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.
THE CURRENT state of British politics is weird. Successive governments have enjoyed majority support for the wars they have waged over the past 20 years, from the Falklands onwards. But now we find public opinion lined up overwhelmingly against the war that George W Bush and Tony Blair are determined to prosecute against Iraq. The opposition stretches right across the political spectrum.
"WE MAKE the music, they own it," is an old saying jazz musicians often quote. "They" are the record companies. Music is big business. Sony Music sold in excess of $14 billion worth of music last year. Five major corporations control 94 percent of all records sold. But according to City analysts the good times may be coming to an end for music retailers like EMI, Sony and Capitol.
THE GOVERNMENT is pushing for a minute's silence to mark the anniversary of the 11 September attacks next Wednesday. People will want to mark the pain and anguish of a day which saw almost 3,000 people killed in New York. But Tony Blair has his own agenda. He wants to exploit the anniversary to boost support for Bush's plans to launch war on Iraq.
WHAT A difference a year makes. In the aftermath of 11 September last year, the world's ruling classes rallied in solidarity with the United States. "We are all Americans," declared the Parisian daily Le Monde. Contrast the situation today. As the leading figures in George W Bush's administration prepare to invade Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein, they find themselves largely isolated internationally.
THE ISRAELI novelist David Grossman has described the "depth of internal poison that our huge use of violence causes us". That poison is now sapping the confidence of Jewish communities outside Israel, resulting in mainstream British Jewish leaders speaking out with unprecedented vigour.
THE PROTESTS against the rich and powerful at the Earth Summit in South Africa have been inspiring. Following on from the protests in Barcelona and Seville earlier this year, they are a powerful rebuttal to all those who claimed the anti-capitalist movement was dead after 11 September.
HOW BIG a threat are the Nazis in Europe today? Many liberal establishment commentators dismiss groups like the British National Party as nasty but marginal thugs who have no chance of ever getting near power. This position has become much harder to sustain, especially since Nazi Jean-Marie Le Pen beat prime minister Lionel Jospin into third place in the first round of the French presidential elections on 21 April.
"IS ANY child safe?" the Daily Express thundered last week. In the wake of the tragic murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, the tabloids are seeking to boost circulation by playing on parents' fears. The News of the World is planning a repeat of the "name and shame" campaign against paedophiles it ran two years ago.
THE EARTH Summit starts in Johannesburg, South Africa, next week. World leaders will talk about tackling poverty, dealing with the environmental crisis and embracing "sustainable development". US president George W Bush is hostile even to making such noises. This could lead some people to think that the summit must contain something good.
THE BRITISH state, at best, has always had a two-faced attitude towards multiculturalism. On the one hand it likes to trumpet the supposed "tolerance" at the heart of British culture.
MANY HAVE feared that the Edinburgh Festival Fringe has lost something of its cutting edge as it has grown ever larger. Yet, as this year's festival approached, we began hearing concerns about the number of shows with 11 September related themes. Most of the criticism was directed at the idea that comedians would make jokes about 9-11.
GEORGE BUSH and Tony Blair are more isolated than ever over war on Iraq. But the madman in the White House is determined to press ahead, and a Downing Street spokesman insists the prime minister is "not going wobbly". The scale of opposition to the war shows the potential to make Blair more than wobble.
WHY IS George Bush so hell bent on a war on Iraq? The US devastated Iraq in a war 11 years ago. US-backed economic sanctions have already killed 500,000 Iraqi children, according to Unicef. A US war on Iraq risks destabilising the Middle East and sparking wider wars. It looks mad, but behind Bush's crazy logic stands his desire to have a war to assert US dominance around the globe.
THE RIGHT wing axis of Blair, Berlusconi and Aznar has united to drive privatisation policies through Europe. Now Blair hopes to turn their axis into one that backs the US war. Even Germany's leader Gerhard Schršder has come out against the war on Iraq. These two issues, war and privatisation, are at the centre of the European Social Forum which is being held in Florence, Italy, in November.
REPORTS OF war crimes began circulating within days of Israeli tanks rolling into the Palestinian refugee camp of Jenin in April this year. There were dozens of eyewitness accounts of people buried alive as their homes were bulldozed, and of women and children shot dead in the streets. The friends and families of the victims had to wait for four months until the UN produced a report on events in Jenin. The report has serious weaknesses.
UP UNTIL now the events of 11 September 2001 have produced little in the world of popular music other than jingoistic flag-waving by certain second and third rate US musicians.
NEW LABOUR is facing its biggest challenge yet from the unions. The strike of one million council workers, the election of left wing general secretaries, and the number of left wing motions at the coming TUC congress in September have all got Tony Blair worried.
IT'S EASY to laugh at the Tories. Last week they were going through yet another round in the Life of Brian type internal squabbles that have reduced them to an unelectable rump. Only the saddest kind of political scientist could take a genuine interest in working out what the ideological differences are between Iain Duncan Smith and sacked party chairman David Davis.
HAVE YOU ever given a future Archbishop of Canterbury a lift home from an anti-war event? Perhaps not-unless you were in South Wales some five years ago. There you could have seen bishop Rowan Williams leave a meeting against the bombing of Iraq and calmly accept sharing a car with several Socialist Workers Party members.