Thursday, March 16, 2006

Now.... is the winter of our discontent

There are those who think that the fuss over the Government's success in driving through the Education Bill with the help of the Tories is so much media froth, and that all will soon be forgotten. I have to say, I don't agree. There are those of us in the Labour Party who have long thought the PM was a Tory cuckoo in the Labour nest, what yesterday's fiasco did was to expose that even further. It is one thing in our first-past-the-post system for a government with a healthy majority to force its manifesto commitments through the House of Commons by whipping/bribing/threatening its members through the lobbies. It is altogether another thing for a government to force its policies through when it has to depend on the votes of the opposition. It poses the question, whose government is this?

The question is exacerbated by the 'loans for peerages' scandal, or whatever its latest name is? Grass roots party members, already horrified to know the sort of money that Cabinet Members can casually sign off on mortgages, or loans obtained from far-right politicians, are disgusted and mystified by a web of deception which is seemingly so shameful it is not even disclosed to the Party Treasurer.

If it is revealed that Blair knew all about this nonsense, and given that he nominates the Peers it is difficult to imagine he didn't, he should do the decent thing and fall on his sword. This is doing irreparable damage to his Government, even Gordon Brown must realise he will be associated with this in the public's mind, and untold damage to the Labour Party. As I think I have made apparent, I honestly don't care what happens to Tony Blair, and if Brown wants to sink with him, that's in his own hands. I do care for the thousands of Labour Party members who work bloody hard for the Party, and over the next six weeks will be out on the doorstep freezing our extermities off in the snow, trying to persuade people that we don't endorse the seedy goings-on by those who have spent so long rubbing shoulders with the wealthy they think they can behave like them. Elected Members on my Council, of all political shades, are not motivated by cash for questions, cash for peerages or any of the rest of the crap we have come to associate with the Westminster Village People. What's more, we are thoroughly sick to the back teeth of listening to Ministers who have no experience of local government lecturing us on how we should engage with local communities. If David Miliband thinks that listening to focus groups in Islington conference rooms gives him an insight into the daily grind of everyday people's lives, he's either deluding himself or trying to fool us.

Dromey has come out of the bushes, presumably because he feels he has been humiliated by this fiasco. But he is also (apart from Mr Harriet Harman) Deputy General Secretary of the TGWU. In two weeks time they will be calling on all of their members in local government to strike over broken promises on pensions. So will UNISON, the GMB and UCAAT. Over one million people could be out on strike, not against their individual employers, but against a Labour Government. Possibly the biggest concerted industrial action since the General Strike. It is time for the General Secretaries of these trade unions to say we want a Labour Government... but not any Labour Government in any circumstances. It is the link with the trade unions that keep many of us in the Labour Party. The trade union leaders have a choice; carry on putting up with this, or stand your ground.