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26 March 2013
UK LABOUR PARTY LEADER CONDONES SLAVE LABOUR
For a long time now the radical left in Britain has been fossicking for incontrovertible evidence that would incriminate the leader of the UK Labour Party, Edward Miliband, as an unreconstructed Blairite.
Antony Blair was UK Prime Minister (PM) from 1997 to 2007. Although he was then leader of the Labour Party – a one-time socialist party that had been moving steadily to the right since its foundation – Blair made it his business to turn the party into a hotbed of conservative reaction rivalling the traditionally reactionary Tory Party. In fact, Blair made no secret of his admiration for a ruthless earlier Tory Leader, Margaret “Iron Lady” Thatcher, who was PM from 1979 to 1990. The word “socialism” itself was anathema to Blair and he is said never to have used the term. Abroad Blair led his country into the disastrous Iraq War (2003-2011), in which up to 600 000 people were slaughtered. At home, he espoused “triangulation”, which entailed following a “Middle Way” between moderate social reaction and extreme social reaction. An arch opponent of human rights, he ignored the poor and the weak but was “intensely relaxed” in the presence of the “filthy rich”.
Blair eventually became so unpopular that he was forced to resign as PM and his equally unpopular pro-capitalist successor Gordon Brown (PM from 2007 to 2010) was subsequently ousted by the Tories and Liberal Democrats in the 2010 parliamentary elections.
CAIN AND ABEL
Edward “Cain” Miliband succeeded Brown as leader of the Labour Party in 2010 after an epic fratricidal contest for the job with his brother David “Abel” Miliband.
Afraid of being contaminated by the unpopularity of his predecessors, Miliband immediately sought to play down his past involvement with Blairism.
However, the fact remains that Miliband was a junior minister under Anthony Blair and served twice as a minister under Gordon Brown, so it is not surprising that he still reeked of Blairism.
However, it has been difficult to substantiate this he has studiously avoided announcing any policies at all since he became Labour Party leader.
THE INVISIBLE MAN
The Miliband strategy is to do nothing – since anything he might do could be criticized – in the hope that the snowballing unpopularity of the current Tory/Liberal Democrat coalition Government will allow the premiership to fall into his lap when it next comes up for grabs in the 2015 parliamentary elections.
This strategy has turned out to be double-edged. On the one hand, it does mean that nothing Miliband proposes can be criticized for the simple reason that he proposes nothing. On the other hand, it means he rarely enjoys the life-giving oxygen of political publicity. In fact, in political circles, he is known as the Invisible Man.
As a result of Miliband’s policy of not putting forward any policies, it has been very difficult to pin on him the fatally damaging charge that he is an unreformed Blairite who, in office, would not hesitate to continue the lurch to the right pioneered by this predecessors.
However, last week the mask dropped and Miliband was caught bang to rights with a smoking gun in his hand. The hard-as-nails dyed-in-the-wool Blairite reactionary had at last been outed.
It happened like this.
SLAVE LABOUR IN ROMAN BRITAIN
Among a slew of hard-right policies, the UK coalition Government has introduced a workfare scheme which involves unemployed people being forced to work for nothing in dead-end jobs. In Roman times this was known as slave labour. Today it is called workfare. In point of fact, it is not really work – how can it be work if it is not remunerated? – and it is self-evidently not fair.
Benefits have been cut or stopped for jobless people who refuse to take part in the workfare programme.
Then suddenly last month on 12 February 2013 an unexpected bolt from the blue stopped the welfare scheme in its tracks.
Three senior judges at the UK Court of Appeal ruled that the workfare scheme was illegal as the regulations in question had not been laid before parliament as was required by law.
Moreover, since the judges also ruled that their decision would take immediate effect, those victims of workfare whose benefits had been withdrawn were entitled to have them restored. As a result, some 250 000 people are estimated to be entitled to rebates of perhaps £130 million.
CONSTERNATION IN WHITEHALL
Cue consternation in government offices in Whitehall!
The Government immediately drew up new emergency regulations countermanding the judges’ ruling. These regulations it presented to parliament for a vote on 19 March 2013 last week. The regulations were intended to be retroactive, thus preventing the payment of any rebates due under the court ruling.
And here at last we come to the point of this story.
It was generally thought that even a reactionary Labour leadership would baulk at approving a slave labour programme which it had been criticizing for months.
Moreover, if Labour voted against the new regulations, the Government risked losing the vote.
That was not, however, how things turned out.
“MILIBLAIR” BARES HIS FANGS
To the general astonishment of political analysts, when the vote came up, Miliband instructed Labour parliamentarians to abstain. Members of the Labour shadow cabinet were threatened with losing their jobs if they voted against the regulations.
Nonetheless, 44 Labour Members of Parliament defied the party whip and voted against the new slave labour programme. They included a parliamentary private secretary who resigned from the Labour shadow government rather than abstain in the vote.
However, this rebellion was not enough to prevent the measure being approved.
Miliband had thus ensured that the new slave labour regulations were approved and that no rebate would be paid to the hundreds of thousands of unemployed people whose benefits had been stopped illegally by the Government.
As a result, Miliband’s Blairite credentials are now permanently on display for all to see.
The Labour leadership’s action has attracted bitter criticism on the broad left, not only among the Labour Members of Parliament (MPs) who rebelled against the party whip.
For instance, in the London Guardian on 22 March 2013, Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite union, is quoted as saying: “Abstention in the vote risks being seen as tacit acceptance of forced labour. Labour needs to understand that it is the opposition to a disastrous government waging class war against the poor. Labour failed to provide that opposition, with the honourable exception of the 44 MPs who stood up for core Labour values of decency and justice”.
It is understood that the UK Supreme Court is being asked to declare the new regulations a breach of human rights and a flagrant denial of justice. Moreover, the constitution committee in the House of Lords is said to have questioned whether the new regulations can be implemented retrospectively under the constitution.
Whatever happens to these particular regulations, the whole country now knows without a shadow of doubt that Miliband and his political cohorts stand firmly in the Blairite camp. Hopefully, it will bear that in mind when it votes for a new parliament in 2015.
You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts. For instance:
1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
5.Ladder (21 June 2012)
6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)
Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.