TONY BLAIR is drowning. As the seas rise to swallow him up he tries in vain, like King Canute, to turn back the tide. Two weeks ago a panicked Blair invited senior journalists from the Guardian newspaper to a cosy chat at his Chequers country residence. The journalists included Martin Kettle, a personal friend of Blair.
Blair tried to kill off the speculation about his future. Even journalists from a pro New Labour newspaper could see he is on another planet. Martin Kettle wrote, “Listening to Blair, the first reaction is disbelief. You realise that Blair simply does not realise how bad it is for him out here.” The unravelling of the occupation in Iraq and the scale of opposition to the war have created Blair’s problems.
As one Labour minister told the Independent newspaper on Tuesday of this week, whether Blair goes sooner or later “is more likely to be determined by what happens on the ground in Iraq than by Labour MPs”. That’s true. Only eight Labour MPs voted against the government’s Iraq policy in parliament on Monday of this week.
Discontent with New Labour has broken through at the very top of the trade union movement. The “big four” unions-Unison, Amicus, TGWU and GMB-which together represent over four million workers, organised a meeting of trade union leaders on Tuesday of this week.
The leaders of these unions have been at the head of the campaign to “reclaim” the Labour Party. They were meeting to discuss a left wing “alternative manifesto” for the next general election. Kevin Curran, the leader of the GMB, said that if New Labour didn’t change there might be a need to form a new party, but not until after the next general election.
Just as in Iraq, many commentators are discussing a “smooth transition of power” in the Labour Party. Gordon Brown is widely expected to replace Blair. But Brown bankrolled the war in Iraq, diverting over £6 billion from the public sector. Brown is-as much as Blair-the architect of New Labour.
Other ministers tipped as possible challengers to Brown are cut from the same cloth. Education secretary Charles Clarke is imposing £3,000 a year top-up fees on students. Health secretary John Reid is leading the charge to privatise the NHS.
Faced with this gang of murderers and crooks, some who opposed the war on Iraq will look to the Liberal Democrats in the 10 June elections. But Liberal leader Charles Kennedy’s opposition to the war evaporated as soon as the first cruise missile was fired. The Liberals have a privatising record in local government.
A big Liberal Democrat vote might destabilise Blair, and make it easier for Brown to take over. However, Brown’s leadership would not bring about fundamental change in the government’s direction.
Many people will refuse to vote at all. Estimates suggest that 80 percent of people may not vote on 10 June. But all those who oppose the war and privatisation can do something positive to hit Blair hard on that day.
In order to maximise the damage done to Blair and New Labour it is vital that Respect: The Unity Coalition gets the biggest possible vote. Respect is the only party calling for a complete withdrawal of troops from Iraq and for an end to the occupation.
Wherever Respect campaigners get the message out there is a huge response (see page 13). With just three weeks to go until polling day everyone needs to make sure that the Respect campaign is publicised in every street, school, college and workplace.
When George Bush Senior came to London this Tuesday to raise funds for his son’s re-election, he faced a lively anti-war protest. Police tried to pen protesters in but they couldn’t silence the angry chants against the occupation of Iraq
OVER THE last month we have received a tremendous response to our appeal for funds for our election campaign. We have managed to secure the printing of a leaflet for every home in England and Wales, as well as paying the election deposits for every European constituency, the London mayor and London Assembly elections.
In total we’ve raised and paid out over £250,000! However, we still have a way to go. We need the money to pay the balance for the postal leaflet, all the extra leaflets, postcards, and the party election broadcasts directed by Ken Loach.
We urgently need to raise at least a further £150,000. The enthusiastic response to our campaign so far shows that we can do it. Whatever you can donate will help us get our message to the millions who opposed the war and who are outraged at the torture of Iraqi prisoners. There is an alternative to New Labour-it’s called Respect!
NICK WRACK, Respect national chair
Bosses unleash misery on ordinary people