Socialist Worker

Millbank-the lie machine

Issue No. 1687

Frank Dobson

Millbank-the lie machine

NEW LABOUR has launched a disgusting right wing smear campaign against Ken Livingstone. It is repeating the slurs peddled by Thatcher and the Tories in the 1980s. Labour's Frank Dobson attacks the Greater London Council in words that could have come from the mouths of Tories like Michael Heseltine or Norman Tebbit.

Dobson and the Millbank machine accuse Ken Livingstone of breaking trust because he had previously said he would not leave the Labour Party. But Dobson should look at his own record. In July 1999 he said, "I am the Secretary of State for Health and I intend remaining the Secretary of State for Health." He laughed at suggestions that Tony Blair was pushing him to be mayor and said there was "not the slightest chance" of it happening.

Then he did a swift U-turn to fit in with Blair's plans. Once he had decided to stand, the vote was fixed to let Dobson win. In May 1999 London minister Nick Raynsford had announced that "the Labour Party will elect its candidate on the basis of one member one vote". But Labour's leaders set up an electoral college system which favoured the votes of MPs and assembly candidates.

Dobson claimed that he had no idea this system would be used. What a coincidence that it was unveiled a few hours after he announced he was running. New Labour claimed that the electoral college was the same system that had elected Blair and Prescott. This was another lie. In Blair and Prescott's election all unions were forced to ballot their members. The National Union of Mineworkers was barred from voting because it could not afford a ballot.

In the London mayor case, union leaders such as the AEEU's Sir Ken Jackson were able to throw their vote behind Dobson without a ballot. Blair smears Livingstone as a liar. But he should ask what you call someone who pledges to govern "for the many, not the few" and then slavishly serves the interests of big business, the banks and the wealthy.

Backed by fat cats

DOBSON IS proud to have the backing of big business. He is welcoming the support of:

  • David Sainsbury, who pushes genetically modified food.
  • The bank chiefs who have just agreed charges of up to 2 for withdrawals from cash machines.
  • The heads of companies like insurance giants CGU and Norwich Union, which are merging with the loss of 4,000 jobs.

Dobson says he will bring jobs to London. But he defends handing billions of pounds to the same big businessmen who are sacking workers and lengthening working hours. Dobson wants lower taxes on the rich.

Fraudulent on crime

A TORY-STYLE law and order scare is at the heart of Dobson's campaign. He is spreading fear by exaggerating the threat of crime. The first place Dobson visited after becoming Labour's candidate for mayor was the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police. He congratulated them. This came less than a year after the Macpherson report into the botched investigation of Stephen Lawrence, which uncovered deep institutionalised racism in the police.

Even a Gallup poll for the Tory Daily Telegraph last year found that 59 percent of people agreed the police were institutionally racist. But Dobson attacks Ken Livingstone and anti-racists for "going on and on" about racism in the police.

  • Dobson defends armed action by the police.

This is only five months after Harry Stanley was gunned down by the police in cold blood in Hackney, east London. Sarah Thomas and Roger Sylvester, both black, also died in police custody.

  • Dobson and New Labour never highlight crime in the City of London.

Yet big business fraud is one of the biggest areas of increasing crime. The Home Office recently revealed that fraud cases rose by 70,000 to 312,151 in the 12 months to last September.

  • Corruption in the Metropolitan Police is at epidemic levels. Over 70 officers are under investigation.

Even the Met's anti-corruption body is under investigation itself for "using discredited methods".

Why GLC was popular

"THE GREATER London Council under Ken Livingstone was an unpopular failure." That is one of the biggest New Labour lies. The GLC introduced the Fares Fair campaign in 1981. It cut bus and tube fares by 25 percent. The policy was a great success. Passenger numbers increased 11 percent on the buses and 7 percent on the tube. There were more buses on the road, more trains on the track, less car use and less congestion. London Transport took on 600 extra staff.

The Inner London Education Authority was able to redistribute resources from rich areas to poor areas. It provided a unified education policy across London and pioneered anti-racist teaching. The Tory press ridiculed GLC initiatives to combat racism, sexism and homophobia.

Those policies are now considered mainstream. So too is the fact that politicians meet with leaders of Sinn Fein. The Tories denounced Ken Livingstone as a supporter of terrorism when he met Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams in 1982 to explore the possibilities of peace. Dobson claims the GLC was unpopular and contributed to Labour's election defeats in the 1980s. But London produced Labour's best results in the 1984 Euro elections at the height of the GLC. Two in three Londoners opposed its abolition in 1986. That is a higher level of support than Tony Blair got in the 1997 general election.

More profits for privatisers

"I WILL rebuild the tube network. Ken Livingstone's plans will lead to debt and higher taxes," says Dobson. But New Labour's public-private partnership scheme will to do to the tube what privatisation has already done to the railways.

Chunks of the tube will be handed over to the profit-driven construction and rail companies which gave us disasters like Paddington. House of Commons select committees have slammed the effect of private finance on everything from passports and information technology systems to air traffic control. Every independent report finds that Labour's plan for the tube will be a disaster.

The London School of Economics Greater London Group found that it was "flawed in principle and impracticable", threatening huge financial burdens and "continually rising fares". Dobson will put our safety into the hands of the fat cats and insist we pay them even more in fares, subsidies and tax concessions.

Bad for your health

DOBSON'S TWO years as health secretary left the NHS in crisis-underfunded, short of staff and stretched beyond breaking point. Dobson's solution is to back even more Private Finance Initiative (PFI) projects.

As economist and former Observer editor Will Hutton writes, "PFI hospitals have fewer beds, fewer nurses and fewer operating theatres." At UCLH hospitals, in Dobson's own constituency, the new PFI hospital will have 127 fewer beds and 28 percent fewer nurses. It was supposed to cost 160 million, but the latest estimates suggest it could be as high as 280 million. Private companies will grab nearly 1 billion over 30 years. Today in London there are 171,000 people on waiting lists. That number rose again last month.

Insult to elderly

DOBSON SERVED in a government which gave pensioners an insulting 75 pence a week rise last year and refuses to restore the link between pensions and earnings. How dare he say he "wants to improve the quality of life of pensioners in London"?

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Article information

Sat 11 Mar 2000, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1687
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