The left wing Labour MP John McDonnell should be on the ballot paper for Labour leader. Socialist Worker has consistently supported his challenge, but as we went to press on Tuesday, it was by no means certain he would get sufficient nominations from MPs to stand.
The weakness of the left inside the parliamentary Labour Party, and the restrictive election regulations that require prospective candidates to gain nominations from 45 Labour MPs, were considerable obstacles to him.
The difficulty of mounting a left challenge to Gordon Brown tells us much about the Labour Party. As John McDonnell says, “Millions of people are yearning for an alternative to the policies of war and privatisation promoted by the three major political parties. For the first time in years, they no longer have a political voice.”
Whether or not McDonnell gets to the starting line, it will be good to have a debate throughout the labour movement about how we can continue the battle around the issues he has raised.
SNP starts to wobble
Alex Salmond, the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), is likely to visit Buckingham Palace to be installed as Scotland’s first minister. Last week the Scottish Tories turned down a New Labour proposal to form a “pan-Unionist” coalition and shut the SNP out of office. The SNP looks set to form a minority administration, backed by two Green MSPs.
But already Salmond is using his lack of a parliamentary majority to backtrack on key radical proposals presented in his manifesto for the SNP’s first 100 days in office.
These included abolishing student fees, introducing an “alternative” to PFI in Scotland, charging the Westminster government £1 million for every nuclear warhead brought to Scotland, and replacing council tax with a local income tax. In contrast, one SNP policy that certainly will be voted through – with Tory and Lib Dem support – is a cut in business rates.
The Scottish left, trade unions and anti-war movement need to start fighting to ensure that the SNP delivers on its promises of radical policies that favour peace, justice and equality.
Across Scotland we should set a target of 100 days to stop army recruitment in schools, to remove Trident from the Clyde, to scrap PFI and much else. Salmond may reply that he has no control over Trident or the deployment of Scottish troops in Iraq. But the Scottish parliament should nevertheless use its authority to block, disrupt and harry the imperial war machine.
The Son of Bolkestein
The Bolkestein directive is a grand plan to force through the deregulation of services across Europe. Last year huge mobilisations of the European trade unions forced a number of concessions, including the removal of public health services from the proposals.
But the neoliberals keep pushing on their agenda. Last week saw an attempt to re-include health services in a revamped version of the directive. The plan would make it impossible to impose maximum prices for medicines and fees, or minimum standards for staff and care quality.
Trade unionists in Britain need to mobilise as effectively as their European colleagues against the drive towards a neoliberal Europe.