Labour backbenchers face an early opportunity — and a test. The second reading of Charles Clarke’s identity card bill is expected soon. New Labour’s majority is reduced to 67 and with the opposition parties saying they will vote against the bill, the votes of just 34 Labour MPs could be enough to scupper it.
The imposition of ID cards is part of the “unremittingly New Labour” third term Tony Blair and his coterie are pushing through. Human rights groups oppose ID cards as an attack on our civil liberties. Many more will object to the cost — up to £300 per person.
This is a chance for Labour MPs to ditch a typical and unpopular Blairite measure. Yet mixed messages are coming from them, with some urging defiance, but others arguing for “constructive dialogue” — and a vote alongside the new cabinet.
Let’s hope enough Labour MPs vote for what they know is right. But remembering top-up fees, foundation hospitals and more, we need to get on with building a campaign of defiance against ID cards and the other measures Blair has up his sleeve.
Part of the new left across a continent
The no vote in France is an unconditional victory for the left. It’s significance is on the same scale as the great anti-war demonstration in London on 15 February 2003.
A similar combination of forces to those that built the anti-war movement in Britain came together on the left in France to power the victorious campaign. The same building blocks are in place to launch a new left wing challenge across France in the future. Respect now finds itself walking together with new forces on the left across Europe. Our destinies are linked.
We should celebrate victory in France, but strive on this side of the Channel to build Respect where we live, and in our workplaces, colleges and communities.
That can be connected to mobilising for the Make Poverty History demo and Gleneagles protests against the G8 in Scotland next month when the new forces of the European radical left will come together.
Suddenly they don’t like democracy
“Bloody minded, selfish French.” That’s not a quote from a right wing British tabloid, rather it just about sums up the response of Blairite establishment commentators to the outcome of the French referendum.
The pages of avowedly liberal papers in Britain are dripping with the kind of anti-French bilge normally associated with the Europe-hating right. All because working class French voters have swung left and rejected a neo-liberal Europe.
That the pro-EU establishment can sound like anti-EU Tories, or US neo-conservatives, shows they have more in common than divides them.
They share a snobbish distain for the idea that big political issues should be decided by ordinary people informed through collective discussion.
Their abuse betrays the fear that the establishment feels at the left revolt in France — a revolt which shows every sign of continuing and spreading.