Socialist Worker

Crushing defeat for Blair

Issue No. 1976

Blair must go now, and take all his rotten policies with him.

He lost the Commons vote on Wednesday despite an unprecedented effort to sway MPs. Metropolitan police chief Ian Blair was pressed into overt political service, insisting that MPs agreed to 90 days detention.

The Sun ran three consecutive front pages denouncing MPs who refused to vote for 90 days as soft on terror.

Labour whips then swept the globe seeking MPs to drag back to vote. They even hauled in the sick.

And the result was a crushing defeat, a crystal-clear sign of Blair’s alienation from much of his own party, let alone the rest of us. Even Nick Raynsford voted against the government!

There has been talk that Blair is in a situation like John Major’s dying Tory government in 1992-7. In fact it’s worse. Major never suffered a defeat this large.

Blair felt that on terror laws he would be on firm ground, certainly firmer than the war in Iraq. He failed.

We do not cheer when already curtailed civil liberties are further eroded by allowing the police to hold people without trial for 28 days. But it was a humiliation for Downing Street.

But it is not enough to celebrate the final days of the Blair regime. We need to step up the pressure to get him out now.

The war in Iraq, and the resistance to it, is the primary factor which has brought Blair down. Nothing else has so summed up his readiness to put money and power before people. Noting better exemplifies his slavish support for Bush and neo-liberalism. Nothing else has so divided his party.

Nothing else put two million people on the streets against him and saw a movement born in every town and city, and in many workplaces, schools, communities and colleges.

The International Peace Conference on 10 December is another crucial staging post for the movement. Its size and vibrancy can be another blow against him.

Respect must also put itself on full readiness for battle. We know local elections will take place in many places next May. But there is also a much wider necessity to put forward a viable left alternative to Labour.

The future is not to hand power to Gordon Brown (who rushed back from Israel in an effort to help twist arms for Blair), but to widen and deepen Respect’s base.

And now is the time to fight over issues such as NHS cuts and privatisation, the commercialisation of schools, the assault on pensions, the threats to privatise the post and to take away civil liberties.

Blair’s turmoil and weakness is our opportunity.

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Sat 12 Nov 2005, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1976
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