deluged us with acres of
newsprint and screen time “analysing” his decade in power. They have
all spoken with one voice, trying to convince us that Blair, “for all
his faults”, was an honest and earnest man, inspired by religious zeal
who genuinely wanted to make the world a better place. The
behind-the-scenes spin doctors have been earning their bread.
Blair was an arrogant, ignorant man who, with his mate George
Bush, rushed in where wiser politicians feared to tread – and caused
the deaths and injuries of uncounted thousands of Iraqis and Afghans,
not to mention hundreds of British service personnel.
The invasion of Iraq was done in an attempt to secure American
imperialist control over Iraq’s vast oil supplies and to create a
permanent US military presence in the region. Blair proved he was happy
to lie and break international laws to achieve his selfish ends.
Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT transport union summed up
Blair’s legacy: “He will be rememberedfor seamlessly continuing the
neo-liberal economic and social policies of Margaret Thatcher and for
presiding over a supposedly Labour government that has increased the
gap between the haves and have-nots. His legacy is quite simply one of
privatisation, union-bashing and war.”
And his successor Gordon Brown – for all his “let the changes
begin” rhetoric – looks like taking us further along the same path.
Brown is far more intelligent, cautious and less obsessed with his
personal image than Blair and could therefore be a lot more dangerous.
His political allegiance is clearly with global capitalism.
Brown has spoken of sweeping changes in both the Labour Party and
in the structure of government. Already he is dividing the Department
of Education in two and restructuring the Department of Trade and
He has also spoken of decreasing the power of the trade unions
within the Labour Party. This could fundamentally change the nature of
the Labour Party and effectively destroy it as the political voice of
organised labour in Britain.
Brown has already appointed Damon Buffini – the private equity chief –
to a new “Business Council for Britain” that will advise the Government
on all policies affecting business.
It will also advance the direct control of the private sector
over many aspects of Government that are currently the responsibility
of elected – and therefore directly accountable – people. Brown calls
this “de-politicising” various functions of Government.
He says he wants to get away from “tribal politics” and began
last week with ill-fated approaches to Liberal Democrat leader Menzies
Campbell and Paddy Ashdown.
They rebuffed him but the move outraged many rank-and-file Labour
activists. “How can we now go round on the doorsteps telling people to
vote Labour and not Liberal Democrat if they end up with Lib Dems in
Government whichever way they vote?” two activists told the New Worker.
Gordon’s approach to the Lib Dems, without first consulting any
of his Labour colleagues, shows his utter contempt for the Labour Party.
He has acquired Harriet Harman as a deputy leader of the Labour Party.
Her first act was to backtrack on the very sentiment that had won her
critical support – a willingness to admit that, with hindsight, the
invasion of Iraq had been a mistake and that the Government should
apologise for it.
Nevertheless there is an opportunity in Blair’s departure for the
trade unions to raise the pressure from some real changes of policy and
Labour’s standing in the polls has risen slightly – more as a
result of Blair going than Brown coming – and that has given rise to
speculation that Brown may call a snap general election. This has risen
after the defection of Tory MP Quentin Davies to the Labour Party.
An early election would be a risky strategy and Brown would have
to produce a few spoonfuls of honey for the electorate. No doubt he has
plenty stashed away.
And sticking to the two per cent cap on public sector pay would
be no way to win voters. There is a chance now to pressure Brown into
some beneficial changes.
Spinning to the end
TONY BLAIR’S last act as Prime
Minister has been to attend the European summit in Brussels, to work
out a deal on what is being called an “amending treaty” but which many
regard as a thinly veiled constitution. And he seems to have made a
total dog’s breakfast of it, from any point of view.
He claims he has negotiated a cast-iron opt out on the Charter of
Fundamental Rights that, he says, Britain does not want to be governed
by Europe on. He says he has “defended the most important red lines”
and has secured a legally binding protocol on the Charter that would
prevent the European Court of Justice applying it to Britain.
These Charter rights include: article three, which bans eugenic
practices; article four, which bans torture; article five, which bans
human trafficking; article eight, which protects personal data; article
12, which defends the right of assembly; article 15, which covers
working rights; article 19, which forbids deportation if there is a
risk of torture; article 28, which defends the right to take industrial
action; article 32, which bans child exploitation and article 35 which
gives the right to preventative healthcare. The rest of Europe will be
covered by these articles but we in Britain will not.
But there is some hope – lawyers claim that the protocol is not
quite so legally binding as Blair says it is. This will be one for
trade union lawyers to test.
On the other hand Blair has signed the main “amended treaty”
deal, which includes a clause inserted at the last minute by Italy,
which says: “The Union shall establish an economic and monetary union
whose currency is the euro”.
It is not clear whether he agreed this out of ignorance or just
to spite Gordon Brown, who has toiled so hard over the last 10 years to
keep Britain out of the single currency. Blair pointedly did not take
his Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett, along, who might have been
able to point out that this clause did indeed undermine Westminster’s
sovereignty over Britain’s economic policy and hand some powers to
On one issue Brown, who was in Manchester attending his own
coronation as Blair’s successor, had to order Blair to go back into the
conference chamber to renegotiate. French leader Nicolas Sarkozy had
sparked a big row by diluting the EU’s commitment to “free and
undistorted competition” – the ultra-capitalists’ mantra, in whose name
they sacrifice jobs, lives and the very planet we live on to the great
god profit. Brown phoned Blair three times, so horrified was he by
Sarkozy’s heresy, and ordered Blair to table a protocol to guarantee
the EU’s powers to regulate cartels and anti-trust issues were not
Blair has told MPs that the “concept of a constitutional treaty”
has been abandoned in favour of a “conventional amending treaty”. But
Hans-Gert Poetering, president of the European Parliament, has told the
Council of Europe in Strasbourg that while the proposed anthem and flag
have been dropped, “The substance of the constitution has been
This is the constitution that, a couple of years ago, Blair
promised he would put before the British people in a referendum. This
promise put other European governments on the spot; their people also
demanded a referendum and the constitution died after the people of
France and the Netherlands voted against it – much to the delight of
Blair’s best friend George Bush.
Now, it seems Blair has committed Britain to backing a close
version of it without a referendum and this has caused protests in
Westminster. Labour backbencher Kate Hoey said: “Don’t you understand
that no matter what you or anyone else says, the vast majority of the
public will see there has simply been a tweaking of words and that this
treaty is fundamentally no different from the original constitution?
Why are you and why is our government afraid of a referendum?”
Blair answered this claiming that “everyone’s bored with talking
about institutional arrangements”. Brown says he is for a referendum –
we must put pressure to hold him to that.
At one point Blair was boasting about Britain being “at the heart
of Europe where we belong” and “playing a leading role in Europe”. But
Britain was not involved at any stage in the pre-Council negotiations
on this “amending treaty”, while all other countries in Europe had been.
Blair is spinning so much he has lost track of where he is
standing on Europe. His only clear aim now seems to be to make life for
Brown as difficult as possible.
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