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Labour, War, and the Tories

Posted by Jonathan Timbers Saturday, March 3, 2001

I read Alison's comments with interest, and she will be aware that there is considerable concern in the Labour Party about the bombings. Personally, I agree with Tony Benn's point that parliament should have discussed this policy, which seems to be an on-going strategy and therefore capable of examination in the legislature.

Her surprise over the action, however, is unwarranted. Harold Wilson gave verbal support to the war in Vietnam (though he managed to steer this country away from direct involvement). It was the Labour Party which helped to found NATO at the time it was founding the NHS, and, after Keir Hardie's death in 1915, the Labour Party supported the British war effort in WW1.

It is also true to say that the Labour Party has been, and continues to be, the main source of progressive social reform in the UK. If the Tories are re-elected then we will lose the NHS, the New Deal and much of the welfare state. We will get tax cuts, not investment in public services.

You only have to look at the cuts the Tories planned in Calderdale to get the flavour: massive cuts to the Voluntary sector, recycling ..... etc. etc.

People may, with some justification, wish for a better Labour Party. But it is worthwhile to remember that under Labour we have got the minimum wage, Trade Union recognition, the Human Rights Act, devolution for Scotland and Wales, and 2 1/2 million workers this year enjoyed their first ever paid holidays.

With regard to Chris McCafferty, if people fail to vote for her, we will lose one of about 60 Labour MP's who regularly defy the party whip. How would that be good for democracy, or left-wing politics?

And what comment does Alison have on Chris's contribution to the debate on female genital mutilation, which has had national media attention, and which has won her an invitation to address the UN? Should we risk losing an MP who is willing to stand up for the rights of black women? How will that help the cause of the Left?

If Alison wants an informed discussion on what the Labour Party is, and isn't, I would direct her, and anyone else to www.democraticsocialist.org.uk - which is the ILP's website.

(The ILP, incidentally, was Keir Hardie's first party, and pre-dated the Labour Party. It split from Labour in 1932, and declined into near oblivion, before reaffiliating in 1974. It survives now as a publishing house and educational trust).

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