Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/199/8145
Foot And Mouth Crisis: Labour's Criminal Failings
Build A Socialist Alternative
BLAIR IS stepping in and taking 'personal control' of the foot and mouth crisis. It's belated recognition that the government's 'Operation Cobra' to eradicate foot and mouth disease (FMD) is a failure.
There has been a dramatic escalation of attempts to control foot and mouth, including using the army, but growing parts of the countryside are suffocating knee-deep in slaughtered animal carcasses. Yet, the disease shows no sign of abating.
The government hopes to be seen as acting decisively against the virus, to cover up their mounting embarrassment and proceed with a 3 May election.
But this is an increasingly high-risk strategy. Evidence is emerging that New Labour knew that pigswill could potentially carry foot and mouth disease over three years ago, but failed to act.
The government ignored a warning then by its own BSE advisory committee that a FMD outbreak could be caused by infected pigswill.
Yet, the Labour government seems only concerned with stemming the crisis in a way that protects big business and allows their May election plans. Small farmers are left to cope with rotting carcasses and mounting bills, while Blair's government fiddles as the countryside burns.
The 'firewall' slaughter policy is a consequence of New Labour protecting agribusiness's export trade profits.
Vaccination would stop FMD but this would halt the £570 million a year animal export trade. As deputy prime minister John Prescott blurted out: "Our top priority is to protect the farming industry."
But this protection costs us dearly. The total bill for the epidemic is expected to reach a staggering £9 billion. That's enough to end the underfunding crisis in many essential public services.
For four years the Labour government has spent less in percentage terms than the previous Tory government on public spending - a contributory factor in the rapid spread of FMD. Yet, they can find billions to hurriedly end this political crisis, hoping to win a hasty election before the economic and political climate worsens.
The Socialist Party wants to see the foot and mouth crisis ended speedily in a way that protects the health and safety and interests of working-class people throughout Britain, including many small farmers.
But whenever an election is called we intend to show that there is an alternative - a socialist alternative - to the growing sicknesses of Blair's beloved capitalist system.
In The Socialist 30 March 2001: