NEW LABOUR presents itself as a party that won't be pushed around. But over the last week we have seen how it can be forced to change its tune. First the government insisted it would not be influenced at all by the firefighters' threat of strike action. Blair resorted to the same sort of language Thatcher used against the miners.
WHATEVER THE ups and downs of media coverage, the planned war on Iraq remains top of the Bush administration's agenda. Once the United States went to the United Nations Security Council for authority to attack Iraq the immediate drama went out of the story. There have been weeks of negotiations over the text of a resolution.
I WENT away for a couple of days over half term, and when I came back I found that Estelle Morris had resigned. Or at least I thought it was Estelle Morris. Reading the papers and watching the news, it appeared that the carping, nasty, vicious education secretary, a figure prompting contempt and ridicule in my school - and thousands of others, no doubt - had become Saint Estelle the Humble. The media claim she was an honest victim of the bullying Mr Fixits of Downing Street.
I AM a bit of a fan of the TV programme The West Wing. In it a fictional president of the US often has emergency meetings in the war room, where military advisers turn up and talk tough. Radio 4 had a great, if alarming, programme on last week about what these meetings are like in real life. It went through just how close the world was to nuclear war 40 years ago in October 1962.
NO ONE should have any doubt why the government is refusing to budge in the face of the firefighters. Andrew Rawnsley, the well connected political commentator of the Observer newspaper, reported on Sunday a discussion he had with "a member of the New Labour high command just before they came to power":
TONY BLAIR last week gave a speech blaming the IRA for violence in Northern Ireland. Yet just the day before, a former soldier gave shocking evidence at the Bloody Sunday inquiry which graphically illustrated the responsibility of the British state.
George Bush and Tony Blair claimed that their "war on terror" would make the world a safer place. The horrific bombing of the Sari nightclub in Bali last weekend shows that they were lying.
THE WORLD media's attention has been so focused on George W Bush's plans to attack Iraq that little notice has been taken of the fact that the global economic crisis is getting worse. Take the three biggest economies – the US, Japan and Germany.
MOST PEOPLE have a favourite soul singer. For many Otis Redding was without peer. Others cite Sam Cooke and Ray Charles as the originators, and James Brown still remains the Godfather. In my opinion Solomon Burke should be included on that list. You may not have heard of him, but his musical influence runs deep.
GEORGE BUSH has the military power to smash Iraq easily. But for all his attempts to pose as an all-powerful president, he is a very nervous man. One week he talks about regime change, the next he is doing deals to get UN backing for war, and now he talks of building a coalition.
TONY BLAIR is fighting on two fronts. His speech at Labour's conference shows he is determined to press ahead with backing George Bush's war plans and pushing through PFI. To add insult to injury, he is openly abandoning the principle of comprehensive education by talking about "post-comprehensive education".
IN JAMES Bond films the villain always has a plan to dominate the world. Usually this is something that he reveals in private, in some secret hideout far from the everyday world. Not so the United States under George W Bush. A fortnight ago his administration published The National Security Strategy of the United States of America.
NEWSPAPERS REPORT that we are eating fewer potatoes. The British Potato Council says sales of fresh potatoes fell dramatically in the past ten years. At the start of the 1990s 80 percent of potatoes were bought as nature intended. Today only around half of all the spuds consumed in Britain come as real potatoes.
OPPOSITION TO launching a military attack on Iraq is growing in Britain, according to the latest opinion polls. The feeling against war has led to a significant drop in Labour's support on the eve of the party's conference.
THE RE-ELECTION of Gerhard Schröder as German leader on Sunday was bad news for George Bush and the warmongers. Schröder staged a remarkable recovery to narrowly clinch the election for one central reason - his stated opposition to a US war on Iraq, even if it gets the blessing of the United Nations.
THERE IS a massive potential for a serious fight to tackle low pay. The strikes and ballots called by trade union leaders we report on these pages are a reflection of a deep anger among ordinary workers. The immediate battles are concentrated among workers in public services.
IRAQ'S OFFER on arms inspections wrong-footed the US state at the start of this week. This means we can expect a torrent of lies to blunt opposition to a murderous attack on Iraq. The goalposts have already been shifted. We were told a few weeks ago that Iraq is a nuclear-armed state on the brink of invading its neighbours. But a study last week found that Saddam Hussein does not have nuclear weapons. None of the six states that border Iraq fear invasion. So now we are told Saddam Hussein is a bad man who could possibly get nuclear weapons in the future if someone gave him the technology possessed by only a handful of states.
THE EARTH Summit in Johannesburg is generally agreed to have been an enormous flop. There is also widespread agreement about the cause. The United States and the other leading capitalist states refused to budge from their free market agenda.
There is a road near where I live that is a monument to the achievements of capitalism. It was once a terrace of shops with flats above. It was built in the 1820s, nothing grand.
TONY BLAIR is marching towards the deepest crisis he has yet faced. He is caught in the jaws of mounting opposition on two fronts. Delegates at the TUC conference this week ripped into his craven support for Bush's war against Iraq, and into the heart of New Labour - profit before people. They backed the firefighters, who are heading for national strikes next month against low pay. Those union leaders who spoke out echoed the clear majority of people in Britain.