New Labour has admitted it faces heavy losses in the 4 May local elections. Ministers and MPs have been asked to go out and personally deliver the party’s leaflets.
This enforced activism is, in part, a result of the decision by Britain’s biggest union, Unison, to withdraw its support for the party in the election. Steve Warwick, chair of Unison’s Labour Link committee, said, “What we have done at the moment is withdrawn any funding or any leafleting for the party right across England.”
This decision raises a crucial question. Why should union members fund a party so committed to privatisation and to the rule of the corporations that it has even “outsourced” its own membership records department?
Until recently one argument trotted out was that the unions had brought pressure to bear on the government and got results—in the form of the “Warwick Agreement” they reached with New Labour two years ago.
This agreement, we were told, would be implemented prior to the next general election. But the promises made on pensions and other key issues have been either ignored or broken.
More new legislation proposed by Labour will see the party renege on its promises to make individual company directors liable for prosecution over corporate manslaughter cases, such as those following recent rail crashes.
Similarly, motions passed at Labour Party conference condemning the anti-union laws, the Private Finance Initiative and the sell-off of council housing have been binned.
Across the country we should pursue the arguments on funding New Labour in every union branch, and on every regional committee and national executive. The riposte to withdrawing funding of Blair’s party is that there is no serious alternative. The answer to that is to build support for Respect’s local election campaign.
The London Evening Standard expects Respect to do well in Tower Hamlets, east London. There, and in the neighbouring borough of Newham, Respect can make serious gains. Elsewhere it can create a bridgehead in a number of councils.
Iraq occupation: Lessons from empire
Between 30,000 and 36,000 Iraqis have fled their homes in the past six weeks, say officials at the International Organisation for Migration, based in Geneva.
The pattern—divide and rule by an occupying power, followed by conflict in which thousands are driven from their homes—will be familiar to anyone who knows imperial history.
The policies of the occupation are dividing Iraq into three regions along communal and sectarian lines. Meanwhile, there is still no agreement on forming a government in Baghdad, four months after the country’s elections.
The interim Iraqi government and the Kurdish authorities in the north have become bywords for corruption as they filch the country’s oil revenue.
Last month demonstrations turned into a riot over government corruption in the Kurdish city of Halabja. The ruling authority’s troops opened fire on protesters, killing at least one. A Kurdish politician later admitted, “What happened in Halabja could happen anywhere in Iraq because people look at what has happened to them and don’t think their leaders are any good.”
The occupation has turned Iraq into a hell. The horror will continue until the troops leave.