Thursday 17 July 2008

Spring botch

So those in charge of the Labour Party have decided to axe next year's spring conference, allegedly to save the party money (BBC news: Labour axes its spring conference). Personally, I think they could save money better if they chose a less posh venue (a common practice of smaller parties such as the Greens), stayed in cheap-and-cheerful B&B's (like most of their members do when on holiday), and didn't go so over the top on heavy-handed security.

Even so, I can't help wondering if the real reason for the cancellation of the spring conference, is to avoid Labour Party activists and trade unionists from asking too many awkward questions. Especially at a time when New Labour's appeal to its left-wing members, and even its trade union donors, is - understandably - increasingly threadbare.

Not that the mandarins at the helm of New Labour have ever liked too many awkward questions. Remember back in 2005, when Walter Wolfgang heckled (at the time) foreign secretary Jack Straw over the illegal, murderous and unjustifiable Iraq war - and was physically removed from the conference by security guards, and had his security pass confiscated. After such more recent obscene blunders as the 10p tax fiasco, they couldn't possibly be trying to avoid similar angry exchanges at conference, could they?

Besides, the Iraq war hasn't gone away either. As the death toll of the illegal occupation rises, both of Iraqis and British soldiers, the protests continue with every death and every anniversary of this atrocity.

What's more, the military death toll in Iraq and Afghanistan are having a negative impact of Armed Forces recruitment; I can't help thinking this is the real reason behind measures such as increasing the compensation for military personnel wounded on duty. Admittedly this is welcome, as is the plan to give free university education to all soldiers who have served 6 years or more. Then again, how about bringing back free university education for everybody, by scrapping tuition fees and bringing back decent grants. Education is a right, not a privelege, and such a move would be enormously beneficial to the economy by providing highly skilled workers. And would cost a fraction of the cost of the Iraq war and occupation, let alone that in Afghanistan.

Speaking of cost, if the Labour Party is so hard up they have to resort to penny-pinching measures such as scrapping their conference, they have only themselves to blame. It is because of the Blairites and Brownites dragging the party so far to the right and alienating so many working class supporters, that Labour Party membership has plummeted since 1997, a number of unions have stopped donations (most recently, Unison are questioning their donations to Labour), and an increasing number of trade unionists are opting out of their unions' political levy.

To put Labour on a "long term stable financial footing", it's not the spring conference which needs to be ditched. Instead, they must ditch the entire right-wing New Labour Blair Rich Project, and get back to representing the unions. And the working class, who not only provided most of Labour's past support (both financial and political), but who elected them in the first place!

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