Socialist Worker

Their mask is starting to slip

by Michael Rosen
Issue No. 1841

WE'VE BEEN told this week that Blair's cabinet are 100 percent behind him. It may well be true that New Labour is splitting up faster than lovers in EastEnders, but no worries for Blair - he's got solid support where it counts.

Who knows, perhaps it's some comfort to him as he stares out at the sullen faces of Labour Party members at their regional conferences, or as he rushes past demonstrators on his way to the next Middle East Massacre Planning Meeting. Even so, there are some dangerous kickbacks. It's all to do with the Labour Party's special role when it gets its hands on power.

When the Tories are in, their treatment of striking workers and protests is based entirely on calculated assessments of what they think can be won with force and brutality or, alternatively, what's best to give in to now in order to win later.

Labour does it differently. At the very top of the party they have men and women who were once at the forefront of strikes and protests - people like John Prescott, Kim Howells, Clare Short and Jack Straw. Even though all the evidence points to the fact that these ministers have become as keen on making the UK nice for big business as the Tories, far too many people in unions and protest movements imagine that they are still really on our side.

This means that political parties like Labour all over the world can often do as much damage as the Tories. The difference is that they do it by pretending to be comrades in arms. That is, until a crunch moment exposes them. Perhaps we've come to just such a moment. Think about it for a moment - you're a firefighter, you're a teacher about to ratchet up the campaign over testing, a health worker fighting over foundation hospitals.

Across the table from you or making statements against your action on the TV are people like Prescott, Nick Raynsford, Charles Clarke - cabinet ministers who, according to Blair, are to a man 100 percent behind this war. Now, I've no idea whether any of these people harbour secret doubts about killing Iraqi children.

At the end of the day it doesn't matter what their private thoughts are. For whatever reason, they've closed ranks with Blair and helped him hook the UK onto the US's oil tanker. So what does this mean in the close encounters of campaigns and protest? Take Charles Clarke.

He presents himself as a fast-talking, no-nonsense sort of a guy. A Mr Fair, Mr Fixit who's going to sort out education once and for all. Of course, really it's all huff and bluff.

He's set in the same old patterns of: if it moves, test it; and selection, selection, selection. No matter. That chatty, Labour - pals stuff has got some people fooled. But now one fundamental change has emerged. Ole Clarkey is in the cabinet. Ole Clarkey is 100 percent behind Blair.

As and when he wades into teachers organising boycotts of the testing regime, or for that matter when any of Blair's cabinet try and slap us down, we now know that these are the slimeballs and killers who have voted for war on the Iraqi people.

People like ex-socialist Michael Meacher, gulping for air on Question Time as he realises he's just joined the criminal classes - people who tell us that the war in Afghanistan was worth it, even though they can't or won't tell us how many Afghans were killed. Now we know who they really are.

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Sat 8 Mar 2003, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1841
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