Socialist Worker

Tony Blair flails around in the midst of a storm

by Chris Bambery
Issue No. 1977

illustration by Leon Kuhn

illustration by Leon Kuhn


Everyone is agreed that the clock is ticking for Tony Blair. Beyond that nothing is clear. Blair himself was this week hunkering down at a special cabinet meeting to launch what was trailed as a “fightback”.

His only strategy is to carry on regardless with his remorselessly free market agenda and his unflinching support for George Bush over the Iraq war.

But as the cabinet gathers, few of his ministers can have any confidence in this strategy. Most have already switched loyalty to Gordon Brown.

There is a growing rebellion across the country over New Labour’s plans for our schools and hospitals.

A hike in the retirement age looks likely. After the terrible 7 July bombings in London the one issue on which Blair must have felt confident of public support for was his proposal to introduce new anti-terror laws.

But after last week’s humiliating defeat in parliament, even that has gone belly up.

Above all Iraq remains the issue which will haunt Blair.

This is not simply about the end of Blair’s political career. It is about the unravelling of the whole New Labour project.

The Financial Times last week carried an article arguing exactly that. It expressed fears that a Gordon Brown administration would find itself facing a groundswell from below demanding change.

The biggest danger facing us all in the anti-war movement and on the left is that we simply watch and consume the collapse of New Labour.

As we watch how anger against neo-liberalism has erupted in France’s banlieues it is easy to forget the same anger exists here among millions of people whose lives have been blighted by nearly three decades of savage pro-market policies.

We can determine that Blair’s demise is linked with Iraq for all time and we can ensure a Brown government is under siege from all of us who reject the neo-liberal crusade that underlies New Labour.

That means in the next few weeks ensuring delegates flood to London for the International Peace Conference on 10 December.

We need to lay plans to respond to the likelihood that soon the 100th British soldier will die needlessly in Iraq.

The Americanisation of British society and political life means swathes of the country feel no one speaks for them.

Some might vote Liberal or even Tory. Many will not vote. Respect needs to become the voice of all those left voiceless in Blair’s Britain.

As well as planning a breakthrough in next May’s local elections Respect needs to sink roots in every possible community, college and workplace and establish itself as a campaigning party on local and national issues.

At no time in the last 30 years has there been such a thirst for an alternative to a society based on profit and war.

Within the wider movement socialists need to address that and build the widest possible culture of Marxist ideas.

Socialist Worker aims to help that by promoting debate and by holding discussions in towns and colleges across the country.

Chris Bambery is a member of the Respect national council and the editor of Socialist Worker


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Sat 19 Nov 2005, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1977
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