Socialist Worker

Picture begins to take shape

Issue No. 1681

What we think

Picture begins to take shape

THE LAST few days have marked a turning point in the fortunes of New Labour. The general feeling amongst millions of people about the government has undergone a profound change. Now it seems almost the norm to talk about New Labour's betrayals and how the government has shattered hopes for change.

Newspapers that have backed the government gave voice to some of that mood as they marked Labour's 1,000 days in office on Wednesday. The Mirror spoke of "1,000 Days Of Hard Labour". The loyal Guardian's headline was "The Magic Starts To Fade. Tony Blair Is No Longer Walking On Water". The Sun, backed New Labour at the general election and is owned by Rupert Murdoch, whose support Blair has courted. It wrote of "the week it all went belly up for Blair".

The individual examples of New Labour's betrayals are beginning to connect up to form a picture that enrages many Labour voters. That picture is one of caving in to big business while attacking groups such as single parents, pensioners and disabled people. It means trying to be more vicious than the Tories against asylum seekers. Blair would like to dismiss the millions who are unhappy with his government as being resistant to change. He talks of "forces of conservatism on the left and the right".

But it is precisely because people want real change that they are angry the government has not delivered. This is leading to a growing feeling that not just this policy or that one, but the whole direction of the government, is wrong. Blair was shocked when he got a taste of the breadth and depth of that anger from his own members in London last week (see report on page four).

We need a movement to connect up all the individual battles against this government. Those protesting against council house privatisation, workers fighting for decent pay and conditions, campaigners trying to save the environment and those fighting against racist attacks or homophobia need to be drawn together. That is the way we can turn growing anger at Blair into a fight against every aspect of this rotten free market capitalist system he so eagerly defends.


Force Labour all the way on fees

THE DEPTH of New Labour's problems is shown by the mess they have got themselves into over tuition fees. The resentment people have felt at the imposition of fees has caused a crisis for Labour in Scotland. This has led to Labour being forced into a compromise on the issue. It has now done a deal to keep together its ruling coalition with the Liberal Democrats in the Scottish Executive.

However, Labour is not out of the woods yet. The compromise it has struck will leave students in Scotland feeling betrayed and is bound to fuel further protests, both north and south of the border. In a disgraceful move Labour has watered down the recommendations of the Cubie Report it commissioned. Instead of fees being payable after graduate earnings reach �25,000, Scottish students at Scottish universities will have to start to repay fees once their salary reaches �10,000.

This figure is set so low it will catch virtually everyone who gets a job. There will be protests from students in Scotland, Scottish students studying in England and Wales-who will still have to pay fees-and students from England and Wales who have no chance of benefiting at all. Protest has forced concessions and fixed the spotlight on the unfairness of Labour's fees policy. Students everywhere should be organising now to demand that at the very least the Cubie Report is fully implemented.


SOAS Students occupy

ABOUT 100 students at SOAS, part of London University, occupied the college's finance and admin block on Tuesday of this week. They demanded the college stops threatening students who have not paid their tutition fees


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Thu 27 Jan 2000, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1681
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