Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/449/5365
What we think
Sea of sleaze rises around Blair
DESPITE HIS bravura performance at the G8, Tony Blair may not be able to deliver his promise to see all the other leaders at next year's summit. Even Vladimir Putin, leader of a country mired in corruption, was able to joke at Blair's expense, suggesting Britain was more undemocratic and crooked than Russia.
The tide of sleaze lapping round Blair's feet moved up to his knees last week after the arrest of Lord Levy. How long will it be before he's up to his neck and drowned by the waves of corruption engulfing his government?
The sleaze of the Tory government in the 1990s did for Major and his government even though neither his most senior ministers or Major himself appeared to be personally involved. Nevertheless, the perception of the Tories as the sleazy party ensured they have remained out of power for over a decade.
How much more then will the sleaze slopping around New Labour damage that party? When combined with Blair's personal unpopularity and the continuing crisis in Iraq and the Middle East and the government's ever increasing domestic problems, the pressure is building on Blair to go now.
Blair protests that they have brought in more transparent rules on party funding. But they avoid the obvious point that the British system of party funding based on being in hock to big business, linked to powers of patronage and appointments to the unelected House of Lords, will always end up enmeshed in corrupt practices.
All governments have to one degree or another suffered from such scandals. Voters often retort that 'all politicians are at it'.
But the Blair government's infatuation and subservience to big business interests is plumbing new depths in party political 'corruption'.
This recent scandal comes on top of the many scandals that have engulfed Labour almost from day one in office - the Ecclestone affair, Mandelson, Blunkett and Tessa Jowell to name a few - almost all down to Labour being a party for big business, financed by big business.
Further the Labour Party is saddled with £27 million of debts from its election campaigns and pressure to repay the loans from those who were promised peerages. They could be forced to sell off the party headquarters and lay off staff. Additionally, senior Labour figures seem set to agree the Tory idea of a £50,000 cap on donations - effectively meaning they would sever their links with the unions - and attempting to bring in state funding of political parties. Though whether any of the established parties could bring in state funding given the suspicion and cynicism of all the establishment parties remains doubtful.
THE CRISIS of the Blair regime most immediately threatens to wreck an 'orderly transition' to Brown becoming prime minister. But Levy's arrest and subsequent reaction suggest that a wing of the ruling class now see Blair as a liability and think he should go.
Should Lord Levy's arrest lead to further arrests and Blair being questioned under caution then it is difficult to see how much longer Blair could remain in office without further fatally damaging the Labour Party.
The Labour Left's challenge to Blair, however, is pitifully weak (see below) and even if they were successful in forcing Blair to go what alternative awaits? A Brown government lining up even more vicious attacks on the public sector and working class.
A real campaign to reclaim the Labour Party, if it is to have any chance at all of convincing working-class voters that the party had changed its big business spots, would need to see the adoption of a radical socialist programme, linked to a purging of the Blairites and modernisers from the Labour Party. Although we think that the prospect of this succeeding is becoming ever more remote.
Those attending the Labour Representation Conference this weekend and all those who seriously want to offer an alternative for working-class people need to realise that recent corruption scandals represent another qualitative step in the destruction by the Blairites of the Labour Party. Instead of hoping they can reclaim the dead shell of a discredited party they should instead concentrate their efforts on beginning the process of building a new mass workers' party.
In The Socialist 20 July 2006:
War and occupation
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party campaigns
International socialist news and analysis
Scottish Socialist Party
Campaign for a New Workers Party