FIVE YEARS ago the tune of Labour's campaign song, 'Things Can Only Get Better', died away and Tony Blair entered 10 Downing Street. The hopes many people had at the time seem a very long way away now. A poll in the Daily Mirror published on Tuesday showed that 66 percent of people think that Blair has 'not done enough for ordinary people'. Fewer than one in five voters believe that Britain has become a better place to live under New Labour.
In 1997 people voted to end the scandal of homeless people forced to beg on the streets, for an end to privatisation, and for decent public services available to all who need them. Today we still have the rotting housing estates where the only option offered to people is to 'choose' to be privatised. We still have people sleeping rough on the streets. We have 13 percent more council services privatised than in 1997, more PFI schemes, less accountability and less democracy.
The NHS is still bleeding to death and schools are still left scrambling for funds. Trade unions are still shackled by harsh laws. Blair has hurled British forces into two major wars, and is the staunchest friend of whatever bloody adventure Bush wants to launch next. The people at the top have prospered under Blair.
Their wealth has mushroomed and their arrogance has increased now that the Labour Party is, according to chancellor Gordon Brown, 'more pro-business, pro wealth creation and pro-competition than ever before'. The harsh fact is that the divide between rich and poor is far wider five years after the election of a government which said it was committed to rule 'for the many, not the few'.
The bottom half of the population own just 6 percent of national wealth. The richest 5 percent own nearly 50 percent. Under New Labour several words have become their opposites. 'Reform' now means that things get worse. 'Modernisation' means going backwards to more brutal policies.
As discontent grows with New Labour, Blair's first instinct is always to steer sharply to the right. New Labour lays into parents, 'unruly children', 'failing teachers', asylum seekers 'swamping' schools and doctors' surgeries, and 'inflexible' workers. Each time it does so it feeds the appetite of the Tories and those even further to the right.
These five years have shown we need an alternative to New Labour. Every vote for the Socialist Alliance in the local elections is part of building the fightback. Across Britain more and more people are disenchanted with what is on offer from the main parties.
The left has to give that anger direction and purpose. In the next five years we need more protests like those we saw recently in Barcelona and Rome. And we need more resistance from the trade union leaders, more strikes and more socialist organisation.
Thousands march against war
SOME 5,000 anti-war demonstrators marched through Glasgow last Saturday (see page 19 for full report). At the same time US plans to wage war on Iraq took shape. Bush has abandoned the idea of building up internal opposition to the Iraqi regime, according to the New York Times. Instead he is going for an old fashioned invasion involving up to 250,000 troops early next year. Protests can build up a movement to stop the war before it starts
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