Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 1887

“You won’t get away with this”

This article is over 17 years, 11 months old
The vote for student top-up fees and the scandal of the Hutton report sent waves of anger around Britain. Much of the mainstream media has ignored this grassroots revolt. Here we print some of the many e-mails readers sent to Socialist Worker and comments from high-profile anti-war campaigners
Issue 1887

Steve, computer programmer, Hythe

‘Betrayed once again! Completely and utterly betrayed by a Labour Party I was once proud to support. What happened to the election manifesto? Obviously nothing more than a meaningless list of promises designed to fool real Labour supporters into giving the pseudo-socialists their vote. It worked. I was fooled. Not once, but twice. I won’t be again though’

James Gillies, anti-war campaigner, Birmingham

FOR MONTHS I have been waiting for the Hutton inquiry, hoping that it might just answer some of the questions the government fails to answer. I did not expect Blair-toppling findings, but I did not think that the entire government would get off totally scot free and place the blame squarely on poor journalism. Poor journalism, my arse. It would seem that it is unacceptable to report the truth about government. What a sham! Where does that leave investigative journalism and democracy? And that coming a day after the Mickey Mouse escapade of the tuition fees vote. I can’t wait for the European elections this summer-to give this New Labour government, and the other mainstream parties, a real lesson in truth, democracy and RESPECT!

James Wright, Gloucestershire

SPINELESS LABOUR backbenchers cave in as the government comes off scratch-free from its own inquest. It’s almost depressing that we saw it coming, but I’m hoping that this strengthens the disillusionment, and the resistance against capitalism and war. Blair must go.

Christine Hood, National Union of Teachers executive (personal capacity), St Albans

THE FEES vote was a disgrace. To hear some of those turncoat Labour MPs giving their reasons for condemning future generations of students to years of perpetual debt was sickening. To then read about Blair getting off the hook in the Hutton report just shows that they have been in power too long and have managed to manipulate all areas of the establishment. It is clearly time for a realignment of left politics as there is no chance of reclaiming the Labour Party now.

Jeremy Corbyn, Labour MP London

THE GOVERNMENT scraped home on tuition fees, although the bill could still get defeated at a later stage. Hutton was paraded in parliament as a great victory but it turned sour in a few hours when the first opinion polls came out. We must keep up the fight for peace and justice.

Emma Goodall, Oxford

I JOINED the Labour Party last year after attending an inspiring meeting of the Campaign Group at the TUC congress in Brighton. Again and again I have hoped that the Blairites will be defeated-on war, on foundation hospitals and now on top-up fees-only to be disappointed. There are still a lot of good people in the Labour Party. The problem is this tightly knit cabal who have taken the control of the party away from ordinary members. Labour conference voted against foundation hospitals and yet they have been pushed through, with my local MP, cabinet minister Andrew Smith, voting in favour, against the policy of his own Constituency Labour Party. I’m not giving up on Labour yet because I’m not convinced there is a viable alternative. But it is a very depressing situation.

Richard Stephens, Bristol

I HAVE just graduated and I have £11,000 debt. I don’t know how long that is going to take to pay off. A day before the vote I thought, ‘It’s going through,’ an hour before there was respite, then it came as no surprise. One of our local Labour MPs in Bristol abstained. This gave the green light to a local newspaper that ran a headline about a Bristol University student selling her virginity on the internet to stop herself falling into debt. Blair has sent the future of our student education back a century. Labour left wingers like Jeremy Corbyn should jack it in and join Galloway and Respect. Let’s bury the Labour/Liberal/Tory parties-they have nothing to offer.

Rupert Mallin, unemployed Lowestoft

LABOUR’S 2001 manifesto was against top-up fees. Blair says pledges to the electorate don’t count, so he bangs on with Thatcher’s policies. Worse, rubble without a cause Nick Brown MP showed how spineless he was to New Labour’s economics and his mate Gordon, plunging working class students into debt. Utter betrayal. But then you had to laugh, cry, get angry-the Hutton inquiry, set up by Blair, vindicated Blair. Nice wedge of pay for nothing, m’lord! In the death and destruction of these ongoing wars we are also counting the pounds which could be our free education, our NHS and our welfare. Tony is for the rich. He’s no respect for humanity. Respect must be built to remove him.

Luke Evans, student, Southampton

THE HUTTON report has been a successful vindication for Tony Blair and the government. It obviously cannot be possible that Britain went to war over a lie and that the true intentions of the campaign were to give BP, Bechtel, Shell, Halliburton and Lockheed Martin more workers to exploit, or more natural resources to squander or more reasons to make weapons of mass destruction. The fact is, voting over bills that influence the lives of the everyday person should be done for that very reason-what is best for the everyday person, not the grinning git at the top.

Paul Mackney, general secretary, Natfhe college lecturers’ union

THIS WEEK it has been a disgrace to see the spinelessness of Labour MPs backing down on their election pledge to legislate against tuition fees, and to see the despicable one-sidedness of the Hutton report. This will prove to be a hollow victory for Blair. He has just enabled millions of voters to see through the hypocrisy of New Labour deception and careerism.

Diane Stoker, Manchester

I WAS one of the protesters from Manchester supporting the anti-fees campaign, and the atmosphere in Parliament Square was absolutely resolute. Sadly, my own MP voted for the bill, despite my best efforts to convince the careerist B-liarite that the bill is a disgrace to education all over Britain. But I hope that B-liar realises that the 72 backbenchers who voted against fees are a signal that his time in Downing Street is coming to an end, the sooner the better.

John Keeley, anti-war activist, Canterbury

THE QUESTION still remains-where are the WMD? The intelligence was wrong.Why was it wrong? It has cost the lives of more than 20,000. Don’t these people deserve an inquest into the circumstances surrounding their deaths?

Dan Kilby, Sheffield

I DIDN’T expect much from the Hutton inquiry. It was run by an establishment judge. But after the fees vote I was really furious. I had to drop out of university last year because I couldn’t cope with studying and working in a pub for 25 hours a week. Now I feel really optimistic. I think the vote dealt a big blow to Labour. Everyone can see they are tearing themselves apart and they don’t represent us at all. The whole thing shows the need for an alternative. If Respect addresses questions like fees, the war and racism, a really young party can emerge.

Raheela Khan Javaid, student, Luton

I WAS disgusted to hear that the Labour government is looking to increase university fees as, according to them, the government does not have enough money to support our education. Then can I ask the prime minister, how was it possible for you to afford a war that the country did not want?

Tony Collins, RMT rep, London Underground

WHAT TUBE drivers and station staff at Edgware Road think… ‘It’s a cover-up, isn’t it?’ ‘It’s funny that Hutton said it’s wrong for the BBC to rely on a single source for its story, yet it’s OK for the government to rely on a single source for its war.’ ‘It just shows how far they’ll go in trying to save Blair’s skin.’ ‘It’s so brazen and open.’ ‘Unbelievable.’ ‘Shock horror! Law lord finds in favour of the establishment!’ ‘A total bloody whitewash.’ ‘Laughable.’ ‘It’s been nicely swept under the carpet.’ ‘This should be about a principle-we were lied to.’ ‘The strong attack the weak and then lie about it to make themselves look good afterwards.’

Richard Isdell, CWU area processing rep, Sheffield

THE FEES vote meant Labour relying on the Tories to get the policy through. The Hutton inquiry-I can’t believe what they are coming out with. How can Blair stand there all smug, thinking he has got away with it? Blair only won the fees vote because Gordon Brown was pulling the strings of people like Nick Brown. It doesn’t make any difference how many left MPs we have. If they cause trouble they get bought off, deselected or expelled. At our conference this year I think there will be serious moves to cut the ties with Labour. Why should we give money to the people who are trying to destroy our industry? We need a massive alternative that’s not just about standing in elections. I think the potential for building a mass alternative lies with the anti-globalisation movement, in the World Social Forums and the European Social Forums.

Roger Smith, Hull

I WORK in adult education for Hull City Council. For years we have been giving adult students free courses as a means of getting to university. Now we are being told that, thanks to Blair, many of our students have given up on their prospects of going into higher education. My students are absolutely gobsmacked that a Labour government could have abolished grants and introduced tuition fees. Blair, Brown, Blunkett and Clarke all went to university for free with grants. If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for my students today.

Linda Smith, FBU London Region treasurer and Respect executive

I WAS shocked by how one-sided the Hutton report was. A lot of other people saw the evidence and drew very different conclusions-it was a ‘sexed-up’ dossier that took us to war. Everything the Stop the War Coalition said about the war has proved to be true. All the opinion polls show that ordinary people are not fooled.

Richard Buckwell, TUC secretary, Mansfield & District

THIS LABOUR government stinks! Going into work on Thursday colleagues initiated discussions about what a whitewash the Hutton report was. Who selected Hutton to carry out the independent report? The government! Geoff Hoon, one of our local MPs, benefited from a free university education-a hypocrite twice in two days. Our other MP, Alan Meale, once known as a left winger and elected with the support of the National Union of Miners, also went to Ruskin College, Oxford, without having to pay what he is now asking others. Mansfield & District TUC planned a debate at the AGM on Tuesday on the future of trade union political funds. There is certainly likely to be a lot of anger in the room about continuing to bankroll New Labour.

Bruce Kent, vice-chair of CND

THE HUTTON inquiry is a great tragedy for this country. The focus is entirely misplaced. The focus should have been on why we went to war, not on what Andrew Gilligan did or didn’t say to David Kelly. If Greg Dyke has to leave the BBC for what his subordinates did, then Tony Blair should leave the government for what his subordinates did over the war. And that’s the kindest interpretation.

Louise Reynolds, Leeds SWSS

THE HUTTON whitewash and the top-up fees debacle have proven once again that there is no hope for Labour being reclaimed from the right. Change won’t come from careerist politicians who only represent their own interests in government, proven once again by the spineless actions of ‘rebel’ MPs switching sides over top-up fees. What is needed is a true left wing alternative to look out for the needs of ordinary people, and on this basis the Respect campaign is to be welcomed with open arms.

Ron Singer, GP and president Medical Practitioners’ Union (personal capacity)

AS A health worker I feel frustrated that Blair and his government have apparently ridden potential storms over top-up fees and the war with Iraq via Hutton. In the NHS the Labour government is now following policies that will privatise many of our health services, including the local doctor’s surgery. We need more than ever a loud voice to expose what the Labour government is up to and what the Labour Party has become. Neither can be trusted, and so I fully support the creation of the Respect coalition.

Abhijeet Paul, research student and Stop the War Coalition member, London

THERE’S a saying in Hindi: ‘Ek to chori, phir seena jori.’ Roughly translated it means, ‘First you steal, then you defend your act by force.’ I believe this proverb aptly describes the Blair government and the spin it has generated over the past ten months over weapons of mass destruction, Iraq and many other burning questions. In the wake of the Hutton report, Blair and his New Labour government have allegedly come out strong, even though the latest opinion polls show the contrary. The Hutton report, however exhaustive it is, does not even attempt to question the premise on which Blair and his government went to war. On this ground the report is irrelevant. More interestingly, the report looks even more dated and trivial after David Kay testified before the US Congress a few days back that the intelligence about the WMD in Iraq was all wrong. Is anyone listening?

Max Pettigrew, student, Southampton

I JOINED the Socialist Workers Party because of my anger for Bush and Blair’s indiscriminate ‘war on terror’. I was present at the founding of Respect and feel that the policies discussed and implemented are definitely a positive step in ousting Tony Blair in the coming elections, and hopefully will deliver a big ‘Fuck you’ to the racists in the BNP. The Hutton report has been a predictable letdown, but it is important to remain focused!

Tony Barnsley, Unison steward (personal capacity), Sandwell

I CAN’T wait for some Labour canvasser to dare knock on my door during the forthcoming elections. I will personally thank them in the appropriate way for placing the prospect of £30,000 worth of debt if my children have the opportunity of going to university. In fact I may begin by inviting them in, introduce them to my kids, and then ask my six and three year old to give the generous reformers of the working class £30,000 each. If they get out of the house without getting a pot of white paint over their heads they will have done well. In addition to their arrogant war lies, as a trade unionist I have to contend with their crappy bullshit public sector privatisation reforms. When the trade unions’ political party has become so shamelessly rotten, isn’t it time for the unions to give birth to something new?

Lesley Atkins, teacher, Glasgow

RARELY HAVE we seen such a blatant whitewash as the Hutton inquiry. Some people would have been naively hopeful that something of the truth would emerge from this. But the reality is clear-everything that has this government’s stamp on it is filled with spin, denial and outright hypocrisy. Everything decent is sacrificed to preserve Mr Blair’s reputation, every twist imaginable to deny the right of justice and truth to emerge. Blairism seriously damages everyone’s health.

Maz Cook

MARGARET THATCHER came to power in the year I was born. I waited all my life for a Labour government. In 1997, the first general election in which I could vote, I voted for Tony Blair. Since becoming immersed in the anti-war movement I have read enough to know I am not a Marxist (sorry). I believe in social justice, equality of opportunity, indeed most of what my friends in the SWP do. But I have significantly different ideas about means, and economic solutions also. At the 25 January meeting I signed up to Respect: The Unity Coalition. The base of the Labour Party is simmering with the desire to change its direction, and fear that nothing can be done from the outside. If only those thousands of disaffected CLP activists were in the meeting when we launched Respect. On 15 February last year I never thought I would feel that hope, that solidarity again. But on 25 January I felt it again, but it was packaged into an electoral alternative, a concrete raft of unity looking persistently to the future.

Richard, architect, London

MY ONLY feeling is disappointment. I’ve seen pictures all day of Tony Blair looking happy and relieved, and yet 10,000 would not be dead if it were not for him. Shame on the lot of them-Hutton, Blair and all the Labour MPs who are not now up in arms. It is a peculiar moment when the only honourable people in the whole affair are the BBC.

Ian Webster, 18 years old, Middlesbrough

TO THE ‘honourable’ Mr Blair. I know it must’ve been tough growing up blocking out the angry voices of those who didn’t like you, by putting your fingers in your ears and yelling, ‘LA LA! NOT LISTENING TO YOU! LA LA!’ I know neither you nor any of your cabinet will read this, but imagine that you are an 18 year old in an ordinary family, not particularly well off, and you’re planning on going to university. Would you like your parents to be paying out of all orifices so you can spend a number of years at a university, whereby the longer you stay there, the poorer your parents become? Aren’t YOU a little unhappy at your government, and thinking ‘I’m not voting THEM in again’? If you hadn’t spent the country’s taxes on shooting little Iraqi children and getting the papers to keep schtum about what everyone thinks of you and Mr Bush’s respective governments, we probably wouldn’t have to pay these top-up fees.

Tony Fenwick, teacher, Luton

WHEN IT comes to the Hutton inquiry I feel that we have lost the battle but not the war. When the dust settles, however, we can return to the wider issue-namely, the cynical means by which the Blairites knocked together a dossier about weapons that didn’t exist to justify our participating in a war. As to top-up fees-if we’re not careful we’ll lose the war. Now that our manufacturing industry is destroyed, interest rates are beyond credibility and house prices have reached the point where people cannot afford to live where they work, we are witnessing the process of commoditisation. We turn the apparatus of the welfare state-starting with higher education-into commodities and sell them to the ‘customers’ to keep the cash coming in. Education now, tomorrow health. The public services must all unite and fight now against this outrageous attack on services.

Salman Shaheen, student, Suffolk

A WEEK is a long time in politics. To think that it began with his funeral speech being prepared by newscasters. But it did not come to pass. I am a student, and I for one would not have voted for top-up fees. I do not know of a single friend who would have. Could so many of its Labour opponents have been so readily converted? Can they call this democracy? I shall be supporting the Respect coalition. A week may be a long time in politics; but for New Labour seven years is too long in power.

Joe Hartney, Edinburgh

IN MY office nobody thought Hutton’s report had any credibility. When so many people are aware that the war was based on a lie, this blatant whitewash doesn’t convince anyone. Along with the tuition fees vote, it makes people very cynical. They don’t trust politicians and they don’t trust the political process.

Paul Medhurst, postal worker, London

HUTTON WAS a rubberstamper-he was always going to stand with the establishment. That came after tuition fees. My boy is 13 and could go to university, but now he faces a massive debt. And that is imposed by a cabinet and MPs who had education for free themselves and now want to stop it for others. Those MPs have got no backbone and it’s not right. New Labour is no good. None of them are. We need something else, on the left.

Oli Rahman, PCS member, civil servant, East London

THE GOVERNMENT and Labour MPs should be ashamed of themselves over what they have done with fees. They didn’t pay for their education and now they deny that chance to people from poor backgrounds. Hutton’s report is a cover-up. Where are the weapons of mass destruction that Tony Blair told us were in Iraq? Blair’s days are numbered. I support the campaign to build a new party by George Galloway, the Socialist Alliance and some union leaders like Bob Crow and Mark Serwotka.

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