Brown vs Cameron – who can best attack the working class?

First up: Cameron’s plan to abolish the welfare state by privatising the benefits system and using the tabloid stereotypes of benefit claimants as workshy lead-swinging scroungers – all the better for creating guaranteed profits for big business.

Peter “Dodgy Donations” Hain fights back by declaring the Tories have stolen New Labour ideas. (No, I didn’t know they had any, either…)

As Lenny sez:

The policies proposed by both parties are in effect detrimental not only to those claiming IB benefits, but also to the working population as a whole, who are expected to accept reduced wages and security in the government’s model. By no means likely to increase employment and tending to reduce the dignity and conditions of those currently on disability benefits, the government’s policies will – if they are permitted to get away with it – be able to reduce the size of the welfare state. And that, of course, is what it is all about.

To relaunch Brown as the haute bourgeoisie’s best man, New Labour proves it is neither new nor the party of labour by announcing it will criminalise prison officers who take industrial action.

See, they promised to make it legal for the POA to strike – but that was six years ago and it was, after all, a New Labour promise. Remember the promises about a referendum on the EU consti-treaty? It was that kind of promise…

George Galloway had these strong words:

It is an outrage, particularly from a party that continues to rely on trade unionists dues to keep going. Every trade unionist and everyone who cares about rights for working people should stand with the Prison Officers Association in opposing this mugging of their rights.

This is not simply a matter for the POA and it would be foolish to be sidetracked into the minutiae of the rights and wrongs of prison officers. This is a sign of the anti-union measures Brown is prepared to invoke in order to slash working people’s pay while food and fuel bills go through the roof and the banks start foreclosing on mortgages.

(Good news is that up in Scotland, the opportunistic bourgeois nationalists, AKA the SNP, AKA The Alex Salmond Experience, AKA the Scottish government, will not be criminalising prison officers. Let that be another lesson to those who doubt that the working class will be able to gain from the break-up of the UK…)

Even worse than anti-union laws – well, amost as bad – our Darling Chancellor plans three-year pay caps in the public sector. Cue angry noises from the unions.

Here’s what the GMB had to say:

There are four fundamental problems. The first is that the argument that public sector pay has to be controlled to manage down inflation is economically flawed and socially unacceptable. The second is that different parts of the public sector have different needs from pay negotiations and whereas for some a period of stability makes sense for others there is a desperate need for change. The third is that any sensible negotiator will want to see a premium for sacrificing future negotiating rounds and that would mean any long-term deal having to go above RPI – and that isn’t the government’s intention.

Perhaps most importantly of all is whether they can be trusted. After all, the government has reneged on most recent pay review body awards and who’s to say they would honour a 3 year deal? Their track record says otherwise.

For example, among the 1.5 million local government sector workers they want a one-year pay deal that corrects some of the low-pay and unequal pay anomalies as well as catching up on nearly 2% worth of inflation lost in their last pay deal.

The reality is that Brown and Darling want to have public sector pay settled for politically expediency because there will be a general election within the next three years. GMB isn’t interested in those sorts of games – we have members who need good pay rises.

Yep, Gordo and his Darling Chancellor have to appeal to their most important constituency: the ruling class.

That’s 2-1 to New Labour…

The Socialist Worker observes:

Brown got away with his pay freeze last year – helped in part by some union leaders who put their loyalty to Labour above their members. But he knows that the anger from below can only intensify this year.

That’s one reason why Darling is pushing so hard for three-year pay deals. It is also a reason why unions must take a lead in tapping into their members’ anger to bring down Brown’s rotten pay policy.

This year teachers and lecturers could and should take joint industrial action over pay. The civil service workers’ dispute is set to get more bitter.

And the TUC has pledged to coordinate public sector unions including Unison and the GMB in a battle over public sector pay.

These commitments are welcome – but they will remain only words unless union leaders face pressure from below.

We need to build rank and file organisation across different sectors and unions, as well as developing a left wing political alternative to New Labour.

That way we can make sure that 2008 really is a “difficult and dangerous” year for Gordon Brown, David Cameron and all the bosses that seek to make life a misery for the mass of working people in this country.

I’ll second that emotion

PS: Not to be outdone, Nick Clegg – remember him? you know, he looks a bit like Cameron – has hired Thatcher’s ’87 PR man, John Sharkey.

A late start for Clegg in the “mash up the masses” contest, but I’m sure he’ll think up some crazy scheme – bring back the workhouse? a tax on pies? rubber handles on the bins?

No, here’s the killer: free orange juice on the NHS.

Geddit? Orange… Oh forget it.

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