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Sunday, 9 May 2010

Don't let bankers blackmail Britain - Time to stand up for democracy

The Tories may very well rue the day that they won the most seats in the general election but failed to convince the vast majority of the electorate of their fitness to govern.

Because, should they enter into a shady coalition with the Lib Dems and proceed with their agenda of horrendous cuts across the public sector, slashing jobs and services with wild abandon, the inevitable result would be to provoke a massive recession.

The Lib Dems are not likely to be able to moderate the Tories' obsession with destroying the public sector because, in large part, they agree with the Conservative approach.

And, since electoral pacts of this nature are notoriously transitory and hard to hold together, the likelihood is that there would be another election in short order.

The Tories would then be faced with having to fight an election on the basis of having caused job losses in the tens of thousands and a financial crisis which would dwarf all the previous problems in its intensity.

Because the bankers and speculators would cut and run from the prospect of an economy in crisis, increasing the scale of the problem immensely with a united move against the pound, any joint government of losers would become rapidly encircled from without and would face the dubious prospect of a crisis of confidence of almost Greek dimensions.

And that's without even beginning to consider the effects within the country, a growing unity in resistance to a gigantic government assault on living standards and public services that would undoubtedly appear in the working-class movement.

The role of the City in using its financial clout to pressure the government of the day into cutbacks and butchery of the public sector is also coming into sharper relief and will, quite rightly, be a focus for resentment among the working people of this country.

The profoundly anti-democratic power of finance capital has hitherto been exercised out of the public view and with a minimum of publicity.

But the role of investment decisions on government bonds and the pressure exerted by the City in manipulating borrowing charges is emerging into the light of day and trade unions are becoming angrier and more resentful at the undemocratic nature of such behaviour.

In short, capitalism is being unmasked by the current situation as the dictatorship that it has always been, but has succeeded thus far in masking and camouflaging under a veil of secrecy.

It is up to all of us as socialists and as trade unionists to both draw the lessons of this naked abuse of power and to make sure that people everywhere become more aware of just how far into our so-called democracy the tentacles of capital reach.

It will also be up to us, in the event of the unholy alliance of Tories and Lib Dems coming to fruition, to mount an attack on the cutters and slash-and-burn wreckers of the right.

During the election, all the parties ducked the issue of exactly how they proposed to cut the £169 billion deficit, probably because they were too frightened to tell voters precisely which public services would be squeezed. But, in a subsequent election - which is unlikely to be too far away in the circumstances - that debate is going to be unavoidable.

So it's going to be the task of the labour movement to transform Labour's weak-kneed defence of public services on the grounds that "it's too soon to cut" into a full-blooded defence of the sector, warning that Labour won't tolerate attacks on working people to pay for capitalism's crisis.

That's the only position that is even remotely tenable in the event of another election and, if Labour won't accept that, it will only bring on a defeat that won't be just damaging, but could well be terminal for the party as the electoral voice of an abused and deceived working class.

Left Labour MP John McDonnell has warned that the public would not stand for brutal cuts by any Tory-Lib Dem alliance as the two parties sought to seal a deal.

"The speculators are currently governing our country - who elected them?" he asked, insisting that City fat cats should not choose Britain's economic policies.

Tory media pundits have urged a speedy stitch-up of a Tory-Lib Dem coalition, threatening that world markets would otherwise inflict severe punishment on British financial stocks and the pound.

Persistent TV performer and faded Tory Michael Portillo warned that "the markets" would "dictate" the scale of public spending cuts if they were not quickly implemented by British politicians, adding that "the investors will not wait."

But Mr McDonnell hit back, demanding: "Are we going to control our economy or are we going to let the markets control it?"

And he urged the "largest mobilisation" of trade unions and the left "not just in Britain but across Europe" against cuts and neoliberal policies.

Rail union leader Bob Crow added his voice to the call for resistance, urging workers to "fight back on a massive scale" against a coalition of politicians trying to force through spending cuts.

"Whatever deals are stitched together, the budget cuts will top the agenda of whoever grabs the levers of power," he said, predicting "a tidal wave of strikes and public protests that will mirror the growing resistance on the streets of Athens."

Mr Crow said this would happen "when the British people realise just how seriously they have been misled by the political elite."

He issued his rallying call as Tory and Lib Dem leaders failed to hammer out a quick deal for a cuts coalition to assuage the capitalist wolves - the bankers, financiers and speculators.

Over six hours of talks were held in Whitehall yesterday between top Tories and Lib Dems, following a 70-minute meeting between party leaders David Cameron and Nick Clegg on Saturday.

Lead Tory negotiator and shadow foreign secretary William Hague said the two parties would meet again over the next 24 hours, following discussions over key policy areas, including "political reform" and "reduction of the deficit."

Mr Cameron will report to a meeting of Tory MPs this evening. He declared yesterday that he was looking for a "constructive approach" from the Lib Dems on "tackling the deficit."

Mr Clegg came under pressure from Lib Dem party members to stick by his demand for electoral reform. He was also seeking agreement on tax policies and education.

Over 1,000 banner-waving demonstrators for proportional representation gathered outside party HQ at the weekend.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown sat tight awaiting the outcome of the Tory-Lib Dem talks, following his own offer of coalition talks with Mr Clegg.

Mr Brown sent an email to party members promising that his resolve "will not change" in his "fight for a future fair for all."

Labour MPs John Mann and Kate Hoey urged Mr Brown to resign. Mr Mann complained that Labour had lost votes because the Prime Minister appeared "aloof and out of touch."

Veteran Labour MP Michael Meacher was among those who urged a "progressive rainbow alliance" of Labour, Lib Dems, nationalists, Irish SDLP and Green MP Caroline Lucas.

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