2 June 2012     

Same old story?

The week’s news seems so much the same old story. The Tory co-chairwoman Sayeeda Warsi had to refer herself to the House of Lords Standards Committee for allegedly fiddling her parliamentary expenses. She had also not declared the rent she was getting from a London property.
     Then there was Blair appearing before the Leveson inquiry into press ethics, talking about his relationship while in office with the media tycoon Rupert Murdoch—a relationship, as he put it, that was “about power” and “not personal.” He said his “minimum objective was to stop them tearing us to pieces and the maximum objective to open the way to support.” The question, of course, is who was supporting whom? Blair claimed that at no time did Murdoch force any policies on him. He believed in all the policies that he pursued.
     The Tory ministers Gove and May also appeared in front of Leveson, becoming the first serving Cabinet members to do so. Gove’s view of Murdoch, his old Times boss, was that he was “one of the most significant figures of the last fifty years,” “a force of nature, a phenomenon, and a great man.” The Home Secretary, Theresa May, reported that she was just hoping to bring “common sense” to relationships between the police and the media through new guidelines. It is all so cosy within the establishment.
     Not so for those outside it, of course. A review of workers’ rights has been undertaken for the government by Adrian Beecroft. What better person: a major Tory party funder who has made his money as an asset-stripping venture capitalist. The government has already extended the time it takes for new workers’ employment rights to kick in from one year to two years, and if they follow Beecroft’s proposal’s rights against unfair dismissal, redundancy, discrimination at work, parental leave and flexible working will all get the axe, in the name of ensuring “market flexibility.” A leaked draft of the Beecroft Report included an executive summary that notes “that some people would be dismissed simply because their employer did not like them,” and that while this may be “sad” it was “a price worth paying.”

In the South the establishment has also closed ranks to ensure a Yes vote in the referendum on making the people pay the price for the economic crisis of the euro zone. It insists that there is no alternative. A continually strengthening No campaign, including the left, key trade unions, and Sinn Féin, see it differently—as the voters may well do on Thursday.
     At a press conference last week in Dublin the Communist Party emphasised that the referendum on the “Permanent Austerity Treaty” offered a major opportunity to push for a People’s Alternative. The party stressed that the defence of what remains of Ireland’s sovereignty and democracy is not about bargaining-chips in further negotiations with the EU bureaucrats and their masters, the big business corporations and finance houses. National democracy and sovereignty are the essential tools required for planning and building the People’s Alternative to handing over control to the Board of Governors of the “Stability Fund.” Rejecting the treaty and repudiating the debt must be followed by the exercise of democratic and sovereign power by the Government to control capital, in particular finance capital and the banks.
     It doesn’t have to be the same old story. There is an alternative, and an alternative worth fighting for.

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