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Labour activists leave in droves

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Issue 1710

Blair’s crisis

Labour activists leave in droves

BOB THOMSON, former treasurer of the Scottish Labour Party, summed up the feelings of thousands of traditional Labour supporters and activists last week. He described the New Labour project as a “fraud” that “has demoralised and demotivated Labour Party members”.

Thomson’s claim that up to 30 percent of the party’s Scottish membership has left in the last two years is highly credible. One of my workmates has recently left the Labour Party. He actively campaigned for Labour in Govan in 1997. Now he says he could never canvass for New Labour since they abandoned their commitment to council housing and pensioners.

Another colleague, an active member of the Labour Party for ten years, feels so betrayed that he proposed his TGWU union branch withdraws paying the political levy to New Labour. There are many more who feel exactly the same way.

The prospects for building a united socialist challenge to New Labour and the Scottish National Party have never been better. A Herald newspaper poll last week showed support for the Scottish Socialist Party growing, with them in line to win four seats at the next Holyrood election.

Socialists have to find and work alongside the good working class activists who are leaving New Labour.

  • KEIR McKECHNIE, Glasgow

Shady firms behind health privatisation

BUILDING AND Property Group (B&P), the firm involved in the Dudley, UCLH and Cumberland hospitals PFI privatisations, has strong associations with the worst privatisations of the Tory years . By handing hospitals over to B&P, Labour is quite literally handing them to the Tories.

Banbury Tory MP Tony Baldry is one of the firm’s directors. He receives between 5,000 and 10,000 for this. Baldry had a number of junior ministerial posts under the last Tory government, and was agriculture minister during the “mad cow” fiasco. B&P’s chairman, Ray Hart, came to the firm from Nomura, the Japanese bank that just bought the Dome.

When Hart was appointed B&P was keen to emphasise his involvement in the Angel Trains and Annington Homes deals. Angel Trains was part of the privatisation of British Rail and was sold off dirt cheap. Nomura bought it and resold it two years later at a fantastic profit. The Annington Homes PFI deal was heavily criticised by the National Audit Office.

Michael Portillo sold Ministry of Defence married quarters to Nomura, who then rented them back to the army. The audit office found that Portillo had sold the houses for between 77 million and 139 million less than they were worth.

  • SOLOMON HUGHES, North London


THE SPIRIT of Seattle is alive and well all over the world. In September Australian socialists are gearing up to demonstrate against the World Economic Forum. This is to be held from 11-13 September in Melbourne. A few days later there will be demonstrations against the Sydney Olympics. There is a real anti-capitalist mood in Australia at the moment. People are sick of the Tory government’s rotten policies and cutbacks.

The Howard government’s treatment of indigenous Australians has been disgraceful. Good luck with Prague and hope that the spirit of Seattle lives on in Melbourne and Sydney.

  • JOSEPHINE COX, Monash University International Socialist Organisation, Melbourne

Why it’s right to back Nader

I DISAGREE with Angela Calder’s assessment (Letters, 12 August) that a good showing at the polls by Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader might mean a victory for the right in the United States by splitting the left vote. Each and every vote Democrat Al Gore loses to Nader is a vote he deserves to lose.

In office for the past eight years, Democrats Clinton and Gore have done things that former Republican presidents Reagan and Bush could only have dreamed of. They ended the 60 year old guarantee of a minimum income to the poor. They passed the first federal anti-gay legislation, they doubled the numbers in prison to two million, forced through the North American Free Trade Agreement and established the World Trade Organisation.

But because they were the “lesser evil”, mainstream liberal organisations refused to help flood the streets in protest. Now the tide is turning, as demonstrated in the streets of Seattle and by other struggles, like the growing opposition to the death penalty. Nader’s candidacy is a part of this fightback and should be supported by all on the left.

  • QUENT REESE, Austin, Texas, US

Bond victory points way

CAMPAIGNING against the government’s anti asylum and immigration measures gets results. Just as parliament was breaking up for the summer, Foreign Office minister Keith Vaz confirmed that his government has dropped its “bond scheme” for visitors. This would have seen people from specified countries and their relatives in Britain having to put up thousands of pounds as a guarantee against them overstaying here.

The countries originally picked out for the bond were those from the “black Commonwealth”. Now we should turn our energies to force the government to back down on the voucher scheme for refugees. It is great to see Bill Morris of the TGWU calling for the scheme to be scrapped.

People should support the national “cash not vouchers” protests called by the Committee to Defend Asylum Seekers. We can win this one too.

  • JOHN O, National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns

Wales united

“WE MUST march forward against homophobia with confidence and pride.” That was the overwhelming message which came from the launch of Stonewall Cymru last Saturday. Working with various lesbian and gay groups over the last few months with the aim of building united front action groups in Cardiff has brought me much hope.

What started as a homophobic brick attack on my flat has resulted in a huge move forward for the gay movement. A group of gay and lesbian activists sat down and agreed that a movement for gay liberation needed to be built in Cardiff. Speakers for our launch ranged from Angela Mason of Stonewall to the Anti Nazi League, the NUT, trade union representatives, a Labour councillor and the SWP.

Confidence amongst the gay community is growing, and on street activity we have received a great response from the public. No one wants to be dictated to on their sexuality by a bunch of bigots in Westminster.

  • MARK DAVIES, Cardiff

COUNTRIES IN debt such as Tanzania, Bolivia, Nigeria and Uganda should form an association of nations and refuse to repay the outstanding $350 billion to the bloodsucking money lenders.

Such action would receive worldwide support, as it would bring an immediate stop to the premature death of millions of adults and children. How would the lenders react? Renege on their promises to award free school lunches? Arrange more world summits and gala banquets of lobster, caviar and duck?

Until the debts are wiped out these countries will not be able to cope with Aids, illiteracy and poverty.

  • JOHN EDMONDS, Newquay

The mass child killers

WELL DONE to Socialist Worker for exposing the News of the World’s cynical use of the paedophile issue. Socialist Worker pointed out the hypocrisy of editor Rebekah Wade, who printed a picture of a topless 16 year old on the same day as her paper named people having a sexual interest in teenagers and children.

I would like to suggest that Wade starts naming people who have killed children in their millions. I am thinking of people like former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, whose saturation bombing of Vietnam and Cambodia killed two million people, many of them children.

How about naming the heads of the big banks and the International Monetary Fund whose structural adjustment programmes kill millions of kids a year in the Third World? Perhaps most deserving of all for shaming is current US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright who, when asked about sanctions against Iraq, said that the death of half a million children was “a price worth paying”.

Perhaps Wade will encourage News of the World readers to go to the State Department in Washington and smash Albright’s windows.

  • PAUL O’HANLON, Edinburgh


THANK YOU for publishing a picture of Raised Voices (Socialist Worker, 29 July).

We are a London-based political street choir. We support a range of issues rather than being party political. Our current focus is on the arms trade and asylum issues. We are non-auditioning and always welcome new members. We particularly need tenors and basses. Contact Mick or Liz on 020 7249 5139 or e-mail [email protected]

  • MICK KAHN, London

THOSE sympathetic to the politics of Socialist Worker can’t be anything but inspired with a sense of optimism following Seattle, Washington and hopefully Prague.

There is an obvious discontent with capitalism. Discontent and alienation do not always mean people will turn to the left for solutions. That’s why socialists must organise in the local community to connect with struggles, especially in the workplaces.

  • ALEX BROOKE, Teesside

MEMBERS OF our local asylum seekers support group who teach English to a number of Kosovan refugees are extremely concerned at the Home Office’s threat to deport them.

We intend to start a local campaign as a matter of urgency and hope groups elsewhere will take up the issue.

  • PETER LEECH, Ipswich


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