Editorial

Street Talk

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There is a strange sense of déjà vu with the current government. A prime minister increasingly isolated and at odds with the rest of his party and public opinion; ministers scurrying off to spend more time with their family; protests about the media portrayal of government policies; and outspoken sacked ministers jockeying for position in anticipation of a leadership challenge. There is much about Tony Blair today that reminds you of the last days of both the Thatcher and Major governments.

In part this can be explained by New Labour's failure to deliver on the promises it made when it was first elected in 1997. Public services such as health, education and transport continue to deteriorate. The school funding crisis and the prospect of even higher tuition fees anger many who voted for a government that promised education would be its number one priority. But the reasons for the unpopularity and isolation of Blair go much deeper than that.

Bouncing Back

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Whatever happened to the 'Baghdad bounce?'

The adulation that was meant to boost our beleaguered prime minister as a happy nation accepted the righteousness of his latest imperial adventure has failed to materialise. Instead it has been a difficult few weeks for Blair. The resignation of a cabinet minister over the occupation of Iraq, the second biggest Labour rebellion over a domestic issue over foundation hospitals, the prospect of strike action over Sats, and a disastrous result for Labour in the local government elections are all signs of a government in serious difficulty.

Oil and Occupation

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Iraq's colonial governor, former US general Jay Garner, seemed intent on dispelling the belief that Americans don't understand irony. 'I will be candid,' he said, while accusing Iran of stirring up the huge protests against the occupation. 'I do not think the coalition will accept out of region influence.'

There have been demonstrations in every populated part of southern Iraq, as well as Baghdad and many cities to the north, in opposition to the occupation. In Mosul occupying troops shot more than a dozen Iraqis dead for protesting against their new self appointed rulers. Such is the reality of 'liberated' Iraq.

No Time to Lose

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This was not how Bush and Blair said it would be. It is already clear that the 'short sharp shock' that we were promised is now giving way to a far more prolonged campaign.

For the ordinary people in Baghdad, Basra and other Iraqi cities who have suffered terribly already this is a frightening prospect. It is also causing splits in the US military command, between Donald Rumsfeld and Tommy Franks.

Frustrated on the battlefield, US and British military planners are now resorting to even more aerial bombardments, with a huge increase in the number of innocent civilians killed and many more suffering devastating shrapnel wounds the inevitable result. On top of this the siege of major cities intensifies.

Making History

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Last month's demonstrations against the war were truly historic. With two million on the streets of London, and millions more protesting in cities and towns throughout the world, never before have the mass of the world's population come together to give our rulers such a clear and decisive message--no to a war on Iraq.

Clearly the protests are causing Tony Blair some serious headaches, and by the look of his increasingly haggard and ageing appearance, a few sleepless nights as well. He would not have been helped by the House of Commons vote when 121 Labour MPs opposed his rush to war. Normally the feelings of ordinary people find little expression in the Commons, but such is the size of the anti-war movement and so determined are people to make their opinions heard that even many MPs cannot ignore them.

Battle Stations

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It's a question of 'weeks not months', warns the warmonger in the White House.

Bush and his trusty friend and military ally Tony Blair have drawn up the timetable for war. They have Iraq in their sights. While our prime minister may scurry around to try and cobble together a UN resolution, the US government has made it clear it wants to redraw the map of the Middle East and grab a greater share of the oil. And whether or not the pressure and inducements in the UN succeed, Blair and his New Labour government support the hawks all the way.

War on War

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George W Bush and Tony Blair are resolved to bring devastating war to the people of Iraq.

Bush's justification of this blatant aggression--'We cannot...allow the world's worst regimes to develop the world's worst weapons'--better describes the rogue superpower than the numerous countries it wants to bring to heel. US military spending of $17 trillion since the Second World War dwarfs that of any other nation.

The Heat is On

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Tony Blair's speeches on the firefighters could have been written by the 'Sun'.

We are witnessing a Labour government talking the language of Thatcherism and preparing to break the strike of a union whose members fund the Labour Party. The government talks of the loss of thousands of firefighters' jobs, not a penny extra for the pay claim and a humiliating defeat of the FBU. Blair proclaimed that 'no government on earth could afford the pay demands'. Yet every concession by the FBU leadership has been met with intransigence and insults from the other side.

Fight Fire with Fire

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By any standards it has been a bad month for Tony Blair. One of the strongest and most powerful groups of workers, the firefighters, threatened their first national strike since the 1970s, support for the anti-war movement continued to grow, and one of Blair's closest allies, Estelle Morris, chose to jump ship as incompetence and controversy piled more pressure on New Labour.

Blair pretends to talk tough, but his government is at its weakest since its election in 1997. Nothing sums this up better than its approach to the dispute with the firefighters. One week before the strike was due to start Gordon Brown warned that he 'would not tolerate inflationary pay settlements'. Two days later Blair let it be known that he regards the FBU's actions as 'Scargillism', by implication comparing himself to Thatcher. The next day John Prescott talked of possible reconciliation and negotiations, with hints that there may be more money on the table.

War on Two Fronts

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The countdown to war has begun.

In his holier-than-thou style Blair presented to parliament what he claims to be compelling evidence that Iraq is a threat to world peace and stability. In words that would have made his master in the White House glow with pride, Blair assured us that 'regime change' and military might are needed in Iraq, with or without the consent of the UN.

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