Editorial

Doubters on the Doorstep

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The war in Iraq, declare the pollsters and some press 'experts', is not an issue that registers high on the list of voters' concerns in the forthcoming election.

Much more immediate worries, they argue, are the domestic issues of the health service, pensions and education.

No one can doubt the importance of the state of public services in this election, bearing in mind how much they have deteriorated in eight years under New Labour. But however much the media would like to deny it - or, as in this election, ignore it - the issue of the Iraq war will simply not go away.

Toxic Lies

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'The Al Qaida plot to poison Britain'. That was how the Times reported the raid on a north London flat in January 2003 that had supposedly revealed a massive conspiracy to use the toxic substance ricin to terrorise the country.

But the most dangerous plot, revived during this election campaign, has been to attack our civil liberties.

Within two days of the raid, David Blunkett, John Reid and Tony Blair had all made horrified statements. The discovery highlighted the perils of weapons of mass destruction, intoned Blair, and showed that 'this danger is present and real'.

Land and Freedom

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Michael Howard has again scoured the gutter by attacking travellers and Gypsies.

He has taken aim at families unable to get planning permission for encampments, and proposed a raft of draconian measures to aid their persecution. As home secretary in 1994 he drew up the notorious Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, removing the duty of local authorities to provide caravan sites. Gypsies and travellers were to be 'encouraged' to purchase land and legitimise their sites through the planning system. The act criminalised trespass and gave the police harsh powers of eviction.

Round One to Us

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The right wing media and the three main political parties constantly tell us that the trade union movement is an anachronism - that working class people are powerless to organise against neoliberalism. But this was not the message sent out by the government's retreat over public sector pensions last month.

Tony Blair, faced with the prospect of two waves of strikes by over 2 million workers, ordered ministers to promise union leaders a 'fresh start' and negotiations just days before changes to the local government pension scheme were due to come into effect. The CBI bosses' federation criticised the government for 'backing down in the face of political pressure'.

Food to Die For

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The promised panacea of processed supermarket food tastes more unpleasant than ever with the discovery that hundreds of products have been contaminated with a potentially cancer-causing dye.

Sudan 1 has been found in over 400 sauces, soups, salad dressings and other food products. All the big supermarkets, which control more than 70 percent of the grocery market in Britain, are affected.

The Battle Rages On

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Tens of thousands are set to gather in London on 19 March for the next big anti-war demonstration. The anti-war movement must now gear itself up for its next battle as Bush threatens to extend his 'war on terror' to Iran or Syria.

Barely satisfied with the destruction of Iraq, the possibility of a civil war in the country and the deaths of tens of thousands of its citizens, Bush has raised the prospect of extending the war even further. Part of the neo-conservative gameplan has always been to ensure strategic control over access to Middle Eastern oil, even if that means redrawing the boundaries of the region, building 14 permanent bases in Iraq and deposing leaders.

The Election Starts Here

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Rarely can a prime minister have been so weak in the run-up to a general election as Tony Blair. Iraq runs like a festering sore right through the heart of New Labour.

With its credibility eroded, it is little wonder that the Labour Party is splitting at its head. There is now acknowledged open warfare between the prime minister and the chancellor. While they will surely attempt to show a semblance of unity in the run-up to May's poll, there can be little doubt that tensions between the two camps and their supporters will hit the headlines again soon.

The Prince and the Poor Law

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The right wing press and New Labour are in full agreement: Britain is in the grip of an unprecedented crimewave.

Waves of legislation emerge from the Home Office to penalise vandals, shop-lifters and 'yobs'. Anti-social behaviour orders (Asbos) are thrown like confetti and vast swathes of petty crimes are made arrestable offences.

And yet the British Crime Survey suggests that crime is at its lowest level for nine years. Fed by a hysterical media, the fear of crime has grown out of all proportion to crime itself.

Every Second Counts

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There are three dates for your new year's diary. Mark them clearly, because what we do over the next six months could change the world for years to come.

The first is 19 March, which the European Social Forum named as the day when the anti-war movement has to mobilise internationally in a massive show of force against the Iraq war. The challenge is a huge one. Bush, emboldened by his election victory, is determined to try and crush the opposition in Iraq by any means necessary. The disclosure that napalm - illegal under international law since 1980 - was used in Fallujah is a reminder of the horrific lengths he will go to.

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