AS A delegate to this year’s TUC conference in Brighton, I sat through Tony Blair’s speech where he warned trade unionists not to turn their backs on the New Labour government. The alternative, he exclaimed, would be a return to Tory rule – ’18 years of being ignored, derided and attacked as the enemy within’.
The general council shuddered at the prospect, curiously unwilling to acknowledge the last five years of being ‘ignored, derided and attacked’ by a New Labour government. How tragic that many senior figures in the trade union movement are still cowed by the idea that the alternative to New Labour is that pathetic and divided bunch of Tory buffoons currently level with the Liberal Democrats in the popularity stakes.
The real strength of opposition to New Labour is all around them – in the resistance to privatisation, the anger over public services, pay and pensions, the support for the firefighters, and the movement against a war on Iraq. I was not surprised to hear Tony Blair’s predictable scaremongering, but it’s time the TUC leadership stopped acting like rabbits frozen in the headlights of a vehicle conjured up entirely by spin.
Blair’s government is under enormous pressure, and opposition from below – not the Tories – is growing. Time to embrace that, Mr Monks, before you head off to Brussels. Time to grasp an opportunity to lead a workers’ movement capable of an effective fight against Blair’s pro-business and pro-Bush agenda.
Sue Bond, PCS delegation (personal capacity)
KENSINGTON AND Chelsea council in west London attempted to prosecute me after police and council officials approached me on a Stop the War Coalition stall outside High Street Kensington tube station. I had arrived there on my way to protest at the Israeli embassy. The attempted prosecution was brought under the Highways Act 1980 on the basis of obstructing the pavement, for not having a permit for a stall, and for putting up posters on council property.
The council has now dropped the case. My defence cited the successful case of anti-war campaigner Brian Haw, who was prosecuted on similar grounds by Westminster council over his vigil in Parliament Square. The High Court found that his right to freedom of speech overrode any council bylaws.
We also cited the London Local Authorities Act 1994 that permits distribution of political literature, and various pieces of European legislation. If anyone else faces harassment over setting up campaigning or political stalls this should give you sufficient grounds for ensuring that you are allowed to exercise your freedom of speech.
Chris Bambery, east London
Racists are getting away with attacks I WOULD like to thank Charlie Kimber for his article (Socialist Worker, 9 November) regarding racist attacks in south east London. I live near to where Stephen Lawrence was murdered. Charlie Kimber highlighted several attacks that have taken place over the past six months – one of them on a young man, Anthony Rose.
I know Anthony through my work as a youth and community worker while working in Greenwich. Anthony is a brilliant and intelligent young person. I find the thought of the police perceiving him as ‘a threat’ laughable. Criminals are being protected due to police officers stereotyping black and Asian people.
While this continues to happen, criminals will get away with the hideous crimes that they commit against black and Asian people. This article highlights that any of us can or do know someone who has been attacked or murdered. This is sad and at the same time extremely worrying.
NORWICH CITY College, in the middle of new Secretary of State for Education Charles Clarke’s constituency, was completely closed by a strike on 5 November. Over 70 lecturers and support staff picketed during the morning, followed by a march of nearly 200 through the city centre.
We were joined by delegations from nine other striking colleges, the printers’ union, the local trades council and the regional secretary of the firefighters’ FBU union. We aimed our fire at Charles Clarke – what are his credentials for running education? He has refused to support us in every dispute over cuts, redundancy and downgrading at the college.
We believe he is a self seeking careerist who will ride roughshod over the real concerns of teaching staff, students and parents just to prove himself to Tony Blair. The march of 200 showed how we can join together to force the government to fund public services.
Andy Cairns, Natfhe branch secretary, Norwich City College
READERS OF Socialist Worker may be aware of the case of John Pape, who has been arrested in Cape Town for being a member of the group that kidnapped milionairess Patty Hearst in the 1970s. John is a high profile and greatly respected activist and academic who has tirelessly campaigned against racism in southern Africa. More recently he has been at the forefront of campaigning against the neo-liberal policies of the ANC.
His arrest comes at a time when the ANC government is clamping down on political criticism since the magnificent anti-capitalist protests at the World Summit in Johannesburg in September.
John has proved he long ago dropped his past politics, preferring the hard patient slog of building among ordinary workers and working class youth. People can and do change, and that is why John deserves our solidarity. Please send messages to [email protected]
Peter Dwyer, Norwich
‘IT FELT like an occupying army had just been defeated.’ That’s how one of the lead characters in the recent BBC drama The Project described kicking out the Tories in 1997. How distant that memory seems now. The programme followed a group of young Labour Party members who decided to do ‘whatever it takes’ to get Labour elected. In the process they betrayed every principle they held.
Cuts to single parent benefit. Attacks on the disabled. Tuition fees and the scrapping of grants. Privatisation of air traffic control. There was obviously no shortage of material for The Project to cover. The contempt of Blairites for ordinary people shone through. As they stripped the Freedom of Information Bill of all power a Blairite in the Treasury asked, ‘Do you really expect us to be answerable to the milkman?’
It’s a shame the programme didn’t have any answers to offer. Maggie, the young MP, eventually gave in to the bribery and coercion of the party whips. A lot of us will have shared their feelings of betrayal. Growing numbers of us have learnt the lesson that real change isn’t granted from above – we have to fight for it. Anybody who didn’t see it should get hold of a copy on video.
Andrew Stone, London
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