TONY BLAIR headed off this week to Sir Cliff Richard's Sugar Hill estate in Barbados for a luxury holiday. But he won't be able to escape the reality that New Labour is falling apart.
Chief spin doctor Alastair Campbell is reported to be resigning and defence secretary Geoff Hoon is so 'stressed' that he has started lashing out at photographers.
There is increasing evidence that the inquiry into David Kelly's death might turn up some very uncomfortable facts for the government. And all the time there is the open wound of the war in Iraq. Piling up Iraqi bodies and displaying corpses like trophies is not going to stop resistance in Iraq. It is not going to convince anyone that the war was justified or that the occupation is right.
But it's not just the war and it's not just Blair that have shattered New Labour. This week also showed that another central aspect of New Labour policy is on the rocks-the economy. This is the area most associated with Gordon Brown, the man who is touted as an alternative to Blair.
He has wallowed in the myth that, although the government may make the odd mistake, life is basically getting better for most of us. The economy is in trouble and ordinary people are being made to pay the price. A series of figures in the last two weeks showed:
- Rises earlier this year in tax and national insurance mean that average take-home wages are falling. Under New Labour many people are working harder than ever for less than before. This reality will mean more explosions like the walkout at Heathrow and more unrest like the pressure for action over pay among postal workers.
- The average household now has debts of £37,000 compared to £24,500 when New Labour took office in 1997. If interest rates rise from their present low level then millions of workers will be crucified.
- The rate of economic growth is running at about half what Brown predicted.
This means he may soon move to cut back spending on key public services or raise taxes for workers even more.
Brown has not found some magical formula to make capitalism provide a better life for everyone. In the early days of New Labour there was much talk of where they would spend the 'war chest' of cash they were building up. Some of it leached away as the economy contracted and the rest of the war chest went on...war.
The policies that Brown and Blair are united on mean bosses get soaring pay and low taxes while workers suffer. We must not let Blair and Co off the hook. This summer we have to build further resistance to the occupation of Iraq and strengthen the networks of people who will fight New Labour on every front.
Now time to make the charges stick
THERE IS a gathering mood in Britain to confront New Labour. You can see it in the continuing strength of the anti-war movement and the enthusiasm for events like the European Social Forum. But it is also reflected in the trade unions.
The motions submitted to the Trades Union Congress for discussion at the conference in September read like a charge sheet against the government. They denounce New Labour for the war, for privatisation, and for ramming through foundation hospitals and top-up fees.
There are also motions attacking the government for the lack of workers' rights, for standing by while pensions are snatched away, for attacking asylum seekers, for extending the retirement age, and much more. If the trade union leaders turned that criticism into action then Blair would be finished quickly.