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Shake up election

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Issue 1749

What we think

Shake up election

TONY BLAIR and his supporters are horrified every time an ordinary person confronts a New Labour minister. Labour has even cooked up a mad conspiracy theory that the BBC is fixing up confrontations between Labour leaders and members of the public.

This is the same excuse the Thatcherite hatchet man Norman Tebbit used during the Tory years. The reality is that millions of people across Britain are bitter and angry. The election campaign only becomes real when their voices are heard.

The enthusiastic reception for the Socialist Alliance and Scottish Socialist Party election broadcasts on Tuesday is a further sign of what the mainstream politicians and commentators simply do not recognise. The ten phone lines at the Socialist Alliance office were buzzing all night with hundreds of people wanting to join the campaign.

Millions of people care deeply about the injustices in British society. But they are turned off by the election. The narrow debate between New Labour, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats means their concerns do not get a look in. The Socialist Alliance and Scottish Socialist Party are fighting this election to break the big business hold over politics. We support the struggles of ordinary working class people.

Socialist candidates were on the picket lines with striking college lecturers this week. They were arguing the case of the post workers fighting attempts to soften them up for privatisation. Their supporters were also stepping up the campaign for the biggest possible socialist vote on 7 June. You can make your voice heard by voting Socialist Alliance or Scottish Socialist Party, and by doing whatever you can to build the socialist campaign.

Historic vote at union for an alternative

DELEGATES AT the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) conference sent shockwaves throughout the labour movement last week. They voted to allow FBU funds to be thrown behind candidates who back the union’s policies and stand against New Labour.

The decision is historic. The FBU is, like most unions, affiliated to the Labour Party. But disgust at New Labour is so great that increasing numbers of trade unionists are discussing backing socialist candidates. Four firefighters are standing for the Socialist Alliance at the general election. FBU general secretary Andy Gilchrist says there now has to be a debate inside the trade union movement about funding New Labour.

The government is steering towards a full blown confrontation with the unions after the election, particularly in the public sector. An unnamed cabinet minister told the Observer that “the second term will be bloody”. Already Blair has laid into tube and rail workers who are striking and campaigning against privatisation and to protect safety. He said guards who struck on South West Trains last week were involved in a “bogus” dispute.

The same attacks will be directed at tube workers who are bravely sticking to their plans to strike twice during election week, and at the post workers striking unofficially as Socialist Worker went to press. Working people need to fight on two fronts.

Every group of workers that stands up to the fat cats and their friends in government deserves solidarity. And we need a clear socialist alternative to New Labour-at the election, and after it in workplaces and communities across Britain.

30,000 lecturers strike

‘We are fighting against profits’

SOME 30,000 lecturers at 300 further education colleges across England and Wales struck for the day on Tuesday. They were striking for better pay, angry at the way their salaries have fallen far behind secondary school teachers. But the strike was about much more than that.

A picketing English lecturer said on Tuesday morning, “Management are like Victorian mill owners. “They take an antagonistic position over everything. Nothing has improved since Labour got in. “Instead more business ethos has been introduced. Colleges today are full of men in suits with clipboards talking about business efficiencies and retention rates. What we need is a massive increase in funding, respect for trade union rights and an end to casualisation. Colleges should be open to everybody, whatever their ‘potential role in the marketplace’.”

Morris Tolaram, an engineering and electronics lecturer at the College of North East London, says: “The money they spend on consultants doing god only knows what is appalling. Nothing is ever spent on classrooms. They spent 40,000 designing a new college logo. Everything is profit, profit, business, business. Nothing is about education. You’d think we were making widgets. They’ve done the same with the health service. It doesn’t work, but they just keep ploughing on. Labour is not what it is supposed to be. It’s changed. I just don’t know who to vote for now.”

The strike showed how fighting builds unions. Some 3,000 people have joined NATFHE across further education in the last week-a 10 percent increase.

  • For a full round-up of the strike see page 14

Get involved in the socialist election campaign see page 12 for details

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  • Scotland 0141 221 7714 or 0131 557 0426

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