Socialist Worker

Blair's 'roots' wither

Issue No. 1697

Blair's 'roots' wither

TONY BLAIR'S pamphlet The Roots of New Labour hailed the growth of his Constituency Labour Party in Sedgefield as a model. But party membership has slumped by half in Sedgefield since the 1997 general election-from 2,400 to less than 1,200.

Some who have left have set up an organisation called the Campaign for Labour Representation, which is demanding a return to "traditional" Labour values. One of the founders is hospital nurse Richard Wanless, who quit Sedgefield Labour Party after 13 years in protest at New Labour's policy on the NHS and on manufacturing industry.

"Tony Blair has become remote and out of touch," he told reporters. "We rarely see him here now, but when we do he no longer speaks the same language as us."

Duo really deserving of stigma

"GET RID of the welfare state lock, stock and barrel." "Stop saying to young women who get pregnant that she has done nothing wrong-she has." Those were the shocking words of American commentator Charles Murray last week. Murray is best known for his book The Bell Curve in which he argued that black people are genetically inferior.

Yet the Sunday Times, owned by multi-billionaire Rupert Murdoch, is promoting Murray's vile and racist views. The paper organised a forum last week on "the growing threat of the underclass" at which Murray was a keynote speaker. Amazingly Murray was backed in his argument by Melanie Phillips, who used to claim to be a liberal commentator on social affairs. Now she has been hired by Murdoch's paper.

"Stigma has had a bad press," she insisted as she echoed Murray's attitude to single parents. Murray accused single parents of creating a "social catastrophe" and spoke of them as an underclass responsible for crime, drug addiction and violence.

Murray and Phillips were so rabidly right wing that they achieved the feat of making home secretary Jack Straw, who was also on the platform, sound very reasonable. Straw attacked Murray for his racist views and said there was no simplistic link between illegitimacy and rising crime. But it is Straw's own policies of being "tough on crime" and of scapegoating asylum seekers that give credibility to the views of right wingers like Murray and Phillips.

THE right wing has often accused left wing teachers of indoctrinating children. But it seems the government has no qualms about the danger of indoctrination when it comes to drumming the virtues of the capitalist system into our children. This week it announced that it will send 1,000 top businessmen into schools as "business ambassadors." "I am keen to encourage the right skills and attitudes from an early age," said education secretary David Blunkett.

Tainted funds

SCANDAL HIT last week's visit by the Pope to Fatima in Portugal. The town is the site of alleged visions of the Virgin Mary in 1917, and a shrine there is visited by Catholics from across the world. The rector of Fatima was forced to admit recently that the shrine's refurbishment had been financed by the sale of Nazi gold.

The gold had been stored at Fatima during the Salazar dictatorship which ran Portugal until the 1974 revolution. It had been received from the Nazis in payment for goods supplied to Germany during the Second World War. The sale of the gold between 1982 and 1986 paid for Fatima's refurbishment.

Corporate culture

HAS YOUR boss ever made you go on a "bonding" weekend or evening to supposedly build up staff team spirit? If they do, beware. Anne Shackley, who worked for medical suppliers Depuy International in Leeds, was forced to go on a "bonding" night against her will. She was told it was part of the new corporate culture. She was forced to wear a padded sumo wrestler's outfit and wrestle with a colleague. She lost her balance and fell, hitting her head. Ever since she has suffered from epileptic fits which have ruined her life. Last week she was awarded �275,000 in compensation.

CALL CENTRES are bad for your health. A new report has found that 6 percent of workers at call centres suffer from "serious psychiatric problems", double the rate of the general working population. The CBE training consulting company surveyed some 14,000 workers at six call centres. "You cannot turn human beings into machines, making their function little more than a production line of repetitive operations," argued CBE's Jim Bennett.

Guests in a spin

MICROSOFT'S world is looking a bit shaky, following the US court ruling which could see Bill Gates's giant corporation broken up. Its world is certainly spinning-in the wrong direction. Microsoft has a problem with its Explorapedia Nature package. As the company's own blurb admits, "When you run Explorapedia and use the Exploratron to look at the Earth spinning, the Earth rotates in the wrong direction."

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Sat 20 May 2000, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1697
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