Global issues May 2010 UK


Tony Blair enjoyed a very sweet honeymoon during his first mandate as British Prime Minister. The prevalent song sung in the UK was “Happy Days Are Here Again”, with a techno beat one might add. In retrospect, the first 4 years of New Labour were indeed a breath of fresh air after 18 years of Tory rule. Blair calculated that he needed to make enough reforms at first in order to conceal his very right wing agenda which he had long planned to implement.


The significant reforms included ratifying the European Convention of Human  Rights into British Law. For the first time in the history of Britain, very clear safeguards and standards of human rights were part of the legal fabric of the land. The Tories had opposed the European Convention of Human Rights as “Marxist” because, the Tories said, it elevated human rights over property rights. The second most significant reform was the repeal of Section 28 of the 1988 Local Government Act which had banned the promotion of homosexuality in schools and local government. The repeal of that section also reduced the age of homosexual consent to 16 in line with that for heterosexuals. Finally, Blair delivered on electoral reform giving Wales and Scotland their own legislative assemblies with power of finance, taxes, culture and limited powers of enacting laws. He also returned democracy to London. Blair pointed out how London was the only capital city of an industrialized country which didn’t have its own mayor or autonomous legislative body. Margaret Thatcher abolished the Greater London Council in 1986 in a naked power grab to inflict the greatest political injury to the Labour Party which had enjoyed an exclusive monopoly over the GLC since 1945.

However, many progressives felt that Blair had not done enough to reverse the worst damage of the Tories, namely the repeal of anti-union laws and a host of other repressive laws designed to crush the working class. Also, many progressives were dismayed when Blair refused to renationalized key industries and sectors such as British Rail. Many had hoped that if Blair would not re-nationalize, that he would at least halt any further privatizations. Not only were their hopes dashed, they were to be horrified when Blair and his Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown announced further privatizations including the London Underground.

Blair’s greatest success was the political settlement in Northern Ireland. The Good Friday Accords ended sectarian violence between Protestant Loyalists and Catholic Republicans. All the rival factions decided on a power sharing arrangement within the Northern Ireland legislative assembly. Both the Irish Republican Army and Unionist paramilitaries agreed on an armistice. The notorious Royal Ulster Constabulary, long feared and loathed by Catholics was revamped with more civilian oversight and rule, along with an affirmative action mandate requiring a greater number of Catholics into the police force. The British Army was returned to the barracks and taken off foot patrols and their heavy fortifications were removed.

Of course, many of the underlying issues were not fully resolved. Nevertheless, the achievement of peace and the guarantee of human and civil rights for Catholics living in Northern Ireland was a breathtaking achievement. After, the attacks of 9/11, the IRA decided to abandon terrorism once and for all and agreed to decommission their weapons. This remains the greatest success and legacy of New Labour. It went downhill from there.

Disillusions, Disappointments and Early Setbacks

Tony Blair was perhaps the most calculating politician that one gets to witness usually once during a lifetime. Blair had decided that he would call an election in 2001 after four years of his first mandate. Having made a deal with Rupert Murdoch’s media empire and with the City of London, he had to swing to the far right. Blair wanted to make sure that he would prevent the Tories from red baiting him or accusing him of being a left winger.

The first repressive and reactionary law passed by New Labour was the Terrorism Act of 2000.  What aroused opposition was the definition of terrorism and what constituted an act of terror. In essence the Act branded acts of civil disobedience as terrorism. The act explicitly stated that an act or protest designed to change the law or effect political change outside parliamentary or legal means would be considered an act of terror. Moreover, any economic pressure such as boycotts or pickets of business to effect political change would be regarded as an act of terror. In other words, more than a century of activism and political protest would be criminalized outright. Many feminists were alarmed because the Terrorism Act of 2000 would have made the woman’s suffrage movement branded as terrorism. The anti-apartheid actions during the 1980s directed against the racist government of South Africa such as boycotts, calls for economic divestment, protests and pickets outside the South African Embassy would have been defined as acts of terror. Moreover, the Terrorism Act extended the length of detention in police custody up to 12 days without charges being laid, access to lawyers or even an appearance before a court of law or magistrate.

As far as the upcoming election for London mayor, Blair knew that Labour would win. But he wanted a right wing New Labour candidate to win. Ken Livingston, known as “Red Ken” because he came from the left of the party, was the front runner. Livingston was the head of the Greater London Council from the 1970s until it was dismantled in 1986. Blair explicitly told Livingston not to run. Livingston refused to stand down. Blair expelled him out of the Labour Party. Livingston ran as an independent and won a landslide victory humiliating Blair and New Labour. Blair suffered a hit to to knee caps in London and it was his first bitter political lesson.

There were early signs that New Labour had an agenda to increase inequality and poverty to levels never imagined even in the most pornographic fantasies of Margret Thatcher. The European Commission released a report for a study about poverty within capital cities of the European Union in 1998 when there were only 15 countries. London was ranked as the poverty capital of the EU.  Since the study was commissioned before the election of New Labour, it presented a damning indictment of Thatcherism. New Labour escaped being brushed for responsibility. However, in response the the EU report on urban poverty, New Labour commissioned it’s own study on British cities. The World Socialist Website published its own studies. In a two part series, it revealed first the findings of the report and then it examined the policy agenda of New Labour. The report concluded that by the end of the first decade of the 21st Century, social and economic inequality would widen to unprecedented levels. The report has since been vindicated. More in the next part of this series.

Tony Blair fought the 2001 general election with a non-stop barrage of right wing attacks. Blair was impressive in that regard. Before the Tories could utter one, Blair beat them to the punch. Blair was adamant that he would not be attacked from the right. From immigration to asylum seekers, Blair uttered statements that one would expect from the far right ring tabloids such as Murdoch’s Sun. Robin Cook, who was New Labour’s first Foreign Secretary, wrote an op-ed piece in 2004 describing the political tactics of Blair. Blair was “able to spot a right wing attack” before the Tories or Tory press could.

Blair need not have worried about losing his second election as he had no fear to lose his first. The Tories were still divided and engaged in internal civil war. In the first 4 years after their election defeat, they went through 2 leaders. Moreover, the Tories were still the hated party and there was no chance they were returning to power so quickly. However, Blair wanted to let the British establishment know, that New Labour were the New Conservatives. The population should have taken note but as always, the masses are the last to be aware

The War On Terror: From Clinton Protege to Bush Poodle

The General Election of 2001 was indeed the high point for Tony Blair and New Labour. Many people, Europeans in particular have always regarded Bill Clinton as some type of leftist or progressive at least. The exception, of course, are Serbians who discovered what “humanitarian war” was really about at the hands of Clinton. There wasn’t anything progressive about Bill Clinton. He in fact, single-handedly destroyed American liberalism. Clinton was more right wing than Reagan and the elder Bush combined. It was Clinton who ended social welfare. It was Clinton who implemented the most repressive and anti-civil rights laws of the 20th Century. It was Clinton who repealed Glass-Stegal and completely deregulated the financial sector which led us to the economic calamity we face today. Clinton simply glossed over his reactionary policies through political correct language. Clinton was the first PC President. By extension, Blair was Britain’s first PC Prime Minister.  Many astute Austrian political scientists and academics have pointed out, quite correctly, that the Black-Blue or far-right wing coalition government of Austria from 2000-2006 was to the left of the Clinton Administration. Moreover, Joerg Haider described himself on a visit to the UK in 2000 by declaring: “I’m Tony Blair from Austria!” The only difference between Blair and Clinton on one hand from Haider on the other is that the former engaged in Political Correctness as the latter spoke his mind freely. In substance, there was no political or policy differences between Blair, Clinton and Haider! With that said, it wasn’t such a leap for Blair to go from being Clinton’s protege to George W. Bush’s poodle.

There is something else which needs to be elaborated upon. There has been since 1945, a de-facto subordination of the UK to the US. The Yalta meeting between American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin was the final nail in the coffin for the British Empire. From that moment on, the UK was no longer a world power. If the UK was to retain any vestige of world influence, it would have to play second fiddle to the United States. This was rather neatly concealed by the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher. British subordination was packaged as “the special relationship” between the UK and US. It was special insofar as that both countries were the first two to promote and implement neo-liberalism. Many Brits despised Thatcher because they could see clearly that Britain was transforming into an American society. The punk band New Model Army famously declared that Britain was the 51st State. Nevertheless, the UK in all areas of foreign and economic policy subordinated itself to the whims of the United States. Regardless of the sitting President or Prime Minister, the UK does whatever the US tells it to do.

In this regard, Blair had no choice but to follow Bush’s reckless wars of aggression and plunder. What made Blair’s role so revolting was the manner in which he did so. Bush was keen on invading Iraq and for regime change. His administration knew that Iraq had nothing to do with Al- Qaeda or with the terror attacks of 9/11. Moreover, his administration knew that it was against international law to invade another country which was not threatening. The American intelligence agencies were ordered to find anything to link Saddam Hussein with terrorism. They were unable to find any link because there wasn’t any.

Enter Tony Blair. It is now a matter of the public record following the leak of the infamous Downing Street Memo, that Tony Blair invented the lies that Hussein not only had weapons of mass destruction with the capability is hitting Europe within 45 minutes but also that Hussein had acquired Yellow Cake clandestinely from Nigeria. The entire British intelligence apparatus knew this was a lie. The entire civil service apparatus at Whitehall knew this was a lie. Blair ordered that his joint intelligence staff concoct a “report” which would have made for great fiction but had nothing to do with reality. The British intelligence agencies were put in a very awkward position. For all of the intrigues of British spying, they always got their facts straight. In their first drafts, they reported that Iraq might have some concealed weapons but all the evidence from both the UN and international intelligence agencies could not find anything conclusive. Moreover, the first drafts stated that an agent of Iraq did travel to Nigeria but there was nothing to substantiate that the agent on Hussein’s orders actually tried to procure Yellow Cake. The initial drafts stated that these were rumors and nothing else.

Tony Blair was reported to have been furious with the intelligence reports. He had the chairman of the Joint Intelligence staff rewrite the reports by removing the caveats and adding nothing but fiction to the report. Once the suspense novel was finished, it was immediately cabled to Washington, DC. A few days later, Blair went before the House of Commons and gave the greatest acting performance in history. (Colin Powell lacked the acting skills of Blair and his performance at the United Nations was roundly panned.)  The global media picked up the story and the propaganda engine for war was launched.

On the eve to the launch of the Iraq War, the British intelligence scientist Dr. David Kelly knew that he had started the end of civilisation as we know it. He had resisted and fought Tony Blair on the “sexed up” intelligence report. Dr. Kelly was found dead in the woods soon after. It was initially reported to be suicide but there is mounting evidence that he was murdered. More on Dr. Kelly’s death in the next part of this series.

The defiance of public opinion against the invasion of Iraq revealed the contempt Blair had for democracy. Even though more than one million people demonstrated against the war, Blair insulted the public. When several of his cabinet resigned, Blair was unrepentant. On the basis of bald faced lies and fabrications, Tony Blair not only destroyed the international framework following the Second World War, in particular the Nuremberg Principles and the Geneva Conventions on war and torture but he sent the world back 500 years to the Middle Ages. Tony Blair charted a course straight to the coming Global War.

Racism, Islamophobia, Neo-Colonialism, 1984

Despite Britain being one of the most conservative countries in Europe, as well as having one of the most racially polarised societies in the Western World, Britain historically had been one of the most tolerant countries for Muslims. France’s mistreatment of its Muslim citizens has long been known worldwide. Germany’s marginalization and exclusion of it’s Turkish residents has been duly noted and analyzed. In contrast, Britain historically never meted out any particular mistreatment of its Muslim subjects both colonial and domestic. This has more to do with the particular characteristics of British imperialism than any particular goodwill for Muslims. For example, Britain promoted Arab nationalism to destabilize the Ottoman Empire prior to the first world war. All of Britain’s colonial subjects were treated equally bad. Britain used sectarian divisions in South Asia to divide and conquer British India.

After decolonization many former colonial subjects migrated to the UK. The British state nor its police never drew up special discriminatory policies to impede Muslim’s right to their religion. The rabid British media rarely ever mentioned the Muslim menace. To the contrary, Britain’s racist policies were primarily directed against Blacks from the West Indies and Africa. Not a day passed without one of the Fleet Street rags engaging in overt anti-Black racism. By the 1970s, the London Metropolitan Police had drawn up dozens of directives against “Black criminality”. Both Labour and the Tories used Blacks as scapegoats for cheap political gain. One can trace the policy guides of the Met back to 1976 and find hundreds of references dealing with Black muggers. However, before 2001, there is nary a reference to the threat posed by Muslims to public safety and order. South Asian Muslims were never racially profiled by the police as Blacks were. During the heyday of the the notorious Sus days of the 1970s, whites and South Asians were rarely if ever  stopped or arrested by the police on Sus charges.

This is not to say that Muslims were spared from racism. Many South Asians, Pakistanis in particular, were targets of individual racist attacks. “Paki bashing” was a daily occurrence on the streets of Britain. Sadly, there were many incidents in which gangs of Black and white together would beat up South Asians. The racism against South Asians had little to do with their religion. Some extreme right wing elements such as the National Front and British National Party would deface mosques but generally Muslims enjoyed the freedom to practice their religion openly and without harassment.

This changed radically in 2002. Suddenly, the Home Office and Scotland Yard were no longer worried about Black muggers. Suddenly, peaceful Muslims were the focus of policy directives. All of Britain’s Muslims were now viewed as suspect terrorists.  On cue, the Fleet Street rags raged with Islamophobia. New Labour added fuel to the fire by making public statements which created fear of Muslims in the country.

Racist assaults including murders against Muslim Britons increased astronomically in England and Wales. The climate became so poisonous that Muslims, women in particular were afraid to leave their homes. Numerous police raids against “suspected Islamic extremist terrorists” became standard practice. In one debacle, a resident was shot by the police during a raid. He and other suspects were never charged and had to be released for lack of evidence. The police never apologised or admitted they caused any harm. Muslims became terrified of the police. The East London boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Newham became cauldrons boiling with racial tension and distrust.

In 2002,  Robert Cooper, an aide of Blair openly called for a return to classical colonialism. He said that the West needed to seriously consider returning Africa and the Middle East under Western tutelage for two reasons. The first reason was that Africans showed their inability to govern themselves properly and that under European rule, the rule of law reigned supreme. He cited Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe as his prime example. Robert Cooper went even further claiming that the genocide of Rwanda in 1994 would have been prevented if they were still under colonial domination. The second reason Blair justified a return to colonialism was to protect the West from terrorism.

New Labour introduced more curbs on civil liberties under the guise of fighting terrorism. CCTV cameras mushroomed across the UK. Anti-Social laws were implemented in which people charged for anti-social behavior would be forced to wear electronic ankle bracelets and be subject to curfews and further restrictions on their movements. Youth wearing hoodies, would be subject to police harassment and not allowed into public spaces.

Tony Blair with his use of doublespeak confirmed the prophesy of George Orwell in his novel 1984 . Blair’s justification for war without end and new colonialism were couched in extraordinary twists of language. The installations of CCTV on every street, highway, bus, rail and underground carriage was the manifestation of Orwell’s surveillance state.

In 2004, Tony Blair spoke out against civil rights. He argued that though the civil rights movement of the 1960s had “removed ugly prejudices” from society, it led to the “breakdown of law and order and respect for authority.” Within 4 short years, Blair rejected and abolished every shred of Enlightenment thinking and political as well as social libertarian movements. Blair wanted to return to the time before women had the same rights as men. A time when non-whites were legally held to be inferior to whites. Blair wanted a world where human and civil rights were abolished. A world where social and economic justice was banished.

By 2005, Blair was widely despised in Britain. He became widely renamed Tony Bliar. But what was the alternative? The Tories? In an attempt to attack Blair from the right, Tory leader John Howard came out against human rights as opposed to Blair who came out against civil rights. Howard said that human rights impedes police work and hindered the pursuit of justice. Blair had monopolized the entire spectrum of right wing reactionary ideas giving the Tories space to the margins of the lunatic right.

Blair handed the Conservatives a third consecutive defeat in the 2005 general election. Being the master politician, he knew that most Britons still loathed the Tories. Blair warned that should Howard win, cuts to social services would be on the order. “Vote Labour or wake up with John Howard” was the campaign slogan. The fact of the matter is that Labour were the biggest losers in the number of seats which fell out of their grasp. Were it not for their 1997 landslide, they would have been defeated. Tony Blair manged to hang on for another two years. The damage was done. New Labour was mortally wounded.

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