Days like these Part. 5
Guest blogger Gerry Fitzpatrick
First, an update on previous entries: The Labour revolt over the abolition of 10p lower tax band lead by back bencher Frank Field is now at an end, as he announced in the House of Commons. After having secured a pledge that its negative effects will be removed, Mr Field said that his war with the government ‘is now over’ (the Labour Lefts’ mini is now safely back in neutral mode). Unfortunately it will be of little help to the poor as the price of oil, wheat and rice sky rocket. Labour after the May council elections and the Crewe by-election will not be able to remain in power by seeking more advice from the free market Gurus. A parliamentary researcher friend tells me that those government ministers, who have managed to give up the gurus, have given up being Labour politicians as well.
I see that Mr Brendan Barber and the TUC have managed at last to kick their way into the headlines (well into the London Independent at least). He has promised a Summer of Discontent for the government – interesting that the Independent put it like that - weren’t the workers of the Winter of Discontent defeated? The question now is, can Mr Barber become the new Frank Field? Watch this space!
Rather than debate the value if this publicly owned institution, an evaluation of its effectiveness in aftermath of the disaster of the Hutton Report would be more in order. For it is clear that the Hutton Report was the largest political defeat for the corporation in its history. It was also the most obvious political white-wash of a government since the Bloody Sunday Widgery Tribunal into the Derry killings in 1972 (Hutton, as is widely known, played a controversial role in condemning the coroner after the bloody Sunday Killings for expressing a view that the victims were unlawfully killed). When his report on the death of the government scientist Dr David Kelly was published, it avoided the question of what may have caused his death - such as the government leaking the scientists’ name to the press - and condemning the BBC for helping the scientist express his views anonymously. However, BBC unions missed their chance when it would have been very easy to get public support for a political strike against Hutton and the Government and to protest against one of the most blatant political whitewashes in recent history.
Since then, post the Hutton report, the BBC has tried to recover some of its political influence. To a certain extent it has regained that influence, mostly as a consequence of the UK public moving to oppose and protest against the New Labour disaster. However, the BBC has also retained the right to run the usual immigrant scare stories – thus maintaining the Corporation dubious sense of ‘balance.’
The Socialist Workers Party, or the International Socialists as the organisation was before 1976, have managed to become what they used to campaign against – an organisation devoted to identity politics. If anyone was in any doubt as to the change or what it means for socialist campaigns, they should listen to the SWP mayoral candidate Lindsey German speaking at the last Stop the War Conference. Rather than emphasize the collective action of all groups and the international role of the War and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, the anti war leader repeatedly infers that the war is also a Muslim issue. It is only a Muslim issue in so far as the minority of Muslims say that it is. The wars and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan are not a Muslim issue - in the same way the occupation of the North of Ireland is a not catholic (or a protestant) issue.
It is anti-imperialist issue and the socialist aim in any anti-imperialist campaign is the forging of links between all those who oppose the imperial project. As a consequence of the SWP line the involvement of millions was thrown away in the hope that appealing to one group –the Muslim community (no matter how important) would help expand the group’s political influence. That strategy has failed, but the SWP like New Labour and the New Labour leadership, will continue to pile up disaster on disaster - thoroughly convinced that it is everyone else ‘who doesn’t get it’. And that’s one thing the SWP and New Labour are right about.