Whatever world Margaret Thatcher lives in it is not the same one most British people inhabit -- unless of course she is merely auditioning for a new career as a stand-up comic.
The very reason Thatcher has risen from the ashes to rally the Tory troops is because her party is in trouble and can't count on the continued support of its long-standing, but now disaffected, middle class supporters.
But it's an ill wind as they say and Thatcher's return to the hustings will also stir a long list of bad memories - Orgreve and the attack on Britain's miners and trade unionists, the Republican Hunger Strike, the sinking of the Belgrano, the Poll Tax, Wapping and so on.
And her support for the current Tory leadership will remind us too that the policies carried out during those years were not just the policies of one person, despite all the chanting of "Maggie, Maggie, Maggie, Out, Out, Out". They were the policies of the Tory Party which have been endorsed and carried forward by the Major government. The only difference is one of image and style.
The fact that parties, and the parties' backers are greater than individual leaders is the reality that has spurred Thatcher into making her attack. She is warning the Tory faithful (and not-so-faithful) that, however many strides to the right Tony Blair has taken, he is still not the Labour Party, nor is he greater than the Labour Party.
Thatcher takes seriously the fact that the Labour Party is still organisationally linked to the trade union movement and has, of all the main parties, the deepest roots in the working class.
Obviously the capitalist class are not as hypnotised by Blair's image-making devices, such as putting the word "new" in front of everything, as some on the left seem to be.
After all, one of the earliest billboard campaigns the Tories used in this election campaign was the picture of Blair with red demonic eyes.
It was intended to scare the voters with some unspoken menace. What did the creators of that campaign have in mind? What did those red eyes represent?
They represented us -- the organised working class, the left, the communists, the progressive movement, the people demanding change. And who really feels menaced? The Tories and their capitalist backers.
Of course, all bourgeois elections exist within the framework of the capitalist state and have been devised to enable capitalism to sustain itself. They cannot in themselves become the means for overthrowing that capitalist state.
Therefore a Labour victory in the election will not bring fundamental social change or socialism -- only revolution and the seizing of state power can achieve that. Even if the Labour Party had a left leadership and left majority we would not wake up on 2 May to a socialist Britain.
But that is not to say that elections are not really important, or that they do not need to be fought vigorously.
The parties, contrary to what some defeatists may say, are not all the same. Who wins the election, as the Tory propaganda shows, is not a small matter of no concern to the capitalist class.
They are fighting for a Tory victory because that is in their class interest, and we need to fight in our class interest, which means inflicting a massive defeat on the Tories.
This is not the moment to slip into a foolish pursuit of purity -- thinking that anything short of revolutionary change and socialism is to be despised -- as if striving to advance the interests of the working class and working to meet immediate aims means that the revolutionary struggle has been abandoned.
All struggle is part of the whole. Every battle is part of the war.
The immediate task at this moment is to work for a huge Labour victory. That is the only way to strip the Tories and the right-wing in the Labour Party of any claim to have won the tacit support of the electorate. It will raise the morale of the working class and the activists in the labour movement.
But it will also mark the beginning of new struggles and fresh challenges.
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It would also help to hide the true level of unemployment, as the carer would not be signing on for the Jobseekers' Allowance.
The proposal is to allow a married man or woman who stays at home to care for either children or a dependent relative to transfer their £3,765 tax allowance to their wage-earning partner.
It will benefit better off families where one partner already stays at home to look after the children or dependents on the strength of a high-waged breadwinner.
But less well off families who rely upon two wages to make ends meet will not be able to benefit The tax break is worth around £18 per week -- only a small fraction of the average wage and certainly not enough to give up a job for.
It also encourages married women with working husbands to remain out of the labour market showing that the government believes unemployment will remain high -- despite all its claims for the economy.
This is a backward and reactionary policy which undermines women's right to work and leaves them isolated from society.
It also offers a cheap means of providing childcare and care of the sick, disabled and elderly.
We don't want these cheap Tory tax stunts which benefit the better-off while social provision for everyone is cut to the bone.
The Tories have failed to provide adequate funding to local councils to provide full community care and nursery school places for all under-fives. They slashed the health service and encouraged the privatisation of residential care homes.
If the Tories really cared about the family, they would put a 35 hour limit on the working week and ban Sunday trading.
The Tory manifesto makes it clear that public spending cuts would continue along with more privatisations, more selection in education and more attacks on the right to strike for public sector workers.
As far as working people and the poor are concerned there is nothing in this Tory manifesto but more of the same medicine while the better off get all the cream of cuts in direct taxation.
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BLACK musician Michael Menson took six days to die in hospital last January from burns inflicted in a nightmare racist attack.
But in spite of pleas from his family, the police would not interview him, take a statement or begin to investigate the incident until after Michael had fallen into a coma before dying.
Now police admit that the prospects of tracking down his killers and bringing them to justice have been seriously weakened by their own slowness to act.
As Michael lay in hospital with 25 per cent, third degree burns, he remained lucid for nearly a week. He was able to read and do crosswords.
When the police failed to take any interest, he gave three detailed statements to his brother Kwesi.
He told his brother that he was attacked in the early hours of 29 January by four white youths who had been travelling on the same bus as him in Edmonton, north London.
When he got off the bus the youths followed him and shortly after he was discovered ablaze by an off-duty fireman, trying to tear off his burning clothes.
He had left a 350-yard trail of burnt flesh and clothing from the scene of the attack. He had worn a flammable nylon anorak and so sustained terrible burns to his back A cigarette lighter was found near the scene of the attack.
Michael's sister Alex reported that although he was very badly burned, the family had hoped he would recover. He had several skin grafts and seemed to rally. He was "lucid, optimistic and looking forward to recovery," she said.
Every day she had asked detectives to take a statement. They visited him once when he was under sedation after a skin graft and decided he was not yet fit to be interviewed.
They did not even fully accept that he had been attacked. One Scotland yard spokesperson admitted: "Initially we had to retain an open mind. However this does not mean there were not appropriate resources at the start of the inquiry."
Now they have only the statements he gave to his brother for evidence. Statements taken by a trained professional would be much more useful in identifying the racist murderers.
The case has many points in common with that of the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence four years ago, where the first reaction of the police had been to assume that Stephen was some sort of criminal and investigated his family before taking witness statements.
The Home Office is being asked to review the sentences of two men convicted of a serious racist attack in Abbey Wood, south-east London.
The victims were two young Africans, Martin Unackwu and his friend Godwin -- who prefers to withhold his full name in case of reprisals.
They were attacked outside a newsagents in October 1995 by two white youths, yelling racist abuse and armed with a baseball bat and sticks and seriously injured. One had a head injury needing 22 stitches.
But the judge sentenced Brian Brooks (29) to 180 hours community service and Barren Mcgarvie (27) to 150 hours.
The call for a review of these sentences has come from local community leaders, who say the light sentences will send the wrong message to racist thugs, and the Greenwich Police-Ethnic Minority Forum.
A spokesperson for the forum said: "The thugs responsible for this dreadful, unprovoked attack must be laughing their heads off".
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Backed by the Communists and Socialists, trade unions and anti-fascists from all parts of France, they marched against the Front and its leader Jean-Marie Le Pen. They were joined by anti-fascists from Germany, Switzerland, and some 200 members of Britain's Anti-Nazi League.
Some protesters wore the grey and white striped pyjamas of the Nazi death camp victims. And FN delegates were forced to cross a road with "F as in Fascist, N as in Nazi" etched into the tarmac.
The city was shrouded in black protest ribbons. Black crosses were propped against walls, black dummies were chained to black posts and a black flag briefly flew over Strasbourg Cathedral. Communist leader Robert Hue and Socialist party fist secretary Lionel Jospin took part in the march together with Strasbourg Socialist mayor Catherine Trautmann. Also among the demonstrators were citizens of the four southern French cities whose councils are now dominated by the Front -- Toulon, Orange, Marignane and Vitrolles. The FN has won several European parliament seats as well as 227 local councillors in France.
Strasbourg is the home of the European Parliament the Council of Europe and France's largest Jewish community. Mayor Trautmann said the decision to hold the fascist congress in their city was a provocation but she declared that the way to deal with the National Front was "not to ban, but to fight it".
At the Congress Le Pen claimed that his party would win 40 per cent of the vote in the next election.
But not according to the latest French opinion poll which reckoned that the National Front will still fail to win any seats in the National Assembly elections in 1998.
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Addressing the conference on Monday, Labour Party shadow education secretary David Blunkett gave a commitment that a new Labour government would withdraw nursery vouchers "in the first term", which was well received.
He emphasised the importance of small classes, and promised the end of the assisted places scheme, improved school buildings (well overdue) and repairs to run-down buildings -- but in co-operation with private industry!
In reply NUT general secretary Doug McAvoy welcomed the commitments that had been made on class sizes and nursery vouchers. But he warned that "if the needs of children are not met" the union will fight to retain the right to strike and will do so if necessary.
The NUT, he said, seeks partnership with a government that shares its aims.
The conference had started on Saturday morning. After a rather pedestrian presidential address, delegates discussed non-controversial motions on nursery vouchers, calling on the executive to oppose the scheme (already NUT policy) during the general election, and seek commitment from all political parties to repeal it within a year of taking office.
Motions also emphasised the need for properly resourced, high quality nursery education for all three and four-year-olds.
The conditions of service motion also had little opposition, though it would have been improved if an executive amendment had been agreed. This would have encouraged closer collaboration with other teacher unions to fight for improved conditions.
Instead, an amendment from east London was carried, which, although it asked for co-operation with other teacher unions, was flawed by the clause that encouraged industrial action by individual schools.
Class size was another subject that united delegates, but conference ignored appeals to go for joint action with other teacher unions in achieving the aim of smaller classes.
And despite warnings from executive members Tony Brockman and Jerry Glazier, and Malcolrn Home from Brent, that organising rallies and lobbies of Parliament on a large scale might not be as successful as many hoped, the motion was carried on a card vote.
Doug McAvoy introduced a report commissioned by the NUT on the funding of education, which contained dire warnings to any incoming government of the need to change the present system.
It will be necessary to find an additional £4 billion over the next five years to meet the needs of the National Curriculum.
Currently local authorities have been subsidising education from other local service budgets and this will soon have to stop.
The funding mechanism for education was not based on educational need, the report continued, and the government had provided only 44 per cent of the requirements of local education authorities (LEAs).
The NUT called for the equitable funding for all schools to ensure that all children and young people have equal educational opportunities.
School inspections and the hated Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) and its chief protagonist Chris Woodhead, came in for attack from all sides, and brought one of the liveliest contributions from the floor when Jane Coombs, a delegate from east London, conjugated "Ofsted" in moving an amendment to the main motion on school inspections.
The motion, which attacked the chief inspector for his political bias, called for the disbanding of Ofsted, and open consultations on a new system of assessment was passed unanimously.
The National Curriculum, testing and league tables also came under fierce attack. Again, the political implications of league tables were recognised and the executive was instructed to mount a campaign against a national baseline assessment scheme and to produce material to inform parents and governors why teachers oppose the scheme.
Discussion was opened on a memorandum on increasing membership participation. But it ran out of time after discussion on amendments -- opposing a controversial recommendation to ballot the entire membership to endorse some major conference decisions -- was taken to a card vote.
Under the equal opportunities section, concern, was expressed over Section 11 funding [forchildren whose first language is not English] which is due to end in 1998, at least at its present (inadequate) level.
The needs of ethnic minority pupils and the dangers of the Immigration and Nationalities Act were highlighted.
Salaries also provoked controversy, but a rather restrictive motion from Hackney was defeated on a card vote.
Conference re-affirmed its commitment to properly funded comprehensive education.
There were many fringe meetings and the one organised by the Cuba Solidarity campaign was particularly successful.
Another well attended meeting was that held by Professional Unity 2,000 -- which aims to unite the major teaching unions by the end of the century -- with speakers from ATL and NUT acknowledging the difficulties of achieving unity but agreeing that it was the aim for the future, and that unity was strength.
In fact the motion on professional unity only just scraped through in the closing stages of the conference, after an attempt to defeat it ended in another card vote. The result was a satisfying 28,000 majority.
The general secretary ended conference with a call for an incoming government to provide equitable funding, small classes, improved buildings and free nursery education.
"What is needed" he said, "is schools fit for children and the restoration of teachers' morale."
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