Socialist Worker

New Labour lurches to the right

As government popularity plummets migrants, hospitals and low paid are under attack, while there are big handouts for the rich, bosses and the banks

Issue No. 2102

Gordon Brown’s government is reacting to its growing unpopularity by increasing its shift to the right.

Following Labour’s rout in the 1 May elections, a Guardian/ICM poll found this week that just 27 percent of people back Labour, while the Tories are on 41 percent.

New Labour’s response to this crisis is to step up its attacks on working class people and increase support for the super-rich.

Brown unveiled 18 new bills in a relaunch last week. All of these were heralded by much talk of “choice” – but the spin masked even more nasty attacks on the unemployed, disabled people, migrant workers and public services.

A new bill will force unemployed workers to undergo a skills test. All incapacity benefit claimants will have to go through a harsh medical assessment before they can access benefits.

Claimants will have to show a “clear personal responsibility for improving their own circumstances”.

The government intends “to require the unemployed not just to seek work but to train to improve their skills”. This will become an excuse to push people into dead end jobs on very low pay. The penalty for failing to take up any offer will be “having their benefit sanctioned”.

Other measures include more restrictions on migrants. A Citizenship, Immigration and Borders Bill will force new immigrants to learn English and to pass tests in order to “join in the British way life”.

It will also limit access to benefits and social housing to full British citizens.

A new bill will make it easier to bail out the banks with public money. Chancellor Alistair Darling was set to use a speech to the CBI bosses’ group on Tuesday to offer more tax breaks for business.

But Labour is less concerned about the rest of us. The best Brown can offer for those worst hit by his government’s policies is a proposal to encourage people with no money to save.

The government is also introducing the right to ask for time off work – not a right to time off work, but the right to ask!

In the run up to this week’s Crewe & Nantwich by-election, Brown reversed his plans on the abolition of the 10p tax in a bid to win some votes back.

Yet it is still the case that 1.1 million of the poorest households will lose out by up to £112 a year.

On housing there is a promise to buy unsold buy-to-let flats from developers.

New changes to the NHS will mean more targets, the cutting of funding for “underperforming” hospitals and yet more privatisation.

Another Terrorism Bill is to be introduced, as is a bill to allow the state to monitor people’s use of the internet and their phone calls.

There is already a Terrorism Bill rumbling through parliament with attempts to increase the level of detention without trial to 42 days.

The bill includes provision to hold inquests in private and without juries in cases “in the public interest”. This will lead to more cover-ups in cases where people are shot by the police.

The government’s policies of war, privatisation and attacks on the poor have created the anger against New Labour. Brown’s continuation of those policies will further deepen that rage.

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Article information

Tue 20 May 2008, 18:46 BST
Issue No. 2102
Share this article

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.