Socialist Worker

How to send New Labour to its grave

Issue No. 1886

THE TOP-UP fees vote on Tuesday was a disaster for working class people hoping to go to university. But it was more than that.

There are moments which illuminate like a lightning-flash the real nature of parties and movements. Tuesday was one of them. Blair acted more than ever like a Tory and New Labour MPs failed the key test to defeat him. They are more spineless than jellyfish.

What would it take for these Labour MPs to screw up their courage and bring Blair down? Half of them would, grudgingly, vote for a Murder of the First Born Child Bill on the grounds that to do otherwise might destabilise the government.

But Blair has still been immensely weakened, even though the Labour MPs caved in. The government has a majority of 161. Yet Blair got his way by only five votes, despite an intense campaign of bribery, bullying and begging.

Socialist Worker went to press before the Hutton report was released. Whatever it says, the issue of Iraq will haunt this government to its grave. The anti-war movement mobilised millions and mortally wounded Blair.

That movement broke down the door so that all the others who hate what New Labour stands for could then hurt Blair. For many months Blair has had the smell of death about him. Now he is visibly rotting.

How can we get rid of Blair and his policies?

Labour MPs have failed us. Even those who want him to go see Gordon Brown as the alternative. He is no alternative at all.

Nick Brown, who has acted as his campaign manager, was the leading "rebel" who announced on Tuesday he would vote for top-up fees and save New Labour. It would only have taken him and two other backsliders to vote against fees for the bill to fall.

Gordon Brown, even more than Blair, was a key architect of the New Labour project. He fully supported the war. He siphoned £6.3 billion away from public services to fund the war and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq.

On Monday Brown hosted a gathering of top corporate bosses. He told the richest men in the world, including Bill Gates, that he plans to curb spending on hospitals and schools "to entrench fiscal discipline".

The way to finish Blair and forge a real alternative lies in our own hands.

The anti-war movement showed the power and potential of ordinary people when we organise, mobilise and protest. The same potential exists elsewhere too. Millions of workers are sick of ever-longer hours, demands for more flexible working, miserable pay and arrogant bosses.

That feeling is now bubbling to the surface, with active resistance in a growing number of workplaces. Fanning the resistance, mobilising solidarity for every struggle and keeping up opposition to the occupation of Iraq can shape the future of politics in Britain.

That spirit is now finding political expression too.

A new left wing electoral coalition, Respect, was launched at a national convention in London on Sunday. Trade unionists, anti-war activists, pensioners and young people came together around a clear opposition to New Labour and its policies.

Respect will challenge New Labour in the 10 June European, London and local elections. It will give a voice to those spurned by the traditional parties and turn those elections into a referendum on Blair. Its success depends on all of us building that new coalition, drawing the widest possible forces into Respect.

Labour MPs showed they had no self respect on Tuesday. Now Respect is coming to get them.


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What We Think
Sat 31 Jan 2004, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1886
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