'A growing revolt among MPs and activists', with 'anger reaching unprecedented levels'. That's how key Labour daily the Mirror describes the political storm that has broken over the New Labour government. The Mirror sums up why there is such feeling against Blair. People are 'furious at the U-turn over bailing out Railtrack shareholders and the failure to prevent mass job losses in the postal service.
'The latest problems add to simmering discontent over the threat of military action against Iraq, plans to let private companies run public services, and concerns over Mr Blair's closeness to right wingers such as Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.'
The discontent has even spread to those normally seen as Blair loyalists. Former ministers Chris Smith, Glenda Jackson, Tony Lloyd, Peter Kilfoyle, Tony Banks and Tony Worthington have all expressed opposition to Blair's plan to back a US war against Iraq.
The anger goes far wider than Labour MPs. A Sunday Times poll last week found that for the first time a majority of people, 54 percent, rate Blair as a disappointing prime minister.
The same poll found that over 40 percent of people who voted Labour in last year's election think Blair should go before the next election. The press and some Labour MPs have even begun talking of a challenge to Blair's leadership. Names put forward are chancellor Gordon Brown and Labour Party chair Charles Clarke. Neither offers any real alternative to Blair.
Brown has been a key architect of New Labour and all its warmongering, privatisation and underfunding of public services. Clarke is the unelected party chairman who was handpicked for his unconditional loyalty to the New Labour 'project'. Blair himself seems to live on another planet to most people. He arrogantly dismisses all threats to his position and a leadership challenge as of 'no real significance'.
People disgusted with Blair and New Labour deserve a real alternative. It won't come from the likes of Brown or Clarke, and it won't come from hoping enough Labour MPs one day pluck up the courage to make a stand. The kind of opposition we need is like that which has rocked Blair's key European allies.
In Barcelona 500,000 people marched against Blair's right wing friend, Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar. Last Saturday three million people demonstrated against Italian prime minister Berlusconi's New Labour style plan to attack workers' rights. On both those protests the trade union movement and the growing anti-capitalist movement came together.
We are not in Italy or Spain, and it would be foolish to think we can conjure up a millions-strong demonstration just like that. But there are steps that can begin to build the kind of protests that can shake Blair and his fat cat friends. Here are three simple things that can make a real difference:
- Back the call for united protest and action to defend public services that has been put forward by a number of trade union leaders. Agitate in your union or group to win this idea, and also press for the biggest possible protests and action on May Day.
- Join Saturday's anti-war demonstration in London, and organise to get people to sign the 'Don't Attack Iraq' petition launched by the Stop the War Coalition.
- Throw yourself into the Socialist Alliance election campaign now. Millions of people will be disgusted with New Labour this week after the rail and post day of shame. The challenge is to ensure they get the chance to express that feeling by backing the Socialist Alliance in the 2 May council elections.
Defying the privatisation chaos
Over 150 school meals staff protested on the steps of Hackney Town Hall in east London last week. The workers are furious over the latest privatisation fiasco involving the Labour council.
Initial Catering Services, which had taken over school meals, pulled out in the last week of term, leaving no provision for feeding 12,000 pupils. An emergency court injunction last Friday forced the company to provide meals until the end of term
National convention for all registered Socialist Workers Party members Sunday 14 April 10.30am-4.30pm Central London Phone 020 7538 5821 to book
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