Time for a new workers’ party

The stench of rotten Labour

Time for a new workers’ party

Blair: Bosses puppet: cartoon by Alan HardmanSLEAZE
HAS engulfed the government. Millions of pounds ‘loaned’ to New Labour
to finance its last general election campaign, appear to have been given
to buy seats in the House of Lords.

Cartoon by Alan Hardman (click for larger image)

The ‘loans’ were intended as donations, but were dressed up as loans
to evade rules on the disclosure of donations. Only a small clique
around Tony Blair knew what had gone on.

Jack Dromey, New Labour’s treasurer and John Prescott, the deputy
prime minister, had been kept in the dark. Dromey, a former Blairite,
vociferously attacked Blair, blaming him for the scandal.

Places in the House of Lords have always been effectively bought by
the rich and powerful throughout the history of British capitalism. But
when done so transparently, and by a prime minister who declared he
would be ‘whiter than white’, it reveals even more clearly the extent of
the degeneration and pro-big business nature of New Labour.

Also scandalous are some of the other ‘loans’ now revealed, from
super rich businessmen who are boosting their wealth further as a result
of Labour’s policies. They include one million pounds from Rod Aldridge.

His day job is executive chairman of Capita, which has a 34% slice of
the market from the privatisation of public services, including the
lucrative London congestion charge scheme. Aldridge is also sponsoring a
city academy.

The loans-for-peerages scandal came just days after government
minister Tessa Jowell had claimed ignorance of her mortgage being paid
off by her husband’s unexplained dealings with right wing Italian prime
minister Silvio Berlusconi.

In a desperate attempt at damage limitation, Blair triggered an
investigation into state funding of political parties and announced a
few anti-corruption measures. But his big business friends will always
be able to find more corrupt paths to similar goals, and Blair’s
measures are widely seen as locking the stable door after the horse has

Despite these crises, Blair has been pushing on with his
privatisation agenda, trying to extract every ounce of use for big
business out of his remaining time in office. He had to rely on Tory
MPs’ votes to pass his education bill through its second parliamentary
reading. The Labour ‘rebels’ who voted against it responded by calling
him Ramsay McBlair, after the first Labour prime minister Ramsay
McDonald who went into coalition with the Tories in 1931.

This bill signs a death warrant on local authority controlled
community schools, allowing them to be handed, together with their land
and buildings, to wealthy individuals and companies.

Unease over its blatant anti-working class nature has even reached
some of the usual Blair supporters in parliament, causing greater rifts
in Blair’s regime. This, together with the corruption scandals, has led
to reports of ‘civil war’ in New Labour, especially fuelled by fear of
what will happen to its vote in the May elections.

Undermining the system

There is also increasing alarm in capitalist circles at how
discredited Blair has become, and how this is adding to the level of
disgust with capitalist politicians in general. In an ICM poll last
week, 70% said that the government is as sleazy, or more so, than John
Major’s Tory government was.

As well as these domestic issues, Blair still has to contend with the
debacle in Iraq. He cannot seek much reassurance from his Iraq coalition
ally George Bush, The floundering US president is being deserted by many
of his leading Republican Party colleagues and so faces a major crisis
in credibility as well.

Reflecting concern over Blair’s predicament, both the guardian
newspaper and The Economist said he should step down sooner rather than
later. But the ‘heir apparent’, Gordon Brown, will continue with
neo-liberal attacks.

It was Brown who was applying last-minute pressure on the 100 Labour
MPs who were threatening to vote against the education bill. It was also
Brown who opposed the Turner proposals on pensions, not because they
would increase the age of retirement, but because he doesn’t want to
finance an end to means testing.

It is true, as journalists are saying, that Blair has become far
removed from Labour’s old traditions. But any idea that his departure
will lead to a major shift in direction can be dismissed. The exact
style of leadership may change, Brown may pull the troops out of Iraq
faster, he will introduce some measures to try to promote an image of a
clean break (as also the Tory leader Cameron would do if he were to win
the election), but the anti-working class substance will remain.

Political alternative

More urgently than ever, a new workers’ party is needed, to represent
the overwhelming majority in society. In its editorial telling Blair to
go this year, the guardian wrote that "office degrades all its
holders". This may be true of capitalist politicians, many of whom
sink into the mire of careerism, greed and carrying out attacks on
workers’ living standards.

But for a new workers’ party it can be different, with all leaders
fully accountable to the party membership, living on the average wage of
the workers they represent, and committed to fighting the attacks of big

Nice and sleazy does it

THE £14 million cash-for-peerages loan scandal rocking Blair’s
government has exposed New Labour as being as sleazy as the previous
Tory government of John Major.

Three businessmen – Barry Townsley, David Garrard and Dr Chai Patel –
who made undisclosed loans to Labour, were nominated for peerages by
Blair. These nominations were then blocked by the House of Lords
Appointments Committee for being ‘unsuitable’.

Dr Chai Patel who owns the highly profitable Priory Healthcare lent
£1.5 million and donated £100,000 to Labour. Within weeks of the loan
he was told that he would be nominated for a peerage. He has advised the
prime minister’s office on private sector involvement in the NHS while
taking home £443,000 as chief executive of Westminster Health Care. He
told the Observer: "Making profits out of healthcare is still an
emotional issue."

Patel avoided being struck off by the General Medical Council last
year after two reports told of elderly patients being mistreated in one
of his care homes.

Property tycoon Sir David Garrard (knighted in 2003 for his
"charity work") loaned £1 million, having donated £200,000
to Labour in 2003. Garrard is the principle investor (£2.4 million) in
Tony Blair’s pet education project – Bexley Business Academy. The
academy runs its own mini-stock exchange and every Friday is deemed a
"business day"

Academies are hated by teachers and parents alike as they don’t have
to follow the national schools curriculum and have more control over
pupil selection.

Some academies are deemed to be worse in standards than the schools
they replaced. Bexley Business Academy was also criticised by Ofsted.

But while the three named businessmen may be smarting that their
elevation to the House of Lords has been blocked, spare a thought for
Labour-affiliated trade unions.

Amicus, UNISON, GMB & TGWU have donated £34.1 million since
2001. However, this has counted for diddly-squat in terms of influencing
Blair’s government. On the contrary, having taken union members’ money,
Blair and Co then kick public sector workers in the teeth by attacking
their pensions and slashing their jobs.