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Smears and stitch-ups cannot hide the truth

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Issue 1684

What we think

Smears and stitch-ups cannot hide the truth

WHATEVER THE result of Labour’s contest for London mayor, one thing is clear-the majority of Labour Party members reject Tony Blair’s New Labour. Despite all the arm twisting, denial of ballots and smears against the left, most Labour Party members and trade unionists have backed Ken Livingstone against Frank Dobson.

This huge upheaval is a symptom of a much wider crisis facing New Labour. Only last week Blair was rocked when Alun Michael was forced to resign as leader of the Welsh Assembly. Blair and his supporters manoeuvred Alun Michael into the post of leader last year, despite the overwhelming support for Rhodri Morgan amongst grassroots party members.

The recent resignation of enthusiastic “moderniser” Peter Kilfoyle as junior defence minister is another sign of the crisis. And Labour’s decision to increase the minimum wage shows Blair is nervous about losing working class support-though a 10p an hour increase will do little to dampen down the bitterness.

The growing disillusionment with Blair inside the Labour Party is a reflection of a deeper sense of betrayal amongst working class people. The problem is that many of those who have become a focus of the opposition to New Labour do not provide a real alternative.

Rhodri Morgan was prepared to attack New Labour’s image last year.

But as the Welsh Assembly’s economic development secretary he has rammed through the national government’s economic strategy. And as soon as Morgan became leader of the Assembly last week he announced he is prepared to consider a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. Livingstone has played a similar game. On the one hand he opposes New Labour’s plans to privatise London Underground. But time and again he says he is prepared to work with Blair. He even boasts, “In six months time Blair will be wondering why there was all this fuss about Ken Livingstone.”

That is not what people want to hear. They want to see someone stand up to New Labour and clearly oppose Tory policies. That is why we need to build a socialist alternative that does not rely on working with New Labour. We need to bring together all those who are sickened with Blair to organise a fightback.

That is why the London Socialist Alliance will be standing in the elections for the Greater London Assembly in May. It wants to put socialist ideas across to a wide number of people, as socialists did in the Scottish Parliament elections last year. The anger against the government is huge. If harnessed, it could present a real challenge to Blair’s right wing policies.

Poison Poster

ONE OF the largest ever poster campaigns was launched this week in Scotland. Anti-gay bigots have bought up hundreds of prime sites to demand the government keeps Section 28. This is the clause which forces local authorities to teach that homosexual lifestyles are not as valid as heterosexual ones. The Keep the Clause campaign is a disgraceful assault on gays. It is the sort of scapegoating and scaremongering which encourages bullying, discrimination and violence.

The campaign’s targets are not just gays and lesbians. They are out to get anyone they deem to have transgressed against the supposed ideal of “family life”. Campaign organiser Betty Souter, the wife of bus millionaire Brian Souter who is funding the posters, says she is against “quick divorces and legitimising illegitimacy”.

She wants to go back to an era when people were trapped in unhappy relationships and when children whose parents were not married were branded “bastards”. Instead of standing up to these people, New Labour is giving ground to them. The government is drawing up proposals to force schools in England and Wales to promote marriage as the “proper” relationship. The Scottish Executive is likely to follow suit.

Now we could even end up with something worse than Section 28-a framework for stigmatising not only gays but also single parents and children whose parents are not married. We cannot trust New Labour. We need to argue and organise against the bigots and tell New Labour we want Section 28 scrapped now, not more oppressive laws.

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