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Labour retreats as bigots attack

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Issue 1707

What we think

Labour retreats as bigots attack

THE HOUSE of Lords struck a blow for bigotry this week by blocking repeal of the anti-gay Section 28 law. And the government caved in. The Tories headed the campaign to keep Section 28, and 64 hereditary peers swung the vote.

Why should these people dictate how the rest of us should live? Section 28 intimidates teachers from discussing sexuality in an open way. It says lesbians and gay men cannot be treated equally with heterosexuals.

As Phil Maddock, the father of one of the people killed by Nazi David Copeland’s Soho bomb, says, it encourages the prejudice that can lead to such violence. The government could easily use parliamentary procedures to scrap Section 28 within the lifetime of this parliament, even without abolishing the House of Lords.

Instead New Labour has bowed to the bigots and a filthy campaign by the media which systematically misrepresented what Section 28 was really about. Local government minister Hilary Armstrong announced on Tuesday that New Labour was dropping the repeal of Section 28 from its Local Government Bill.

That retreat is a part of the strategy Blair and his inner circle have devised. Blair’s recently leaked memo identified “gay issues” (meaning Section 28) as one of the areas where the government was “perceived as weak”. The problem is not that Blair is too liberal. It is that he gives into the rich and powerful when he is challenged.

A recent leaked memo from Blair’s polling guru Philip Gould said, “The New Labour brand has been badly contaminated. It is the object of constant criticism and, even worse, ridicule.” The government is out of touch with working people. The class divide is growing, and the health and education services remain starved of cash. Millions of people are revolted by Blair’s Tory policies. His response is yet more of those policies.

New Labour has one principle left-do not be outflanked on the right. The Gould memo says, “We have appeared soft on crime, not pro-family and lacking in gut patriotic instincts.”

New Labour’s solution is plain:

  • Appoint a hang ’em and flog ’em type, Simon Heffer, as a Home Office adviser.
  • Appease the Victorian hypocrisy of the Tory Lords and the Daily Mail, while stretching families to breaking point with flexible working.
  • Try to outdo William Hague in chauvinism and refugee bashing.

New Labour is running the economy for the fat cats and social policy to suit hardline Tories’ whims. Everyone who wants to see a society free from prejudice and poverty should be part of building a powerful force to the left of New Labour.

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