Wednesday 13 December 2006

The Latest in the Blair Legacy Agenda

It's been just another week in the Blair legacy agenda.

On Monday the Government introduced into Parliament its National Offender Management Scheme (NOMS) Bill. The way the probation and prison services have been set up for privatisation under this legislation has been in classic, text book New Labour style. You've got to hand it to them, they never fail to disappoint when it comes to the art of dissembling.

First the media gets set up to run a series of stories about how the probation service is failing to meet its targets and is fed a range of spurious statistics and a few shock case stories. Second you find an ambitious junior minister with a trade union background to seek to reassure everyone that this is not privatisation really but simply the wider involvement of the voluntary sector. Next you prompt a few supportive statements from voluntary sector bodies, which by the way are likely to gain huge sums from contracts awarded by the Government as a result of the legislation. And then you mobilise newly elected backbench MPs, who are aspiring to become the bag carrier to a minister, to eulogise in the Commons chamber about the wonders of private prisons.

Despite 27 Labour MPs voting against the Bill, it gets through its first stage in the House of Commons and New Labour begins the process of allowing private companies to garner massive profits from the imprisonment of our fellow citizens, something which in opposition when the Tories tried it on Jack Straw described as immoral. I thought the scenes from Harmondsworth might have given the New Labour project second thoughts about the disaster of allowing a private company run part of the justice system but I forgot it isn't any more "what works is what matters" but "what profits is what matters."

The week took a further tragic downturn with daily reports of more large scale loss of life in Iraq and Afghanistan. Each Prime Minister's Question Time now seems to start with the sadness of an expression of condolence for another British soldier killed in conflict.

Today the next part of the Blair legacy agenda was revealed by the leaking of the Hayden Phillips report on party funding. Again this was a classic New Labour stroke. Here we have New Labour caught out bending the rules on the declaration on the registration of loans to the party and up to its neck in the loans for peerages investigation. What is the New Labour strategy? We shouldn't ever be surprised. It is to turn weakeness and defence into attack by using the situation to promote its long held scheme for breaking the link between the Labour Party and the trade unions.

Leaving aside the need to cap election expenditure which we all agree with, the report's proposals prevent the party from being funded on any scale by the trade unions but leave the Tory party free to be funded by a multiplicity of rich individual donors. In one fell swoop the trade union link is broken, Labour is financially crippled in contrast with the Tories unless it resorts to funding from a large number of rich individuals and from state funding. New Labour will have achieved the ambition Blair and Mandelson dreamed of. They will have transformed the Labour Party into the Democrat or Republican party whose sole role is to secure the electoral rotation of an unaccountable political elite, largely representing big business.

Allegations are now being levelled that these proposals form part of a deal cooked up in secret discussions between Blair and Cameron. The silence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer over the last 24 hours appears to demonstrate that he has been complicit in their development. It is widely known that he has reacted badly against decisions at the Labour Party conference supported by the trade unions which opposed his privatisation policies.

So just another week in New Labour's legacy project to privatise the last traces of the welfare state introduced by past Labour Governments and to destroy the Labour party itself.

If you are a member of the Labour Party now is the time more than ever to contact your nearest Labour MPs and demand they stand up to this threat.

If you are a member of a trade union affiliated to the Labour Party, get your union in gear at every level to defeat this attempt to break the link. If we don't win this one there wont be a second chance as your voice will no longer be heard within the party.