WEDNESDAY'S walkout by over one million council workers is the biggest strike yet under Tony Blair. It has brought the reality of life for millions of working people-low pay and insecurity-to the streets of hundreds of towns and cities.
GEORGE BUSH is beating the drum of war louder as financial scandals sweep the US. He has brought forward a meeting with his loyal manservant Tony Blair to discuss attacking Iraq. Leaked papers from the US military talk of deploying 250,000 troops in the Middle East to launch a full scale invasion.
I HAD to speak at a meeting last week with a title that seemed to be quite daft- "Is the recession over before it began?" This was on a day that saw massive panic on the stockmarkets, and after George Bush had said he was worried about "how tender the system can be". He's been on television twice since to try to reassure the American people. On each occasion the result has been to increase the sense of panic. It has a much bigger political impact in the US than here. That's because the nonsense about "people's capitalism" has conned many more people there.
THE SUMMER months are shaping up to be very different from the political "silly season" that's usually inflicted on us. The strike of 1.2 million council workers against low pay called for next week is a major challenge to New Labour.
DURING THE early 1980s I used to DJ at this jazz funk club in Watford called the New Penny. One night two scrawny young men approached me clasping a seven-inch record, which they claimed they had just finished recording. They begged me to play it. I agreed. They cleared the floor and treated the crowd to a mime and dance routine that had us all in stitches.
MURDER, TORTURE and lies have been the hallmarks of the US invasion of Afghanistan. Events this week have tragically underlined that reality. US warplanes bombed a village in Afghanistan on Monday killing at least 30 members of a wedding party and injuring many more.
WHAT DID the leaders of the Group of Eight (G8) leading industrial countries do last week while they skulked behind massive police protection at Kananaskis, deep in the Canadian Rockies? The British government had been busily briefing that they would deliver the "Marshall Plan for Africa" that Tony Blair promised at the disastrous G8 summit in Genoa last year.
TONY BLAIR has more to worry him than the jibes of the right wing press. According to the Guardian, "Tony Blair is seeking to avert what threatens to be the biggest wave of industrial unrest in the public services since Labour came to power in 1997." Blair is used to entertaining big business fat cats and socialising with media celebrities.
THE TRADE Justice Movement brought thousands of people to Westminster to lobby their MPs on Wednesday of last week. They demanded a fair deal for the Third World. International development secretary Clare Short was quick to claim that the demonstrators were supporting the rich countries' campaign for free trade:
OUR RULERS must hardly be able to believe their luck. A wholly accidental sequence of events-the death of the Queen Mother, the Jubilee and the World Cup-has produced week on week of patriotic flag waving (reinforced by a decidedly unaccidental intensification of the campaign against asylum seekers).
SEVILLE IN Spain sees the two different faces of Europe this week. Tony Blair and other European leaders are meeting to force through even tougher legislation to victimise those seeking refuge from war and famine. Blair is at the heart of a right wing axis. Downing Street has leapt in to dub right wing French president Jacques Chirac "a man we can work with", as he plans huge tax cuts for the rich and an assault on French workers.
THE BLOOM has suddenly gone off the British and US economies. Until a few weeks ago the business media were stridently celebrating the ease with which they had shaken off the slowdown that hit both stockmarkets and the real economy in 2000-1.
TONY PARSONS'S novel Man and Boy is one of the most successful books of recent years. It has sold over a million copies, been translated into 30 languages and won many awards. His latest book, One For My Baby, is destined to be equally popular. I think they are both grossly overrated and push a false, very conservative view of the world.
IS THE tide of history flowing to the right? The claim is put forward by politicians like Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, and echoed by a growing number of commentators. Four years ago Labour-type parties were in government in 13 of the 15 European Union (EU) countries.
IF YOU were told that either Primal Scream or Mary J Blige would bring out a record condemning the US's bombing of Afghanistan, who would you put your money on? Before you decide, let's look at the odds.
NUCLEAR NIGHTMARE hung over the world throughout the years of the Cold War. It now threatens to become a reality of almost unimaginable horror. Those who target the missiles and run the Indian and Pakistani governments are horrifying. But all the major Western powers share the responsibility.
THE FALL of Stephen Byers was quite revealing about the nature of politics in Britain today. In the first place, the Labour MPs who rallied round Byers because he effectively nationalised Railtrack bear witness to the capacity for wishful thinking of government backbenchers.
MARTIN AMIS is a novelist. He's also someone who the broadsheets turn to for his views on the state of the world, the meaning of art, and the purpose of life. Last weekend the Guardian kicked off its new weekly books supplement with an article by Amis on the state of the world, the meaning of art, and the purpose of life.
DRINKERS WHO are looking forward to cheap beer in their locals during the World Cup will be left feeling bitter thanks to a government con-trick. In his budget speech Gordon Brown said that, to help small brewers, he would halve the duty or tax they pay on beer: "A cut equal to 14 pence off each pint to be implemented for village pubs and small breweries in time for the World Cup."
STEPHEN BYERS' resignation has struck right at the heart of New Labour. He was one of Blair's closest ministers. As trade secretary and then transport secretary he was at the centre of this government's obsession with privatisation and policies for big business.