If you sacrifice public interest for private sector gain you have to bury bad news every day. That simple truth lies at the root of the row surrounding transport secretary Stephen Byers. The media and mainstream parties are focusing solely on the tale of who said what to who.
The scandal ought to be about far more than a cynical spin doctor, an arrogant minister and a top civil servant. Byers sums up the big business policies at the heart of New Labour more than any other government minister. He is responsible for:
- Selling off air traffic control. It is now demanding public money to keep the shareholders happy.
- Driving through the PPP privatisation scheme on the London tube despite overwhelming opposition from experts.
- Privatising council housing.
- Failing to renationalise Railtrack when it went bust last year. Public money is going into the company to get it in shape for another gang of private owners.
- Providing handouts and favours to big business as trade and industry minister before last year's general election. He refused to challenge BMW when it sacked thousands of car workers.
If you adore millionaire businessmen you end up sharing their contempt for working people. If you force through policies that benefit the rich then lying about their consequences becomes second nature. If you sleep with dogs you get fleas.
Blair's government has the dodgy echo of the Tories because it is pursuing essentially the same policies. Byers deserves to go and New Labour's Tory policies should be buried with him.
Build movement against the war
THIS SATURDAY'S demonstration in London can play a vital role in building anti-war support before Bush and Blair unleash another wave of killing. Bush is banging the drums of war louder by the day. His threats to bomb whoever he chooses are so aggressive they are producing splits between the US and even its close allies.
Some European governments have spoken out against his war drive on Iraq. They may have little intention of standing up to him. But their words can feed the global anti-war movement that can. A large minority of people in Britain opposed the US-led war on Afghanistan in the weeks after 11 September.
Now even many of those who went along with the war in Afghanistan feel an attack on Iraq cannot be justified. Bush has only one certain pillar for his claim to be standing up for world 'civilisation'-Tony Blair.
And Blair's slavish support for the US government is leaving him vulnerable. Government ministers were privately shocked by the size of the anti-war demonstrations over the attack on Afghanistan. There has also been growing resistance internationally to the war. Bush was met by angry demonstrators who organised protests when he visited Japan and South Korea recently.
The 70,000-strong conference in Porto Alegre, Brazil, a month ago discussed opposition to the war along with anti-capitalist ideas. A three-day peace march is set to go ahead this weekend starting in Genoa, Italy, the city that saw the 300,000-strong anti-capitalist demonstration last July.
Everyone should back Saturday's anti-war protest in London and go on to deepen the anti-war movement. Tell your friends and workmates about it. Organise with others in your area. Let's make sure the anti-war voice is heard loudly.
Socialists' election challenge
In just two months council elections will be held across England. The furore around Stephen Byers shows the need for socialist policies like renationalisation of the railways. Socialist Alliance candidates will be standing around the country. Local groups are already organising leafleting and canvassing, and are planning stunts. Phone the Socialist Alliance on 020 7791 3138 to get involved
Book now-only two weeks to go!
The political fund: where should union money go? Conference for all trade unionists
Saturday 16 March, 11am-4pm, Camden Centre, Bidborough Street, London WC1 (near King's Cross station/tube)
Register with the Socialist Alliance-phone 020 7791 3138, email [email protected] or write to Socialist Alliance, Wickham House, 10 Cleveland Way, London E1 4TR