French Elections: Second Round Win--On Points

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Many commentators interpreted the mainstream right's victory in the French parliamentary elections in June as a return to normality after the shock of Le Pen's showing in the presidential election last April.

The big majority for president Chirac's UMP (Union pour la majorité présidentielle) coalition and the fact that the defeated Socialists achieved more or less the same vote as in the last general election of 1997 appeared to herald the recovery of the mainstream, apparently confirmed by the falling away of support for both the National Front (FN) and the revolutionary left since April.

Immigration - Labour Puts Asylum in Focus

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Labour's intellectuals prepared the party's current lurch to the right on asylum and immigration. Blairite thinkers in the 'Policy Network' said Labour must adopt the policies of the far right to stop the growth of the far right, and in particular must attack asylum seekers.

Recent initiatives by Tony Blair, David Blunkett and Jack Straw show the message was received and understood.

Civil liberties - The Big Brother House in Westminster

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New Labour likes to vaunt its modernising project--particularly when it comes to the rights of the individual. Yet its obsession with the right wing agenda--particularly crime, benefits, asylum seekers and now terrorism--pushes it in the direction of strengthening the state and eroding civil liberties.

Last month Tony Blair promised a new white paper, the eleventh piece of criminal justice legislation since Labour came to office in 1997. It would ditch the double jeopardy rule that prevents people being tried twice for the same crime--even though the Macpherson inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence rejected the move.

There would be a new intermediate tier of justice, where a judge sitting with two lay magistrates tried cases too serious to be tried by magistrates on their own, in practice imposing even tighter restrictions on the right to jury trial.

Anti-capitalism - Florence: planning the shape of Europe's future

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The echoes of last year's anti-capitalist protests in Genoa are still being felt all over Italy.

They were heard quite literally last month in Florence, during the first showing of the film Carlo Giuliani ragazzo, a documentary about the last day in the life of the protester who was murdered by the police. Some 2,000 people packed into the city's largest theatre and gave the director a standing ovation.

Between the Lines

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Website charts collapses - Girl scouts introduce stress management badge - Drugs companies push for relaxation of testing rules

One dotcom company that has not suffered from the stock market collapse is the website which is one of a tiny handful of dotcom companies making a fortune. The site has been the premier information resource on the demise of the web revolution.

Middle East: Bush's Empire Backs Sharon

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Yes, it does mean a 'bloodbath'. Even Shimon Peres, Israel's hapless foreign minister, said it in response to Bush's infamous Palestine speech. But the wider and even more frightening possible implications were missed.

Dangling the prospect of a Palestinian state sometime in the future, while imposing the deliberately impossible demand that the Palestinians change their leadership first, is a recipe for chaos.

Fire Down Below

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The pressure for strikes is rising and could lead to major confrontations with the government this autumn.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU), with 55,000 members, is in the middle of a deadly serious pay fight, which is set to lead to the first national strikes in the service for 25 years. A series of big FBU demonstrations in the summer--12,000 in London, over 5,000 in Glasgow, over 1,000 in Swansea, 2,000 in Belfast--were marked by a spirit of confidence and determination. A special FBU conference on 12 September was due to agree a ballot for national strike action.

Put the Politics Back into Pride

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The future of London's annual gay and lesbian Mardi Gras is in doubt. Organisers claim it lost nearly £450,000.

They are now talking about selling the Mardi Gras to another company. This should come as no surprise--they did consider the idea of copyrighting the word 'Pride' a number of years ago.

This year's gay and lesbian Pride demonstration was one of the smallest for many years. Ten thousand marched in central London in July while 27,000 attended the Mardi Gras festival at Hackney Marshes. It was only five years ago that 50,000 marched and over a quarter of a million attended a free festival at Clapham Common.

Anti-capitalism - Out of the Bars and Onto the Streets

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One minute past midnight, 20 June in Seville, and we were witnessing something strange. Some 200 young activists were marching round the packed old town waving red and black flags, chanting that the general strike had started, and demanding the bars close. Many landlords obeyed, shutters slammed down, and drinkers went out onto the streets with a smile.

In the morning almost everything was shut. Most had stickers or posters proudly displayed in the window saying 'Closed for the general strike'. At 5am there were 50 pickets at our local bus garage, barricading the entrance. By 7am there were 300 pickets outside the main Seville hospital. The streets were littered with strike leaflets. By midday strikers and supporters were gathering for the strike demonstation.

Media Ownership: The Sky's the Limit for Broadcasters

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'Culture' minister Tessa Jowell's new media bill, released last month, lets the market rip through the television industry, with Rupert Murdoch set to benefit.

Jowell launched the bill just as her previous free market prescription for our screens, digital television, collapsed, leaving behind bad debts, and the bad memory of Johnny Vegas and his monkey.

Jowell's new bill is trumpeted as 'a significant deregulation in media ownership to promote competition'. The deregulation lets Rupert Murdoch bid for a free to viewer television station, Channel 5, to add to his satellite and newspaper empire. It also allows regional television firms like Granada and Carlton to merge.


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