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Left must focus the discontent

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Issue 1716

what we think

Left must focus the discontent

TONY BLAIR addressed the Labour Party on Tuesday against the backdrop of his deepest crisis since coming to office. Five opinion polls taken before Monday showed a catastrophic plunge in support and put William Hague’s Tory rabble ahead.

The traditionally pro-Labour Mirror described the government’s attitude to its supporters as “arrogant, dismissive and taking us for granted”. A stunned Blair responded to the widespread bitterness with the government in his speech.

He raised “Old Labour” themes, admitting that the government had “got some things wrong”, such as raising the basic pension by only 75p a week. He spoke of “helping the poorest first”. But Blair promised to stick to the overall direction New Labour has taken in government.

He will not restore the link between pensions and earnings. That would give every pensioner at least 100 a week if it was backdated to 1980, when the Tories abolished it.

No radical change in policy means bitterness with the government will continue. The Tories and the right want to grow from that. It does not have to go their way. Most people who voted Labour in 1997 are angry with the government above all because they hate the Tory policies it has followed.

That is why forces to the left of New Labour can turn the bitterness into an effective movement for change. That must happen now.

Discontent can flare up over a host of issues. Some reflect local concerns. Others, such as the miserable state pension, become a focus for everyone the government has betrayed.

Pensioners, united with other campaigners, blockading streets across Britain would turn the heat up on Blair. We need militant action to win gains for working class people.

We also need a wider socialist challenge to New Labour. Part of that is an alternative at the ballot box. Socialists, trade unionists and campaigners are joining together in socialist alliances to provide a left wing alternative to Blair at the general election.

Candidates to the left of Labour in the recent London elections got 88,000 votes-5.2 percent. Tommy Sheridan was elected as a socialist Member of the Scottish Parliament last year.

Blair opens the door to the Tories by abandoning the policies most ordinary people want. Slamming the door in Hague’s face means fighting for those policies now and at the election.

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