Tag: Tony Blair

Prologue to the Chilcot Report

 

“The children of Iraq have names.
Their names are not collateral damage.”

David Krieger, peace wager, founder and president of The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

“I saw things that I won’t forget for as long as I live… When you hear people shouting the words ‘gas’ or ‘chemicals’ — and you hear those shouts spreading among the people — that is when terror begins to take hold, especially among the children and the women. Your loved ones, your friends, you see them walking and then falling like leaves to the ground. It is a situation that cannot be described — birds began falling from their nests; then other animals, then humans. It was total annihilation. Whoever was able to walk out of the town, left on foot. Whoever had a car, left by car. But whoever had too many children to carry on their shoulders, they stayed in the town and succumbed to the gas.”

Kherwan. From: Halabja: Survivors talk about horror of attack, continuing ordeal.

“It was life frozen. Life had stopped, like watching a film and suddenly it hangs on one frame. It was a new kind of death to me. (…) The aftermath was worse. Victims were still being brought in. Some villagers came to our chopper. They had 15 or 16 beautiful children, begging us to take them to hospital. So all the press sat there and we were each handed a child to carry. As we took off, fluid came out of my little girl’s mouth and she died in my arms.”

Photo journalist Kaveh Golestan, describing the Halabja Massacre, a chemical weapon attack on Kurdish people that took place on March 16, 1988, which was part of the Iraqi Al-Anfal Genocide Campaign.

All lives are equally precious. 

Many good writers have added their own footnotes to the Chilcot report. However, there is a broader context to the war in Iraq, which has been edited from the mainstream narrative. There doesn’t seem to be anyone writing about that context. In fact that’s been purged from the conversation. I don’t like to see issues reduced to political opportunism and party politics, but that has happened, too. 

“Lamp post or bonfire for Mr Blair.” Gosh, we get to choose.

But the mainstream column of truth has more than one hole in it. 

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a temporary solace, a curious savage satisfaction and a kind of sublimation value to be had in simply hating Blair. I’ve done it. But it’s rather like trying to put an ocean onto a teaspoon in the long run. Besides, whilst I know emotions are a fundamental part of being human, and as such are important, I also value rational discourse, too. There’s so much more to be said on this, regarding the historic political expedience of successive western governments, which has had catastrophic humanitarian consequences beyond the Iraq invasion. That must not be excluded from mainstream conversation. The UK government also played a part in arming a brutal dictator with chemical weapons, which resulted in atrocities and genocide.

For the record, I protested against the Iraq war. I didn’t like Tony Blair because he betrayed the working-class, he was an advocate of neoliberalism. I didn’t like his anti-terrorism laws or his anti-social behaviour legislation, which were repressive and symptomatic of a horrible “lowest common denominator” type of populism creeping into public policy. But I nonetheless valued some of his social policy programme, most of which the current government are so busy trying to repeal. That’s a clear indication that at least most of his social policies were not ideologically Conservative, even if his economic approach was, albeit a diluted version.

The Equality Act, the Human Rights Act, the Worker’s Rights and Union laws, the Every Child Matters Policy (repealed the day after the Tories took office in 2010 by Michael Gove), animal welfare legislation and the Gender Recognition Act, repeal of Section 28, were all examples of very good public policies. Saying that does not make me  a “Blairite.” It simply makes me someone who looks critically at policy with a balanced and evidence-based approach. Everyone knows what Blair did wrong, few are prepared to recognise nowadays what he actually got right.

All of this said, as an ideological experiment, New Labour’s dabble with neoliberalism has had profoundly damaging consequences for the Labour Movement, and the Left more generally. It resulted in widespread disillusionment, a sense of working-class disenfranchisement and alienation, factionism, infighting and disunity. But much of this, curiously, only became clearly evident from 2010 onwards, when a much harsher neoliberal government gained Office, imposing a strict and devastating austerity programme and an unprecedented authoritarianism on the UK. 

So, the man who worked with Mo Mowlem, sitting down with Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness to broker peace with the Good Friday Agreement, is now regarded only as a “warmonger.”

Meanwhile I’m utterly bewildered, watching on as Jeremy Corbyn, a staunchly anti-neoliberal leader and the thoroughly decent bloke that I voted for, is being hung by the Bolsheviks, on orders from the Mensheviks. No-one is ever good enough to lead the Labour Party, apparently. It beggars belief and shows a fairly widespread lack of joined-up thinking. At the very least, it shows how rubbish the Left are at organisation, strategic thinking and tactical voting, from grassroots level upwards. We really need to learn. Because a class-war waging authoritarian government imposing such an unforgiving ideological brand of Conservative neoliberalism and desolating austerity can never be better than a Labour government, be it under the leadership of Ed Miliband or Jeremy Corbyn.

I digress. 

Some history

In 2003, most of the Ulster Unionists and Conservatives voted to send British troops into military action in Iraq, the Conservative votes carried the motion that authorised the Iraq conflict, since 140 Labour MPs rebelled against their party’s whip. Robin Cook resigned and there was a memorable backbench rebellion. Jeremy Corbyn paid tribute to Cook yesterday in parliament, and said that he had: “said in a few hundred words what has been confirmed by this [Chilcot] report in more than two million.” All of the Liberal Democrats voted against military action, too. Let’s not forget the then Liberal Democrat leader, Charles Kennedy, who was also an implacable opponent of the Iraq war, despicably demonised by the mainstream media. He’s officially vindicated by the Chilcot Report, like Cook and others. The Tory whip, John Randall, also resigned over his party’s stance on Iraq. Throughout the conflict, Blair remained the strongest supporter of the United States plan to invade Iraq, though originally seeking a UN Mandate. 

Parliament gave Blair the go-ahead for the Iraq war. It highlights a big problem with democracy: we didn’t vote for that. In the end, despite a total of seven resignations from the government, and three from the Tory shadow cabinet, the Iraq war happened. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that Iain Duncan Smith had led Conservative MPs in demanding a rush to war from 2002, too. 

Before the invasion, the (then) UK Attorney General Lord Goldsmith, advised Blair that the war would be in breach of international law for six reasons, ranging from the lack of a second United Nations resolution to UN inspector Hans Blix’s continuing search for weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). Ten days later on 7 March 2003, as UK troops were massing in Kuwait, Lord Goldsmith changed his mind, saying:

“I remain of the opinion that the safest legal course would be to secure the adoption of a further resolution to authorise the use of force … Nevertheless, having regard to the information on the negotiating history which I have been given and to the arguments of the US Administration which I heard in Washington, I accept that a reasonable case can be made that resolution 1441 is capable in principle of reviving the authorisation in 678 without a further resolution.”

He concluded his revised analysis, saying that “regime change cannot be the objective of military action.”

From John Major’s Commons Statement on the first Gulf War – 17th January 1991: Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South) In view of the precipitate abandonment of sanctions and the onslaught of this bloody conflict, will the Government learn some lessons? For example, the arms and ammunition used against our service men will have been sold to Iraq by western nations. Indeed, components for the manufacture of arms have been sold from this nation. Will the Government make serious efforts to develop an arms embargo to curtail the wretched trade in arms throughout the rest of the world and make sure that the opportunity for conflicts such as this is limited? Or do the Government intend to put profit before peace?

It emerged that during the first Gulf War, “friendly fire” killed more British troops than the Iraqis did – of 16 British soldiers who died, nine were killed by Americans. Of 148 Americans who died, 35 were killed by friendly fire. Iraqi deaths were estimated at 50,000, with 100,000 wounded.

Some more history: when our friend Saddam was gassing Kurdish people.

Iraq invaded Iran in 1980 with the support of the Arab states, the UK, United States, and Europe. Many viewed Iraq as “an agent of the civilized world.” So they said. The blatant disregard of international law and violations of international borders were completely ignored,  Iraq received economic and military support from its allies, who turned a blind eye to Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical warfare against the Kurds and the Iranians, and to Iraq’s efforts to develop a nuclear programme. The United States provided diplomatic and military aid, financial aid and also supplied Iraq with “satellite photos showing Iranian deployments.

The US had opened full diplomatic relations with Iraq, the country was removed from the US list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. Former United States Assistant Secretary of Defense Noel Koch later stated: “No one had any doubts about [the Iraqis’] continued involvement in terrorism… The real reason was to help them succeed in the war against Iran, because the West, Russia and China feared the potential expansion of revolutionary Iran’s influence in the region.” 

The biological weapons programme

During the early 1980s, five German firms supplied equipment to manufacture botulin toxin and mycotoxin to Iraq. Strains of “dual-use ” biological agents and material from France also helped advance Iraq’s biological warfare programme. From the United States, in addition to exporting the advanced computers, some of which were used to develop Iraq’s nuclear programme, American Type Culture Collection – a non-profit organisation, and the Centers for Disease Control sold or sent biological samples to Iraq up until 1989, which Iraq claimed to need for medical research.

These materials included botulism, anthrax and West Nile virus, camel pox, rotavirus, Brucella melitensis, and Clostridium perfringens (gas gangrene). Some of these were used for vaccine development, whilst others were used in Iraq’s bioweapons research programme. Details of the bioweapon programme surfaced only in the wake of the Gulf War (1990–91)

During UN inspections in 1998, it was evident that Hussein had overseen prisoners tied to stakes and bombarded with anthrax and chemical weapons for experimental purposes. These experiments began in the 1980s during the Iran–Iraq War, after initial experiments had been carried out on sheep and camels. Dozens of prisoners are believed to have died in terrible agony during the programme. According to an article in the London Sunday Times:

“In one incident, Iranian prisoners of war are said to have been tied up and killed by bacteria from a shell detonated nearby. Others were exposed to an aerosol of anthrax sprayed into a chamber while doctors watched behind a glass screen. Two British-trained scientists have been identified as leading figures in the programme …”

The deployment of chemical weapons

On 16 March 1988, the Kurdish town of Halabja was attacked with chemical weapons, using a mix of mustard gas and nerve agents, 5,000 civilians were massacred, 10,000 more were maimed, disfigured or seriously debilitated. Thousands more died from the after effects of the attack. The massacre was part of the Al-Anfal Campaign – a genocide programme designed to reassert central control of the mostly Kurdish population of rural northern Iraq and defeat the Kurdish peshmerga rebel forces. Hussein’s goals were to systematically terrorize and exterminate the Kurdish population in northern Iraq, to silence Hussein’s critics, and to test the effectiveness of his chemical and biological weapons.

Hussein launched chemical attacks against 40 Kurdish villages and on thousands of innocent civilians in 1987-88. The United States now maintains that Saddam ordered the attack to terrorize the Kurdish population in northern Iraq, but Hussein’s regime claimed at the time that Iran was responsible for the attacks. Apparently, the US supported this account of events, changing the story several years later. The Al-Anfal genocide campaign also targeted Assyrians, Turkoman people, Shabaks and Yazidis people and Mandeans, many villages belonging to these ethnic groups were also completely destroyed. Human Rights Watch estimates that between 50,000 and 100,000 people were killed. Some Kurdish sources put the number higher, estimating that some 182,000 Kurds were killed in total.

Iraqi Kurds have been especially critical of the UK, given its support and arms shipments to Saddam Hussein during the 1980s. The extent to which Margaret Thatcher’s government was responsible for arming Iraq was revealed in 2011, when secret government files from 1981 were made public. The documents show Thatcher’s approval of large military contracts with Iraq and indicate her turning a blind eye to ongoing private sales of allegedly “non-lethal” military equipment. According to the documents, she sought to “exploit Iraq’s potentialities as a promising market for the sale of defence equipment.”  So the “free-markets” of the West aren’t morally discerning at all. Nor are those promoting them. Whilst the world turned a blind eye, many thousands died as a direct consequence. 

John Major’s government faced an ongoing inquiry into how ministers such as Alan Clark had encouraged businesses to supply arms to Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, in breach of the official UN arms embargo, and how senior ministers had, on legal advice, attempted to withhold evidence of this official connivance when directors of Matrix Churchill were put on trial for breaking the embargo. It’s funny, the things we forget when someone else is drawing all the fire. Despite the interview with John Pilger, and the Scott Inquiry.

The Iraq Arms scandal period coincided roughly with the 8 years of war between Iraq and Iran, when Margaret Thatcher was the UK Prime Minister. The revelations prompted the Scott Inquiry, set up in 1992 after the collapse of the Matrix Churchill trial, which reported in 1996. Four directors of Matrix Churchill, a British machine tools manufacturer in Coventry, were put on trial for supplying “equipment and knowledge” to Iraq, but in 1992 the trial collapsed when it became clear that the company had been advised by senior government ministers and officials on how best to circumvent its own arms embargo. Much of both the report itself and the Inquiry’s evidence remain classified.

Sir Richard Scott’s three-year inquiry led him to conclude that the government had secretly “eased” UN and its own guidelines on arms sales to Saddam Hussein’s regime.

The British Cabinet had set up a secret sub-committee to oversee the project, with both the Home Office (MI5) and MI6 ordered to support the illegal exports. Michael Heseltine, Willie Whitelaw, Francis Pym, Geoffrey Howe and the then PM Thatcher gave the project government approval. During the 1992 Matrix Churchill trial, ex-Minister Alan Clark said “The interests of the West were best served by Iran and Iraq fighting each other, and the longer the better.”

It is inconceivable that Major, as Foreign Secretary in 1989, could have been unaware of the Matrix Churchill export to Iraq. The affair caused a major scandal which contributed to growing dissatisfaction with the then Conservative government of John Major and somewhat ironically contributed to the victory of Tony Blair’s New Labour at the 1997 general election.

By the end of the 1980s, Baghdad had acquired a massive arsenal – enabling it to fight against Iran and launch offensive operations such as Al-Anfal. 

In 1990, a case of nuclear triggers bound for Iraq were seized at Heathrow Airport. The British government also financed a chlorine factory that was intended to be used for manufacturing mustard gas. A chemical plant which the United States said was a key component in Iraq’s chemical warfare arsenal was secretly built by Britain in 1985. Documents show British ministers knew at the time that the £14m plant, called Falluja 2, was likely to be used for mustard and nerve gas production. 

Paul Channon, then trade minister, concealed the existence of the chlorine plant contract from the US administration, which was quite properly pressing for controls on such types of exports. He also instructed the export credit guarantee department (ECGD) to keep details of the deal secret from the public.

The papers show that Mr Channon rejected a “strong plea” from a Foreign Office minister, Richard Luce, that the deal would ruin Britain’s image in the world if news got out: “I consider it essential everything possible be done to oppose the proposed sale and to deny the company concerned ECGD cover”.

The Ministry of Defence also warned that it could be used to make chemical weapons. But Mr Channon, in support of Mrs Thatcher’s policy of supporting the dictator, said: “A ban would do our other trade prospects in Iraq no good.”

Saddam Hussein was internationally condemned for his use of chemical weapons during the 1980s against Iranian and Kurdish civilians during and after the Iran–Iraq War. In the 1980s, he pursued an extensive biological weapons programme and a nuclear weapons programme, though as far as we know, no nuclear bombs were built.

However, the United States and the UK blocked condemnation of Iraq’s known chemical weapons attacks at the UN Security Council. No resolution was passed during the war that specifically criticised Iraq’s use of chemical weapons, despite the wishes of the majority to condemn this use. On March 21, 1986 the United Nations Security Council recognized that “chemical weapons on many occasions have been used by Iraqi forces against Iranian forces.” This statement was opposed by the United States, the sole country to vote against it in the Security Council (the UK abstained). The UN confirmed that Iraq was using chemical weapons against Iranian troops after dispatching a team of specialists to the area in 1984, and again in 1986 and 1987, to verify the claims of the use.

By 2002, according to reports from the previous UN inspection agency, UNSCOM, Iraq produced 600 metric tons of chemical agents, including mustard gas, VX and sarin, and nearly 25,000 rockets and 15,000 artillery shells, with chemical agents, that remained unaccounted for. UN weapons inspectors, the United States, France, United Kingdom, Germany and other countries thought that this declaration failed to account for all of Iraq’s chemical and biological agents. Many of these countries had supplied the Iraqi regime with the technology to make the weapons in the 1980s during the Iran–Iraq War. However, there was no evidence of Iraq having built any nuclear weapons.

Oil on troubled slaughter

Declassified UK government documents indicate that the Iraq war was also about oil. At the time that the UK invaded, Iraq had nearly a tenth of the world’s oil reserves – and government documents clearly state that oil was a consideration before the war. In May 2003, a Foreign Office strategy paper highlighted  government motives which related to Iraq’s oil resources:

“The future shape of the Iraqi industry will affect oil markets, and the functioning of Opec, in both of which we have a vital interest.”

and:

“… an oil sector open and attractive to foreign investment, with appropriate arrangements for the exploitation of new fields.”

Bush administration officials quite openly considered proposals that the United States tap Iraq’s oil to help pay for a military occupation. Such a move, however, fueled existing suspicion of US motives in Iraq. Officially, the White House agreed that oil revenue would play an important role during an occupation period, but only for the benefit of Iraqis, according to a National Security Council spokesman. 

But there were strong advocates inside the administration, including in the White House, for appropriating the oil funds as “spoils of war,” according to a source who has been briefed by participants in the talks. “There are people in the White House who take the position that it’s all the spoils of war,” said the source, who asked not to be named. “We (the United States) take all the oil money until there is a new democratic government.” The source said the Justice Department had doubts about the legality of such a move.

Days after the US invasion, the (then) Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told a congressional panel that Iraqi oil revenues would help pay for reconstructing the country, ie a cost of the war. “The oil revenue of that country could bring between 50 and 100 billion dollars over the course of the next two or three years. We’re dealing with a country that could really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon,” he said.

One month before the war, the White House press secretary at the time, Ari Fleischer, said Iraq “is a rather wealthy country … And so there are a variety of means that Iraq has to be able to shoulder much of the burden for their own reconstruction.”

Britain co-sponsored a resolution in the Security Council which gave the US and UK control over Iraq’s oil revenues. Far from “all oil revenues” being used for the Iraqi people, Resolution 1483 continued to make deductions from Iraq’s oil earnings to pay compensation for the invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

David Whyte and Greg Muttitt have pointed out that:Buried in deep in volume 9 of the 2.6 million-word report, Chilcot refers to government documents that explicitly state the oil objective, and outlining how Britain pursued that objective throughout the occupation. But he does not consider this evidence in his analysis or conclusions. Oil considerations do not even appear in the report’s 150-page summary.

To many people around the world, it was obvious that oil was a central issue, as Iraq itself had nearly a tenth of the world’s oil reserves, and together with its neighbouring countries nearly two thirds. There was a clear public interest in understanding how that affected UK decisions. Chilcot failed to explore it.

Section 10.3 of the report, in volume 9, records that senior government officials met secretly with BP and Shell on at several occasions (denied at the time) to discuss their commercial interests in obtaining contracts. Chilcot did not release the minutes, but we had obtained them under the Freedom of Information Act: they are posted here. In unusually expressive terms for a civil service write-up, one of the meeting’s minutes began, “Iraq is the big oil prospect. BP are desperate to get in there” (emphasis in original).

That same section 10.3 refers to numerous documents revealing the UK’s evolving actions to shape the structure of the Iraqi oil industry, throughout the occupation until 2009. The government did so in close coordination with BP and Shell. This full story was told in Fuel on the Fire: Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq.

Despite US and UK denial that oil was a war aim, American troops were detailed to secure oil facilities as they fought their way to Baghdad in 2003. And while former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld shrugged off the orgy of looting after the fall of Saddam’s statue in Baghdad, the Oil Ministry – alone of all the seats of power in the Iraqi capital – was under American guard.

Chilcot does include references to several pre-war documents that identify a British objective to use Iraqi oil to boost Britain’s own energy supplies. For example, a February 2002 Cabinet Office paper stated that the UK’s Iraq policy falls “within our objectives of preserving peace and stability in the Gulf and ensuring energy security”. But the Foreign Office strategy paper in May 2003, which Chilcot omitted, was even more explicit.

Chilcot also acknowledges that the British government was angling to ensure British oil firms could exploit the UK’s involvement in the war. Chilcot’s documentation confirms, for example, that the US and UK worked together to privatise Iraqi oil production and guarantee a takeover from foreign companies.

“By 2010 we will need [a further] 50 million barrels a day. The Middle East, with two-thirds of the oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize lies”

Dick Cheney; US Vice-President, 1999

Operation Avarice

In 2005, the CIA collaborated with the Army Intelligence Corps, contacting an unnamed Iraqi individual who had possession and knowledge of all the legacy chemical WMD stockpiles and munitions in Iraq. The Operation was classified, most of the armed forces knew nothing about it. Chemical specialists and ordnance disposal units were assigned to the task of destroying and disposing of the recovered WMDs. It’s unknown who the individual is, or how the weapons had come into his/herpossession. Nonetheless, the person cooperated with US intelligence and sold all of the chemical WMDs to the units heading Operation Avarice. As a result, the CIA and army intelligence acquired over 400 rockets, missiles, and other chemical weapons in varying states of operational viability.

At one point, 150 separate rockets containing chemical agents were traded. Chemical experts then destroyed the weapons. Some of the weapons analysed had a concentration of nerve agents much higher than military intelligence had expected Iraq held the capabilities to develop, with the highest “agent purity of up to 25 percent for recovered unitary sarin weapons”, which was considered highly lethal.

The mission resulted in the largest recovery of chemical weapons during the Iraq war. It was confirmed that these weapons were remnants of the Iraqi weapons programme first developed during the Iran-Iraq war and also confirmed that the Hussein government had failed to dismantle and dispose WMDs in its possession. The collaboration between US military intelligence and the unnamed Iraqi proprietor resulted in minimal attacks on US military and coalition personnel or Iraqi citizenry from WMDs on a scale seen during the Iran-Iraq war, although small-scale attacks still occurred. Operation Avarice did succeed, however, in keeping the weapons off the black market.

Conclusions

The West, including the UK, had supplied Iraq with the components for manufacturing weapons of mass destruction. Prior to Blair taking office, there was the Scott Inquiry and a wake of revelations and scandals from the Thatcher administration regarding the supply of components for the assembly of WMDs (biological and chemical weapons are also classified as WMDs). Had that not been the case, there may well have been a little more clarity about Iraq’s arsenal and capabilities in 2003. Either way, I would never endorse the war. However, it is still worth considering that the UK-funded Falluja 2 featured in Colin Powell’s dossier of reasons why the world should go to war against Iraq, which was presented to the UN security council. 

Spy satellite pictures of Falluja 2, identifying it as a chemical weapons site, were previously published by the CIA, and a report by Britain’s joint intelligence committee, published with Tony Blair’s imprimatur, also focused on Falluja 2 as a rebuilt plant “formerly associated with the chemical warfare programme.” Blair also knew that we (the UK, along with the US and other countries) had sold Iraq the components for building WMDs previously, under the Thatcher/Reagan administrations. 

UN weapons inspectors toured the Falluja 2 plant in 2002 and Hans Blix, the chief inspector, reported to the security council that the chemical equipment there might have to be destroyed.

Thatcher’s government covertly supplied Iraq with armsfrom spare tank parts, terrain-following radar and Hawk fighter jets to military air and naval bases, all sold from the UK to Saddam Hussein’s despotic regime. 

“Contracts worth over £150m have been concluded [with Iraq] in the last six months including one for £34m (for armoured recovery vehicles through Jordan)” wrote Thomas Trenchard, a junior minister, in a secret letter to Mrs Thatcher in March 1981.

The letter also says that a meeting with Saddam Hussein “represent a significant step forward in establishing a working relationship with Iraq which … should produce both political and major commercial benefits”.

Mrs Thatcher wrote by hand at the top of the letter that she was “very pleased” by the progress being made.

Throughout her premiership Mrs Thatcher took a key role in securing deals for British defence companies, calling her efforts “battling for Britain”. Partly thanks to “free marketeering” efforts, the UK climbed from being the fifth to the second-largest supplier of military equipment over the decade. The terrible escalating logic of neoliberalism just sweeps humane, ethical and rational considerations triumphantly out of its way as it advances.

On record is the mercenary and duplicitous Thatcher’s greatest defence coup over the decade, which was the Al-Yamamah contract with Saudi Arabia in 1985 and 1988, one of the largest arms deals in history worth about £40bn to British Aerospace and other British companies. The push to sell arms in Iraq, encouraged by the privatisation of British Aerospace in 1981, in the end caused serious embarrassment when, in 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. Britain then found itself at war with the country they had been selling weapons to just a few months earlier. Such are the risks of unregulated “market forces”, and unfettered free-trade.

As mentioned, another consequence was the Scott Report, published in 1996, which gave a very damming assessment of the Conservative government’s role in selling arms to the Middle East through the 1980s. The released report also shows that some in the government were concerned about Mrs Thatcher’s “aggressive arms sales policy.”

Monstrous free-marketeering. 

One prime ministerial brief in January 1981 warned that “if we expose ourselves to serious accusations of breach of neutrality obligation [in Iraq] or deviousness our efforts could backfire”.

Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait almost certainly never would have happened without the US and the UK’s support for Iraq during the eighties. And even once it had happened, it could have been reversed without war.

Blair’s actions in initiating an unwarranted, unwanted and unforgivable war are the very tip of a very big shitberg, most of which is submerged in the murky waters of public amnesia, selective focus and party political opportunism. The war prior to that was even more unforgivable. If Blair lied or misled parliament, it can’t ever, nonetheless, touch the utterly monstrous Machiavellianism and psychopathy of his political predecessors. That doesn’t excuse what Blair did, but it would be disingenuous to disregard the broader context and history of successive government’s iniquity that led to the Iraq wars. The UK’s previous involvement in selling arms to a despot has had horrific consequences, most of which are being obscured simply because of a media and public unwillingness to recognise them. 

Most of the many thousands of Kurds that were massacred by Saddam Hussein were women and children. The UK is partly responsible for the Al-Anfal genocide. Not because of Blair’s actions, but because of Thatcher’s.

The first Gulf War probably would never have happened had Saddam Hussein not been armed by the West. It would have been very difficult to justify had Hussein not invaded Kuwait. On the balance of probabilities, nor would the second war, though oil was a significant motivating factor for the Iraq invasion, it would have been much more difficult to justify without reference to Hussein’s previous use of WMDs , which the West had provided illegally in the 80s. That permitted speculation and suspicion that some of those weapons still existed after the Gulf War to be used as a justification. 

We can’t make complete sense of events and learn anything of value if we only take a partial and ahistoric view, because the meaningful context in which events are situated matters a lot, too. Our collective short-sightedness has had terrible and ongoing consequences. 

Kurdish civilians and children matter just as much as Iraqi civilians and children. It would be without heart, hypocritical, compassionless, incoherent and unconscientious of us not to acknowledge that. 

Related

The Secret Casualties of Iraq’s Abandoned Chemical Weapons

Margaret Thatcher and Iraq

How £1bn was lost when Thatcher propped up Saddam

CIA Report: Prewar Movement of WMD Material Out of Iraq

CIA: Biological Warfare. Annex B (2004)

Excerpts from “The Death Lobby. How the West Armed Iraq”

Britain’s dirty secret

Iraqi bio-scientist breaks silence

The real motive for the Iraq war is buried under the 2.6 million words of the Chilcot report

 

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The poverty of responsibility and the politics of blame. Part 3 – the Tories want to repeal the 2010 Child Poverty Act

demcracy

Political theories of poverty vary across the political spectrum, with those on the right tending to individualise social problems more generally, and those on the left tending to socialise them. Very different policy implications stem from each perspective.

Since the Thatcher era, the New Right have developed a distinctive behaviourist approach to poverty, founded on the idea that poor people are poor because they lack certain qualities and traits.

In 2013, Iain Duncan Smith worked on developingbetter measures of child povertyto provide a “more accurate reflection of the reality of child poverty.” According to the Conservatives, poverty isn’t caused by a lack of income.

The Coalition conducted a weighted and biased consultation at the time that did little more than provide a Conservative ideological framework in the form of leading questions, to catch carefully calculated, led and subliminally shaped public responses.

Iain Duncan Smith has indicated he will repeal the 2010 Child Poverty Act, which committed the government to a target of eradicating child poverty in the UK by 2020. He has dispensed with the current relative definition of poverty (anyone in a household beneath 60% of median income), abandoned the targets and introduced a new (although rather unclear) definition: the child poverty target is to be replaced with a new duty to report levels of educational attainment, “worklessness” and addiction, rather than relative material deprivation and disadvantage.

Duncan Smith argues that the measures set originally by Tony Blair are a “poor measure of poverty”, and he claims that families can fall or go above the relative poverty line for reasons that have little to do with their material wealth.

Using the Centre for Social Justice’s 2012 report Rethinking Child Poverty, (set up by none other than Iain Duncan Smith in 2004) to support his ideological perspective, Duncan Smith’s account of UK poverty is defined by bad parenting, by alcohol dependency and drug-addiction.

There is of course very little focus on accounts of parents who are poor because they are unemployed or in low-paid work. Or because of government policies that are directed at rewarding wealthy people and punishing poor people. (See also: We are raising more money for the rich.) Duncan Smith said:

“We know in households with unstable relationships, where debt and addiction destabilise families, where parents lack employment skills, where children just aren’t ready to start school, these children don’t have the same chances in life as others. It is self evident.”

Of course it’s also “self-evident” that debt, addiction and unstable relationships happen to wealthy people as well, so as far as causal explanations of poverty go, this one certainly lacks credibility and coherence.

Furthermore, I propose that a lack of opportunities and life chances arise from the cumulative effects of discriminatory economic and social structures and policies. Iain Duncan Smith went on to say:

“They cannot break out of that cycle of disadvantage. We are currently developing these measures right now – family breakdown, problem debt and drug and alcohol dependency – and we will report each year on these life chances as well.”

The Conservatives are claiming that poverty arises because of the “faulty” lifestyle choices of people with personal deficits and aim to reconstruct the identities of poor people via psychopolitical interventions, but it is only through a wholesale commitment to eliminating poverty by addressing unemployment, underemployment, job insecurity, low paid work, inadequate welfare support and institutionalised inequalities that any meaningful social progress can be made.

Over the last five years, the UK has become the most unequal country in Europe, on the basis of income distribution and wages. If that increase in inequality arose because of individual failings, as the Conservatives are claiming, why have those personal failings only become apparent so suddenly within the past five years? The Child Poverty Action Group voiced concerns :

“The statement isn’t about strengthening efforts to end child poverty, but about burying the failure of the government’s child poverty approach. And with more cuts coming down the line, child poverty is set to rise.”

The Bell Swerve

Iain Duncan Smith draws on a framework of ideas that was shaped to a large extent by the white male supremacist musings of Charles Murray, the controversial ultra-conservative American sociologist that exhumed social Darwinism and gave the bones of it originally to Bush and Thatcher to re-cast.

Murray’s New Right culture of poverty theory popularised notions that poverty is caused by an individual’s personal deficits and character flaws; that the poor have earned their position in society; the poor deserve to be poor because this is a reflection of their lack of qualities and level of abilities. Murray’s very controversial work The Bell Curve was a novel of racist pseudoscience and manipulated, misleading statistics which he used to propose that social inequality is caused by the genetic inferiority of the black and Latino communities, women and the poor.

According to Murray, disadvantaged groups are disadvantaged because, on average, they cannot compete with white men, who are intellectually, psychologically and morally superior. Murray advocates the total elimination of the welfare state, arguing that public policy cannot overcome the “innate deficiencies” that cause unequal social and educational outcomes.

Many critics, including myself, regard Murray as a white supremacist, a nationalist that has a long history of advocating discredited ideas that are rooted in eugenics. Nonetheless, Murray has had a significant influence on Conservative thinking about welfare in particular, both here in the UK and across the Atlantic.

“Unless the government sets out a clear target for improving the life chances of the poorest families, its agenda for healing social division in our country will lack both ambition and credibility.”

The Children’s Commissioner issued a statement regarding the repeal of the Child Poverty Act:

“The Child Poverty Act targets were not just about relative poverty – which is a measure of inequality, important in itself – but also included a measure of material deprivation. Critically, the new measures proposed today would not include any tangible measure of poverty, hunger, cold, or deprivation of any kind. Poverty is a financial measure. Unemployment statistics and statistics on educational attainment are already collected.

“The majority of children living in poverty have at least one parent who is working. Employment is important but if wages do not rise substantially in relation to living costs it will not provide a route out of poverty alone. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has today published a report stating that families with children working full-time on the National Minimum Wage are now 15% short of the Minimum Income Standard that people believe offers an acceptable standard of living.  Today’s announcement will effectively confine to history any figures on the millions of children being raised in families who experience in-work poverty denying them necessities such as adequate food, clothing and heating.”

Last year, the Children’s Commissioner said that the increasing inequality which has resulted from the cuts, and in particular, the welfare reforms, means that Britain is now in breach of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which protects children from the adverse effects of government economic measures.

Austerity cuts are disproportionately targeted at the poorest. It’s particularly shameful that absolute poverty has returned to Britain since 2010, given that we are the 5th wealthiest nation in the world. That indicates clearly just how much inequality has increased under the Conservatives since 2010.

Poverty and inequality are a consequence of the way that society is organised, political decision-making and how resources are allocated through discriminatory government policies.

Poverty arises because of the behaviour of the powerful and wealthy, not the poor.

___

See also:

The Poverty of Responsibility and the Politics of Blame

The poverty of responsibility and the politics of blame – part 2

The just world fallacy

The right-wing moral hobby horse: thrift and self-help, but only for the poor

The New New Poor Law

UK Wealth Divide widens, with inequality heading for “most unequal country in the developed world”

Poor people are poor because they don’t know how to get something from nothing

1957929_293215800829475_303676825_oPictures courtesy of  Robert Livingstone

WORKING FOR PATIENTS OR NOT? – a guest post by Suzanne Kelsey

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A guest post by Suzanne Kelsey, who is a key campaigner for the NHS, amongst other things.

In 1988, when Margaret Thatcher had been in office for some 9 years, and the very foundations of our NHS had been shaken with more of the public encouraged to use private medical care,  there were serious concerns about capacity in the hospital services as waiting lists increased and wards closed.  The Conservative government appointed a group of people, without consulting the health professions, to look at this growing problem.

As a result of this the NHS experienced the most significant cultural shift since its inception with a White Paper entitled, ‘Working for Patients, ’ which proposed what we now  know as the ‘Internal Market’ and the development of the purchase provider split. GPs become the purchaser and the hospitals are the providers. This passed into law as the NHS and Community Care Act 1990. Understandably there was a great deal of opposition from trade unions, Labour and the general public but it went ahead as did the Private Finance Initiative in 1992 implemented for the first time in the UK by the Conservative government of John Major.

There is no doubt that further major problems were created for our NHS, although I would question if on the same scale as we are currently witnessing with the threat of complete privatisation and the sell-off of our publically funded service to huge private international companies, who have been waiting in the wings for quite some time and would have been rubbing their hands in glee some years ago if Thatcher and the Conservatives had continued in office.

The definition of ‘privatisation’ also needs to be acknowledged because with the downgrading of facilities and existing provision struggling to meet demands, more and more people will become anxious and tempted to pay for their treatment even if it is to ensure they have a hospital bed!

We must never let this practice become the ‘norm.’ Campaigners must ensure that the ‘free at point of use’ core principle is upheld or we will be taken back to pre-war years, removing freedom from fear that was fought long and hard for by our champions of social justice. At the same time we must remember the mantra, ‘public health not private wealth’ with numerous examples available to us of how private companies will always put profits before patients, but more of that later.

When Tony Blair became Prime Minister in 1997 he inherited a very impoverished NHS and although we expected him to abolish the internal market this did not happen, perhaps for a variety of justifiable reasons. How do you replace crumbling hospitals and inadequate resources without massively raising taxes, whilst also limiting the upheaval that had already been caused?

Alan Milburn was Minister of State at the Department of Health during this time and he stated that after years of the Tory’s gross underfunding, there was absolutely no money to fund the infrastructure, hence the use of John Major’s PFI initiative. Labour therefore it would seem had little choice but to implement this because of the historic neglect of the NHS under the Conservatives that led to understaffing and an NHS unable to manage with the rising expectations of the population, coupled with the costly advances in modern medicine and technology.

A global recession, which was not Labour’s fault, further compounded the challenges of meeting the complex needs of the nation’s health care. Dennis Skinner MP for Bolsover Derbyshire, passionately summarised this in parliament in 2014 when he stated; ‘Between 1997 and 2010 Labour dragged the NHS from the depths of degradation that the Tories had left it in and hoisted it back to the pinnacles of achievement.’

I would like to pose some questions to those experts of marketisation and competition. My knowledge is very limited on the economic implications but I am learning, slowly but surely, through my long involvement with local and national campaigning, speaking to key people in politics and campaign groups, who are also passionate about our NHS. I become increasingly frustrated when people continually blame Labour for the introduction of privatisation  Yes Blair did carry on certain aspects of it which was a disappointment for many, including me, but perhaps my arguments surely go some way to addressing why this was.

  •  My first question is in the title of this article; ‘IS THIS WORKNG FOR PATIENTS OR NOT?’
  •  If Labour had made such massive inroads into privatisation surely there would have been no need for the Coalition’s unwieldy and costly three billion pound reforms, so huge they were just about visible from outer space and the truth is many of those who voted for it would not have time to read it fully. The bill was a long time in the writing and despite the pause because of massive opposition it was nevertheless hastily introduced by the Coalition, despite all the election promises, notably, ‘there will be no top down reorganisation of the NHS.’ They have as predicted caused unprecedented chaos and in fact a major crisis in our NHS, with exhausted frontline workers propping up a system, becoming totally stressed, angry and demoralised.

Many of the population are afraid of becoming ill, because of worrying inadequacies not only at primary and secondary health care levels but also in social care. The frail and elderly feel a burden as they are constantly labelled as ‘bed blockers,’ Thus long queues have been created to see your GP and at A+E, the gateway to the hospital, all of which can result in a lack of timely care. In contrast however Labour ensured patient satisfaction was at its highest with waiting times were at their lowest and the NHS during their time was lauded as one of the best, if not the best health service in the world.

  • Were the massive and unprecedented reforms therefore unnecessary and unjustified?
  • What are the implications for binding private contracts that have taken place across large swathes of the country if hopefully there is a change of government?
  • What lesson have been learnt from the withdrawal of Circle, the private company that took over Hitchingbrooke hospital, with claims of managers installed by these private operators creating a ‘blame culture?’ Allegedly Circle were willing to ensure local GPs incurred financial losses as long as it meant corporations continued to make a profit and the damning report about the quality of care in this hospital is shocking. CQC inspecting the hospital felt obliged to intervene when they became fearful of a sickening child and Professor Mike Richards the chief inspector of hospitals said that the findings were the worst it had ever published.
  • Clive Efford Labour MP for Eltham, South East London,   presented a private members bill to parliament in November 2014,which in order to avoid further top down reorganisation, focussed on the most damaging aspects of the Health and Social Care Act 2012, that gave powers to competition regulators to interfere in decisions of local health care commissioners. The most significant change is that the Secretary of State is once again accountable to you and me through parliament. If the bill is passed he can no longer avoid answering parliamentary questions by saying that it is down to local decision making and not his responsibility. Efford’s Bill also provides that neither EU competition rules nor EU procurement rules will apply. That is an important change from the present because, at the moment, a disappointed private provider can sue an NHS commissioner for damages for failing to put a service out to tender or running a tender process wrongly. My thanks to Clive Efford for that explanation and for securing a vote of 241 for the bill to 18 against.
  • How is this Bill progressing and how it is being supported by NHS campaign groups and health professionals.
  • If the Conservatives are allowed to waltz back in by a public who have been influenced by the hype and propaganda through a biased media and/or have become disengaged, disenchanted or disillusioned , or indeed confused by the outrageous claims of some minor parties who seem to be making it up as they go along, what do we do next!?

I hear talk of a revolution being the only answer from those extremists who are likely to be the least affected by one. Perhaps we would do well to remember that our NHS has just seen the biggest revolution since its inception in 1948. Unfortunately we have seen a glimpse into our future and the outcomes are dire, if we do not use our votes wisely.

Suzanne Kelsey 1stFebruary 2015

http://www.nhshistory.net/shorthistory.htm#_ednref15

http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/thenhs/nhshistory/Pages/NHShistory1948.aspx

https://abetternhs.wordpress.com/2011/01/18/commissioning-and-the-purchaser-provider-split/

http://www.healthp.org/node/71

http://labourlist.org/2014/11/commons-pass-vote-on-clive-effords-nhs-bill/

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/11333986/Damning-report-as-first-private-firm-to-run-NHS-hospital-pulls-out.html

Battle with GPs led to Circle’s retreat from Hinchingbrooke hospital,   The Guardian, January 9, 2015

Hinchingbrooke staff in CQC abuse concerns fear bosses BBC, September 29, 2014

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/uks-healthcare-ranked-the-best-out-of-11-western-countries-with-us-coming-last-9542833.html

Old New Labour: some thoughts on myths, strengths and weaknesses.

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Most people like to criticise New Labour. In political debates with the right, and people loosely assembled on the “left” and pseudo-left, with a variety of affiliations, ranging from the Green Party, the SNP, the Socialist party, TUSC, Left Unity to UKIP and the Judean People’s Popular Front, you can bet your bottom, top and middle dollar that Tony Blair will be wheeled out and painted in curses as the High Priest of “neoliberalism” sooner rather than later, I set my watch and warrant on it. But it’s become difficult to separate party politicking and opportunism from the genuine and useful commentaries.

Labour Party supporters and members also criticise Blair, of course. Quite properly so. However, it’s about time we learned that in order to learn constructively and move on, we must also balance those criticisms with some acknowledgement of New Labour’s achievements. We have tended to focus on the negatives. That puts us in a defensive position – apologising endlessly for the same things over and over again, and it’s difficult to advance from such a position. Even the term “Blairite” has become a deprecatory one. Yet Blair gave us the Good Friday Agreement, Every Child Matters, the Equality Act, the Human Rights Act, the Gender Recognition Act, the Fox Hunting Ban, among many others.

This said, much of that depreciation is probably justified, but not fully. I’ve watched centrists and those of us further left polarise more and more, and that can only weaken us and lead to diversionary infighting in the long run. Our focus ought to be on making progress, not on “Progress.” I have nonetheless been concerned that the core of centrists have contributed to negative media campaigns directed at the left of the party. But this said, some of the more aggressive amongst the so-called “hard left” haven’t done the party any favours either, on the whole. For the record, the “hard left” are also in a minority. Most of our membership are anti-neoliberals and occupy a loose left of centre position, which is not the same as “hard left”.

No party is or ought to be above criticism, but it’s not wholly constructive or appropriate for Labour to be placed in a position of endlessly defending itself from critics for the same misdemeanor from years ago, over and over, because New Labour also had some rarely mentioned, outstanding and comprehensive flagship policies and achievements very worth celebrating, such as the Climate Change Act, free prescriptions for people being treated for cancer or the effects of cancer and many more. Despite the shift towards neoliberal values on an economic level, (and even much of that was a media manufactured consensus) after the heavily and relentlessly neoliberalising Thatcher years, most of Labour’s social policies have never relinquished our core values of equality, inclusivity and valuing diversity, human rights, cooperation, support of public services and all that our post-war settlement entailed.

It’s worth keeping this in mind now that we have moved on and approach the General Election, just a few months away. If we don’t, we will simply see the Tories returned to office, with more devastation being inflicted on the country to follow. We do need to think more strategically here and spend a vote on something better than that.

And no, I’m not a “Blairite”, just someone who likes to analyse in a conscientious, honest, thorough and balanced way. I’m not a “black and white”, reductionist thinker. People are rarely one just thing, they don’t have only one quality or characteristic, political parties possess a similar kind of complexity. I’m much further left than Blair, with some anarchist principles chucked in the mix. I believe in participatory democracy, and I’m also an advocate of prefigurative movements. If we want a society that is more tolerant and equal, for example, we must practice what we preach and treat others with tolerance and regard them as having equal worth. We must be the change we want to see.

Blair’s policy virtues – which are manifold – seem to have dropped out of our collective memory. Ask a psychologist, and they’ll explain this as a cognitive bias whereby certain positive associations, or in this case negative ones, disproportionately colour an overall opinion about someone.

The Iraq war presents the cognitive short-cut when we talk about Tony Blair. Indeed, the aftermath of Iraq has been so appalling that it has even distorted our understanding of Blair’s role in the war itself. Regardless of how it started and worked out, the 2003 invasion evolved from a debated and democratic parliamentary decision. I didn’t like that decision. Many of us didn’t. Many in the Labour party broke ranks and voted against the war, all of the liberal democrats also did. The Tories all voted for the war.

Most major intelligence agencies also believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction – many of Saddam’s generals believed he did. This probably wasn’t a lie fabricated by Blair’s inner circle. That doesn’t mean he didn’t get it wrong, however. He very clearly did.

But it’s also worth considering the fact that Thatcher and other western leaders sold Saddam Hussein the materials to build weapons of mass destruction, including the components for chemical weapons, which were used in a genocide campaign against the Kurdish people. Without that, the first Gulf War under John Major would never had been deemed “necessary.” That war was equally unforgivable. I don’t think the second war would have happened either. The Scott Report brought to light the illegal arms sales from the early 80s, and it undoubtedly contributed to the confusion about Iraq’s capabilities and arsenal. There’s a much bigger picture which also needs some scrutiny. Blair was by no means the only one who should be held accountable for what has happened in Iraq.

Of course, a lot of the intelligence was wrong, we learned in hindsight. However the evidence from the UN and other sources showed that Saddam planned to develop nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction as soon as sanctions yielded. Chemical weapons, which are weapons of mass destruction, had already been deployed against the Kurds. The attacks killed at least 5,000 people and injured 7,000 to 10,000 more, most of them civilians. Thousands more died of complications, diseases, and birth defects in the years after the attack. Dead livestock, contaminated land and subsequent grinding poverty is still a problem in the villages that were attacked, too.

The incident, which has been now officially defined as an act of genocide against the Kurdish people, was and still remains the largest chemical weapons attack directed against a civilian-populated area in history. The Halabja attack has been recognised by the UK, amongst other countries, as a separate event from the Anfal Genocide  – also known as “Chemical Ali” due to the use of chemical weapons, too – that was also conducted against the Kurdish people by the Iraqi regime under Saddam Hussein.

Furthermore, the New York Times and other sources reported recently that from 2004 to 2011, UK and American-trained Iraqi troops repeatedly encountered, and were wounded by, chemical weapons remaining from years earlier during Saddam Hussein’s rule. American troops reported finding roughly 5,000 chemical warheads, shells or aviation bombs, according to interviews with dozens of participants, Iraqi and American officials, and heavily redacted intelligence documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

140 Labour MPs voted against the Iraq war. I protested against it, as did many of us. But nonetheless I would have an accurate and reasonable account of it, rather than some of the almost hysterical accusations of “war criminal”, “illegal war” “there were no weapons of mass destruction” and so forth, that I very often see. It’s far more complex and horrifying than that.

Like him or loathe him personally, by all means, disagree with and protest the invasion of Iraq, sure, but you ought not let that interfere with being honest and objective about policies and events. It’s great myth that Blair didn’t achieve anything in whilst office; the truth is he fundamentally transformed the country after the Thatcher and Major years. And the Tories really DID leave a “mess”.

It’s not just the Good Friday Agreement, workers rights, tax credits and the minimum wage either, that credit him: he left a vast legacy. Civil partnerships. Bank of England independence. The Welsh Assembly. The Scottish Parliament. Every Child Matters. A mayor of London. A plunging crime rate. Abroad, his brand of interventionism in Sierra Leone and Kosovo successful. He is a hero to Kosovan Albanians, many of whom have named their children “Tonibler” in his honour (well, according to Charlie Burton of GQ fame). Personally I object to wars on principle. But that includes John Major’s Gulf War, which many seem to have forgotten about, and Thatcher’s Falklands war. I also object to illegal arms deals with known despots. I mean, what could possibly go right there? If we want to avoid wars, we need to ensure those most likely to start them aren’t handed weapons of mass destruction from “free marketing” western leaders.

I remember that we didn’t need austerity measures under Blair or Brown, despite the depth of the global depression. That in itself tells us that Tory austerity is entirely ideological. Blair and Brown protected citizens to a considerable degree against the worst ravages of deep global recession. This is something many seem to have forgotten, too. Brown instead proposed an economic stimulus, which is the use of monetary or fiscal policy changes to kick-start a struggling economy. Governments can use tactics such as lowering interest rates, increasing government spending and quantitative easing, to name a few, to accomplish this. Our public services were not cut, Labour continued to invest in them.

I think the myth that Labour “borrowed excessively” has been well and truly exposed, since it’s become common knowledge that the Coalition has borrowed more in just 4 years than the last government, indeed, the Tory-led government borrowing has exceeded that of  every single Labour government combined since 1920.

Thanks to the Labour government’s excellent management of the consequences of the global crash caused by the banks and financial institutions,  we were out of recession by 2009. So the Tory austerity measures, which targeted the poorest people, were completely unjustifiable. Osborne used the “bankrupcy lie” to legitimise an entirely ideological Tory-led program of “shrinking the state“, cutting social support for those who need it and slashing public services. However, whilst the poorest paid dearly, this government handed out £107, 000 each per year to millionaires in the form of a “tax break”.

Cameron has been rebuked twice for lying about “paying down the debt” already. The national debt is still rising. It currently stands at more than twice its level than when the Coalition took office.  Osborne is responsible for more debt than every Labour chancellor in history combined. Even the staunchly Tory Spectator commented that it’s “… a depressing point: the Tory leadership is prepared to use dishonesty as a weapon in this election campaign.”

Miliband denounced New Labour in 2010 and has done so since. He presents a break from the established neoliberal paradigm, which is why the establishment hate him so much. Miliband will extend the best of our long-standing tradition, whilst learning from the worst of our mistakes. His tax proposals, for example, are progressive and fair. His proposal to implement the Leveson recommendations is also a plus. He demonstrated learning from the past when he took a principled stance on Syria in 2013 and led a rebellion that even included some Conservatives, too. Cameron was furious at the time with Miliband, because he was thwarted, and cleverly.

Anyone still believing the biggest myth of all: “allthesame”, needs to actually look at a comparison of policies here, and read this: The ultimate aim of the “allthesame” lie is division and disempowerment of the Left.he

The Labour Party have moved on, progressing since 2010. We need to do likewise. They aren’t perfect and certainly not the solution to everything that’s wrong. But a Labour government would be a start for us to build a strong, united labour movement. We would have a bigger platform from which to push for our common aims of social justice, equality, civil rights and so on. If the Tories remain in power, we will continue to become fragmented, isolated, increasingly silenced and disempowered. My view is that sometimes we have to vote for what’s better for us all, rather than what’s our own prefered best. Taking small steps in a much bigger journey, closing the gap between the ideal and the real is better than seeing the regressive Tory authoritarians returned to office on May 7.

Until ALL of us on the Left learn a little about strategy, learn to look at a bigger picture, learn to organise and unite, the country’s nightmare fate is endless authoritarian neoliberal Tory governments.

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Many thanks to Robert Livingstone for his excellent memes

The ultimate aim of the “allthesame” lie is division and disempowerment of the Left.

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The speech-writer for David Cameron in the run-up to the 2010 general election, Ian Birrellseems to have finger in every lie on behalf of the Tories. He’s the contributing editor of The Mail on Sunday, whilst writing columns regularly in several other papers. He’s been published in The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, The Daily Mail, The Financial Times, The Times, The Observer, The London Evening Standard, The Sun, The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph, The Independent, The Independent on Sunday, Prospect, New Statesman and The Spectator.

On the 2nd January, Birrell cobbled together a somewhat strange and hugely speculative article in the Guardianclaiming that “a Tory-Labour unity coalition may be the only way forward after 7 May” and the two parties have more in common with each other than with the insurgents. A national government would prevent a constitutional crisis.”

There are no quotes or citations, just an unsubstantiated comment: “But most people in Westminster privately predict a hung parliament.”

As I said, entirely speculative, seemingly without an aim.

Birrell also claims there was “a brief flicker of unity” between the parties during the Scottish referendum. That’s a neat side-stepping of the fundamental fact that Labour, like most socialists, have always been internationalists, which has absolutely nothing to do with the Tories’ position on Scottish independence at all, and everything to do with Labour’s core values. It’s also a claim frequently made by the Scottish Nationalists –  Labour “sided with the Tories.” Anyone would think that the Scottish National Party want to undermine support for the Labour Party in Scotland…

There is of course a subtext to Birrell’s article. It is a piece of propaganda. The subtext is “the mainstream political parties are all the same.”

The “allthesame” myth came straight from Tory HQ. The BBC’s Tory correspondent Nick Robinson admitted live on air that Cameron’s best chance of winning the next election is if people believe politicians are “all the same.” That is very clearly not the case. I think this is a major ploy aimed at propagandarising an exclusively class-based identity politics, to target and fragment the “working class left.”

It purposefully excludes other social groups and also sets them against each other, for example, working class unemployed people attacking migrants – it really is divisive, anti-democratic, and quite deliberately flies in the face of Labour’s equality and diversity principles. That’s the problem with identity politics: it tends to enhance a further sense of social segregation, fragmentation and it isn’t remotely inclusive.

Of course it also enhances the tropes “outoftouch” and  “allthesame.” It’s a clever strategy, because it attacks Labour’s equality and inclusive principles – the very reason why the Labour movement happened in the first place – and places restriction on who ought to be included.

Think of that divisive strategy 1) in terms of equality; 2) in terms of appealing to the electorate; 3) in terms of policy. Note how it imposes limits and is reductive.

It also demoralises and confuses people.

The Tories set this strategy up in the media, UKIP have extended it further and the minority rival parties, including the Green Party and the Scottish National Party have utilised the same rhetoric tool: all of these parties frequently use the term “liblabcon”for example. That’s a sort of cognitive shortcut to what has been tacitly accepted, apparently, as a “common sense” view that partisanship amongst the mainstream parties is dead. I’ve written at length about this process of “normalisation” –  how social conservatism and neoliberalism have been absorbed culturally, and how this serves to naturalise the dominance of the Right and stifle the rationale for critical debate here – Manufacturing consensus: the end of history and the partisan man.

Be prepared for much more of this propaganda tactic: the Right are engaged in an all out war.

Firstly they know that Ed Miliband has edited their script, abandoning the free-market fundamentalist consensus established by Thatcherism in favour of social democracy.

Secondly, the right-wing media barons who set the terms of what is deemed politically palatable in Britain have never forgiven Ed Miliband for his endorsement of Leveson, which they believe is an unacceptable threat to their power.

Thirdly, they know Labour under Ed Miliband may well actually win the 2015 election.

It doesn’t take much effort to work out that the two main parties in competition have nothing in common at all. They debate oppositionally in parliament. Cameron attacks Miliband at every opportunity and on a very personal level, quite often. It’s plain, if you listen to the parliamentary debates, that neither man can stand what the other represents.

And how would the Tories and Labour reconcile their fundamental differences regarding human rights, the European Convention On Human Rights (ECHR) and the European Union? How about the bedroom tax? The National Health Service? Taxation? The welfare reforms? Equality? These are issues on which the two rival parties will never be able reach a consensus.

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It’s quite difficult to assert that there are significant differences between the parties, because of the constant repetition of the “allthesame” lie. It has become almost like a comforting, lulling mantra and a shortcut from cognitive dissonance. People often get quite angry when confronted with evidence that challenges this soundbite. But policies provide very good evidence, they are scripted from ideologies and are statements of a party’s intentions.

Ed Miliband has been cautious in making policy promises and has said that he won’t pledge anything that he may not be able to deliver. Here are Labour’s key policies to date, each has been costed and evidenced.

The thing about policies that have been passed into law is that they can be verified on the Parliamentary website and elsewhere. How many of you reading this think that Blair was a “Thatcherite”? I’m not a Blairite. I do like Miliband, who is a very different leader than Blair was. Miliband denounced New Labour in 2010. His stance on Syria in 2013 draws a clean line under the Blair approach. Yet Blair is still being used as a stick to hit the Labour Party with.

The claims made in lying articles in the media and the often inaccurate and distorted claims of fringe party supporters are based on a propaganda technique called transfer and association, which is a method of projecting negative (or positive) qualities of a person, entity, object, or value (an individual, group, organisation) to another in order to discredit it (or sometimes, to make the second more acceptable, this tactic is used in advertising a lot.)

It evokes an emotional response, which stimulates the target to identify with recognised authorities. But that stick is hitting a closed door now. Newsflash: Blair hasn’t been party leader for some years.

I worked on compiling a list of New Labour’s policies, and despite Blair’s faults, there really were some outstanding achievements, such as the Equality Act, the Human Rights Act, various animal welfare laws, Every Child Matters and the Good Friday Agreement. I have listed New Labour’s achievements with a comparable list of the Coalition’s “memorable” moments, too. If you hated Blair, and see him as some sort of high priest of neoliberalism, it’s probably even more important that you read this. I promise it will help you to understand cognitive dissonance, at the very least, and perhaps to appreciate the importance of evidence and critical thinking: Political parties – there are very BIG differences in their policies.

And this, for some balance and perspective: Thatcher, Mad Cow Disease and her other failings, the Blair detour and déjà entendu, Mr Cameron.

The “allthesame” lie is a way of neutralising opposition to dominant ideas. It’s a way of disguising partisanship and of manipulating and reducing democratic choices. It’s nothing less than a political micro-management of your beliefs and decision-making.

It also reduces public expectation of opposition and in doing so it establishes diktats: it’s a way of mandating acceptance of ideology, policies or laws by presenting them as if they are the only viable alternative. And those that refuse to accept the diktats are enticed by the marginal parties who offer much, safe in the knowledge that they won’t have to rationalise, evidence, cost or deliver those promises. This also plays a part in diluting viable opposition, because the smaller parties tend to employ the same strategy to gain credibility and support – negative campaigning and repeated lies and soundbites.

Lynton Crosby, who has declared that his role is to destroy the Labour Party, rather than promote the Conservatives, based on any notion of merit, is also all about such a targeted “divide and rule” strategy. This is a right wing tactic of cultivating and manipulating apostasy amongst support for the opposition. It’s a very evident ploy in the media, too, with articles about Labour screaming headlines that don’t match content, and the Sun, Mail and Telegraph in particular blatantly lying about Labour’s policy intentions regularly.

Propaganda isn’t always obvious, and that’s how it works. We need to be very mindful of this.

Ultimately, the only party that will gain from any of this negative campaigning approach and divisive propaganda is the Tories. And that is who we should be collectively opposing.

The Tories launched their election campaign a couple of days ago, and already, it’s obvious that the entire campaign is founded on attempting to undermine Labour’s  credibility by telling lies about their economic management – The Tory election strategy is more of the same: Tories being conservative with the truth.

Contrast the Conservative with the truth approach I’ve discussed here with Miliband’s consistently genuine approach to politics – Ed Miliband: Labour election campaign will be one of hope, not falsehood.  

Whatever party you support and regardless of whether or not we agree on the issues I raise, my key aim, whenever I write, is to inspire a sense of responsibility and some critical thinking. That helps to reliably inform our decision-making.

I won’t apologise to my critics for being a Labour Party supporter, but I will always provide evidence and analysis to support and justify my own views and I will always be happy to engage in dialogue, provided that it’s a respectful and polite exchange. No party is above criticism, quite rightly so, as politics has to be an accountable, reflective and responsive process. That’s what democracy is about.

There is, however, a big difference between genuine criticism, on the one hand and propaganda and lies on the other, which are being masqueraded as “criticism.” If debate isn’t established on a genuine, critical exploration of evidence and establishing truths, then it’s not debate: it’s simply indoctrination.

Related

Don’t believe everything you think: it’s almost election time.

From  Psycho-Linguistics to the Politics of Psychopathy. Part 1: Propaganda

Ed Miliband is the biggest threat to the status quo we’ve seen for decades.

Once you hear the jackboots, it’s too late.

The moment Ed Miliband said he’ll bring socialism back to Downing Street.

Ed Miliband’s policy pledges at a glance

Miliband is an excellent leader, and here’s why.

Cameron’s Nudge that knocked democracy down: mind the Mindspace.

403898_365377090198492_976131366_nThanks to Robert Livingstone for the excellent memes.

Manufacturing consensus: the end of history and the partisan man

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The Tories are not “paying down the debt” as claimed. They are “raising more money for the rich”

Austerity is not being imposed by the Coalition to achieve an economic result. Austerity IS the economic result. In the wake of the global banking crisis, the Tories, aided and abetted by the Liberal Democrats, have opportunistically delivered ideologically driven cuts and mass privatisation.

We also know that the government’s own Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) laid bare an important truth – that any semblance of economic recovery is despite the Coalition and not because of them. Yet the Tories have continued to claim that austerity is “working”. The Chairman of the OBR, Robert Chote said:

“Looking over the forecast as a whole – net trade makes very little contribution and government spending cuts will act as a drag.

The OBR state that any slight economic recovery is in no way because of Osborne and Tory policy, but simply due to the wider global recovery from the global crash. 

The government has drastically cut its spending on everything – including the NHS, and welfare in spite of their ludicrous claims to the contrary, this means that the government has consistently damaged the prospect of any economic recovery. This also demonstrates clearly that Coalition policy is driven by their own ideology rather than a genuine problem-solving approach to the economy. Yes, I know I’ve said all of this before – and so have others – but it’s so important to keep on exposing this Tory lie.

However, I believe that Conservatives really do have a conviction that the “big state” has stymied our society: that the “socialist relic” – our NHS and our Social Security system, which supports the casualties of Tory free markets, have somehow created those casualties. But we know that the competitive, market choice-driven Tory policies create a few haves and many have-nots.

Coalition rhetoric is designed to have us believe there would be no poor if the welfare state didn’t “create” them. If the Coalition must insist on peddling the myth of meritocracy, then surely they must also concede that whilst such a system has some beneficiaries, it also creates situations of insolvency and poverty for others.

Inequality is a fundamental element of the same meritocracy script that neoliberals so often pull from the top pockets of their bespoke suits. It’s the big contradiction in the smug, vehement meritocrat’s competitive individualism narrative. This is why the welfare state came into being, after all – because when we allow such fundamentally competitive economic dogmas to manifest, there are always winners and losers. It’s hardly “fair”, therefore, to leave the casualties of competition facing destitution and starvation, with a hefty, cruel and patronising barrage of calculated psychopolicical scapegoating, politically-directed cultural blamestorming, and a coercive, pathologising and punitive behaviourist approach to the casualities of inbuilt, systemic, inevitable and pre-designated sentences of economic exclusion and poverty.

And that’s before we consider the fact that whenever there is a Conservative-led government, there is no such thing as a “free market”: in reality, all markets are rigged to serve elites.

Political theorist Francis Fukuyama, announced in 1992 that the great ideological battles between “east and west” were over, and that western liberal democracy had triumphed. He was dubbed the “court philosopher of global capitalism” by John Gray. In his book The End of History and the Last Man, Fukuyama wrote:

“At the end of history, it is not necessary that all societies become successful liberal societies, merely that they end their ideological pretensions of representing different and higher forms of human society…..What we are witnessing, is not just the end of the cold war, or a passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalisation of western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”

I always saw Fukuyama as an ardent champion of ultra-neoliberalism, and he disguised his neo-conservatism behind apparently benign virtue words and phrases (as part of a propaganda technique called Glittering Generalities), such as “Man’s universal right to freedom.” 

He meant the same sort of self-interested “freedom” as Ayn Rand – “a free mind and a free market are corollaries.” He meant the same kind of implicit Social Darwinist notions long held by Conservatives like Herbert Spencer – where the market rather than evolution decides who is “free,” who survives, and as we know, that’s rigged. Tory ideology does not ever have a utilitarian outcome.

Fukuyama’s ideas have been absorbed culturally, and serve to naturalise the dominance of the Right, and stifle the rationale for critical debate.

Like Marx, Fukuyama drew to some extent on the ideas of Hegel – who defined history as a linear procession of “epochs” – technological progress and the progressive, cumulative resolution of conflict allowed humans to advance from tribal to feudal to industrial society. Fukuyama was determined to send us on an epic detour – Marx informed us the journey ended with communism, but Fukuyama has diverted us to another destination.

I agree with Fukuyama on one point: since the French Revolution, democracy has repeatedly proven to be the fundamentally better system (ethically, politically, economically) than any of the alternatives. However we haven’t witnessed the “triumph of liberal democracy” at all: in the UK, we are seeing the imposition of rampant, unchecked neoliberalism coupled with an unyielding, authoritarian-styled social conservatism, with the safety net of democracy removed.

Fukuyama’s declaration manufactures an impression of global consensus politics but I believe this is far from the truth. I don’t believe this can possibly be the endpoint of humanity’s sociocultural evolution. It doesn’t reflect any global and historical learning or progress.

Jacques Derrida (Specters of Marx (1993) ) said that Fukuyama – and the quick celebrity of his book – is but one symptom of the wider anxiety to ensure the “death of Marx”. He goes on to say:

“For it must be cried out, at a time when some have the audacity to neo-evangelize in the name of the ideal of a liberal democracy that has finally realized itself as the ideal of human history: never have violence, inequality, exclusion, famine, and thus economic oppression affected as many human beings in the history of the earth and of humanity. Instead of singing the advent of the ideal of liberal democracy and of the capitalist market in the euphoria of the end of history, instead of celebrating the ‘end of ideologies’ and the end of the great emancipatory discourses, let us never neglect this obvious macroscopic fact, made up of innumerable singular sites of suffering: no degree of progress allows one to ignore that never before, in absolute figures, have so many men, women and children been subjugated, starved or exterminated on the earth.”

Fukuyama’s work is a celebration of neoliberal hegemony and a neo-conservative endorsement of it. It’s an important work to discuss simply because it has been so widely and tacitly accepted, and because of that, some of the implicit, taken-for-granted assumptions and ramifications need to be made explicit.

I don’t think conviction politics is dead, as claimed by Cameron – he has said that he doesn’t “do isms”, that politics is doing “what works”, “working together in the National interest” and “getting the job done”. But we know he isn’t working to promote a national interest, only an elite one. Cameron may have superficially smoothed recognisable “isms” from Tory ideology, but Nick Clegg has most certainly taken the politics out of politics, and added to the the impression that old polarities no longer pertain –  that all the main parties have shifted to the right.

However, the authoritarian Right’s domination of the ideological landscape, the Liberal Democrat’s complete lack of any partisan engagement and their readiness to compromise with their once political opponents has certainly contributed to popular disaffection with mainstream politics, and a sense of betrayal.

It’s ironic that many of those on the left who mistake divisiveness for a lack of political choice have forgotten the degree of consensus politics between 1945 and 1979, when Labour achieved so much, and manifested what many deem “real” socialist ideals. The Conservatives at that time largely agreed the need for certain basic government policies and changes in government responsibility in the decades after World War II, from which we emerged economically exhausted.

The welfare state, the national health service (NHS), and widespread nationalisation of industry happened at a time of high national debt, because the recommendations of the Beveridge Report were adopted by the Liberal Party, to some extent by the Conservative Party, and then most expansively, by the Labour Party.

It was Thatcher’s government that challenged the then accepted orthodoxy of Keynesian economics – that a fall in national income and rising unemployment should be countered by increased government expenditure to stimulate the economy. There was increasing divergence of economic opinion between the Labour and the Tories, ending the consensus of the previous decades. Thatcher’s policies rested on a strongly free-market monetarist platform aiming to curb inflation by controlling the UK’s money supply, cut government spending, and privatise industry, consensus became an unpopular word.

The Thatcher era also saw a massive under-investment in infrastructure. Inequality increased. The winners included much of the corporate sector and the City, and the losers were much of the public sector and manufacturing. Conservatism: same as it ever was.

Those on the “Narxist” left who claim that there is a consensus – and that the Blair government continued with the tenets of Thatcherism need to take a close look at Blair’s policies, and the important achievements that were underpinned with clear ethical socialist principles: strong themes of equality, human rights, anti-discrimination legislation, and strong programmess of support for the poorest, sick and disabled and most vulnerable citizens. Not bad going for a party that Narxists lazily dubbed “Tory-lite”.

Narxism is founded on simplistic, sloganised references to Marxist orthodoxy, and the claim to “real socialism.” Many Narxists claim that all other political parties are “the same.”

The Narxist “all the samers” tend to think at an unsophisticated populist level, drawing heavily on a frustratingly narrow lexicon of blinding glittering generalities, soundbites and slogans. But we need to analyse and pay heed to what matters and what defines a political party: policies and their impact. Despite New Labour’s shortcomings, if we are truly to learn anything of value and evolve into an effective opposition, presenting alternatives to the Conservative neoliberal doxa, we must also examine the positives: a balanced and even-handed analysis. We won’t progress by fostering further divisions along the longstanding “real socialist”, “left” and “moderate” faultlines.

It’s very clear that it is the Coalition who are continuing Thatcher’s legacy. We know this from the Central Policy Review Staff (CPRS) report, which was encouraged and commissioned by Thatcher and Howe in 1982, which shows a radical, politically toxic plan to dismantle the welfare state, to introduce education vouchers, ending the state funding of higher education, to freeze welfare benefits and to introduce an insurance-based health service, ending free health care provision of the NHS. One of the architects of the report was Lord Wasserman, he is now one of Cameron’s advisors.

New Labour had 13 years to fulfil Thatcher’s legacy – and did not. However, in four short years, the Coalition have gone a considerable way in making manifest Thatcher’s ideological directives. To do this has required the quiet editing and removal of Labour’s policies – such as key elements of Labour’s Equality Act .

The imposed austerity is facilitated by the fact that we have moved away from the equality and rights based society that we were under the last Labour government to become a society based on authoritarianism  and the market-based distribution of power. The only recognisable continuity is between Thatcher’s plans and Cameron’s policies. The intervening Labour government gave us some respite from the cold and brutal minarchism of the Tories.

There was never a greater need for partisan politics. The media, which is most certainly being managed by the authoritarian Tory-led government creates an illusory political “centre ground” – and a manufactured consensus – that does not exist.

Careful scrutiny and comparison of policies indicates this clearly. Yet much propaganda in the media and Tory rhetoric rests on techniques of neutralisation – a deliberately employed psychological method used to direct people to turn off “inner protests”, blur distinctions: it’s a mechanism often used to silence the inclination we have to follow established moral obligations, social norms, as well as recognise our own values and principles. And it’s also used to disguise intentions. Therefore, it’s important to examine political deeds rather than words: policy, and not narratives.

My own partisanship is to fundamental values, moral obligations  and principles, and is certainly none-negotiable. Those include equality, human rights, recognising diversity, justice and fairness, mutual aid, support and cooperation, collective responsibility, amongst others, and the bedrock of all of these values and principles is, of course, democracy.

Democracy exists partly to ensure that the powerful are accountable to the vulnerable. The far-right Coalition have blocked that crucial exchange, and they despise the welfare state, which provides the vulnerable protection from the powerful. They despise human rights.

Conservatives claim that such protection causes vulnerability, yet history has consistently taught us otherwise. The Coalition’s policies are expressions of contempt for the lessons of over a century of social history and administration.

The clocks stopped when the Tories took Office, now we are losing a decade a day.

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Thank you to Robert Livingstone for the pictures. More here

What the Labour Party achieved, lest we forget

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1. Longest period of sustained low inflation since the 60s.
2. Low mortgage rates.
3. Introduced the National Minimum Wage and raised it to £5.52 per hour.
4. Over 14,000 more police in England and Wales.
5. Cut overall crime by 32 per cent.
6. Record levels of literacy and numeracy in schools.
7. Young people achieving some of the best ever results at 14, 16, and 18.
8. Funding for every pupil in England has doubled.
9. Employment is at its highest level ever.
10. 3,700 rebuilt and significantly refurbished schools; including new and improved classrooms, laboratories and kitchens. 
11. 85,000 more nurses.
12. 32,000 more doctors.
13. Brought back matrons to hospital wards.
14. Devolved power to the Scottish Parliament.
15. Devolved power to the Welsh Assembly.
16. Dads now get paternity leave of 2 weeks for the first time.
17. NHS Direct offering free convenient patient advice.
18. Gift aid was worth £828 million to charities last year.
19. Restored city-wide government to London.
20. Record number of students in higher education.
21. Child benefit up 26 per cent since 1997.
22. Delivered 2,200 Sure Start Children’s Centres.
23. Introduced the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
24. £200 winter fuel payment to pensioners & up to £300 for over-80s.
25. On course to exceed our Kyoto target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
26. Restored devolved government to Northern Ireland.
27. Over 36,000 more teachers in England and 274,000 more support staff and teaching assistants.
28. All full time workers now have a right to 24 days paid holiday.
29. A million pensioners lifted out of poverty.
30. The Child Poverty Act – 600,000 children lifted out of relative poverty.
31. Introduced child tax credit giving more money to parents.
32. Scrapped Section 28 and introduced Civil Partnerships.
33. Brought over 1 million social homes up to standard.
34. Inpatient waiting lists down by over half a million since 1997: the shortest waiting times since NHS records began.
35. Banned fox hunting.
36. Cleanest rivers, beaches, drinking water and air since before the industrial revolution.
37. Free TV licences for over-75s.
38. Banned fur farming and the testing of cosmetics on animals.
39. Free breast cancer screening for all women aged between 50-70.
40. Free off peak local bus travel for over-60s and disabled people.
41. New Deal – helped over 1.8 million people into work.
42. Over 3 million child trust funds started.
43. Free eye test for over 60s.
44. More than doubled the number of apprenticeships.
45. Free entry to national museums and galleries.
46. Overseas aid budget more than doubled.
47. Heart disease deaths down by 150,000 and cancer deaths down by 50,000.
48. Cut long-term youth unemployment by 75 per cent.
49. Free nursery places for every three and four-year-olds.
50. Free fruit for most four to six-year-olds at school. 
51. Gender Recognition Act 2004/5
52. Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland.
53. Walk-in Health Centres and GP out of hours Service.
54. Digital hearing aids, through the NHS.
55. Children’s Act 2004, 2008 – Every Child Matters.
56. Introduced Smoke–Free legislation, 2007 – child health improving continually since.
57. Retail Distribution Review – ending commission for financial advisers
58. Introduced legislation to make company ‘blacklisting’ unlawful.
59. The Equality Act.
60. Established the Disability Rights Commission in 1999.
61. The Human Rights Act.
62. Signed the European Social Chapter.
63. Launched £1.5 billion Housing Pledge of new affordable housing.
64. The Autism Act 2009.
65. New Deal for Communities Regeneration Programme.
66. All prescriptions free for people being treated for cancer or the effects of cancer.
67. Introduced vaccination to be offered to teenage girls to protect against cervical cancer.
68. Rough sleeping dropped by two thirds and homelessness at its lowest level since the early 1980s
69. 2009 Marine and Coastal Access Act.
70. Increased Britain’s offshore wind capacity than any country in the world, to provide enough electricity to power 2 million homes.
71. Led the campaign to win the 2012 Olympics for London.
72. Introduced the first ever British Armed Forces and Veterans Day to honour past and present achievements of our armed forces.
73. Created a new right of pedestrian access, so that every family has equal opportunity to access the national coastline.
74. Led the campaign to agree a new international convention banning all cluster munitions.
75. Launched the Swimming Challenge Fund to support free swimming for over 60s and under 16s.
76. Sustainable Communities Actcreated community safety partnerships.
77. Set up a dedicated Department for International Development.
78. Cancelled approximately 100 per cent of debt for the world’s poorest countries.
79. Helped lift 3 million people out of poverty each year, globally.
80. Helped to get 40 million more children into school, globally.
81. Worked to ensure polio is on the verge of being eradicated, globally.
82. Ensured 3 million people are now able to access life-preserving drugs for HIV and AIDS.
83. Improved water/sanitation services for over 1.5 million people.
84. Launched a Governance and Transparency Fund to improve governance and increase accountability in poor countries.
85. The Neighbourhood Renewal programme – introduced funding for neighbourhood improvements.
86. The Extending Schools Program – included Breakfast and Homework clubs to improved levels of educational achievement and the longer term life chances of disadvantaged children.
87. Launched the Connexions  Service – provided valuable careers advice and support to young people seeking employment.
88. Introduced Working Family Tax credits to support low paid parents in work and to pay for childcare.
89. Introduced the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA)
90. Established The Future Jobs Fund to provide all young people access to a job, training or education.
91. Introduced Warm Front –  helped 2.3 million vulnerable households, those in fuel poverty, with energy efficiency improvements.
92. Guaranteed paid holidays – introduced a law to ensure that everyone who works is entitled to a minimum paid holiday of 5.6 weeks,
93. Introduced the right to request flexible working.
94. Introduced improved work hours – introduced a law so employers cannot force employees to work more than 48 hours a week.
95. Protection against unfair dismissal – introduced protections for workers and increased the maximum compensation from £12,000 to around £63,000.
96. Introduced Rights for Part-time workers – the right to equal pay rates, pension rights, pro-rata holidays and sick pay.
97. Introduced the Right to breaks at work
98. Introduced the Right to representation  – every worker can be a member of a trade union and be represented in grievance and disciplinary hearings.
99. Rights for parents and carers – introduced the right to time off to deal with unexpected problems for their dependants, such as illness.
100. Introduced literacy and numeracy hours in schools and extended diversity to the curriculum.
101. Reduced class sizes to 30 for 5-7 year old children.
102. Introduced a public interest test, allowing governments to block international business takeovers on three specific grounds: media plurality, national security or financial stability.
103. Introduced the (anti-)Bribery Act 2010
104. Established the Standards Board for England under Labour’s Local Government Act 2000 for promoting and ensuring high ethical standards and code of conduct in local government.

105. Introduced the first ever Climate Change Act 2008.

544807_370332463014480_1710535589_nThanks to Rory Doona for this excellent graphic.


 This list was condensed from: Political Parties – NOT all as bad as each other

Some more sources here.

1- 50 were originally listed in the Telegraph. However, I recognised that some of Labour’s best achievements were not included, so I gathered the rest together over couple of years for this compilation. 

Where Labour policies are cited, I have researched and verified them to ensure that the list accurate. You can find them listed on 

See also: Labour’s animal welfare policies

Many thanks to Robert Livingstone for his valuable additions and for his brilliant pictures.