Labour Party

Can Things Only Get Better?

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The decision by Labour MPs to deny party members the chance to choose their new leader means Gordon Brown will take office at the end of June. Judith Orr looks at the problems he will face and the state of the Labour left, while Michael Bradley examines the response from the unions.

Gordon Brown's time has finally come. On 24 June he will take on the post he has coveted for over a decade. Brown quickly received some good press. The Mirror's headline was "A Leader Born to Serve Us", and there was a three point boost in the polls. The fact that there is a bit of a "Brown bounce" is not surprising. It could hardly be otherwise - he is replacing one of Britain's most unpopular prime ministers. There is a palpable relief that Tony Blair is finally going, and for some a desperate hope that "things can only get better".

Sulphuric Publicity

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Margaret Hodge's claim that eight out of ten voters in Barking have considered voting BNP has given a massive boost to the far right.

I never had much time for Margaret Hodge when she was the leader of Islington council back in the 1980s, and I never knew what wrong the people of Barking, one of London's poorest areas, had done to deserve this millionaire as their MP.

But her behaviour in recent weeks has really put her beyond the pale. I simply don't believe her claim that eight out of ten white families she canvassed in her constituency were "tempted to vote BNP". Even the BNP don't believe that, or they would have put up a full slate of candidates across all the wards in the constituency.

Critical Levels

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Tony Blair's contempt for free speech and democracy has reached critical levels.

The defining image of this year's Labour Party conference was 72 year old Walter Wolfgang being manhandled out of the hall for heckling. That says a lot about both the conference and the popular perception of New Labour. The incident was shocking and demoralising for even the most hardened delegates. That Walter and 600 others in Brighton were detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act has become another mini scandal among Labour members.

Poplar 1921: Guilty and Proud of It

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Keith Flett explains how the Poplar councillors in the 1920s took on the government.

We know Old Labour as being a bit more principled and usually a bit more to the left than Blair's New Labour. We don't think of Old Labour as a party that organises street theatre and film and sees women as activists rather than 'wives'. Yet this is exactly what happened in Poplar in the East End of London in the 1920s, and the example still speaks down the years to those who voted in Respect in East London on 5 May.

Resistance: The Heart of the Matter

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Manoeuvres at Labour Party conference showed contempt for democracy here and in Iraq.

For the third year in succession, Labour's annual conference has allowed Tony Blair to get away with it on Iraq. Voting down a resolution which called for an early date for British troops to withdraw, delegates refused to look reality in the face. Short term interests - the need for a united conference, especially on the day of the Hartlepool by-election and shortly before a projected general election next May - took precedence over long term Labour interests, let alone the interests of the Iraqi people.

Women on the Front Line: Rage Against the System

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Sally Campbell explains why women lead the fight against Blair and New Labour, while Tash Shifrin spoke to some leading activists.

Further down the page are just some of the women who are on the front line against Blair, war and capitalism. Recently we have seen movements arising with an unprecedented level of involvement by women. One of the most enduring images in the last few years will be the school students in Parliament Square on the day the bombing of Iraq started - young women, in their school uniforms, being dragged along by police because they refused to move. Women have been prominent at the World and European Social Forums that have taken place throughout the world over the last few years.

Trade Unions: Making Labour Pay

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The expulsion of the RMT from the Labour Party is hastening calls to democratise trade union political funds - and not before time.

For 100 years the trade union movement has loyally backed the Labour Party. In the past few months real cracks have begun to open up. At midday on 7 February 2004 the Labour leadership expelled the RMT. Its crime? A special conference decision to uphold the right of branches and regions to support parties other than the Labour Party. The decision to expel the RMT was not just made by the cabal around Blair - NEC delegates from Amicus, GMB, GPMU, TGWU and Unison voted for their expulsion. Members of the 'awkward squad' control all five of these unions!

Democracy: A Grand Delusion

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Capitalism as economic democracy? Paul Foot has heard it all before.

For at least a hundred years there has been a continuous and hard-fought struggle between capitalism and democracy. Now a miraculous solution has been discovered by New Labour in the shape of its dynamic secretary of state for trade and industry, Patricia(n) Hewitt. Capitalism and democracy, she asserts in her new pamphlet A Labour Economy: are we nearly there yet?, are the same thing!

Faith of their Fathers

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Attempts to 'reclaim' Labour have always disappointed.

I wrote an article for Socialist Review shortly after the Labour election victory six years ago warning people how bad a Labour government could be. I did so because there were very large numbers of people on the left 'whose only experience has been of the 18 years of Tory government' and who felt that 'this is fantastic, things must get better, things must improve'.

Lights Go Out in Blair Bunker

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Campbell‘s departure is unlikely to halt the repackaging of privatisation.

With the ’dodgy dossiers‘ on Iraq in tatters and indeed the entire Blairite project heading for meltdown, now might be a useful point to turn attention to how the government‘s case for privatisation is being repackaged. Just like the war, it continues to be advocated at every available turn, despite overwhelming opposition from the general public.

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