Official British politics will revolve round a beauty contest between Gordon Brown and David Cameron in 2007. Yet at the grassroots level two other issues dominate.
One is the huge cost of Britain’s alliance with the US – something Brown has committed himself to as much as Tony Blair. British troops are mired in the disaster zone which is occupied Iraq. Their situation in Afghanistan is no better.
The British government has decided to spend billions on renting US nuclear weapons to replace the current Trident system.
The second issue is the growing list of ward closures and job losses across the NHS. This misery is caused by a budget deficit of less than £1 billion. This is a fraction of the £76 billion cost of replacing Trident.
Blair has committed a future Brown premiership to “reform” of the NHS – more of the free market measures which have wreaked havoc.
On 24 February the Stop the War Coalition and CND have joined forces to call a demonstration in London demanding no replacement for Trident and troop withdrawal from Iraq. A week later the health unions together with the TUC are calling for a day of regional protests to save the NHS.
Both dates need to be top priorities for all those committed to securing peace and welfare.
The issues are linked. Everyone should be campaigning to build both protests, arguing the money being poured into Blair and Brown’s war machine must be diverted now into health, education and welfare. Let’s commit together to make both 24 February and 3 March huge protests to ensure we set the agenda for 2007.
A squalid lynching
As George Bush and Tony Blair relaxed over Christmas the true nature of the occupation of Iraq was shown.
The public execution of Saddam Hussein – together with the taunts and insults thrown at him as he prepared to die – does not mark a “milestone to a better Iraq” nor the “triumph of democracy”. It is another bloody event for a country that every day descends further into hell.
This shameful event has rightly been met with a wave of popular revulsion against the sheer brutality of Bush and Blair’s occupation.
This was not about justice for Saddam’s victims. It was about ensuring that the former Iraqi dictator never reveals the role played by the US in supporting his war on Iran, his persecution of the Kurds and his repression of ordinary Iraqis.
Saddam’s execution will not stop the mass killings, car bombs, kidnappings and sectarian death squads. And it will not stop the resistance.
Strategy falls apart
Remember the promise about British troops withdrawing from southern Iraq as “security matters” were being handed over to Iraqi forces?
All this went up in smoke in December when British troops destroyed Basra’s main police station because it had been “infiltrated” by “renegade members” of the Mehdi Army militia.
The British occupation of the south is more precarious, unstable and unwelcome now than at any point since the beginning of this war. The price for this failure will be paid by British soldiers, their families and tens of thousands of ordinary Iraqis.