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.
So too did government decisions that favoured Enron, such as lifting curbs on building gas-fired power stations. Accountant Arthur Andersen, which helped hide Enron’s losses, is also tied to New Labour. It used its creative talents to produce a report two years ago claiming that PFI privatisation schemes are value for money. Government ministers have cited this report ever since to justify PFI deals, some of which profited Arthur Andersen.
The Tories also took money from Enron. Enron salted away millions of dollars while wrecking the lives of tens of thousands of workers. Arthur Andersen shredded boxes full of documents to cover up for it. These are the kind of rich, corrupt people who influence governments. What about working people?
New Labour happily takes trade union money. But then in government it hits out at any group of workers who dare to defend themselves, as rail workers are doing now. Tony Blair and transport secretary Stephen Byers have attacked the rail strikes. They have thrown their weight behind a plan by the government’s Strategic Rail Authority to bail out Arriva Northern and South West Trains as they try to intimidate their workers.
The Tory press want New Labour to go even further in backing multi-millionaire Brian Souter, who owns South West Trains, against the RMT rail union. The Daily Mail, Telegraph and Times all talk of ‘Labour sleaze’ over Enron. At the same time they demand closer government collaboration with big business. Don’t expect any sense from these quarters.
The people talking sense are workers who are standing up to the millionaires, their papers and their friends in government.
People hurling themselves onto razor wire fences, 12 year old children talking of suicide, hunger strikers sewing their lips together in protest at their conditions. These images show the desperation of refugees in Australia.
They are not the actions of people who breeze round the world in search of a cushy life, as scaremongering media stories often maintain. Some 2,000 Afghans have applied for asylum in Australia. Their country has been devastated by two decades of war-even before the latest bombing.
Australia is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world. Yet its government throws every single frightened asylum seeker who arrives there into prison camps such as the Woomera former missile base in the parched outback. People in Britain are right to be outraged.
But the government here is behaving with similar inhumanity. It is herding asylum seekers to Somalia, just in time for threatened US bombing raids against that impoverished country. It is deporting refugees to Afghanistan, claiming the country is safe. But it is so dangerous that Tony Blair did not dare leave Kabul airport when he visited there.
Comfort for the world’s elite-suffering for the majority. That’s the truth behind refugee bashing, whatever its source.
STOP THE WAR COALITION – DEMONSTRATE
Stop Bush and Blair’s war
Stop US torture of prisoners
Hands off Somalia and Iraq
SATURDAY 2 MARCH 1pm, Hyde Park, London
Supported by CND Phone 07951 235 915 for information and publicity
The political fund: where should it go? Saturday 16 March, 11am-4pm, Camden Centre, Bidborough Street, London WC1 (near King’s Cross tube/station)
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See pages 8 & 9 for all the arguments
They justify Israeli crimes
Tories ramp up attacks