Socialist Worker

Gordon Brown sets his dogs on parents, women and migrant workers

Issue No. 2124

The New Labour government has reacted to the economic crisis by lashing out at working people. The last week has seen a series of ministers mount attacks on parents, women and migrant workers.

Peter Mandelson, the New Labour hatchet-man recently appointed as business secretary by Gordon Brown, delighted bosses with moves to scrap limited plans to encourage flexible working hours for parents.

The government had pledged to bring in a right for workers with childcare responsibilities to 'request' flexible working from their bosses.

But Mandelson has now ordered officials to put this measure on hold, as part of an 'action plan for business' to protect profits during the economic downturn.

Meanwhile women's rights campaigners have reacted with fury at a decision by Harriet Harman, deputy leader of the Labour Party and leader of the Commons, to block moves to improve access to abortion.

Pro-choice MPs have tabled amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill that would extend abortion rights to Northern Ireland, allow nurses to perform abortion and end the rule that requires two doctors to approve abortions.

Yet on Tuesday of this week it was reported that Harman was planning to invoke an obscure Commons procedure to block the debate on these liberalising measures.

Labour has also signed up to the nasty right wing campaign to blame immigrants for poor public services, with the new immigration minister Phil Woolas making a series of hardline anti-immigrant statements in the press.

'It's been too easy to get into this country in the past and it's going to get harder,' he told the Times newspaper.

'Britain has to get working again. The easiest thing for an employer to do is to employ an immigrant. We need to help them to change that.'

He also spoke out against Muslim women wearing the hijab headscarf. 'At school you shouldn't wear one,' he said. 'It's harder to get a good education if you wear a veil as you're more cut off.'

Woolas has a track record of making inflammatory comments on race issues.

In 2001 his Oldham constituency was hit by a race riot instigated by the Nazi BNP. He responded by blaming 'the perception that racist attacks on white people are not taken seriously'.

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Tue 21 Oct 2008, 19:30 BST
Issue No. 2124
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