Imagine if the local government pension scheme strikes had gone ahead on 4 May as originally planned.
The sight of 1.5 million workers walking out and tens of thousands demonstrating in the streets could well have proved the final straw for Labour. It might have ditched Tony Blair or given in on pensions.
The government is now so crisis-ridden that any serious resistance can blow it totally off course. The next few months will see key issues where trade unionists and campaigners have to press for resistance:
- Pensions: A white paper on the future of all our pensions is expected before the end of May. In addition talks on the local government pension scheme are coming to a head (see Defend the LGPS).
- Energy: Before the end of the summer, Alistair Darling, the trade and industry secretary will spell out long term plans on energy, including any plans for nuclear power.
- Health: Patricia Hewitt will continue to force through cuts in staff and services while welcoming in more private firms.
- Education: The battle over the Education and Inspections Bill, which guts comprehensive education, is far from over as it goes through its remaining stages in the Commons.
The committee stage ends next week and Labour rebels will try again to change the bill after this, when it receives its report stage and third reading.
New education secretary Alan Johnson will also be implementing plans for 200 city academies.
- Public spending: Before the summer, Downing Street and the treasury will publish interim findings of the entire next round of public spending.
- Post privatisation: Royal Mail is set to announce it will release shares – the first step in moves towards privatisation.
Blair should not be allowed to get his way on any of these.
‘Paying the price for national policies’
Blair’s relentless hold on 10 Downing Street is tearing the heart out of Labour Party activists.
Perhaps typical of the feeling among many Labour activists is an internet posting by councillor Karen Lee.
She told Compass online readers, “Last night’s results were an absolute disaster in Lincoln. Two respected comrades, both executive members on the city council, lost their seats and other comrades were beaten, as a direct result of what is happening nationally.
“In my own ward, the standing councillor got in by 43 votes. We worked very hard for those votes.
“I am appalled at what is happening and am not sure if I will stand again next year. If Blair is still prime minister I don’t feel there is any point. If he puts the good of the party before his own wishes he will go quickly and give us time to recover from the damage he has caused us by going to war with Iraq.
“Locally we have paid the price for the antics of the parliamentary party.”
This mood shows how Blair has demoralised those Labour activists who have stayed – as well as the hundreds of thousands of members he has already driven out.