Dated: 22 Feb 2003
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WITH THE majority of the world's population opposing war, Tony Blair now says that people don't understand the "moral case" for attacking Iraq. It is another lie born of desperation. Blair said of last Saturday's anti-war demonstration, "If there are one million, this is still less than the number of people who died in the wars he Saddam started."
It was the biggest march in British history, and that's official. Only once before have such numbers been on the streets - back in 1945 when millions partied to celebrate the end of the Second World War. Last Saturday up to two million marched in London to protest against another war.
In Glasgow last Saturday Tony Blair fled from the anti-war anger that swept towards Labour's spring conference. Around 100,000 people marched through Glasgow to the exhibition centre where the Labour Party was meeting. It was the biggest demonstration in the city since the 19th century. Tony Blair was scheduled to speak at 2pm - the demonstration was scheduled to be outside the centre to meet him. Instead Blair sneaked into Glasgow at 10am, spoke to a closed meeting and scurried off before the march began. Margaret Thomson was on the march, carrying the "Sighthill United Against War" banner.
It was the day the world said no to Bush's war. Demonstrations took place in over 600 cities and towns. The numbers of demonstrators far surpassed the most optimistic forecasts of ten million. In some countries people marched in their millions or hundreds of thousands.
Turkey | Luxembourg | Ireland | Australia | Austria | Czech Republic | Malaysia | New Zealand | Switzerland | Malta | Poland | Cyprus | Norway | Germany
Hyde Park was filled with people as far as the eye could see listening to speech after speech attacking Bush and Blair's drive to war. Hundreds of thousands of people stood in the freezing cold for four hours intently listening to the speakers at the rally.
ONE OF the sickest and most dishonest arguments of supporters of Bush's war is that it is about liberating the people of Iraq, especially oppressed groups like the Shi'a Muslims and the Kurds. Commentators say that the Kurdish area of northern Iraq, which has been free of Iraqi government control since 1991, shows the kind of democracy and human rights the US will bring to Iraq.
A QUIET market town in Leicestershire was rocked last week by the announcement of 900 job cuts. Ashby de la Zouch is known on the tourist trail for its medieval castle, used for a battle scene in the 19th century novelist Walter Scott's book Ivanhoe. But one of the town's biggest employers, United Biscuits, put Ashby in the news for another reason after announcing its McVitie's factory will close. The news has devastated the workers.
AROUND 3,500 workers at the massive Ryton Peugeot plant near Coventry walked out on strike for 24 hours last week. They brought the plant to a standstill. The first shift to strike began picketing at 5.30am on Thursday of last week, the day after the car giant announced yearly profits of £1.2 billion.
AROUND 400 workers at a factory in Hereford were set to strike for five days this week. The workers, members of the GMB union, work at Special Metals Wiggin producing nickel alloys.
THERE ARE many things that stop Tony Blair sleeping at night. One of them is his fear that the union movement may be about to humiliate him again. Two of Britain's biggest and most influential unions, the TGWU and GMB, are about to elect new general secretaries. In both elections the candidates have not been finally decided.
ACTIVISTS IN the unions covering university workers are campaigning hard against accepting a terrible offer on London allowance payments. The insulting offer only came after two one-day strikes. It amounts to just £130 a year extra in inner London, £90 in outer London, and just £30 in the surrounding areas. Negotiators in the Natfhe and AUT lecturers' unions were set to recommend accepting the deal.
OVER 5,000 train guards working for 21 companies are to vote on strikes over safety. The RMT rail union is calling the action after train companies reneged on a deal last year to preserve the safety role of guards.
AMICUS-MSF health workers in London voted overwhelmingly last week to oppose the government's new pay package, Agenda for Change. The meeting of the Health Service Advisory Committee (the body representing health workers in London) was the largest and angriest for years.
JOURNALISTS AT two Newsquest-owned newspaper groups in the north of England were set to walk out on Monday of this week. Management refused to offer an increased pay deal. In Bradford workers are to strike for five days. They have been offered just 2 percent.
TWO LEADING campaigners for the health service, Candy Udwin and Dave Carr, have been unjustly expelled from the Unison union. It is one of the most shameful episodes in the history of Unison. It is the final act of a political witch-hunt that was waged by a section of the Unison bureaucracy. This witch-hunt began with the election of New Labour in 1997.
THE SUN newspaper is putting people's lives at risk. Billionaire Rupert Murdoch's rag ran a scare story about refugees "bringing deadly diseases into Britain" on Friday of last week. It says the rise in HIV/AIDS and TB cases is down to refugees and immigrants. The Sun is trying to make cheap, racist propaganda out of serious diseases.
LAST SATURDAY'S great demonstration was one of those "once in a lifetime" events which it would be hard to find anything to match. One of the few that begin to compare - in my experience at least - was the million-strong anti-war march that concluded the European Social Forum (ESF) in Florence on 9 November last year.
PARLIAMENTARY PROCEDURES will not stop this war. That much is clear from the way Tony Blair has arrogantly dismissed the enormous groundswell of feeling against attacking Iraq. It's a characteristic of the undemocratic system we have that governments can implement unpopular policies while keeping most MPs firmly under control, whatever their private misgivings.
ONE OF Latin America's richest men, Gustavo Cisnero, was on holiday at his luxury villa in the Dominican Republic just over a week ago. His old friend, former US president George Bush Sr, was with him. But Cisnero could not have been happy.
THE DEMONSTRATIONS last Saturday have plunged Tony Blair into the biggest political crisis of his life. Every commentator knows it. Blair knows it. For days the media has been filled with attempts to understand the demonstrations, and speculation about whether Blair can ride out the storm. Now we have to cause such turmoil that Blair is forced from office. If we don't shift Blair, we allow him to ignore democracy.
AT LEAST one person from each of 1.25 million households in Britain marched last Saturday, according to a survey in the Guardian. They showed on the streets the anti-war feeling of the clear majority of the population.
I HAVE just written to Tony Blair with the following message: "Dear prime minister, My family has Labour roots going back to the beginning of the Labour Party. To witness the disintegration of a once proud party into the spineless shadow of its former self fills me with horror.
MINISTERS REACTED with horror last week when it was suggested that MI5, the army and others had talked up the "terrorist threat" at Heathrow airport. The defence and security services are strictly non-political in such matters, we were told. How embarrassing then that just a day later came confirmation of conspiracies and subversion by just such people. A British army brigadier and up to 20 other soldiers and police officers may be prosecuted for working with Loyalist terrorists in Northern Ireland. Brigadier Gordon Kerr could be accused of conspiracy to murder.