Socialist Worker

Lib Dems’ common ground with Tories

Issue No. 1909

WE ALL know from bitter experience that many products don’t do what they say on the label.

The people of Leeds and Birmingham are finding that the same holds for the Lib Dems.

In both cities the Lib Dems posed as anti-war and to the left of Labour, but have gone into coalition with the Tories since the council elections last month.

Similar rotten coalitions have taken control of at least seven other local authorities.

The Lib Dems and Tories have plenty of common ground.

The council is now led by Tory Mike Whitby—a millionaire. His deputy is Lib Dem John Hemming—also a millionaire.

Millionaire Whitby says of millionaire Hemming, “He and I talk a similar language.

“We get on well together and we always have done. Both John and I understand, as business people, that you have to run a company within a fixed and controlled budget.”

So they are setting about a major attack on the council’s 50,000-strong workforce and ominously “reviewing staffing levels across all departments”.

In Leeds the Tories and the Lib Dems will rotate the position of council leaders between themselves every six months.

That means the Lib Dems are ensuring that another city is run by another local Tory boss.

Shockingly the Green Party, which has three councillors in Leeds, has also joined the coalition, taking the position of chair of the executive board.

Tory leader Andrew Carter and the Greens’ David Blackburn say they will work well together.

Carter adds, “If you look closely, the three parties have similar local policies. We all agreed that our differences can be ironed out.”

Trade unionists, who the Greens have tried to woo, are entitled to an explanation of what the similarity is between the local policies of the Greens and the openly pro-privatisation Tories and Lib Dems.

Regenerating a disaster

IF YOU live in an inner city area, a “regeneration project” is almost certainly on its way, if it is not there already.

These schemes, promoted by New Labour, promise to bring new prosperity to deprived urban areas and to improve the standard of living of residents.

But the regeneration of Hoxton shows what’s really in store.

A tiny section of this rundown area of east London has been transformed, at least superficially, by the influx of upmarket bars, cafes and restaurants.

But a consultation paper written for the government’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport has found the transformation has driven local people out.

And the scheme has left unemployment levels as high as before.

According to this report, “Hoxton’s success has led to soaring land values often forcing locals who work there to move outside the area.”

Readers in the West Midlands might be interested in knowing that a similar scheme is planned for that area. The government has announced an £80 million regeneration scheme modelled on the one introduced in Hoxton.

Secret of Iraqi arms

SECURITY GUARDS hired by the US to act as mercenaries in Iraq have come up with the ultimate money-making scheme, according to one returned Iraqi exile.

He was concerned to find that the private US security company under contract to the Pentagon to protect him started showing decreasing interest in his safety.

Then he discovered that his guards had branched out into another business—arms dealing.

They discovered a cache of valuable weapons abandoned by Saddam’s presidential guard.

“They were taking the weapons and storing them in our house before selling them,” says the returned exile.

“There were so many weapons there that I did not even dare smoke and I am a chain-smoker.”

Other tales of corruption by US personnel come from Ahmed al-Rikaby, who is nominally in charge of re-establishing Iraqi television.

He was to be assisted by three US advisers each paid £140,000 a year.

He says, “They had no expertise and never helped me or anybody else.” Al-Rikaby believes they got the posts through influential friends in the Pentagon.

The education gap grows

THE GAP between rich and poor going to university is set to become a chasm under Labour’s top-up fees scheme.

Researchers found that, between 1995 and 2002, more than 75 percent of children from professional backgrounds studied for a degree, compared with just 14 percent of those from unskilled backgrounds.

The increase in student numbers since then has come at the price of an even greater divide.

Davis checks out—for a price

SPARE A thought for Sir Peter Davis, the ousted chair of Sainsbury’s.

He had to make do with a £2 million payoff. His staff are unlikely to be in mourning though.

One in six have had no pay rise at all this year. And the staff Christmas bonus, worth about £100 to full time workers, has been scrapped.

The total saving for the company from that last measure is nearly the amount Davis got as a golden goodbye.

In this week - 40 years ago - 1964

THE CIVIL Rights Act was passed in the US.

The act was passed against a backdrop of a massive campaign involving black and white anti-racist activists.

Campaigners came under ferocious racist assault in the southern state of Mississippi.

The civil rights act brought to an end 100 years of apartheid-style laws in the US.

But it still took a mass movement in the US to sweep away the reality of segregation.

Figure it - £41 billion

The amount really being paid into pensions. New Labour said the figure was £86 billion, claiming that state pensions were not needed because people were making their own provisions.

Who says?

“Every ten years or so, the US needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.”

MICHAEL LEDEEN, American neo-conservative intellectual who inspired Bush’s Middle East foreign policy

“I think that as my longstanding friend you might have given me the benefit of the doubt.”

PETER MANDELSON, accusing Alastair Campbell of forcing him to quit over the Hinduja passport affair

“The time has come to end this charade. No civilised country should try to collect the debts of people that are dying of hunger, disease and poverty.”

JEFFREY SACHS, senior UN economic adviser to Kofi Annan after calling on African countries to refuse to pay back crippling foreign debts

“I always thought the spirit of fair play was important in England. I never expected this reaction.”

URS MEIER, Swiss football referee after he was forced into hiding when the Sun launched a hate campaign against him

“We did beat prisoners, but we didn’t strip them naked, photograph them or fuck them like you did.”

NASHWAN ALI, Iraqi criminal intelligence officer

replying to questions from an American military police investigation into alleged prisoner abuse

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Article information

Inside the System
Sat 10 Jul 2004, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1909
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