IT'S THAT time of year again when Edinburgh holds its breath and waits for the biggest arts festival in the world to explode across its streets. The Edinburgh Fringe is a highlight of the year for many socialists and radicals across Britain and, indeed, throughout the world. In these days of mindless musicals and trash "reality TV", the Fringe offers an opportunity to escape the mass manufactured garbage which so often dominates our culture.
THE HEADLINES in the papers slammed Tony Blair as he set off this week to the US, Japan and South Korea. They reflect a now near universal feeling that his days are numbered. Just this weekend you could read "We don't trust you: Tony Blair has lost the trust of the British people over war on Iraq" (Daily Mirror). "Lost on the Third Way to nowhere. He's run out of drive and so have his policies" (Sunday Times).
SALMA YAQOOB chair Birmingham Stop the War Coalition
THE AWARD of a knighthood to outgoing TGWU union general secretary Bill Morris might have caught many people by surprise. He has never been identified as being inside the Blair camp.
"GEORGE BUSH is coming to South Africa with his hands dripping with the fresh blood of Iraqi people. When they roll out the red carpet for him, it will be to hide the bloodstains." That's how Trevor Ngwane, the leading South African anti-privatisation activist, summed up what Bush's tour of Africa means.
THE BLAIR government lurched towards further confrontation with its own supporters over the health service this week. A bill which includes plans for foundation hospitals had its third reading in the House of Commons on Tuesday. The widespread opposition of Labour backbenchers has forced health secretary John Reid to make some cosmetic changes to the proposals.
ONE OF THE most shameful injustices in Britain's dirty legal history was back in the news last week. In Cardiff Crown Court a man pleaded guilty to the murder of Lynette White in 1988. This is the same crime that Yusef Abdullahi, Tony Paris and Stephen Miller were convicted of in 1990.
"REFORM" USED to mean things would improve for the better. Under Tony Blair "reform" means things will get worse. New Labour fears its plan for the reform of the NHS through foundation hospitals could produce another rebellion inside its own ranks next week in parliament. That prospect saw the government attempt to soften up MPs this week. It scuppered its own bill over foxhunting. This has paved the way for a vote on an outright ban on hunting.
THE WHEELS have come off Tony Blair's bandwagon. Millions of people have rumbled his lies over the war. A television mock trial, which presented the anti-war case badly, still found Blair guilty of mass deception by a margin of two to one. The aftermath of the war and New Labour's ongoing attacks are producing immense political debate and questioning across Britain. It finds only the faintest echo in the cosseted world of official politics.
THE SEARCH for weapons of limited destruction in the shape of guns haunts our cities, according to senior police officers of the Met. They talk of wild gun-toting Yardies and Albanians threatening the fabric of our society, especially in the suburbs where they threaten to flood us with drugs. Newspaper headlines scream out that gun crime has reached epidemic proportions and that it's no longer safe to tread any urban street.
WHAT A debacle. Tony Blair's disastrous cabinet reshuffle was supposed to help strengthen his government's purpose and resolve. It has had the exact opposite effect. Now a number of key Blairites like Alan Milburn have joined the ever expanding ranks of ex-ministers on the back benches.
"BLAIR'S REFORMING reshuffle," read the Guardian's headline on Friday last week. How naive can you get? In the first place, the post of Lord Chancellor is undoubtedly an outdated hangover from an earlier era.
LAST WEEK'S headlines in the mainstream press showing a large increase in the rise of sexually transmitted infections will come as no surprise to anyone who works in the area of sexual health. Sexual health workers, many with great expectations of a Labour government after years of the Tories and their back to basics morality, have been lobbying the government consistently over crippled resources and a steady rise in infections. The Sun's shock warning "Sex could kill you!" laid the blame at the feet of irresponsible young people. It also blamed asylum seekers for the rise in HIV. A cursory glance at government policy gives a truer picture.
THE LIES told by Tony Blair to justify war on Iraq are coming back to haunt him. This week the conference of Britain's fourth biggest union, the GMB, called for a public inquiry into events leading up to the war. If Blair was found to have lied, said the motion, he should resign. The conference also supported the Stop the War Coalition and voted to review its links with Labour MPs.
GORDON Brown "yesterday set the government on course for another nine months of wrangling over the euro". That was the verdict of the Financial Times business paper on the government's euro announcement.
THERE HAS been much optimistic comment on the meeting last week in Aqaba, Jordan, between US president George W Bush, Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority representative Abu Mazen. The fact that Bush seems to be putting his shoulder to the wheel and making a serious effort to implement the so-called road map, intended to revive the Middle East peace process, has surprised many people.
WILL DAVID Beckham leave Manchester United? That's the question every tabloid newspaper is asking. And in the chase to get the latest scoop, the exploitative world of big business and football is being exposed. One friend of Beckham says he feels Manchester United have betrayed him. He feels he is being "traded round like a piece of meat".
TONY BLAIR is facing his most profound crisis. Politicians have been caught lying and cheating many times before. Blair's lies over Iraq are of a different order. He lied so he could join in killing thousands of Iraqi people.
TONY BLAIR was dealt another severe blow by trade unionists last Saturday when members of the powerful TGWU union elected Tony Woodley as their new general secretary. Woodley, who had wide support from the left in the union, got 66,958 votes, 43 percent. He decisively beat Jack Dromey, seen as the most pro-Blair candidate, who came second with 45,136 votes, 29 percent.
THERE'S AN idea that floats around the world of the arts that being engaged in politics is really rather unpleasant. The Times Literary Supplement describes a new collection of socialist poetry, Red Sky at Night, edited by Adrian Mitchell and Andy Croft, as "quaint".