Gordon Blair and Tony Brown

Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials
26 September 2006

To the organisers of the large rally which took place outside Labour's conference, last Sunday, it seemed crystal clear that demanding Blair's immediate resignation was the solution to all problems.

However, on Monday, Brown's speech came as a reminder that this is just an illusion. This speech was the typical balancing act of a seasoned politician. It was full of demagogy, with some half-truths, but mostly half-lies. Above all, it was the speech of a Prime Minister in waiting, intent on showing that he will not rock the boat, while, at the same time, boasting of his ability to make a difference - compared with the incumbent that is! But that, of course, he stopped short of saying!

Having implemented Blair's policies in government for the past 9 years, Brown was not likely to disown them. And he did not. He gave us the same old hot air about "New Labour helping the poor" by making society more affluent for the rich.

Is this why, today, the rich have never been so rich nor social injustices so deep, while 27% of all children are still living in poverty!

Of course, Brown echoed Blair's self-satisfaction about the minimum wage, which is to be increased to £5.35/hr from next month. But he stopped short of admitting that, while even this new rate remains far too low for anyone to make a living, company bosses' earnings increased four times faster than the minimum wage over the past five years!

For good measure, Brown stressed that the minimum wage's increase "will be enforced". Except that he is in the best position to know that such a claim is a farce. By reducing the number of inspectors as a result of budget and so-called "red tape" cuts, Brown's own department has already ensured this failure!

Then came another reason for Brown to congratulate himself - public service investment, his personal hobby horse. But what about the on-going job and services cuts that underlie this investment, in the name of balancing the books in NHS trusts, for instance? And what about the enormous waste of public funds involved in handing out the responsibility for new infrastructure to private sharks as part of PFI deals? Hasn't Blair's and Brown's total commitment to the "market" boosted the share of state funding that goes to private business to unprecedented levels? And who foots the bill for the profiteers' greed, if not the rest of us, public services users?

On all the other issues, Brown had nothing to say that Blair had not already said one way or another. All the reactionary themes which have been so prominent in Blair's speeches of late, were there: terrorism, law and order, immigration, the ID card and what they both call "Britishness" - as if working people and the employers share the same common interest, just because they carry the same passport!

Most glaring of all, however, was how little Brown had to say over Blair's criminal policies in Afghanistan and Iraq. Never mind the fact that after turning Iraq into a killing field for the Iraqi people, these policies are now turning Afghanistan into a lethal quagmire for thousands of British soldiers. Never mind either the fact that, after years of cover up, the torture and gratuitous killing carried out by British forces in Iraq is now starting to be exposed. Brown had nothing to say on any of this, nor on the responsibility that his government shares with the Bush administration in creating this situation in both countries.

Quite obviously, these are issues over which Brown chose not to make his pro-Blair position too prominent for fear of a backlash - should the Labour party leadership contest turn into a referendum on these bloody wars, among the membership.

As Prime Minister in waiting, Brown made a point of showing how "responsible" he is towards the parliamentary system - even to the point of expressing "regrets" for his "past differences" with Blair. This was another way of saying that unlike some of his own allies, maybe, he will do everything he can to ensure a smooth transition from Blair's rule ... to his own, on the basis of complete continuity in terms of policies.

We can take Brown's word for it. Just like Blair, he will be a loyal trustee of the capitalist class. The working class can expect nothing from this game of musical chairs which is being played out in Labour's high spheres.

Whenever Blair goes and whoever replaces him, whether Labour or Tory, the only decisive factor will remain our ability to defend our class interests using our collective strength.