Socialist Worker

The short story with a bitter end

Issue No. 1851

CLARE SHORT'S resignation has exposed the weakness of the Blair government. It shows that his loyal supporters are an incredibly thin layer of people. Her departure has further increased the serious problems for Blair, a leader who only a few weeks ago was presented as walking on water by the media and many politicians.

They claimed he had faced down all opposition and was emerging triumphant from the Iraq war. Blair trumpeted that now he would go on the offensive against 'union militancy', ram more private companies into the NHS and tear up the 1945 model of the welfare state.

Now someone who played a crucial role in helping him to survive the war has said she can't stomach it any more.

Short bears more responsibility than most for saving Blair when his future hung by a thread in the crucial parliamentary vote on war in March. At one stage, says Jeremy Corbyn MP, it seemed likely that 200 Labour MPs might oppose Blair. That would have been the great majority of backbenchers outside the ranks of those with government jobs.

Short's key role was to herd up around 60 MPs and give them a pathetic excuse to back the war - if we support the slaughter we can play a role in repairing the devastation afterwards.

Short doesn't just say that she was lied to about the aftermath of the war. She also says that the Blair regime itself is rotting. On Monday she condemned the 'centralisation of power into the hands of the prime minister and an increasingly small number of advisers who make decisions in private without proper discussion'.

She went on to call for 'an elegant handover' to a new leader. The deep resentment against Blair is not just about Iraq. It is also about privatisation, foundation hospitals, the attack on the firefighters, low pay, top-up college fees, cuts in benefits and many other issues.

Blair does have a vicious agenda at home but there is no reason why he should be allowed to get away with it. Real opposition now could mean a very inelegant end to Blair's rule.


A movement to challenge Blair

'THERE IS no denying that the mood against Mr Blair is far more bitter in the Labour Party than it has ever been,' says the Guardian. That is equally true about the mood among working people generally. What sort of movement do we need to focus that mood, dump the Blair project and fight for a better world?

Clare Short won't lead it. She has resigned far too late and still thinks it was right to go to war against Iraq. Short boasted of her work as international development secretary.

In fact, as George Monbiot wrote on Tuesday, 'She would emote with the wretched of the earth for the cameras and then quietly crush them with a departmental memo.' She won more money for the department and then spent much of it on international Blairism. Her white paper on development was a hymn of praise to capitalist globalisation.

Short liked the poor to humbly accept her views and be suitably grateful. When the people of Montserrat, reeling from the destruction of their island by a volcano, appealed for aid she ticked them off as 'wanting golden elephants next'.

Short also said that the demonstrators in Seattle and Prague against the World Trade Organisation and the International Monetary Fund were 'self indulgent' and 'intolerable'.

Across Britain people are discussing how to build an anti-war, anti-privatisation and anti-racist alternative to Labour. Socialists are at the centre of those debates.

A genuine force will be built on the two million who marched against the war in February, not those who voted for that war. It will be built by being rooted in the battles in the workplaces and the estates, not by manoeuvres among the inner cabals of the Labour Party.


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What We Think
Sat 17 May 2003, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1851
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