Labour Party

It is important to vote

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I was struck by an obituary in the Guardian a few months ago. It was in the "Other Lives" section, where friends and family write in to celebrate the lives of people who were their own "local heroes".

This man had lived in Plymouth, where he worked on the railways, went off to fight in the Second World War, then carried on working on the railways, was a member of Aslef, and a Labour councillor who became mayor.

Then in 2003 he left Labour because of the war in Iraq.

Labour's last throw of the dice

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Commentators in the Guardian were left clutching at straws in the wake of the queen's speech outlining the government's legislative programme in the run up to the general election.

Polly Toynbee described it as "a programme of substance flashing out a lighthouse reminder of what Labour stands for" and Seamus Milne opined that it is "a deathbed conversion to a more recognisably social democratic agenda".

Darling's budget - the shape of cuts to come

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Alistair Darling is "Red All Over", wailed The Times. "Return Of Class War", screamed The Daily Telegraph.

Newspaper editors are presumably part of the 0.6 percent of the population who will be hit by the 50 percent top rate of income tax announced by the chancellor in his budget. But this measure should be put in context. When Labour last left office in 1979 the top rate was 83 percent.

The Financial Times (FT) was more realistic about Labour's budget. Behind the headlines and spin, it argued, were a record budget deficit and a prelude to a savage assault on the public sector.

The grotesque bargain

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Last month Gordon Brown became the nearly man.

The debacle of his preparing for an election and then pulling back from it has confused and demoralised his own side, and given the Tories a major political advantage. While the election has probably now been pushed back nearly two years, Brown's own popularity has plummeted in the opinion polls.

Unity in action

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I was sorry that John McDonnell's campaign to stand as Labour Party leader came to a halt.

It was good that he stood. His campaign threw up issues of substance, by him openly opposing both the Iraq war and privatisation, for example. It is incredible that not even the requisite handful of Labour MPs could be found to nominate him.

Instead we have been offered a pale shadow of a contest - the deputy leadership race. Just how little of an alternative is on offer can be seen from looking at the material distributed to members of affiliated unions (of which my union, the PCS, is not one, I should point out).

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.

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