30 June 2008

Gordon Brown: a failure

Gordon Brown always liked to present himself as the man of substance behind the glitzy Tony Blair. However as prime minister in the last twelve months he has revealed only weakness.

First, he dithered and then lied over his reasons for not holding a general election, making him look cheap in the public eye.

Second, the ten pence band tax fiasco destroyed any image he retained of being a friend of the working class.

Third, his stubborn instance in pushing through 42-day tore to shreds any support he had amongst the liberal left.

Brown was crowned leader in 2007 without election because around 95%of Labour MPs endorsed him. Brown’s failing, therefore, are not his alone, but those of the whole New Labour apparatus.

16 June 2008

Afghanistan and humiliation in Britain

Is there no end to this?

In the aftermath of 42-day detention vote, we now have Bush in London and an announcement from Brown that the number of British troops in Afghanistan is to be increased to 8000. This utterly pointless war, which has now claimed over one hundred British military fatalities, is being fought only to save face of the US, and Brown the US poodle has been told what to do.

Then today we have leaked plans from the government to ratchet up the humiliation of those undertaking community service orders – due to be renamed ‘community pay back’ with the compulsory wearing of prison jackets and mug shots of the offenders posted on lampposts.

Brown hopes that his perception of ‘being tough’ will reverse New Labour’s collapse in support. But taking measures which in the long run will only add to the coffins coming home and which turns petty offenders into humiliated and angry criminals will only lead him and the country deeper into the mud.

What kind of Labour government is this?

12 June 2008

Six Weeks Internment in Britain

Yesterday, New Labour - with 36 Labour MPs dissenting - voted in the House of Commons to extend pre-charge internment under the Prevention of Terrorism Act from four to six weeks.

On The Guardian’s Web Comments the private citizen, Mr Carlos Belafonte, wrote:

If I was dragged from my car or home in the dark hours of the morning, interrogated by the security services for 6 weeks to no avail and then dumped onto the steps of a police station with no more than an 'off you go' I would imagine that my family, work and social life would be in tatters, not to mention that stigma that I would inevitably carry around my neck for some time.

Such internment – six weeks of isolation and interrogation – amounts to psychological torture, and the likelihood of the victim making deluded (and false) confessions.

Nobody can know what will make him or her liable to this treatment: looking at a site on the internet, talking to somebody under suspicion, denunciation by a spiteful neighbour or colleague – or just simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In every case there is no hard evidence against the victim, because if there were he or she would be charged with an offence and brought before a court.

This nightmare for the individual (even if it’s only for two, three or four weeks) happens to innocent people, and in Britain’s all-pervasive surveillance society (CCTV, bugging, intercepting) those falling under suspicion – nearly all of them Muslims – is set to grow.

9 June 2008

State Repression from New Labour in Britain

Last week The Guardian carried the following two headline stories. The first was the on-going determination of the Brown government to whip the Parliamentary Labour party into supporting a period of six week internment; i.e. allowing police to hold and interrogate people for six weeks without charging them with any specific offence. The second was the decision of the justice ministry to commission several mega prison complexes for thousands of additional prisoners.

Matters have indeed reached a pretty pass when intensifying state repression becomes the leitmotif of Britain’s once progressive Labour Party. The new proposed pre-charge detention limits, opposed by the Tories, Liberals and most of the establishment, is Brown’s stubborn attempt to appear ‘tough on terrorism’ in the eyes of so-called Middle England. But just as his plan to raise tax on the low paid to fund a tax cut on the better off backfired, so this attempt to destabilise Britain’s now shaky civil liberties will generate no support for the Brown government.

And what of the new prison colonies? Nothing could signal more the total failure of New Labour’s social policy than the admission that Britain, which already incarcerates a higher proportion of its population than any other European country, needs tens to thousands of new prison places.

These policies are but pieces in New Labour’s reactionary and conservative jigsaw, all of which raise the question, ‘What is Labour for?’ With a recent poll putting Labour on 23 percent few people are attracted by these forms of bankrupt politicking being sold as high principle.