Blair staggers on… but ‘PFI’ Brown is no alternative

What we think

Blair staggers on… but ‘PFI’ Brown is no alternative

The following article was printed before Blair’s humiliating defeat
in the vote to detain terrorist suspects for 90 days. This represented
one of the biggest defeats for a serving prime minister since the 2nd
World War and is a devastating blow to Blair’s rapidly diminishing

"IN OFFICE but not in power, a lame duck prime minister," jeered Tory
leader Michael Howard at Tony Blair (a case of the ‘dead duck’
denouncing the ‘lame duck’!).

His pretext for this was the second ejection of David Blunkett from
the government, this time leaving the Department of Work and Pensions.
He tried once more to desperately cling to a minister’s influence: a
salary in telephone numbers, the plush ministerial limousines and
rubbing shoulders with the rich London glitterati.

However, the stench arising from his recent acquisition of shares in
a DNA company was too much even for the remote and disconnected New
Labour MPs.

The real scandal is not just that Blunkett kept the details of his
financial skulduggery from a parliamentary committee but that he engaged
in it in the first place, which if it had remained undetected would have
resulted in his shares appreciating to a figure variously estimated
between £250,000 and £500,000!

Moreover, it is just one of the many examples of the sleazy, get-rich
quick mentality which governs the outlook of New Labour’s luminaries,
beginning with Blair himself and his £1.6 million mansion acquired for
his ‘retirement’.

Rich socialites

Many Labour leaders, from Ramsay MacDonald onwards, have rubbed
shoulders with rich socialites.

They have had one foot in the camp of big business and have
financially benefited from this, while purporting to represent
working-class people. But never before have alleged ‘Labour’ leaders
flaunted their acquired wealth like this New Labour gang.

They act in the same brazen manner as their rich benefactors;
Blunkett not only dabbled in shares, he also accepted free membership of
Annabel’s night club in Berkeley Square!

Howard’s jibe at Blair – first used by Norman Lamont against Tory
Prime Minister John Major – was wide of the mark in one respect.

No government – particularly a Labour government – has real power
which is concentrated in the levers of economic ownership and control of
industry and the economy by the capitalists. Governments are made, if
they obey the market, or broken if they don’t, by this power.

In the case of the Blair government, it has been more subservient to
the bosses than any other nominal ‘Labour’ government in history. It is
an unalloyed big business government with not a scintilla of ‘socialism’
in the outlook of Blair.

On Iraq, on the latest proposals on academy schools – where the door
has been opened to ownership by big business or religious zealots – on
invalidity benefit, where he proposed to Blunkett that £20 a week should
be slashed from claimants (40% of whom have mental health problems)
Blair received the approval of the Tories.

If Cameron succeeds in his Tory leadership bid, the political choice
for the time being for the British people will be between Tony Blair and
‘Tory Blair’.

‘Terror’ Bill

To all intents and purposes this government is an undeclared
‘national government’ with Blair unable to fully rely ‘on his own side’
in parliamentary votes.

His formal majority of 66 did not prevent a near defeat with a
majority of just one on a clause in the so-called ‘terror’ bill. On this
occasion, not only was his own side against but so is a body of the
establishment, including the judges who considered the measure
unworkable and counterproductive.

The same goes for Clarke’s proposal to intern suspected terrorists
without trial for 90 days. Incredibly, these police state-type measures
were supported by Clarke on the grounds that they must be right because
the police wanted these powers. It indicates how much the Blairites are
in the pockets of the unelected police chiefs.

But Howard was correct in one sense: Blair has seen his authority
drain away and has lost a stable majority in his cabinet. He is forced
to rely on people like Hazel Blears (outside the Cabinet), a Blairite
android, and John Hutton, newly appointed in Blunkett’s place to carry
out his dirty work. One ex-minister, Hutton’s ‘colleague’ in the
Parliamentary Labour Party, commented to the Financial Times: "I don’t
think [Hutton] has ever had an original thought of his own."

Blair’s government has the unmistakeable odour of the ‘last days of
the Reich’, with only a cabal in the Downing Street bunker now
supporting him. So terrified are Labour MPs at the prospect of electoral
wipe-out that many of them are in a mutinous mood, ready to kick Blair’s
proposals into the long grass.

The education white paper, the slashing of invalidity benefit, the
meltdown and further privatisation of the NHS could all be partially
defeated or withdrawn. There is even the suggestion that the equivalent
of the Tories’ ‘men in grey suits’ (the 1922 Committee), made up of
trade union leaders and MPs, could approach Blair to ask him to ‘take an
early bath’.

However, dictators – even elected ones – sometimes have a penchant
for clinging on to power when the basis for it has evaporated.

Blair wants to further savage public services in the interests of the
privileged and wealthy, to privatise more industries and to stubbornly
resist calls for the lifting of the ban on secondary trade union action
imposed by Thatcher. This is his ‘legacy’, to do further major service
to those he represents, big business. Any number of political scenarios
are therefore possible.

The double whammy of Blunkett’s resignation and near defeat on the
terror bill could be the ‘tipping point’ for his early demise,
precipitated by a majority against him in the Commons. However, he has
stated that he will not go for a confidence vote if the ’90-day’
proposal is defeated.

He could stagger on, inflicting further savage attacks on the
majority of working-class people. Only one thing is certain: he will
vacate the political arena at a certain stage and probably be replaced
by Brown.

Misplaced hopes

But the hope that the chancellor will ride to the rescue is
completely misplaced. ‘Mr PFI’ (Private Finance Initiative) is wedded
fundamentally to Blair’s New Labour project, of which he was an original

Steve Richards, political correspondent of The Independent, informs
us that, at a cabinet meeting following Blunkett’s resignation, Brown
denounced the ‘forces of conservatism’, those opposed to public sector
‘reform’ (read further privatisation). He also opposed ‘generous’
increases in public sector pay.

And, as we show elsewhere, the wheels are coming off Brown’s economic
chariot as a gaping hole in the budget exists, which can only be plugged
by savage cuts in public expenditure, by tax increases impacting
primarily on working-class people or a mixture of both.

He set his face against the lifting of the ban on secondary action at
the TUC. He will not support further ‘democratisation’ of the Labour

Tony Benn, in a Guardian article, said of Blair: "His real legacy
could be the destruction of the Labour Party itself, for that could well
be how history will see it." He is right, but his argument applies
equally to Brown.

To look for solutions within this discredited, capitalist party is
futile. It is therefore urgent to take action to create now the basis
for a new mass workers’ party.

The RMT conference in early 2006 should be supported by all those who
want to see a new optimistic road open up for the labour movement and
the working class.

Together with the conference that the Socialist Party hopes to
initiate in March next year, this could be a turning point in the
political fightback that could provide an invaluable political weapon
for the working class.