The launch of Labour’s election pledge card has shown just how low the party has sunk in its craven tail-ending of Tory and tabloid racism. The card was originally set to carry five pledges—as in 1997 and 2001. These would broadly cover education, health, the economy, crime and the family—also in line with previous elections. But at the last minute, a sixth pledge was added—“Your country’s borders protected.” Labour has promised “ID cards and strict controls that work to combat asylum abuse and illegal immigration”.
The move came in response to Tory promises of a “crackdown” on immigration. For the first time Tony Blair is making the question of immigration an explicit part of Labour’s election platform. Labour’s concession to those who try to scapegoat refugees and migrants is shameful. It can only give comfort to the racists. The party’s electoral record throughout the 1960s and 1970s shows that caving in to immigrant-bashers only strengthens the racists and the right. The unwelcome extra pledge adds one more reason to give Blair a slap in the face with a vote for Respect, which refuses to scapegoat asylum seekers and migrants.
The economic elite
Rampant inequality is Labour’s real legacy
New Labour’s claims about its record of economic achievement leave out one crushing fact—the turbocharged increase of inequality. A study released by the Office of National Statistics at the end of last year revealed that almost 600,000 individuals—the richest 1 percent—have doubled their wealth since Tony Blair came to office.
On average each member of this super-rich group was nearly £750,000 better off under New Labour. But the poorest 50 percent saw their share of the national wealth shrink from 10 percent in 1986 to 7 percent in 1996, down to just 5 percent in 2002.
The rich have also grabbed more political power. Every privatisation and every outsourcing takes services that were once democratically accountable and puts them into the hands of businessmen and managers. This same elite also has huge influence over the direction of NHS foundation hospitals and city academy schools. This is Labour’s real record—soaring inequality and shrinking democracy.
Bush on the warpath
Now the US ‘turns up the heat’ on Syria
The White House did not hesitate to seize on the assassination of Lebanon’s former prime minister to escalate tensions in the Middle East.
Within hours of the death of Rafiq Hariri on Monday, senior US state department officials were talking of “turning up the heat on Syria”, a country already earmarked for “regime change”.
Neo-conservatives in the Bush administration say Syrian troops are occupying Lebanon under the pretence that they have been “invited to stay” by a client regime. But that is exactly what the US and Britain are doing in Iraq. Such hypocrisy paved the way to war two years ago—we must not let it happen again.