The race to be Prime Minister has started...

Tweedledum and Tweedledee
Agreed to have a battle;
For Tweedledum said Tweedledee
Had spoiled his nice new rattle.

Just then flew down a monstrous crow,
As black as a tar-barrel;
Which frightened both the heroes so,
They quite forgot their quarrel.

Lewis Carroll, Alice Through the Looking Glass

There are still some in Britain who believe that the Labour Party will be born again through the appointment of a new Prime Minister when Tony Blair finally shuffles off. There are even some on the left who think that Gordon Brown is closer to ‘Old Labour’ than Blair’s New Labour – by which they mean that with Brown in the driving seat, the Labour Party will restore its allegiance to the working class, trade unions and ‘socialism’. ‘Give them another chance’, they will cry. Think again. Gordon Brown is every inch an imperialist, just like Blair and the Labour Party they both belong to. This is Brown’s record on some of the main issues.

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Editorial: London Mayor Election

FRFI 154  April / May 2000

'If voting changed anything, they'd abolish it' 

In May, Londoners will be asked to vote for a new kind of political animal - a London Mayor. There have been many mayors of course - most of them ceremonial like their chains. Even the Lord Mayor to the super-rich corporations in the City of London does not have power to do anything except promote the rich and patronise the poor through charity. But the 'new' political animal, the Mayor of London (Year 2K), will, they say, have the power to run London along the lines of the Mayor of New York City, USA. He or she (let's face it, he) will be a 'mover and shaker'.

London has been without a city-wide governing body since Thatcher disbanded the Greater London Council (GLC) in 1986. So the election of a Mayor and a council -- the Greater London Assembly (GLA) -- will be London's share of New Labour's ill-fated devolution and decentralisation policy. Other mayors of metropolitan areas will follow. Proportional representation, however, has proved a disappointment for New Labour, leaving them without overall control in both the Scottish and Welsh Assemblies. The Scottish Assembly is in trouble and despite selection gerrymandering to produce a Blairite Welsh Labour leader, Alun Michael has now been sent packing back to Westminster where he will doubtless resume his career as a dull junior minister. London's mayoral election is looking increasingly like a re-run of the Welsh debacle.

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Editorial: London Mayor Election 'All that's solid melts...'

FRFI 155 June / July 2000

On 4 May, Ken Livingstone was elected London's first independent metropolitan mayor, gaining 667,877 first preference votes (38.9%). His nearest rival, Conservative Steven Norris, took 464,434 votes (27%) and the official Labour candidate Frank Dobson came a poor third with 223,884 votes (13%). Across the country, in local council elections the Labour Party suffered a consistent drubbing: Labour lost 573 seats compared to Conservative gains of 593. What was also consistent was the appallingly low turn-out for both mayoral and local elections. In London 1.7 million votes were cast out of a possible 5 million (32%); in some areas of the country the turnout was less than 25%.

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Editorial: Terrorised by the Tories / FRFI 157 Oct / Nov 2000

FRFI 157 October / November 2000

Suddenly, there is panic on the left: with a general election likely in spring next year, Labour is trailing in the opinion polls, for the first time since shortly after the 1992 election. And the margin is not small: a poll just before the Labour Party conference gave the Tories an 8% lead. Hague's brutal, racist and populist policies seem to be an attractive option for the middle class and their allies in the upper sections of the working class, whose votes determine the outcome of general elections in this country.

These opinion poll results were a political thunderbolt for the left. Writing in The Guardian (21 September), John O'Farrell stated that `a Tory government is once again a genuine prospect that we have an urgent duty to prevent. So now is the time for everyone on the left to focus on returning a Labour government next year. To all the people who supported Ken Livingstone, all the people who backed Labour in opposition but would rather snipe from the sidelines than be tainted by support; all the people who vote Liberal, Green or Socialist Labour; the time for such luxuries is over now.' The chips are down for O'Farrell: forget the brutalities of the current Labour government, the same brutalities committed by a Tory government are too awful to contemplate.

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Budget: no choice for the working class

FRFI 160 April / May 2001

Every Labour budget since 1997 has been driven by one real consideration – to ensure that the coalition of forces that elected Labour into office remains on board. Labour has to be able to govern in the interests of banking and multinational capital yet keep the support of the professional, middle and upper working classes (middle classes).

Labour's first two budgets assured banking and corporate capital that British capitalism was safe in its hands. Monetary policy was handed over to the Bank of England and a ruthless fiscal policy put in place to slash the public sector deficit and reduce the level of public debt to national income. 'Enterprise' was to be promoted through tax cuts and privatisation. Policies were put in place to discipline the poor working class, and inequality continued to grow as Labour steadfastly stood by its promise not to raise direct taxes on the middle classes. This neo-liberal dogma was called 'prudence'.

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