Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2021

Labour MPs Gavin Strang  and Mohammad Sarwar join an anti-war demonstration in Edinburgh (Pic: Duncan Brown)

Labour MPs Gavin Strang and Mohammad Sarwar join an anti-war demonstration in Edinburgh (Pic: Duncan Brown)

Labour can help build

Pauline Wheat-Bowen (Letters, 30 September) raises an important question for the anti-war movement. Should we welcome the support of Labour MPs previously loyal to Tony Blair and New Labour?

I think it is good to have a new layer of Labour MPs attacking Gordon Brown and Tony Blair in the newspapers or on Stop the War platforms.

In Scotland there are now several Labour MPs who are vociferous in their criticisms of Blair’s Iraq and Middle East policies. These include Glasgow MP Mohammad Sarwar (who previously voted for the extension of anti-terrorism powers to 90 days), former minister Gavin Strang and Jim Sheridan, the latest minister to resign over Blair’s support for the bombing of Lebanon.

Despite their previous support for aspects of Blair’s policies, the anti-war movement has welcomed their support. We were pleased to have Mohammad Sarwar and Gavin Strang leading off the 8,000-strong Hands Off Lebanon demo in Edinburgh in August.

Why? Firstly, we want to deepen the divisions in the Labour government and the cabinet and make it harder for Blair to claim he leads a united pro-war party.

Secondly, by having their support we are broadening the base and the appeal of the anti- war movement, by reaching out to Labour voters in general and its supporters in the unions.

Recently the Scottish secretary of the T&G union spoke at a big anti-war meeting in Glasgow in support of the Manchester demo.

He started by saying he had joined the Labour Party in 1979 and then apologised for Blair’s scandalous policies in Iraq and at home.

He speaks for many more trade unionists who feel betrayed and disillusioned. We need to welcome people like this into the anti-war movement and avoid the trap of treating them like Johnny-come-latelies.

Keir McKechnie, Secretary Glasgow Stop the War Coalition

Breathing life back into childhood

Dod Forrest may be right that childhood is dead (Is childhood dead?, 30 September), but I think that the issue is more complex than his article suggested.

It is true that childhood is increasingly criminalised by the likes of Asbos and medicalised by the diagnosing of conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

However, there has also been a significant increase over the last decades in the amount of respect afforded to many children. Parents and carers now give their children a much larger say in controlling their own lives than they did, say, in the 1950s.

Children increasingly choose what clothes they wear, what food they eat and, most importantly, what they do in the diminishing amount of time when they are not doing homework or preparing for their next round of tests.

Childhood may be dead but there are a lot of adults out there trying to breath life into it.

Terry Sulivan, North London

Wrong to quit Labour party?

I’m very sad to learn that Valerie Wise has left Labour (Why I’ve had enough of New Labour, 30 September).

Why? I’m no fan of New Labour, either. But the fact is the party has a once in a lifetime opportunity to choose a socialist leader with socialist values.

Forget the media hype. Under Labour Party rules, it’s not “inevitable” at all that Gordon Brown or, god forbid, John Reid will win.

Despite a virtual media blackout, John McDonnell’s campaign is gathering momentum day by day.

Grassroots trade unionists (who make up 40 percent of the electoral college) are queuing up to back him, and thousands of ordinary consituency Labour Party members are too.

Now is not the time to leave the Labour Party. It’s the time to join and help us choose a socialist prime minister by voting for one.

Jeremy Corbyn for foreign secretary? Think about it.

Susan Press, Calder Valley Constituency Labour Party (personal capacity)

I was interested to read about Valerie Wise leaving the Labour Party.

I met her mother, the MP Audrey Wise, a few times when I worked in Coventry from 1976 to 1984.

Audrey was an inspiration to many - a far cry from the Blairite clones. She was a true socialist who made common cause with those who suffered under Margaret Thatcher and wouldn’t play the Tory government’s game - as many of the municipal Labour lot did.

I musn’t put words in her mouth, but I have no doubt she would have opposed the whole Blairite agenda.

Would she have stayed in the party? I have my doubts - but the issue is whether it is better to stay and fight from within or organise outside the party.

I resigned as a constituency Labour Party secretary the day Blair got his majority for war in Iraq.

There is no chance of my returning if Gordon Brown or John Reid take over.

John Hopkinson, Tunbridge Wells

Blairites aiming to thwart a left challenge

Tony Blair may sound a competent orator in front of a stage-managed conference where much of the audience has been highly vetted.

Yet in reality, despite the sycophantic crooning, everything that he has done - particularly with regards to military policy in Iraq and Afghanistan - has been conditional on Tory support.

Even the leadership’s latest conference defeat over NHS privatisation has attracted less publicity than Cherie Blair’s opinions about Gordon Brown.

Now that Brown’s succession may not be the formality it once was, this incessant extolling of Blair’s premiership serves to justify a continuation of New Labour’s right wing policies regardless of who leads the party.

With names like Alan Johnson and John Reid being mooted as contingency candidates, the tactic seems to be to monopolise any forthcoming contest with New Labour stalwarts - all projecting phoney alternative policy initiatives.

This is to further split the party and thwart any credible left challenge from the likes of John McDonnell whose declared candidacy is clearly being treated with disdain by large sections of the mainstream media.

Not only will this further confuse the electorate, but create a “New” New Labour even more submissive to Tory policies than the present one.

Nick Vinehill, Norfolk

Students angry at sexist clubs

We had a great freshers’ fair at Manchester Met Uni. With the epic Stop the War demo only days later, there was a buzz and a spirit of resistance for all those opposing war, privatisation and New Labour.

This culminated in Student Respect becoming the biggest political society on campus.

The freshers’ fair was marred by the outrageous sexist material and behaviour people had to pass just to get in.

Nights like “pussy galore” and Teasers strip club were promoted by scantily clad women stripping off in front of students - in short they were selling their bodies in order to make the clubs more money.

Women on campus should not be pressured into commodifying their bodies just to sell a product. The fact that clubs like this are allowed to participate at freshers is a disgrace and helps it to become acceptable.

Many students would have been shocked to find this and now associate the student union with such events rather than the vibrant and multi-faceted institution that it is.

Hopefully, through positive campaigning, we will be able to end such unequal and exploitive events.

Emily Duckworth and Jess Braithwaite, Manchester Met University

Risky game in Dagenham

Last week, while the faithful were worshipping Tony Blair at Labour’s conference, Dagenham MP Jon Cruddas spoke out to say that he could not look his constituents in the eye and tell them that things have got better under Labour.

He went on to say that wages are falling in this area because migrant workers are undercutting “British” workers, and that people have “real concerns” about migration.

My “real concern” is that wages are low in east London because big firms, like Ford, have been allowed to sack thousands of workers without a fight, neither by the unions, nor the government.

By blaming migrant workers, Cruddas is playing a dangerous game - one that can only benefit the Nazi BNP.

Rohan Nakkady, East London

Not all strikes were justified

I read with interest your recent series of articles on the 1970s (The British upturn, 12, 19 and 26 August).

I would like to add some thoughts.

For a start, we had too many strikes - some justified, some not. Downing tools over small issues didn’t do industry or workers any good. Bringing in managers with no experience of the job also didn’t help.

I was working for British Rail’s National Carriers division at the time. Station masters were being replaced by managers. Most had no clue about the job.

Along came Margaret Thatcher. She replaced apprenticeships with the Youth Training Scheme (YTS).

So unemployment figures were down, but YTS workers often had no job at the end - so they were put on another course.

In all my 40 years of working, I don’t think the situation has changed much. It won’t change unless we get people in power working for the people that put them there in the first place - you and me.

If Tony Blair and George Bush were as quick to wage war on poverty as they are on Afghanistan and Iraq, then people like me wouldn’t be writing letters like this.

Alistair Hamilton, Mansfield, Notts

Pope was not ambiguous

Carlo Ungarelli (Letters, 30 September) was wrong to suggest that the pope’s attacks on Islam were “just a gross mistake” or that his position is “ambiguous”.

Carlo implied that the comments were more acceptable because they were made in a university lecture and not a public meeting.

The pope’s attacks on Islam were not ambiguous and certainly not acceptable either in private or public.

At a time when Muslims are demonised around the world and bearing the brunt of George Bush and Tony Blair’s “war on terror” - along with the racism that it generates - we should be clear that attacks on Islam only help justify imperialism and the oppression of Muslims.

Rosemary Cragg, Birmingham

Canada sends troops too

I enjoyed Jonathan Neale’s article on Afghanistan (Deepening catastrophe in Afghanistan, 23 September), especially the picture of futility it developed.

I must correct Jonathan’s assertion that no country except Britain is interested in sending more troops to Afghanistan.

Canada’s new government is keen to send its aged tank division and fresh mortar units to Kandahar.

Prime minister Stephen Harper is trying to become George Bush’s new friend. Harper tells his citizens that his robust defence of freedom and democracy is improving our international stature.

This improved stature would explain the empty UN building at the time of Harper’s address to the general assembly.

Ian Weniger, by e-mail

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Sat 7 Oct 2006, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 2021
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