TONY BLAIR was off swanking at the World Economic Forum at Davos in Switzerland last week. He lectured European business and political leaders that they needed to copy the flexible, free - market model offered by British and US capitalism. "Does Europe continue with the old social model, that has an attitude to social legislation rooted in the 60s and 70s, or does it recognise that the new economy demands a redirection of European economic policy for the future?" Blair asked.
I GUESS many a reader of Socialist Worker enjoys the fire of the Observer's columnist Nick Cohen. On Sunday he turned his attention to New Labour's announcement that 27 January will be Holocaust Day. Cohen loathes everything about the idea. He is nauseated by Labour politicians' hypocrisy commemorating persecution whilst mounting attacks on asylum seekers. He thinks that official memorials like this let modern leaders off the hook. It means they can be compassionate about the past whilst not giving a damn about the present.
NEW Labour's crazy transport policy sums up everything that is wrong with this government. It is a government which helps the smugly well off and spurns the homeless. It showers handouts on "entrepreneurs" but grabs back benefits from the poorest.
ANYONE WHO watched Panorama on BBC1 on Monday night could not fail to realise that Blair's entire election machine is being deployed to stitch up Ken Livingstone. Every dirty trick in the book is being used to ensure Blair's man, Frank Dobson, becomes Labour's candidate for mayor of London.
THE GREAT demonstration in Seattle will make its reverberations felt for years to come. One of its more minor side effects was that on Wednesday last week, much to my surprise, I found myself in the Newsnight studio defending the protesters against the World Trade Organisation from European commissioner Leon Brittan's criticisms.
RIGHT WING commentators love nothing so much as to pour derision on John Prescott's inability to speak in coherent sentences. The snob Tory historian David Starkey summed up their attitude on Question Time last week. Prescott, he claimed, showed what horrors followed if any working class person was allowed to escape from the fate decreed for them in the old selective school system. Starkey destroyed his own argument by sinking into incoherence in the face of a hostile audience reaction. But he had already showed that for an alleged historian he has a very short memory.
THE PROTESTS against the World Trade Organisation this week were a brilliant show of opposition to the multinationals and to the naked rule of profit. The protests showed the anger against the system that squeezes the very life out of people in developing countries so that bankers, bosses and their hangers-on can grow ever richer.
THE WORLD Trade Organisation (WTO) met this week, not only besieged by demonstrators outside, but fissured by internal disputes. These divisions were so deep that negotiators could not even agree on an agenda for the meeting.
"PSST! WANNA buy a school? I can do you a nice four storey job, chock-a-block full of clients, everyone a potential customer. Interested? I'll throw you in staff, management, heat, light, cleaning and services. And some beautiful marketing opportunities: canned drinks, ads for sports gear, sweets, toys - know what I mean?"
"IT'S LIKE George Orwell's 1984 in there. You can't even go to the toilet without someone in Coventry or London knowing where you're going and for how long." Those were the words of a BT call centre worker in Bristol who was out on strike on Monday along with over 4,000 call centre staff. Their fight is against bullying managers, understaffing and impossible work targets.
BORIS YELTSIN was hailed in the West as the slayer of the Stalinist regime that ruled Russia till 1991. But in Chechnya he has been acting as Stalin's heir, trying through indiscriminate bombardment to crush a people whom Stalin himself deported to Central Asia at the end of the Second World War.
LEST WE forget. Until Saturday it had not been a bad week as a postscript to the sleaze of the last Tory government. Corrupt right wing loony Neil Hamilton was trading abuse with Mohamed Al Fayed in court. The disgraced former Tory MP for Tatton was desperately trying to salvage a few bob and the remaining tatters of his reputation. Come Saturday, however, and the postscript was truly written. Jeffrey Archer had been found out. Or rather, Jeffrey Archer had been found out again.
MANY PEOPLE might have expected politics to be winding down in the run up to Xmas and the millennium celebrations. But the opposite is true. New Labour's pro-business and anti working class policies have led to an outburst of anger. It was set to announce more reactionary measures in the Queen's Speech on Wednesday.
ORDINARY PEOPLE in Northern Ireland will be hoping for an end to the war which has blighted their lives as politicians continued to haggle over a peace deal this week. We did not know the final outcome of the talks as Socialist Worker went to press. But even if a deal is struck, the struggle for a better future for working class people is far from over.
PARENTS ARE deluged with advice and demands. They are supposed to read with their child, make sure they are not on the streets, surround them with a "stimulating environment", and lavish them with time, energy and smiles. Yet at the same time the government and the "experts" bombard parents with demands for "flexibility" and "making yourself available for employment".
JUST OVER a year ago the world economy found itself standing at the edge of an abyss. The Russian crash of August 1998, coming in the wake of the Asian economic crisis, sent global financial markets into panic.
PAKISTANI GEORGE "Genghis" Khan wants his children to make him proud. They should be proper Muslims and have their marriages arranged by their father. It's tradition - anything less would bring shame upon them all. His kids have other ideas. So begins East is East, a hilarious British film about the culture clash between first and second generation immigrants, set in Salford in the 1970s.
GORDON BROWN surpassed himself this week, even by the craven standards set by New Labour. He stood before the bosses gathered at the annual conference of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and announced £40 million of public money to encourage share handouts to fat cats. At the same time New Labour was hoping to ram welfare cuts of tens of millions of pounds through parliament. Brown also praised the bosses' hero at the CBI. "People say that in the 1980s Mrs Thatcher created an enterprising society," declared Brown. "We must do far better than we have in the past. We must go beyond what we achieved in the 1980s."
THERE'S NOTHING like a beef war to remind you just how stupid the British media and British politicians are. The idiotic jingoistic ranting at the French this past fortnight really has taken the biscuit. In fact, France is the most interesting country in Europe today. A huge wave of social struggles is sweeping French society. The farmers' protests are merely the tip of the iceberg. Barely a day seems to go by without some group or other demonstrating in Paris. High school students have taken to the streets in their hundreds of thousands twice over the past six months.
HOME SECRETARY Jack Straw has found time off from forcing through the Asylum Bill to extract an apology from the Chief Inspector of Prisons. Sir David Ramsbotham's "offence" had been to question what would happen to Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, who killed two year old James Bulger in 1993.