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Editorial - The problem is Britain.

Lead Story - New deal - New delusion.

Feature - Benefit changes split Labour leadership.

International - Blair can stop Loyalist terror.

British News - Rising inflation stirs pay demands.


 The problem is Britain.

 THE recent killings in the occupied north of Ireland have produced much hand-wringing from British politicians and media pundits. They claim to be deeply concerned about the peace process and put all the blame for the increased tension squarely on the shoulders of those they always refer to as "the men of violence -- be they Catholic or Protestant".

 Once again British imperialism is trying to mask its own role as the colonial oppressor -- the occupying force. It presents itself instead as some kind of benevolent referee whose troops and other state agencies are only on Irish soil in order to keep the peace across a warring religious divide.

 But this is standing the truth on its head. It is the presence of the so-called "referee" that is the problem. It was the deliberate and calculated divide-and-rule policies of British colonial rule that introduced, elevated and aggravated religious sectarian differences in the first place.

 It is British imperialism that still uses the politics of Loyalism and Orangeism to try and justify and prolong its rule. After all, the loyalty of the Loyalists is to the British Crown and the Union -- that is northern Ireland (with a capital "N") as an integral part of the United Kingdom.

 Throughout the, world, the colonial rulers of the old empires sought self-justification and an easier ride by trying to gain some degree of acceptance and support from sectors within the oppressed country.

 This was attempted wherever the subjugated peoples could be divided by whatever differences came to hand -- be it of class, tribe, language, culture, race or religion -- and where one sector could then be elevated and afforded more privileges than the others.

 This was the case in the north of Ireland where over the years the "loyalty" of the Loyalists has been encouraged and rewarded.

 Even though the north of Ireland has, as a whole, suffered high levels of unemployment and all working class people have been exploited and oppressed, the Catholic minority has borne the brunt because of institutionalised discrimination (particularly in employment), repression by sectarian forces such as the notorious "B" Specials and gerry-mandering of the electoral system.

 And yet despite this history and Britain's continuing colonial rule, the British government still play acts like some harassed parent complaining that they don't know what to do about their unruly children.

 Certainly Mo Mowlem gives this impression as she dashes hither and forth in her limousine between the various parties to the peace talks stopping now and then to tell the media of her concerns and efforts to keep the peace process on track.

 No one would think watching this performance that Britain is itself the problem or that Britain is the most powerful force in the occupied territory both militarily and politically.

 The latest attempts by loyalist politicians to undermine and even to wreck the peace talks has not arisen, as some Loyalists say, because the British government has given too many concessions to Republicans but, on the contrary, because the British government continues to rely on their traditional loyalist allies to maintain their power in the north.

 It is important that the peace talks resume next week and are successful.

 But it is even more important that we continue to put pressure on the British government and that we continue to raise the obvious point that Britain could bring peace by withdrawing from Ireland altogether.

 The Loyalist paramilitaries and politicians could not be "loyal" if the power they wanted to be loyal to no longer wanted their loyalty. The basis of the violence would cease to exist.

 British withdrawal would restore self-determination to the people of Ireland allowing them to decide their own future.

 British rule in Ireland has always served the interests of the British ruling class. It has never been in the interests of the British working class who are manacled by the same imperialist chains and who suffer exploitation from the same oppressor.

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Lead Story

New deal - New delusion.

by Daphne Liddle

 THE LABOUR government began the New Year by launching its " New Deal" scheme for the young long-term unemployed in 12 pathfinder areas throughout Britain.

 But it is a sleight-of-hand delusion that will leave young people disappointed in short-term, low-pay jobs and cost taxpayers a fortune -- while putting free cash into bosses pockets.

 The scheme, in theory, will give those between 16 and 25 who have been out of work for six months or more a choice of four options:

 * a job with a private or public sector employer;
 * voluntary work;
 * work with an environmental task force;
 * full-time education or training.

 But it is unlikely that the Employment Service will be able to offer the full four options to every young person.

 Many will have no choice but to take a low-paid, subsidised job, or lose all their entitlement to benefits.

 Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett said at the launch last Monday: "From today the New Deal will offer young unemployed people real opportunities. Staying on benefit will no longer be an option."

 The pathfinder projects are in Tayside, Swansea and West Wales, Sheffield and Rotherham, Eastbourne, Lambeth, Harrow and Stevenage, Cumbria, Wirral, south Derbyshire, Black Country, Newcastle, Gateshead and South Tyne and Cornwall.

 Significantly the government has avoided those areas where the Tories launched a similar workfare-style project last year: the Medway and Brighton and East Anglia.

 More than 9,000 companies have come forward eagerly to provide the jobs. This is hardly surprising. They will have to pay only derisory wages and they will get a £60-a-week subsidy from the government for each worker they take on plus £750 for training costs.

 This must be the cheapest and most compliant labour available to any bosses in Europe -- and they have the nerve to accuse benefit claimants of wanting something for nothing.

 Why should any of these companies take on regular workers at regular wages if they call get these young people for next to nothing?

 The companies don't even have to promise to keep the jobs open for these young people when their subsidised placement finishes after six months.

 The government is also planning to extend the scheme to over-25s as soon as it can. Employers will be subsidised by £75-a-week for these older workers.

 These free cash hand-outs to bosses will cost the taxpayers some £3.2 billion.

 Currently unemployment levels are falling but this is not likely to last very long. Already there are signs of a down-turn in trade and another recession is on the horizon.

 When unemployment starts rising again thousands, even millions of workers will be forced to take part in these schemes which undermine wage levels and job security for all workers.

 Chancellor Gordon Brown cleverly uses the argument that being without a job or other constructive purpose in life is deeply damaging to young people's self esteem and morale.

 Long-term unemployment has destroyed many good people through despair and depression.

 But Gordon Brown is not tackling the causes of unemployment -- only its victims.

 It was not the young unemployed who ran down manufacturing industry in this country, who closed the coal mines, who made cut after cut in public spending and public sector jobs.

 The only real way to combat unemployment and give young people the jobs, living standards and opportunities they need is to reverse those cuts and create real, permanentjobs.

 But that cannot be done under this capitalist system, it can only be done under socialism.

 The Labour government, like a conjuror, is making grand public gestures to keep our eyes off the real causes of unemployment -- and dishing out free gifts to greedy bosses in the process.

 Unemployment won't go away until the capitalist system does.

 It is time for us to set about recruiting these young people to the most important environmental task there is -- with no pay but the biggest job satisfaction in the universe -- getting rid of capitalism and replacing it with socialism.

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Benefit changes split Labour leadership.

by Caroline Colebrook

 LABOUR leader Tony Blair is facing increasing resistance -- even from within the Cabinet -- to his plans to "reform" state welfare which would cut benefits to the disabled, introduce means testing for a far wider range of benefits and force people to look to the private sector for insurance against illness, injury and old age.

 Two weeks ago David Blunkett, the Employment and Education Secretary, added his voice to the growing chorus of alarm that included the Archbishop of Canterbury and Charles Clarke, a former top aide to Neil Kinnock and now a "centrist" MP.

 A few days before Christmas, a demonstration by members and supporters of the Disabled People's Direct Action Network, many in wheelchairs, focused public attention on the proposed cuts.

 The demonstrators made liberal use of red paint to draw attention to their message and there were 12 arrests: which hit the headlines in the national press.

 One of the organisers, Barbara Lisicki said: "We feel this government has betrayed disabled people and we feel that direct action is the only way to send a message to them."

 The changes under consideration are:

 * taxing or means-testing Disability Living Allowance -- a benefit intended to help towards the extra costs that being disabled incurs;

 * confining the higher rate of the mobility components of this allowance to those who are "virtually unable to walk";

 * withdrawing this benefit from the disabled and paying the money instead to local social service departments to spend on services for the disabled;

 * cutting Incapacity Benefit by £20 a week to bring it into line with benefits for the unemployed to remove the incentive to pretend to be disabled;

 * introducing means-testing for the benefit;

 * abolishing Industrial Injuries Benefit and forcing employers to provide private insurance instead.

 If cuts along these lines are implemented around five million people could be affected. Tony Blair's spin doctor tried to counteract the growing opposition by publishing reports that some benefits are heing paid to disabled people who are in good jobs and well paid.

 And Blair has tried to reassure the country that he would not dream of cutting benefits to those who are "really" disabled -implying insultingly that many of them are just putting it on.

 But claimants who do have jobs explain that Disability Living Allowance -- at £65 a week -- helps towards getting cars specially adapted, paying for someone to do their shopping and cleaning, the extra costs of take-away food when they are too tired to cook and treatments that are not available on the NHS.

 And of course if the cuts are targeted at those disabled people who are in work, it will be a big disincentive to find a job.

 For those who are already out of work or on very low pay the cuts will bite very deep.

 And David Blunkett is worried about what this will do to the credibility of the Labour government.

 In a letter to Chancellor Gordon Brown, he said: "Deep cuts in the totality of support for those disabled people who either cannot work or who can find only very modestly paid work would make a mockery of our professions on social exclusion and the construction of a more just society."

 The government has a lot more benefit cuts on its agenda including housing benefit, pensions and the whole system of state welfare as we know it.

 This agenda is in line with the terms of the Maastricht Treaty on public spending by European Union governments.

 Blair says that spending on benefits has got way out of hand. In this he is backed by a recent report from the Institute for Economic Affairs.

 It pointed out that currently around 30 per cent of the population get some sort of benefit while 17 per cent are on Income Support.

 The report compares this to 1951 when only four per cent of people relied on National Assistance as their main income.

 It is true that a lot of money is paid in benefits but the government is playing the capitalist game in attacking the claimants. Cutting their benetits will simply lead to more real hardship.

 What the government fails to do is ask the ohvious question -why do so many people need benefits?

 The most fiequently claimed benefit is Housing Benefit -paid mostly to people who are in work but on low wages and with high rents.

 in the early 1970s the rent for an average council flat was between £2 and £4 a week. Now it is anything from £50 to £80 -- a rise far in excess of inflation.

 Every time council rents were put up -- as a result of cuts in central government subsidy to local authorities -- we were told it would not hurt those who were worst off because there was the safety net of Housing Benefit.

 The end result was to help sustain the very high rents in the private sector and to virtually eliminate cheap rented homes. The real benefit of Housing Benefit went into the pockets of landlords.

 Other benefits paid to millions of claimants are for the families of workers on low pay. These make it possible for bosses to go on paying derisory wage levels.

 And those who claim Job Seekers' Allowance are not responsible for the run-down of industry in this country that has led to permanent high unemployment.

 But the Labour leadership dare not ask what are the real causes of so many people claiming benefit -- that would highlight the bankruptcy of the capitalist system.

 But it seems not all Labour MPs -- not even all Cabinet ministers -- have got that message and more and more of them are not prepared to stomach the cuts.

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Blair can stop Loyalist terror.

by Steve Lawton

THE consequences of Ulster Unionists refusing to negotiate with Sinn Fein in the multiparty peace talks at Stormont, were two mass murder attempts over Christmas and the New Year, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams MP said on Tuesday.

 He said that Unionists are "trying to assert a veto" and it is up to the British government to prevent the Orange card from prevailing yet again. A flurry of meetings between northern Ireland secretary Dr Mo Mowlem and Unionist forces, and separately with Sinn Fein, are ostensibly aimed at holding the talks process together.

 Calling on Dr Mowlem to act "with urgency", Gerry Adams said the peace process must be taken "by the scruff of the neck" in pursuit of constructive engagement.

 He said a "vaccuum" had been created that led to the two Loyalist "mass murder bids", following in remarkably quick succession, after the killing of Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) leader Billy Wright ('King Rat') by the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) in Long Kesh prison.

 Republican Seamus Dillon was murdered by the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) at the Glengannon Hotel in Dungannon, where he was a doorman, just before Christmas. With assistance, he had intercepted the gunmen and was shot dead as the Loyalists attempted to machinegun a packed disco.

 And then on New Year's Eve three Loyalists attacked Clifton pub goers in north Belfast with sub-machine guns again, resulting in one dead and many seriously injured. But there have been other incidents: -- a gun attack on a Catholic home on New Year's Day at 4 am, for instance, which luckily left a family of five unscathed.

 Sinn Fein's chief negotiator Martin McGuinness MP appealed to INLA to recognise that "fundamental political and constitutional change call only come about as a result of people engaging in face-to-face ncgotiations."

 The Loyalist actions, which revealed the usual "neutrality" of the RUC, had all the hallmarks of preparing a terror campaign against the Catholic communities to wreck the talks. Mitchel McLaughlin, Sinn Fein's chairman, has warned the nationalist communities to maintain the "utmost vigilance" over their "personal security" in the face of an alliance of unionist politicians and loyalist killers.

 Martin McGuinness called upon the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) David Trimble to defuse the tension by engaging seriously in the peace process -- expected to resume next week -- rather than use the killings as yet another pretext for wrecking the talks.

 The UUP's role mirrors the actions of unionist forces undermining the talks from outside, he said. "We must not allow those who refused to use the opportunity presented to them to move the situation forward in a positive manner in the talks process, to now use the consequences of that intransigence as a further excuse to wreck that process" he said.

The Sinn Fein leader pointed out that David Trimble and UUP security spokesperson Ken Magginnis, rather than calling for Dr Mowlem's resignation, would be more constructive if they made a public "commitment to return to the talks when they resume on 12 January, accepting that the only practical way out of this morass is through genuine and substantive negotiations involving all political parties."

 Loyalist elements -- the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) -have attacked the British government for "pandering" to Republican prisoners. But Sinn Fein prison spokesperson Michael Browne wanted that any tightening of security arrangements in prisons would affect their prison rights and risk turning back the clock.

 He said on New Year's Eve there had been "a fairly sensible regime insofar as there was ongoing consultation on issues of concern between prisoner representatives and the jail authorities." He said: "We know what an inflexible regime has led to in the past."

 Following Mowlem's meeting with the Ulster Democratic Party (UDP)'s Gary McMichael on Wednesday afternoon, she announced that she will meet Loyalist Maze prisoners of the UIster Freedom Fighters (UFF) Ulster Defence Association (UDA) today, to "go that last mile" in placating Unionists.

 But as Martin McGuinness said in his New Year message: "If unionists and loyalists do not take their responsibilities seriously then the British government must negotiate for them."

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British News

Rising inflation stirs pay demands.

RETAIL price inflation seems set to break through the four per cent barrier for the first time in live years according to Income Data Services.

 And this is having a strong influence on current pay negotiations. IDS says that pay settlements have been edging upwards for the last few months and the effective "floor" is now up to about 3.5 percent, compared with two per cent in the first half of last year.

 The rise in inflation also triggered higher pay rises for many car workers. At Peugeot, the November rate triggered an "RPI plus 0.5 percent" increase of 4.2 per cent for 3,200 employees.

 And Nissan's second-stage formula produced a 3.75 per cent increase for it's 4,300 employees.

 At Rolls Royce, workers received a 3.75 increase in September, four months earlier than the usual review date.

 And the lower-paid are benefiting from higher pay rises as employers anticipate the introduction of a minimum wage.

 The IDS report said: "We are seeing an increasing number of settlements in which increases have been weighted towards the lower end of pay structures, in many cases in anticipation of "the minimum wage."

 And it gave as an example the Scottish based hotel chain Stakis which employs 12,500 staff. Its latest settlement adds 3.2 percent to its minimum rate, bringing it up to £3.58 an hour for staff aged 21 and over.

 Scottish Bakeries has also raised the pay for its 6,000 manual workers by 3.3 per cent but given its 18 year-olds 3.8 per cent.

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