Socialist Worker

Link up the battles to bring down Blair

Issue No. 1868

TONY BLAIR will go if the anger over his lies and the war on Iraq comes together with the deep bitterness about people's lives in Britain. And that no longer seems a remote possibility. Blair's popularity and satisfaction with the government are both plummeting. The ebbing of support recalls nothing so much as the death throes of Tory leaders Thatcher and Major.

But it's not just a general mood among the population. Central figures in the Labour movement are now calling for Blair's head. Tony Woodley of the TGWU union told a fringe meeting at this week's TUC that Blair should resign over the war on Iraq. Other union leaders caught the same mood.

Even people who voted for the war, like former cabinet minister Michael Meacher, now denounce it in explicit terms as a war about US control of the globe. Meacher has been a Labour MP for 33 years, and held various ministerial posts going back to the Wilson and Callaghan governments in the 1970s. He served in Blair's cabinet as environment minister for six years until he was removed in June.

If he now thinks the war was an imperialist outrage, imagine what many other Labour members and supporters think.

The war is the central issue, but it is also linked to the resentment over long hours, low pay, job losses, the pensions robbery, the relentless pressure at work, and rotting public services.

This week's TUC gave a glimpse of the fury over those questions among millions of people. One recent study showed that 30 percent of fathers with young children are working more than 48 hours a week. Is that the work-life balance we hear so much about?

Another report found that 40 percent of workers over 50 have already decided to delay their planned retirement date because their pensions are now so pitiful. Over 1.5 million manufacturing jobs have gone since Blair came to office in 1997. New Labour says that the number of people in employment is soaring. But this week we discovered clear proof that well paid full time jobs are being replaced by McJobs-part time, unskilled and poorly paid work.

A survey of Amicus union members who lost jobs at Rolls-Royce, Ford and BAE Systems shows two-thirds were still unemployed a year later. Of those who did get jobs, two thirds took wage cuts-averaging 40 percent. The billions spent on war are a daily reminder to the pensioner and the redundant engineer that there should be enough money for decent pensions and jobs. But New Labour has squandered it on a war for oil and US power.

The trade union leaders should be organising action to bring together the war in Iraq and the war at home. They should also be saying that we want much more than replacing Blair with Brown. It is no good replacing the man who organised the war with the man who forced us to pay for it. We need to stop Blair now.

This week the government took the next step towards imposing foundation hospitals. That is another deep inroad for privatisation in the NHS. Later this year Blair wants to ram through top-up fees, despite intense opposition from inside the Labour Party. The immediate focus is the anti-war demonstration in just two weeks time. That is the most important task for everyone.

But we should also be linking that fight to the other issues. The postal workers battling for decent pay should be on that demonstration and the anti-war activists should be supporting the postal workers' struggle. Let's hit Blair with both fists.

Jobs protest

Workers at Birmingham's threatened Alstom train factory marched to the city's town hall on Friday of last week. The 1,300 workers at the factory face their jobs being axed. They had announced they would lobby local council leaders on Friday of last week to win support in a campaign to save jobs. On Thursday managers at the factory told workers they could only join the lobby if they took the day off with no pay.

Some of the furious workers reacted by staging an unofficial strike. 'We were all disgusted and everyone on the shop floor downed tools,' said one worker. On the Friday the lobby went ahead as planned.

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What We Think
Sat 13 Sep 2003, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1868
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