And who can wonder at it when every public appearance of the party leaders was stage managed to the smallest detail, when the issues for discussion were picked by the parties' poll analysts and spin merchants, and when the only non-party members of the public to get anywhere near the leading politicians seemed to be babies too young to object and children in schools obliged to be on their best behaviour.
Even the press got so bored that the last day's campaigning kicked off with the Daily Mirror running a front page item about Tony Blair's underwear -- and you can't get more trivial than that.
Yet it will be a great pity if Millbank's image makers and campaign controllers end up driving potential Labour voters away from the polling booth. After all one thing this election campaign hits clearly shown is the utter disaster a Tory government would be for the majority of people.
Their proposed massive tax cuts -- going well beyond Thatcher's fat cat tax bonanza -- would open the door to equally massive cuts in health, education, and other social spending.
The Tories claim this would not be the case because in their hands the economy would flourish and provide increased revenue from greater productivity.
Who are they kidding? In the United States and in capitalist countries throughout the world, all right wing parties are proposing far-reaching tax cuts. Parties like the US Republicans are taking this line because they fear another recession is around the corner and they want to cushion the wealthy with lower taxes -- regardless of what that means for everyone else.
The Tories other plans include tougher measures to tackle crime, even though crime figures are down, and many more detention centres for asylum seekers. To an extent this is just cheap politics. But it also signals a desire for an even more authoritarian society which also reflects the nervousness of the capitalist class as it braces itself for recession and crisis.
Capitalist elections can't offer us much. But we do get the chance to keep the most reactionary of the mainstream parties out of office and to elect the only party that is historically and organisationally linked to the trade union movement -- the Labour Party.
Even then, the Labour Party is in the hands of a right wing leadership and the TUC and trade union movement are not at the moment under much pressure to Lake up a militant stance.
Blair and the rest of the Labour right have had a fairly easy ride and have been able to push ahead with a number of pro-big business and pro-imperialist policies at home and abroad.
Clearly voting, though necessaty, is not enough. If working class interests are to be defended and the immediate demands of the class are to be met there has to be a rising level of militancy and struggle.
In this way those important issues the party leaderships chose to ignore in the election campaign can be put back onto the agenda -- the struggles against Trident and the US star wars plans, the disastrous creeping privatisation programme of the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), the campaign to bring transport back into public ownership and control, the fight to restore the link between pensions and earnings -- and to defend the principal of a universal state pension free of means testing.
The gloomy prospect of the capitalist crisis tipping us once again into rising unemployment and growing hardship makes it essential to pin the blame where it belongs -- with capitalism. Failure to do this will open the door to reactionary responses to problems -- those who peddle racism will be quick to step in. The election is over but the battle goes on!
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by Daphne Liddle
THE ARREST of an man in his home by police using CS gas led two days later to rioting after talks between police and the Bangladeshi community broke down.
Around 600 young Asians took the streets in the Harehills area in anger, several shops and cars were set on fire.
The trouble began two days earlier when police raided a home using very heavy-handed tactics and using CS spray according to a local witness.
He said: "There was supposed to he talks today to discuss the results of a meeting between the Bangladeshi community and the police following the arrest of a man, but nothing really happened.
"Tonight is a reaction to the lack of police action following the incident in which the man was sprayed with CS gas."
Another witness said: "They took this man, they arrested him, kicked him and sprayed CS gas at him in front of Asian people."
A recent survey headed by Professor Ellis Cashmere of Staffordshire University found that Black and Asian police officers blame pressure to improve performances in tackling crime for the racial stereotyping and unfair targeting of ethnic minorities by police.
After interviewing over 100 Black and Asian officers the survey concluded that constant assessment "had the unintentional consequence of promoting racial profiling or selecting minority groups for unfair treatment."
The officers also reported racial abuse by white officers, which they say is a "test". If they complain about it, or protest at the unfair treatment of ethnic minority civilians, their careers could be damaged.
One officer said he was told by his superior to "pull over more black kids with baseball caps and jewellery as they were likely to have the wrong documents."
Many officer were aware of reports from the Metropolitan Police force which claim high levels of offending by some sections of ethnic minority groups, especially in regard to street crime.
This has led to unfair targeting. Police in London are now coming to realise that "stop and search" tactics should be much more carefully targeted and carried out only on those who fit descriptions given by victims of crime.
* Detectives in Birmingham are investigating an unprovoked racist attack in which an Asian youth was sprayed with an inflammable substance and then set alight.
The victim, who does not want to be named, was walking with his cousin when two white men approached. They taunted him with racist insults before spraying him and setting him on fire.
The victim was detained in hospital for four days.
* Scotland Yard officers last week arrested Alan Rimmington, a 72-year pensioner suspected of sending fascist hate mail and threats to a number of prominent judges, politicians and television personalities.
When they searched his home they found a number of firearms and now the bomb squad in investigating the case.
Rimmington is also suspected of sending supportive letters to the convicted neo-Nazi nail bomber David Copeland.
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by Caroline Colebrook
THE ANNUAL conference of the Communication Workers Union in Bournemouth last week pledged to take industrial action to prevent the further privatisation of public services.
This came in an emergency motion that was a response to news that Consignia, formerly the Post Office, is considering contracting out key sorting and delivery services to the German computer firm Siemens, in an effort to improve productivity.
Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers has told the Royal Mail it must "raise its game".
Consignia is already being forced to operate more commercially and consultancy firm KPMG is looking at ways to cut costs, improve flexibility and outsource some services.
This all means cuts in jobs, wages and conditions for postal workers. It is they who will have to be more flexible in the hours they work.
Attempts to impose new conditions and "flexibility" on postal workers without consultation have already sparked unofficial strike action. Feelings are still running very high.
One option under consideration is to allow Siemens or some other contractor access to a new site in Bromley-by-Bow, cast London, as one of 73 mail centres.
The French Post Office is also waiting for when British licences to deliver letters become available for operators to launch alternative services to the Royal Mail later this year.
Martin Vial, who chairs the French state-owned mail, parcel and financial services group La Poste, has said he would seek to enter the British mail delivery market in partnership with Consignia.
The emergency resolution passed by the 1,200 delegates at the CWU conference noted fears that Consignia is seeking to set up a "cut-price, non-union operation" in a major city such as Liverpool while "the Labour government has the privatisation of the postal business as one of its main priorities after the election".
That agenda would not be likely to change whatever the result of the general election.
Labour's manifesto has failed to promise the Post Office will remain in the public sector but instead says it will create "alliances and joint ventures" with commercial operators and networks abroad.
The CWU warns this means that the private sector will be able to pick the most profitable parts of the service, leaving Consignia with the costs of running the non-profitable parts -- deliveries to remote places and so on.
Without profits to counter-balance these costs, Consignia will fail economically and services to remote places will be cut.
CWU deputy general secretary John Keggie said: "Although people are saying it is speculation, I'm pretty confident there are plans afoot by senior managers looking at this option. If managers are speculating about the future of the industry, we are entitled to speculate about how we are going to respond to it."
The motion was passed just hours before Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott addressed the conference, urging delegates to pull out all the stops to ensure a Labour victory.
Rut he noticeably failed to give any assurance about the future of Consignia and departed quickly after his speech.
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by Steve Lawton
TENSION in the Himalayan kingdom of Nepal -- a country with less than half the population of Britain buffering India and China -- remains high following the still unclear circumstances of the Royal killings on 1 June in Katmandu Palace which claimed the lives, among others, of King Birendra and Queen Aiswarya.
In all, 10 Royals are now dead, that much is clear; while four other wounded members are recovering. Ex-Eton educated Crown Prince Dipendra -- said to be responsible for their deaths iis said to have received a gunshot to the head leaving him in a coma. He was declared king while in hospital, but soon died. The kingship passed from Dipendra to his uncle Prince Gyanendra on Monday, the third Nepalese king in as many days.
The Palace was sealed off and a curfew imposed immediately after the killings that virtually wiped out the Shah dynasty. The Nepalese people, demanding to know what really happened, took to the streets in protests that have so far caused the deaths of at least three people with dozens injured.
The curfew was briefly lifted then reimposed -- as Nepal enters a period of official mournng -- to check angry reactions. Condolences were received from countries of the region -- Peoples China, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh among others.
Britain and the United States have issued warnings about travelling to Nepal. The British embassy is providing protection for tourists still there, but most have already hastily left the country. Travel firms in India and Thailand have cancelled planned tours of Nepal, while expeditions traversing Nepal and Tibet have also been affected.
The new king immediately set up a three-member inquiry body -- including the Supreme Court Chief Justice Keshav Prasad Upadhyay and Speaker of the Lower House, Taranath Ranabhat -- to establish the "truth" and "facts" of the killings by the time we went to press. The immediate questions being: Who really pulled the trigger and what forces were, or were not, involved?
But the third and key member of the panel, General Secretary of the Nepal Communist Party (United Marxist-Leninist) Madhav Kumar Nepal, pulled out. The leader of the main opposition leftist organisation of six active in the country said: "Our Party has reservations about the manner in which the committee was set up and humbly conveys its inability to participate."
He declared the inquiry "unconstitutional" because the king had failed to consult the government; and said that Prime Minister Ginja Prasad Koirala -- who is part of the Raj Parishad, a 15 member committee appointed by the king -- should have been responsible for initiating the commission.
While this second turn of events plays out, speculation about the deaths remain rife. The protests have been fuelled by the failure of the Nepalese government to get their story straight. At first, Crown Prince Dipendra was said to have been a crazed gunman turning on his family because there were objections to his marriage intentions.
Some Indian press reports suggested that after he killed them, he went in battle dress from the dining hall across to the temple and shot himself with a pistol, which he is supposed to have been given to test by the army (the king, despite many powers having been transferred to the government since 1990, remains supreme commander of the army).
Shortly after, reports suggested the automatic firearm exploded of its own accord causing the deaths, in a move seen as vainly limiting damage to royal esteem and recognising Nepali popular reaction. Jane's military analyst Paul Beaver, like many others, said this was highly unlikely. He had "never heard of an automatic weapon going off by itself before."
Pakistan's biggest Urdu daily Jang has been promoting the idea that King Birendra was slain as a warning for growing too close to China and Pakistan.
Leftist guerrillas who have been mounting armed attacks to hasten a republic said, according to the Los Angeles Times (5.6.01), that King Birendra's "patriotic stand and liberal political ideology" was a factor in his death.
It came at a time of growing workers' action which has most recently led to a three-day general strike at the end of May, that brought all the main left organisations together in concerted action.
The conjunction of these events is significant, and ultimately addressing militant workplace and agrarian demands of Nepalese people will be the judge of the country's future.
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THE RMT transport union last week called off further industrial action by Tube workers after securing a deal with London Underground which will guarantee their jobs in spite of the partial sell-off of the Tube network in a public-private partnership.
The union remains firmly opposed to the sell-off. RMT assistant general secretary Bob Crow said: "Breaking up and privatising our Tube would plunge the network into chaos for years to come."
But the deal won by the unions and by London's transport commissioner Bob Kiley will at the very least protect the Tube from the worst threats -- massive job losses and deterioration of ssafety standards.
Bob Kiley had already won the right to conduct negotiations with the private consortia bidding to take on the contracts and is insisting on day to day control over all safety issues.
The importance of this was highlighted by the Hatfield rail crash last October, caused by a broken rail.
Railtrack was responsible for maintaining the rails but had contracted the work out to Balfour Beatty.
The breakup of British Rail on privatisation has been a damning example of how responsibility for safety has been tossed from one private company to another with no one in the end being certain who is responsible for what.
This is why Bob Kiley, supported by the unions and most of the
travelling public, insisted that control over safety should remain centralised
and out of private hands.
The consortia bidding for the contracts are not at all pleased, either by Bob Kiley's success nor by the new deal won by the RMT and there is now a question mark over whether or not the public-private partnership will go ahead.
This is as plain a statement as can be got that the private companies are only interested in profit which call only be made by cutting staff numbers and compromising on safety.
Under the Government's PPP scheme around 6,000 workers now employed by London Underground will be transferred to the private sector companies taking over.
Those companies recently warned the Government they could not guarantee jobs for life for those workers. Their prospects looked dim.
But the new deal secured by the RMT means the private companies will have to take on all the workers. Should any be "displaced" subsequently, they will be offered another job and so on until they retire or wish to leave.
They can only be sacked for serious breaches of discipline.
The deal states: "As a result of this agreement, no compulsory redundancies will take place".
The Tuberail consortium, which bid successfully for the Northern, Jubilee and Piccadilly lines said it had not been aware that bidders would have to agree to such a deal.
Spokesperson Steve Brammall said: "lt was not presented in that way. We were not required during the bidding process to give any guarantees on jobs for life.
"Whether or not we would offer one if we were preferred bidder I do not know. The issue is whether the preferred bidder will accept these terms."
On the other hand Metronet, the preferred bidder for the Bakerloo, Central and Victoria lines said: "We'll be spending £2.8 billion in the first five years. That requires people -- not removing them."
The RMT has demonstrated that trade unions, in spite of being lambasted in the press as dinosaurs, can still protect the interests of their members through industrial action.
It is easy to predict that LU and the private companies will try to find ways of reneging on the deal but no doubt the RMT will remain vigilant.
Bob Crowe said: "We never said it was about jobs for life. It was about saving lives. This is an important first stage in preventing a repeat of the widespread job cuts which have undermined safety on the national railways."
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