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Will Tony Blair resign tomorrow?


John Simkin
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A public opinion poll over the weekend put Labour in 3rd place (28%). Tories were at 32% and Liberal Democrats at 29%. Another poll put Tories at 32% and Labour at 31%. All the recent polls suggest a coalition government after the next election.

Labour spin-doctors have been spreading a rumour that Blair will stand down if Labour lose tomorrow’s by-election at Hartlepool. This has been put around because Labour polls show that they are almost certain to win this seat. On 14th September a Channel 4 poll showed that Labour were on 53%, Lib Dems (20%) Tories (13%) and Ukip (9%). The main issue at the time concerned the possibility that the Tories could end up in 4th place.

There are a couple of reasons why Labour is doing so well in Hartlepool. The local party was unhappy with having Peter Mandelson imposed on them. Therefore they were determined to get a local candidate. The Labour Party in Hartlepool submitted a list of 26 possible candidates. Most of these were local councillors. The NEC insisted on a 3 man shortlist. It only included one local man, Iain Wright and he was duly selected.

The Lib Dems selected a woman, Jody Dunn. Although born in Hartlepool she left the town in order to study at university. New Labour immediately began a campaign against Dunn based on the idea that she was an outsider (this was the party that forced Mandelson on Hartlepool). They also mounted a leaflet and poster campaign claiming that she was soft on drugs and favoured rights for gypsies (lovely people these New Labourites).

The main issue is the possible closure of Hartlepool Hospital. Tony Blair was quick to promise that the hospital would not close down if they elected Wright as the town’s MP. Wright also claimed that he was a strong opponent of closure and that he had signed a “Save Our Hospital” petition. However, last week it was revealed that he had not signed the petition. What is more, as a councillor, he had agreed a planning application to allow the selling of part of the hospital’s land.

New Labour has been able to keep this news out of the local newspaper, the Hartlepool Mail (Mandelson had arranged for the previous editor to be sacked after he had published critical reports of the MP). The story is now getting around and appears to be changing people’s views. The use of the smear campaign against Jody Dunn also appears to be backfiring. The local party has turned against Wright and according to a report in yesterday’s Guardian local members have been shocked by the smear campaign. Half of the town’s councillors are refusing to work for Wright.

Could Blair have got it wrong again. Will he really resign if he is defeated tomorrow?

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No.

Having just delivered a conference speech that was pretty much accepted by most of the party as just about contrite enough, and slightly shifting towards a more traditional 'old' Labour set of policies, I think that he has done enough. I also don't believe that he has any intention of quitting at all, but like dear old Maggie wants to go 'on and on and on'.

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The good news is that Tony Blair has announced he will resign. The bad news is that it will not be for another five years. I suspect he expected Labour would get beaten in Hartlepool and calculated that his statement about his operation and his intention to go on for a third term would takeover the front pages. As it happens, he has done the Tories a favour as they were beaten into fourth place. Labour saw a 17% fall in their vote and although the Liberal Democrats saw a 18% increase, they were coming from too far back to obtain a victory.

Polls are suggesting that those with left of centre political views are voting Liberal Democrats. Those right of centre are voting for either the Tories or Ukip. Labour are being left with the loyalists. As one old woman said as she left the polling booth. “I’ve always voted Labour. I can’t change now.” This could make for an interesting General Election. I am not sure that given this switch in voting habits, any seat, Labour or Tory, is safe. UK history means that voters are reluctant to vote for neo-fascist parties. However, they will vote for neo-fascist politicians in non-fascist parties. This enabled the Tories to win large majorities under Thatcher. It also allows people to vote for Ukip where they have in the past rejected the BNP.

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The good news is that Tony Blair has announced he will resign. The bad news is that it will not be for another five years. I suspect he expected Labour would get beaten in Hartlepool and calculated that his statement about his operation and his intention to go on for a third term would takeover the front pages. As it happens, he has done the Tories a favour as they were beaten into fourth place. Labour saw a 17% fall in their vote and although the Liberal Democrats saw a 18% increase, they were coming from too far back to obtain a victory.

Polls are suggesting that those with left of centre political views are voting Liberal Democrats. Those right of centre are voting for either the Tories or Ukip. Labour are being left with the loyalists. As one old woman said as she left the polling booth. “I’ve always voted Labour. I can’t change now.” This could make for an interesting General Election. I am not sure that given this switch in voting habits, any seat, Labour or Tory, is safe. UK history means that voters are reluctant to vote for neo-fascist parties. However, they will vote for neo-fascist politicians in non-fascist parties. This enabled the Tories to win large majorities under Thatcher. It also allows people to vote for Ukip where they have in the past rejected the BNP.

Wishful thinking on your part, John. The General Election will result in another victory for Labour with a reduced, but still healthy majority. You are correct to suggest that the Tories will make little headway. As long as Michael Howard remains as leader and memories of the 1990s are still fresh in the minds of the voters, the Conservatives will not form a government. The Hartlepool by-election saw them relegated to fourth place, behind UKIP. The plurality voting system in this country weighs heavily against major inroads being made by the Liberal Democrats.

As Thatcher herself said, in reference to the shared cultural heritage of Britain and the USA: “we stand on the same hallowed moral ground: an abiding belief in the sanctity of the individual." Thatcher did not limit trial by jury, or restrict the right to vote. Thatcher’s main aims were to reduce the power of government, decrease the tax burden and to promote private enterprise. Yes, she reduced the powers of the trade unions after their ability to hold a government to ransom was so amply demonstrated in the 1970s. I am, let me add, no Thatcherite, but to refer to her as a neo-Fascist is far too simplistic and wrong.

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It is pure Tory propaganda to state “Thatcher’s main aims were to reduce the power of government, decrease the tax burden and to promote private enterprise.” She did nothing of the sort. She increased the power of government during her period of power. Nor did she reduce the tax burden. What she did was to change the shift in the tax burden from the rich to the poor. She did this by reducing income tax and increasing indirect taxes.

After 1945 the policies of various governments, both Labour and Tory, gradually reduced the gap in wealth between the rich and poor. This was mainly achieved by progressive taxation and increased spending on the welfare state. Thatcher reversed this trend and increased the gap to a level not experienced since the 19th century. This policy has been continued by Blair (son of Thatcher). As a result, according to the Inland Revenue website, households in the lowest fifth of incomes paid a total of 38% in tax in 2002-03, while the highest fifth paid only 35%.

This is clearly the policy of New Labour as only 18 MPs signed a motion calling for increases in income tax. As these MPs pointed out:

If a new tax net band at 50% were introduced for those earning in excess of £100,000, it would raise an additional £4.8bn; and if the UK's annual contribution to Nato was reduced to be the same as the average percentage (ie 0.7%) of monies spent on defence by the western European Nato nations, this would save another £7.3bn.

Some of the alternative ways of investing this windfall are: £3bn a year could end all fuel poverty; £1.9bn would allow us to double the winter fuel allowance for pensioners; £2bn would pay for six medium-sized district general hospitals and their operational costs; £600m would cover costs for linking basic state pensions to earnings increases; £1.35bn year would pay for all tuition fees for higher education; £450m would allow all prescription charges to be scrapped; £2bn could lift some 200,000 children out of poverty; £800m invested in wave energy power generation would be a significant contribution to our climate change and emission reduction strategy.

These are of course all socialist policies and therefore unacceptable to New Labour. It is indeed the Liberal Democrats who now support these policies. This is the reason why they are doing so well in areas that were once considered to be safe Labour seats.

The problem for Michael Howard is that Blair has taken Tory policies. In some cases (pensions) he has moved to the left of Labour, but in most areas he has moved to the right. Like Thatcher, Howard tries to make use of nationalists and neo-fascist elements in the UK. (It is no surprise that the BNP did very badly when Thatcher was in power).

The irony is that Blair would have got away with all this if he had not decided to become Bush’s poodle. Up until then he had relied on Focus Groups made up of swing voters. If he continued doing this he would have been safe. However, trying to give the impression he was a conviction politician, he began developing policies that reflected faith rather than reality.

This has weaken Blair enough to persuade those few socialists left in New Labour to begin plotting against their leader. They have chosen Gordon Brown as their candidate to takeover from Blair (highly debateable decision). After all, they argue, all the good things that have taken place since 1997 can be traced back to Brown (although they accept that Brown is probably no longer a socialist).

Blair responds to that challenge by trying to undermine Brown. This is a serious mistake. Brown, aware that the history of the Labour Party suggests that disloyalty is not rewarded, would have been willing to continue to wait until he was anointed as prime minister. Blair’s statement last Thursday night is likely to force Brown to take action. He is aware that there is a good chance the economy is about to encounter serious problems over the next two years. If he stays in power this will have an impact on the way Brown will be seen by historians). Brown must be very tempted to resign. In he does this, even only a slightly critical comments about Blairism will probably lead to the fall of his leader.

Even if this does not happen like this, I do not believe Blair can win an overall majority in the next election. I think the situation will be like it was in 1940. Whereas Labour refused to serve in a coalition under Neville Chamberlain, Liberal Democrats will refuse to serve under Blair. He will then go off and live in his new £3.5 million house (and who is Martha Greene?).

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We do not know what will happen in the next election.

I am interested in the role of the union leaders in propping up Blairism in a variety of ways. Perhaps the most significant of these is to suggest that Labour can be reclaimed (unlikely) and then suggesting that a shift of leadership from Blair to Brown (for heaven's sake!) would represent the reclaiming of Labour as a party of the working class, or at least a party which trade unions could legitimately spend their members' money on.

There is a growing voice in the unions which seeks to disaffiliate from Labour and create a workers' party. This is not dissimilar from the moves which created the Labour Representation Committee in the last century.

The individual fate of Mr Tony Blair is insignificant but a lot of people would like to see him punished in some way for Iraq. If he were to retire on health grounds or still worse kick the bucket then he will become sanctified and beyond reproach....which would be a shame. <_<

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The individual fate of Mr Tony Blair is insignificant but a lot of people would like to see him punished in some way for Iraq.  If he were to retire on health grounds or still worse kick the bucket then he will become sanctified and beyond reproach....which would be a shame. <_<

For the sale of the national (and future) political consciousness, Blair must be punished for persuading Parliament to give its approval for an illegal war. I agree his death would undermine this. He must be brought down and fully exposed for the lies he has told.

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John wrote: It is pure Tory propaganda to state “Thatcher’s main aims were to reduce the power of government, decrease the tax burden and to promote private enterprise.” She did nothing of the sort. She increased the power of government during her period of power. Nor did she reduce the tax burden. What she did was to change the shift in the tax burden from the rich to the poor. She did this by reducing income tax and increasing indirect taxes.

Does wholesale privatisation not reduce the role of the state and allow private enterprise to flourish? The British economy was in a sorry state in the 1970s. Thatcher introduced some much needed reforms and some of these reforms have had positive long-term benefits. Between 1979 and 1989 owner occupation increased from 55 to 63%. When Margaret Thatcher took office, there were 3 million private shareholders; when she left, there were almost 11.5 million. She also reduced bureaucracy by cutting the number of civil servants by around 25% in her time in office. In Nigel Lawson's final Budget, in 1988, income tax was reduced to a standard rate of 25%, against the 33% the Conservatives had inherited; he set a top rate of 40%, which has stood to this day. However, as you indicate VAT increased from 8% to 17.5%. Does this latter point automatically make her a neo-fascist?

These are of course all socialist policies and therefore unacceptable to New Labour. It is indeed the Liberal Democrats who now support these policies. This is the reason why they are doing so well in areas that were once considered to be safe Labour seats.

The Labour Party is self-evidently not a Socialist Party any longer and I doubt that even with the removal of Blair that it will ever become so again. Indeed, I agree with you that if you want a socialist alternative among the mainstream parties, then vote for the Liberal Democrats.

The problem for Michael Howard is that Blair has taken Tory policies. In some cases (pensions) he has moved to the left of Labour, but in most areas he has moved to the right. Like Thatcher, Howard tries to make use of nationalists and neo-fascist elements in the UK. (It is no surprise that the BNP did very badly when Thatcher was in power).

Margaret Thatcher was (is) a ‘Little Englander’. Of that there is little doubt. Michael Howard is ideologically close to Thatcher, but he has obviously tried to re-brand himself by coming up with new policies on such things as tuition fees and pensions. He will fail to make much ground in the next election, however, because he is tainted with the Tory sleaze of the early 1990s. I have little time for either Howard or Thatcher, but although they could be labelled nationalist, they are not neo-fascists. Is it wrong to discuss immigration issues? I assume that is what you refer to when you mention they are trying “to make use of nationalists and neo-fascist elements in the UK.” The BNP is much more of an electoral machine now than it ever was in the 1980s, although they will still find it nigh on impossible to make a dramatic impact at the national level.

Even if this does not happen like this, I do not believe Blair can win an overall majority in the next election. I think the situation will be like it was in 1940. Whereas Labour refused to serve in a coalition under Neville Chamberlain, Liberal Democrats will refuse to serve under Blair. He will then go off and live in his new £3.5 million house (and who is Martha Greene?).

Given the constraints of the electoral system and the malaise of Conservatism, I cannot see how Blair will fail to secure his third term with a decent overall majority. Two major obstacles remain in his path: the brooding presence of a ‘betrayed’ Gordon Brown and the Prime Minister’s own health. Iraq is undoubtedly an electoral liability, but he did manage to get through the Labour Party's annual conference relatively unscathed. At this stage in 1986 (a matter of months before the general election in 1987), Kinnock was neck and neck in the polls with Thatcher, or very narrowly behind. In 1987, the Conservatives were returned with a 102 seat majority, 42 down on 1983. In 1991-2, Kinnock was ahead of Major in the polls, but Major returned with a majority of 21 after the April 1992 General Election. Both times, Labour failed to unseat the ruling Conservative Party. I somehow cannot envisage either Howard or Kennedy upsetting the apple cart this time around. It would take a swing of monumental proportions to get anywhere near a 'hung parliament'.

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I have noted you have not replied to my points about how Thatcher/Blair have redistributed wealth in favour of the top 20% of the population. Or that Thatcher increased rather than reduced government spending. I assume you accept that I am right on this.

I am not sure your point about shareholding. It is indeed true that the British people lost ownership of several nationalised industries during Thatcher’s reign. As a former Conservative prime minister said at the time, Thatcher sold off the family silver in order to give tax cuts to the rich. I would not have thought that is something to be proud of.

Thatcher in fact carried out policies similar to those of Ronald Reagan in the United States. Both expressed this ideology of cutting back government spending. Of course, in some areas, like in education, transport and health, the government did make cut backs. As a result both countries saw increases in unemployment. However, in other areas, government spending increased dramatically. This was especially true of arms spending. As a result, both Reagan and Thatcher found it impossible to balance the budget. For example, by the time Reagan left office he had tripled the national debt to $3 trillion. One of the things that has been good about New Labour is that they have attempted to balance the budget. Although they have not done it in the same way as I would have done. My views is that of the 18 rebel Labour MPs quoted above.

When I use the term “neo-fascist” I mean an extreme right-wing political party. This is how I saw the Conservative Party in the 1980s. In other words, the ability to pass legislation to increase the income and power of the wealthy. In this Thatcher was highly successful. At the same time she undermined the poor by creating large scale unemployment and by passing legislation that weakened the trade union movement.

Unfortunately, the British public was largely unaware of what she was up to in the 1980s. It was only in the 1990s that people became disillusioned with what the Tories had done. They were ready to accept a move to the left. The powers that be, including people like Rupert Murdoch, realised the game was up. They therefore decided to abandon the Tories and give its support to New Labour. As a result, the powers that be, managed to preserve much of what Thatcher had done.

The people have now sussed out Blair and once again Murdoch and co will have to take action to maintain the status quo. They cannot bring back the Tories (the people have still not forgiven them for what they did in the 1980s and 1990s). This time it is going to be much more difficult. Currently they are doing what they can to prop up Blair. However, they are making moves to persuade him to resign. For example, Blair recently took out a £3m mortgage. This is based on the money he will receive for his memoirs published by HarperCollins. This is very similar to the deal given to Margaret Thatcher by HarperCollins. Who owns HarperCollins? Rupert Murdoch of course. Not that Thatcher or Blair will ever sell that many books. However, it is a great way to pay a bribe.

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John Simkin (blue):

I have noted you have not replied to my points about how Thatcher/Blair have redistributed wealth in favour of the top 20% of the population. Or that Thatcher increased rather than reduced government spending. I assume you accept that I am right on this.

I fail to see how Blair has redistributed wealth to the top 20% of the population by not reducing the top rate of income tax. Gordon Brown has presided over many redistributive policies, including the working families tax credit and the minimum wage. Blair’s government have also quite drastically increased expenditure on public services, notably health care, transport and education. The lower-level tax band of 10% has also gone some way to relieving the pressure on the poorest sections of society. Several million people have been taken out of taxation at the bottom end of the income scale. Although New Labour are far from being socialists, I would not bracket them with the neo-liberalism of Thatcherism.

Margaret Thatcher did marginally increase government spending, much of which was spent on the armed forces at the height of the Cold War. Some people would consider that perfectly understandable given the circumstances in which she ruled. However, the excessive adherence to monetarism did help to increase unemployment, pushing up the social security budget as a result.

I am not sure your point about shareholding. It is indeed true that the British people lost ownership of several nationalised industries during Thatcher’s reign. As a former Conservative prime minister said at the time, Thatcher sold off the family silver in order to give tax cuts to the rich. I would not have thought that is something to be proud of.

We’ll have to disagree on this one. Failing and heavily subsidised nationalised industries were sold off, allowing people an opportunity to invest their wealth in new enterprises. I see this as a positive move and one which encourages a measure of self-reliance.

Edited by Chris McKie
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When I use the term “neo-fascist” I mean an extreme right-wing political party. This is how I saw the Conservative Party in the 1980s. In other words, the ability to pass legislation to increase the income and power of the wealthy. In this Thatcher was highly successful. At the same time she undermined the poor by creating large scale unemployment and by passing legislation that weakened the trade union movement.

Am I permitted to call Michael Foot’s Labour Party of the early 1980s neo-Communist? It’s not a term I would use, but people on the left of the political spectrum far too easily use provocative labels like neo-fascist to describe democratically elected, albeit right-wing politicians like Thatcher. The term itself is misleading and it is largely that which brought about my contributions to this thread. Her economic policy was neo-liberal and she did many things to this country which were disastrous, partly due to her adherence to these principles. Thatcher did weaken the trade union movement and quite right too. The union barons bear a great deal of responsibility for James Callaghan’s defeat in 1979 and the economic malaise of 1970s Britain. You might think she went too far, but that does not make her a neo-fascist. I reiterate that I have little time for Thatcher but I cannot see the merit in labelling her a neo-fascist.

Edited: sorry for two separate posts, but I experienced some difficulties with my original post!

Edited by Chris McKie
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Blair has said that he will serve another term but not a fourth - he plans to resign before that election takes place.

As was remarked upon during a conversation I heard on the radio yesterday, this is a first that a PM plans his resignation as part of his manifesto for the next term of office....a case of 'vote for Blair as he is leaving'!? :)

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Blair has said that he will serve another term but not a fourth - he plans to resign before that election takes place.

As was remarked upon during a conversation I heard on the radio yesterday, this is a first that a PM plans his resignation as part of his manifesto for the next term of office....a case of 'vote for Blair as he is leaving'!?  :)

Or, perhaps a case of vote for Blair in order to scupper Gordon Brown's dreams of the premiership. :)

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Blair/Brown = Pepsi/Coke

If the Labour and Tory Parties could be described as a single entity the Labour "modernisers" are even more so.

(Incidentally the reaction to the Orange Book in which the Liberal Democrats espoused privatisation so long as it was called "liberalisation" was "we really do not need a third Blairite/Conservative Party in this country".)

There is no choice. The outcome of the election is really neither here nor there. Whichever result makes it more likely that the Trade Unions will break from New Labour for good and all...is the better result.

In the last century those who advocated abreak from Liberalism were seen as "agents of the Tories". New Labour isn't even a *lesser* evil. In many cases they have proven worse than the Tories

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Blair/Brown = Pepsi/Coke

In the last century those who advocated abreak from Liberalism were seen as "agents of the Tories". New Labour isn't even a *lesser* evil. In many cases they have proven worse than the Tories

At the end of the 19th century the "strange death of liberal" England was indeed witnessed with the rise of the modern Labour movement and Party. I see no such seismic shift in party politics right now however.

The Labour Party today undoubtedly has become a particularly foul receptacle for particularly foul right wing careerist politicians but as yet nothing has emerged on the Left to offer the smallest credible alternative. All we see are the usual motley collection of tiny Trotskyite and Leninist anti-democratic organisations spouting hackneyed, predictable and worn out clichés

What we will probably witness this century is the continued rise in apathy about old social movements like the established political parties, pressure groups and the trades unions, and the continued rise in support for NSMs which are broadly anti capitalist in outlook but loosely organised and barely united.

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