- Created: Monday, 18 May 2009 17:07
- Written by Robert Clough
Since Gordon Brown was appointed leader of the Labour Party on 24 June and assumed the mantle of Prime Minister, there has been the expected change of style, with some minor domestic policy concessions to heal rifts with sections of Labour’s support. He has therefore set out executive powers he would consider handing back to Parliament. An early move was to offer meetings with trade union leaders who have been excluded from Downing Street for a decade under Blair’s leadership. A further step was his call for the building of three million new homes by 2020: affordable housing, he declared, is ‘one of the great causes of our time.’ Yet there is a sting in the tail: social house building has fallen by 27% under Labour, and only 13% of all houses built in 2006/07 were for social rent. The majority of new houses will be built for sale; even those that councils build will have to be handed to Arms Length Management Organisations to administer.
On foreign policy there will be no change: Brown swiftly reiterated support for the ‘special relationship’ with the US. There is to be no end to military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan. Foreign Minister David Miliband has refused to rule out the possibility of a military strike against Iran.
Only the most gullible could have imagined that Brown would change from being the absolute personification of the interests of banking capital and the City of London, the architect of successive privatisations, the principal defender of the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), the person who handed the control of interest rates over to the City of London, into someone who would consider any path which did not protect those interests. The change of style and domestic policy cannot hide his unconditional support for capitalism as expressed for instance in his Business Council for Britain which includes chief executive officers of BP, Tesco, GlaxoSmithKline, M&S, and the chairs of Standard Chartered Bank and HSBC. Joining them is Damon Buffini, founder of the private equity firm Permira.
To drive the point home Brown has invited former CBI chief and arch anti-trade unionist Sir Digby Jones to join his government as a trade minister. His call for a ‘government of all the talents’ had led him to approach the Lib Dems, and to appoint the former Met Police Commissioner Lord Stevens as his international security adviser. Although George Monbiot pointed out in The Guardian that none of this open embrace of capitalist interests has stimulated any opposition from the moribund trade union movement, he also says: ‘there is the perpetual fear of something worse. No trade union, quite rightly, wants to let the Tories back in. But if the unions won’t use their power, the contest between the two parties will be scarcely worth fighting.’ As if we had not reached that point years ago!
Brown may be tempted to go for an early general election to secure a personal mandate. The results of two recent by-elections, in Southall and Sedgefield, show that he is unlikely to be troubled too much by Tory opposition since although Labour lost votes, they went to the Lib Dems. Despite a big push in Southall, Respect polled only 1.6%, half that of the Green Party so Brown will be untroubled by the left either. A snap election is possible given rising interest rates, emerging financial problems in the US and the collapse of public-private projects with which Brown is closely associated, particularly that of Metronet, the consortium responsible for maintaining and upgrading the majority of the London underground network.
FRFI 198 August / September 2007