THE GAP between the New Labour government and trade unions was strongly underlined at the Scottish TUC in Inverness last week. Some of the strongest criticism of Tony Blair came over the war. A series of speakers condemned the government for taking Britain into the war.
Sandy Boyle, an STUC general council member, told delegates, 'The war in Iraq was wrong when it started and it's equally wrong today.' He also criticised Helen Liddell, the Scottish Secretary, who had told the conference earlier that the war could have been avoided if 'the world community had stayed united'.
To loud applause Sandy Boyle said, 'Well, Helen, I agree with that. It's just a great pity that this policy was not adhered to by the British, American and Spanish governments who unilaterally broke the international consensus.'
Boyle, deputy general secretary of the banking union Unifi, ended with a quote from a poem by Robert Burns, which drew loud applause. He said, 'You hypocrites. Are these your pranks, to murder folk and give God thanks?'
Phil McGarry of the RMT rail union said he would 'never forgive this Labour Party and this government' over the war and argued that Labour would suffer in the elections on 1 May. The conference backed an executive statement calling for the withdrawal of British troops.
It also extended solidarity to those members of the armed forces who refused to serve in the war as conscientious objectors. The Scottish TUC also said that there must be no 'carve-up of Iraq' for US and/or British corporations and that the country's resources, including oil, must be retained in the ownership of the Iraqi people and placed under their control as soon as possible.
The conference also bitterly criticised the government over its privatisation policies.