Gutless Brown is willing to see hostages killed

“We will do everything in our power to secure our objective, which is the immediate release of the hostages.”

But…

“The taking of hostages is completely unjustified, wholly unacceptable and we are making it clear they will not change our policy in any way.”

Lest you miss the point, dear reader, I have emphasised the key message: we’ll do everything to save the hostages lives, except that which will bring them home alive as that would damage US or British imperial power.

Supposedly, the seven month delay by Brown was due to Foreign Office fears of a repeat of the kidnappings of Ken Bigley and Margaret Hassan, in which the hostage did not survive. I doubt this very much. The FO’s request to the media to keep the story quiet – which was obeyed, as you’d expect – has allowed Brown to dodge the issue of Iraq.

Most people in the UK want the armed forces to come home safely. Why not do it now and save five civilians, too?

Sadly, there’s not much chance of this happening. New Labour cares not for public opinion. Just look at the way Brown is backing US threats against Iran, despite US intelligence debunking claims by the Bush administration that the Iranian nuclear energy programme disguises a nuclear weapons programme.

What Brown conveys is that neither the British nor American government has any intention of leaving Iraq. Yes, power is being handed to the puppet Iraqi government, but there has been a 2% increase in spending by the British government on the Iraq mission, despite the reduction in troop numbers.

Considering his ascension to the office of prime minister was supposed to mark a change of policy with regard to the UK/US “special realtionship”, this untimely intervention reveals that Brown has no interest in saving the lives of the hostages. Why else wait until the hostage-takers had made public their intentions and demands?

I fear that the hostages will not survive long; not without Brown doing something brave for once in his pathetic life, and bringing all UK service men and women home from Iraq.

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Cop this, Brown

Whoah, get this – secret police strikes! That’s strikes by the police in secret, not strikes by the secret police.

The Association of Chief Police Officers has lined up with the Home Office to impose a real-terms pay cut on rank and file police. The Police Arbitration Tribunal recommended a 2.5% pay rise, but as the UK government has a policy of public sector wage restraint, capping rises at 2%, the increase will not be backdated to September 1 which means the 2.5% is actually 1.9% when you factor in inflation.

This means that the police are in the same boat as the rest of the public sector. It’s either arrogance or stupidity that the government is picking a fight with the police

The secret wildcat action would hit community policing, paperwork, school visits, traffic duties and the issuing of parking tickets. Foot patrols in some areas could also be reduced.

Officers are threatening not to work on their days off or do compulsory overtime. They say they may suffer bouts of so-called “blue flu” and fail to turn up for work if they have even the slightest hint of illness.

It could lead to officers refusing to escort Gordon Brown and fellow Ministers to and from their destinations. Police are also currently working overtime to cope with prisoners housed in police cells under emergency Government measures to combat jail overcrowding.

Class conscious workers have traditionally been antipathetic, sometimes overtly oppposed, to the struggles of rank and file police officers. This is hardly suprising – the police are tasked with preventing working class militancy, as well as preventing criminal activity.

But we must not get locked into fixed ways of thinking about the real world, which is not fixed and cannot be interpreted and acted upon by the use of doctrine. Today police officers are just as affected by neoliberal reforms and wage restraint as other public sector workers, like nurses, teachers, civil servants, fire fighters, etc.

Police officers have become proletarianised. The introduction of Police Community Support Officers – variously dubbed “yellow-clad numpties” and “plastic policemen” – was intended to be a cheap method of increasing police numbers and erode the benefits that police officers have won over the years. This process has introduced police officers to unionised workers – around 50% of PCSOs are members of Unison, the largest public sector union.

This coupled with the glorious walkout by prison staff, an entirely unexpected display of militancy which had overwhelming public support, has taught rank and file police officers that in the current climate, it will not be enough to protest in the traditional fashion. A march on parliament will not worry a government already mired in scandal which is determined to make workers bear the brunt of the economic crisis.

As I said, we are all aware of the social conservatism of prison staff and police officers and the institutionalised racism of the police and prison system. But the ideas working people hold are challenged by their struggle to defend their wages and working conditions.

It is essential that both the Prison Officers Association and the Police Federation win the right to strike and become unions affiliated to the TUC – if any coppers are reading, I urge you to vote “yes” for the right to strike.