IT IS rare for a television drama to be set in an ordinary workplace. Clocking Off is, and has attracted audiences of around 11 million. This is the third series of the award-winning BBC drama set in a Manchester textile factory.
I am the father of two young children, one five, one nearly two. After some anxiety, my partner and I decided they should have the MMR vaccination. I believe that was the right choice, and that scientific evidence supports that view. But I can equally well understand why many, many parents do not trust MMR or government advice about it.
"Tony Blair talks about public sector workers putting scars on his back, and then calls us wreckers. I think public sector workers should be a boil on Tony Blair's nose." Julie Pih, a Rochdale homecare worker, is furious with the government, especially after Blair's "wreckers" insult. She is one among millions. Julie was one of the delegates who expressed their anger at last week's Unison women's conference.
Tony Blair has been strutting around abroad again, posing as the saviour of the world. This time Africa has been the victim of his attentions. When Blair pledged to "reorder the world" at the Labour Party conference last October he claimed to have Africa especially in his sights. He called the continent a "scar on the conscience of the world".
"I am under pressure from rank and file members of my union to disaffiliate from the Labour Party." That was the message from Dave Prentis of Unison to his fellow union leaders last week. Both Unison and the GMB union have launched big advertising campaigns in response to Blair's "wreckers" insults. They rightly point out that public sector workers are not wreckers.
The rows at Labour's spring conference in Cardiff last weekend signal the end of the truce between the government and certain union leaders that has existed since 11 September. Remember the morning of that day? Delegates were gathering at the Trades Union Congress and preparing for a huge battle over public services. Tony Blair was to speak, and union leaders were lined up to condemn privatisation and savage the government's priorities.
I guess readers of this paper were delighted to read that 50 reservist Israeli army officers had refused to serve in the West Bank. They have signed a petition saying, "We will not fight beyond the Green Line Israel's 1967 border with the West Bank in order to rule, expel, destroy, blockade, assassinate, starve and humiliate an entire people."
The scandal surrounding the collapse of giant US corporation Enron is coming closer to the heart of New Labour. The party received £36,000 from Enron after coming to office in 1997. As Socialist Worker reported last week, a string of meetings between ministers and Enron bosses followed.
"TORTURED" was the outcry on the front page of the Mail on Sunday. Pictures released by Bush's government boast of the barbaric treatment meted out to prisoners taken from Afghanistan to the US military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The prisoners are caged, masked, bound hand and foot, and forced to kneel before US soldiers.
SOME OF the gloss is coming off the glorious victory the United States and Britain are supposed to have won in Afghanistan. This is largely because of the prisoners of Guantanamo Bay. Liberals who supported the war are discovering that defending civilisation means humiliating captives, imprisoning them in cages and denying them a fair trial. But doubts are also growing about the war itself.
So who's got it in for the Black Police Association (BPA)? The BPA is a moderate body. It was formed in 1993 to give black police officers and civilian staff a voice against the rampant discrimination built into the profession.
"FLAKY." That's how transport secretary Stephen Byers described the core ideas of the New Labour government this week. It is an astonishing admission from a man who has long been one of Tony Blair's closest allies. Byers was an evangelist for the "Third Way" ideas he now concedes are off the wall.
TONY BLAIR returned from his jet-setting this week to face a domestic political crisis. He and his government face a groundswell of opposition over a range of issues - the crumbling NHS, mounting job losses and, above all, the transport crisis. A top aide to transport secretary Stephen Byers infamously wrote on the day of the destruction of the World Trade Centre, "Today is a good day to bury bad news."
ARGENTINA IS the sharp end of the global economic crisis. The social and political explosion there should not be dismissed as the kind of turbulence typical of obscure parts of the Third World.
"THE TROUBLE with you Socialist Worker types is that you haven't moved on. You talk about capitalism as if we're still in the 1830s - child labour, workers burning themselves out in terrible conditions, press-gangs rounding people up to be killed in foreign wars. And you talk of company directors as if they were old-style bosses getting rich from the toil and blood of the masses."
THE NEW year has opened with two different sides of the world on show. The first is the horror and the barbarism seen in the US's continuing bombing of Afghanistan after the overthrow of the Taliban. US president George Bush declared there is more slaughter in store. "2002 will be a war year as well," Bush said last week.
THE US establishment and its toadies have been engaging in an orgy of self congratulation since the military collapse of the Taliban. It's hardly a surprise that the richest country in the world can conquer one of the poorest. But has the US brought greater peace in its wake?
SO SOLID Crew have been hailed in the media as "the new Sex Pistols". Their glorification of gang violence has set cash registers ringing. In the last six months the band have had a number one single and album. Violence and controversy have stalked them from the outset.
This year has seen the ugly reality of global capitalism. It has ended with the third war in ten years involving the US and Britain. The US bombing has already killed over 3,767 Afghan civilians, according to thorough research by a US professor (see page 7).
Charles Clarke, chairman (unelected) of the Labour Party, last week declared his love for the US under George W Bush. In his youth, he admitted, "I was a strong opponent of the foreign policy of the US," and campaigned over issues such as US support for fascist states in Greece, Spain and Portugal, US support for dictatorships in Latin America, and the use of US troops in Cambodia and Vietnam.