Sunday 27 July 2008

Brown down Warwick avenue with a duff mandate

Brown is his usual right-wing self, at Labour's National Policy Forum - a meeting between Labour ministers, activists and trade unionists, held at Warwick University (BBC News: Labour rejects union strike calls). He has rejected calls to scrap the Tory anti-union laws or commit to free school meals for all primary school pupils, yet plans were approved for a welfare crackdown, ID cards, and new nuclear power stations.

Fair enough, the NPF did agree on a few progressive measures; namely to reduce the voting age to 16, make the House of Lords an elected body, and extend the full minimum wage to people aged 21 rather than 22. Yet these are more than outweighed by the reactionary measures being pushed by Brown et al, and will do more or less exactly nothing to reverse Labour's recent self-inflicted misfortunes :-(

Brown's cockiness would be bad enough at the best of times, but it is made worse by the fact that recent election results - most recently in Glasgow East - show that Brown has no popular mandate for his policies. Indeed, calls for a leadership contest from within his own Labour Party, imply he has no popular mandate as leader - except perhaps as the leader of a desert island :-P

The Glasgow East result was rather interesting in a number of ways. The swing from Labour to the SNP was approx 22%, greater than that in other by-elections from Labour to the Tories. Since the SNP is to the left of Labour on a number of issues, such as university tuition fees, this should scotch (no pun intended!) the myth that the Labour meltdown is due to British people moving to the right. On a sadder note, it's a terrible shame the SSP / Solidarity split occurred, because the combined votes of the SSP and Solidarity would have been enough to push the Liberal Democrats into 5th place (BBC News: Glasgow East result in full)

Meanwhile, Brown whines that he does not want "a return to the 1970's". Yet the strikes of the 1970's, culminating in the Winter of Discontent, were not caused by the trade union laws of the time being too permissive. They were caused by workers' real wages and living standards being attacked by a right-wing Labour government, while their wages were being eroded by massive inflation. Ring any bells ?!?

Already the general secretary of the GMB, one of Britain's biggest unions, has called for a leadership contest (BBC News: PM 'must face leader challenge'). And unions are becoming more willing to take strike action to defend their members, as seen in the recent local government workers' strike.

Since union contributions to Labour still make up a substantial percentage of Labour's income, it's time they asked for something back in return. The unions must demand Brown repeals the anti-trade union laws, and that's just the start! They must also demand that Brown immediately reverses his decision to scrap the 10p tax rate, stops attacking striking workers, funds public services properly, gives decent wage increases to public sector workers, pulls out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and cancels the Trident nuclear weapons programme. And, most importantly of all, demand that he starts listening to the workers who voted for him, and whose unions fund his party, rather than the fat cats who now seem to be dictating Labour policy.

Or steps down now, and makes way for someone who will !!!

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