Socialist Worker

Can you hear the cries of revolt, Blair?

Issue No. 1880

THE EXPLOSION of anger over New Labour's proposals for top-up fees has thrown the government into crisis. Blair has been forced to abandon plans to hold a vote in parliament over the fees before Christmas. He fears he would lose that vote. Labour MPs, whose loyalty he has been able to count on, have lined up to speak out against the fees.

The vote is likely to be early in the New Year, the same time the report of the Hutton inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly is due. Blair is fearful that old wounds over the war on Iraq will be reopened.

These come hard on the heels of the revolt over foundation hospitals. Blair is hoping he can buy off dissenting MPs with minor concessions over fees. He hopes he can fob off ordinary people's concerns with his 'big conversation'-the fake consultation exercise launched last week.

But bitterness in society runs very deep. Many ordinary people fear for their jobs, face rising debt on top of low pay, and the prospect of a retirement in poverty while their children struggle with debt if they get to university.

Some of that powerful feeling has poured onto the streets in anti-war protests.

The mood is also being felt in workplaces across Britain. The postal workers shook Blair and the bosses recently with their unofficial strike action.

Unusually for this time of year there is evidence of growing resistance amongst groups of workers. Some are highlighted on pages 14, 15 and 16 of this week's Socialist Worker.

We cannot rely on the backbone of Labour MPs to hold out against pressure from their whips in the New Year. But Blair is vulnerable.

If the different strands of resistance that put him on the ropes over the last months come together then he could be dealt a knockout blow.

That means seizing every opportunity to build that resistance-now.

New Labour's policies allow Tories to look compassionate

THE LAST line of defence from New Labour ministers trying to defend their government's indefensible policies is 'the Tories would be worse'.

Yet last week the new Tory leader, Michael Howard, incredibly managed to sound more compassionate about refugees than home secretary David Blunkett.

Howard was one of the most despised ministers in the Tory government. As home secretary his policies targeted the most vulnerable in society.

Last week in a debate in parliament he described Blunkett's plan to take refugee children away from their parents to put them in care as 'despicable'.

Howard is a right wing opportunist. New Labour has opened the door for him to pose as the more caring.

Blunkett's child-snatching plan was even too much for anti-refugee papers like the Times and the Daily Mail to stomach.

Even people who have stuck with the Labour Party so far must now be wondering how low New Labour can possibly go.

How can Labour Party members justify this government any more?

Blunkett claims his policies mean 'less ammunition for the extreme right'.

Does he seriously think the raft of vicious attacks on refugees in his new immigration and asylum bill will silence racists and the Nazi British National Party (BNP)? In fact, his words and policies feed the racists of the BNP.

Blunkett wants to make refugees' lives so unbearable in Britain they would be forced back to the war, poverty and disease they have fled from.

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What We Think
Sat 6 Dec 2003, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1880
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