Keith Standrin (itusc@gn.apc.org)
Thu, 10 Apr 1997 22:24:27 GMT

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The following is a section of the International Trade Unionist Bulletin-(British) General Election Special. _____________________________________________________________________ BLAIR'S SCOTTISH 'GAFFE' GIVES AWAY THE GAME by Terry Brotherstone

'I cannot understand', a German journalist told Radio Scotland, 'how Tony Blair could have made such a gaffe'. His point was that, with the election result all but sewn up, the heir apparent to the British premiership still couldn't get it right on the Scottish question.

Blair's toothy, 'trust-me' smile came unstitched at last, as he turned tetchily on a Scottish press pack which doggedly refused to ask him about anything other than the 'constitutional' issue. The first major blunder in 'New Labour's' election campaign came when, venturing north, Tony Blair blurted out a comparison between his proposed tax-raising Scottish Assembly and an English parish council.

He handed the Scottish Nationalists a further propaganda gift by responding to the so-called 'West Lothian question' by saying that, whatever powers a devolved Scottish parliament might have, 'sovereignty' would continue to rest 'with me as an English MP at Westminster'.

The 'West Lothian question' concerns the problem identified by West Lothian MP, Tam Dalyell - that Scottish devolution would mean Scottish MPs continuing to vote on domestic legislation applying only to England and Wales, while English MPs would no longer have a say on similar matters in Scotland.

Like the 'sleaze' issue, devolution for Scotland is a convenience for the capitalist parties allowing them to divert attention from the bankruptcy of their programmes for dealing with the economic and social crises. But there is a difference.

In Scotland a serious devolution policy has been the Labourites' only rallying tune since, in 1992, Scottish workers, for the fourth election in a row, had to thole (suffer) a public-service-destroying Tory government, despite a large Labour majority north of the border.

The Labourite nightmare in Scotland is that there will be mass defections to the social-democratic-sounding Scottish National Party, if not on 1 May, then at subsequent local and Scottish assembly elections.

But there is a much more serious point. Blair's gaffes are not simply a product of his desperation to garner the votes of 'middle England' by stamping on every suggestion that income tax might be raised in any corner of the kingdom which a key section of the financial establishment has decided he should inherit.

The Scottish play in Blair's electoral endgame points to a future in which the gulf between the next Labour government and the aspirations of the working class will be unbridgeable. The age of reforming, social-democratic Labour governments has ended.

For Labour-supporting working people Scottish devolution is not about constitutional issues as such. The idea is that, with a Scottish parliament, the Thatcherite ravaging of industrial jobs and social services would never have taken place. For as Baroness Hacksaw herself acknowledged in her highly selective 'memoirs', there was, ideologically, 'no Thatcherite revolution in Scotland'.

Since the early years of this century at least, the social crisis both in urban and rural Scotland has always been so profound that the middle and upper classes have been wary of allowing the market full rein. In the nineteenth century they relied on the Church to keep the poor and the working masses in check, but since the days of 'Red Clydeside', secularisation has made that a second-string strategy at best.

over a Scottish parliament has become a focus for the real questions underlying this election: not 'Who occupies ministerial offices from 2 May?', but 'What is government for; in whose interests is it exercised; and what options remain at this historical moment in the structural crisis of capitalism?'

The Blair/Brown message to the ruling class is clear: 'Trust us!', and, however reluctantly, the bankers do. The working class will continue the search - to which the miners in 1984-85, and the Liverpool dockers and others now, have contributed enormously - for its own answers.

Whatever may be the flavour of the moment, they will be found neither in the sleaze-free room of a Tatton inn, nor in the Edinburgh offices of the Scottish National Party. _____________________________________________________________________ International Trade Union Solidarity Campaign (ITUSC) at:- PO Box 18, Epsom, Britain KT18 7YR Tel/Fax: ++44 (0) 1372 817778 e-mail: itusc@gn.apc.org URL: http://www.itusc.org.uk The ITUSC is an international and internationalist association of organised workers and communities, dedicated to rebuilding the workers' movement and to overcoming sectarianism and division in working class organisations. It was founded in 1991 on the following principles: 1) trade unions independent of the state and employers; 2) democracy within trade unions, and; 3) workers' internationalism. Any individuals or organisations that accept these principles and are prepared to work for them, are regarded as comrades by the ITUSC. _________________________________________________________________

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