New Labour ousts veteran socialist MP

[Tuesday]

This was inevitablely going to happen – the loyalty of the Campaign Group to the Labour Party now appears foolish as the leadership is seeking to rid itself of supporters of peace and socialism, and perhaps even the support of the unions.

Now that Wareing has broken from New Labour, there is a clear opportunity for the establishment of a unified and pluralist workers’ party in England – that’s if the various left groups, militant unions, and left Labour MPs can sustain a respectful dialogue and concentrate on shared values and interests:

New Labour ousts key anti-war MP, Bob Wareing
by Anindya Bhattacharyya

Veteran anti-war Labour MP Bob Wareing has vowed to stand against New Labour after his constituency party deselected him from his Merseyside seat last week in favour of former minister Stephen Twigg.

“There’s no doubt there’s been a concerted attempt to get rid of me – and it’s coming right from the top,” Bob told Socialist Worker. “I’ve consistently rebelled against what I regard as the anti-Labour policies of the current Labour government.

“Stephen Twigg was a junior minister. He voted for all the things I voted against – the Iraq war, tuition fees, all the privatisation measures. He’s never criticised the government.”

Bob is chair of the all-party Stop the War group in parliament and has been MP for the Liverpool West Derby constituency since 1983.

Fight

He is refusing to go without a fight. He says that he is leaving the Labour Party after 60 years to stand against Twigg at the next general election.

“People have been ringing me up and saying I’ve got to fight on, and that’s what I intend to do,” said Bob. “I want a change in the direction of this government’s policies – towards socialism.”

Anti-war activists and trade unionists in Merseyside rallied to Bob Wareing’s defence this week. “Bob’s deselection is nothing short of a witch-hunt of a principled politician,” said Mark Holt, chair of Merseyside Stop the War Coalition.

“Bob has been consistently targeted for his outspoken opposition to every war that this rotten government has dragged us into. Bob’s stand on these issues makes him a hero.”

Alec McFadden, president of Merseyside TUC, also condemned the decision to deselect Bob. “He has been the foremost constituency MP in Merseyside in terms of supporting trade unions, the working class and peace campaigners,” Alec told Socialist Worker.

Stephen Twigg is a key New Labour figure who lost his seat in the 2005 general election. New Labour have been desperate to find him a safe seat and seized on in-fighting within West Derby to parachute him in.

According to Bob, two trade unions played a key role in removing him from the seat – Usdaw and Amicus, which is now part of Unite.

Bob claims there were irregularities in the ballot that deselected him. He said, “I appealed against all of this, but Labour’s national executive committee ignored me. So much for democracy inside the Labour Party.”

Bob’s challenge to New Labour will be on a range of policy issues: “Far and away the biggest issue is the Iraq war. I was proud to march, with nearly two million others, against that policy.

Bonuses

“But there’s also issues like pay for public servants. Nurses are offered 1.9 percent when the retail price index is at 4 percent. At the same time, fat cats in the City are giving themselves millions in bonuses each year.

“The Labour Party should be in favour of the redistribution of wealth in favour of working people.

“Before I became an MP I was a lecturer, so I know how difficult it was for students even in those days before fees. I voted against tuition fees on the grounds that they discriminate against working class youngsters.”

Bob’s deselection comes at the eve of the Labour Party conference, due to take place in Bournemouth next week. In recent years the conference has passed a series of resolutions on housing, anti-union laws and privatisation that have embarrassed the government.

Now Gordon Brown wants to remove the remaining ability of conference to influence government policy. He is proposing that Labour Party members can only refer their “views” to ministers and the National Policy Forum – which meets behind closed doors.

This is creating a debate among those who until now have argued it was possible to “reclaim” the Labour Party for the left. It comes in the wake of the failure of left wing Labour MP John McDonnell to even get on the ballot paper to challenge Brown for leadership.

Whatever the outcome of these debates, it is outrageous that a veteran Labour left winger like Bob Wareing should be tossed aside because of his principled opposition to war and privatisation.

Everyone in the anti-war movement and wider struggle against neoliberalism should rally to his support.

Word.

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It was cheaper for BP to let refinery workers die…

[Tuesday]

Yet again preventing accidents is thought more expensive than saving lives:

BP weighed costs of refinery blast
Paul Hill
People’s Weekly World Newspaper, 09/13/07

In the ongoing litigation against BP following the March 2005 blast at the company’s Texas City oil refinery that killed 15 workers, a lawyer for some of the victims has produced an internal memo showing BP did a cost-benefit analysis that concluded it would be cheaper to not make structures blast-resistant than it would be to absorb the costs of a possible explosion.

The memo, disclosed by lawyer Brent Coon and reported in the Houston Chronicle, placed a price tag of $10 million on the life of each worker.

Meanwhile, former plant manager Don Parus testified that he was so concerned about three deaths that occurred at the plant in 2004 that he decided to investigate the history of similar incidents. He found that in the 30 years prior to the 2004 deaths, 22 workers had died in the plant. A 23rd was identified later.

Parus, who has been on paid leave since the 2005 explosion, also said a workplace safety study stated, “We have never seen a site where the notion of ‘I could die today’ was so real for so many hourly people.”

Parus said that even though the plant was yielding $100 million a month in profits, his superiors declined to fund upgrades to the physical operations and decided instead to cut his budget.

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board found in their investigation that cuts in costs, training and personnel before the blast led to the tragedy.

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Lib Dem councillors demand referendum on consti-treaty

[Tuesday]

A day late for this news, but what the heck:

A group of 34 Liberal Democrat Councillors today release an open letter calling for a referendum on the revived Constitutional Treaty.

While Sir Menzies Campbell has called for a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, he suggested that the Liberal Democrats might back out of their promise to hold a referendum on the Constitutional Treaty.

Mike Hancock MP, who organised the letter, said: “This letter reflects much wider feeling in the party. Many people in the grass roots of the party think we should be putting pressure on the Government to keep its promise and hold a referendum on the Constitutional Treaty.”

The Councillors’ letter says:

“In 2003 the Liberal Democrats called for a referendum on the EU’s Constitutional Treaty, with the unanimous support of the parliamentary party. At the last election all three main parties called for a vote on the text.

EU leaders are now set to agree a new treaty, which is essentially the same in substance as the original Constitution.

However, the Government is now attempting to back out of its manifesto promise to give voters a say. We believe that the Liberal Democrats should support a referendum on the treaty, and put pressure on the Government not to break its promise.”

If you recall, Ming tried to confuse things by suggesting a referendum on EU membership. Now, it might be that all the other EU countries accept the consti-treaty with only the UK rejecting (no one doubts that a referendum would produce a strong “no” to the so-called amending treaty).

In this event, the UK would be frozen out of the new EU – which is not the same as leaving, mind. Less people would vote against the consti-treaty if the referendum was on EU membership, which is perhaps why Campbell has suggested a referendum on this question.

The response to Ming from Derek Scott, the “I Want a Referendum” campaign’s chairman, was as follows:

“The Liberal Democrats want an honest debate so they must not try to force people into a fake choice between either giving more powers to the EU and leaving altogether.”

“The overwhelming majority of people in Britain want to cooperate in Europe, but not give more powers away.”

“The only honest thing to do is to give people the referendum they were promised on the Constitutional Treaty. If Mr Campbell really wants to have a national debate on the EU, then the only realistic way is to back a referendum on the Constitutional Treaty. Otherwise it is just meaningless.”

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CBI ‘not out to privatise NHS’ shock

[Tuesday]

Those nice, caring (cough) people at the CBI have published a report calling for the privatisation of bits of the NHS.

Oh, sorry, that’s wrong. Don’t say that. The official line is:

“Outdated” GP services should be overhauled to extend opening hours and be more flexible, business leaders say.

The Confederation of British Industry says businesses lose 38m working hours and £1bn a year because employees have to visit their GP during working hours.

It’s not the money, though. It’s the health of working people that concerns the CBI!

But doctors suggested the CBI hoped to benefit from any privatisation of the health service – a charge it denies.

No, surely not. The CBI campaigning for its members to be able to buyout the NHS? Never.

It comes as the government launches the latest stage of its NHS review, hinting it had sympathy with the CBI position.

[…]

John Cridland, deputy director general of the CBI, who said the report was not about wanting NHS privatisation, said there was a lack of innovation in primary care.

There, you see innovation – that’s what concerns the CBI. They’re keen for things to be innovative and flexible.

It’s not about their members profit margins, it’s about serving the people! (That’s why Comrade Digby joined the Brown administration.)

Dr Laurence Buckman, the cynical chairman of the British Medical Association’s GP’s Committee asked the following cynical question:

“Is it possible that the CBI is hoping that its members will be able to take part in future privatisation of the health service?”

Gee, how could anyone think that the CBI want to help big business steal our health service?

Shame on them.

Don’t they know that the CBI is a philanthropic organisation that campaigns to help working people and is not at all concerned with the desire of big business to profit from our public services?

Responding to the CBI report, Health Secretary Alan Johnson said: “We need to tackle this issue…. we need a health service for the 21st century.”

He said the NHS review would focus partly on access to GP care.

Sir Ara Darzi, who is in charge of the review, will also be holding a specific conference in the next few weeks on the future of primary care.

This will look at improving patient access, such as locating GPs in gyms and supermarkets, with companies including Virgin, Boots, Bupa and Lloyds Pharmacy due to attend. [Emphasis added.]

It’s no good, I can’t keep up the sarcasm any more…

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