Britain: Hutton Whitewash – Blair cannot run forever -

The Hutton inquiry produced few surprises. Naturally Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell were exonerated. This inquiry was no different to any of its predecessors, since no such inquiry ever found a government to be guilty. It was a whitewash. The Hutton inquiry produced few surprises. Naturally Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell were exonerated. This inquiry was no different to any of its predecessors, since no such inquiry ever found a government to be guilty. It was a whitewash.

Yet it goes further, condemning the BBC and vilifying the man at the centre of the inquiry, weapons expert Dr. David Kelly driven beyond the edge of reason by the desire of the government to silence all criticism. Not content with the man's death they now pursue his reputation beyond the grave. Kelly's tragic death has not dissuaded them from their course in the slightest.

This is a government hell-bent on suppressing all opposition. The tiny right-wing clique around Tony Blair is not content with elbowing aside the Parliamentary Labour Party and turning the cabinet into a rubber stamp. Now they want to stifle the press, journalists and the BBC in particular and close off yet another avenue for criticism.

Marxism has no illusions in the independence of the press any more than the judiciary. The BBC in particular has long played the most baleful role in relation to the workers' movement. Witness their appalling coverage during the miners' strike, recalled so vividly in their recent documentary which sought not only to rewrite history but also as a warning to workers today. 'Militancy is a thing of the past, do not dare to try it again.' Nevertheless, individual journalists can play a certain role in exposing the lies and deception perpetrated by governments to justify the unjustifiable. In general those who run the media do so in the interests of the capitalist system. But are we now to have a press run by government department? Are journalists to submit their by-lines to government censors before publication?

The conclusions of Hutton's report were known in advance, both because they were obvious, and also because this inquiry into leaks was itself leaked. Blair is said to be "furious", yet one would have to ask which potential headline of January 28 Blair would prefer "Humiliating 'victory' on top-up fees" or "Blair cleared by Hutton". As a lawyer Blair will be familiar with the phrase 'cui bono' – who benefits?

Save for the nasty attacks on the one man not able to give evidence, and the new assault on the press, Hutton's conclusions are also irrelevant. Naturally Blair and co got off scott free. Nothing more was to be expected. Yet every day that this fills the papers is a daily reminder of the war in Iraq, and for that there will be a reckoning at the polls and inside the labour movement.

The ever increasing concentration of power in the hands of a small clique around Blair, further exposed by this inquiry, also points to a far more important conclusion than anything Hutton says in his report. The continued erosion of democracy, limited as it is under capitalism, with the continual downgrading of parliament, and attacks on the press, both of whom provided at least some measure of a safeguard in the past, for all their limitations, is not a secondary question. The attacks on workers' rights, combined with the undermining of democracy, and new measures like those proposed in the new emergency powers legislation must serve as a warning to the labour movement.

The ruling class is preparing for struggles to come. We must do likewise.

Which brings us to the narrow remit of Hutton's inquiry. Some journalists have written that the whole thing is just a distraction. Indeed the pronounced innocence of Blair and co in the leaking of Dr. Kelly's name is no doubt meant as a magician's trick with mirrors, to distract attention from the real issue – there never were any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and now everyone, except Blair, admits it.

David Kay, Bush's own weapons inspector and formerly chief weapons monitor for the CIA resigned his position in January concluding that there are no weapons of mass destruction to be found in Iraq. "I don't think they existed" he stated bluntly.

This issue will not go away no matter how hard Blair's spin doctors attempt to sweep it under the carpet. Blair is now under attack from all quarters. A whitewashed inquiry will not save him any more than his 'triumph' in parliament over tuition fees.

The Tories hypocritically try to wrap themselves in a cloak of sincerity over the death of Kelly and the wider issue of the non-existence of weapons of mass destruction. No doubt we are expected to conveniently forget they enthusiastically supported for the war in Iraq.

More importantly Blair finds himself under attack in parliament, from within the Labour Party. Robin Cook who resigned from the cabinet over the war in Iraq abstained in the vote on student fees. The other cabinet minister to resign, Clare Short, was one of the leading rebels against the government. In the end they scraped home with a majority of just five votes.

Blair also faces renewed opposition from the trade union movement. Following their successes in defeating the Labour leadership at the party conference last autumn, the new leaders of Amicus, GMB, T&G, and Unison have announced their intention to call a mass meeting of Labour Party members, MPs and trade unionists to demand the implementation of their demands.

On the industrial front too, for all the warnings none too subtly delivered in TV documentaries on the miners' strike, militancy is far from dead. On the contrary it is on the march with civil servants staging their biggest national strike for 17 years following hot on the heels of the firefighters and the postal workers.

Neither the whips in parliament, nor the whitewash of a judge can save Blair now. New Labour is dead. This is not a matter of personal incompetence or the failures of spin doctors, but is determined by factors beyond their control. All the conditions which led to the triumph of Blair inside the Labour Party are turning into their opposite. The economy now balances perilously atop a mountain of debt. Twenty years of accumulated stress and anger in the workplace is beginning to burst through the surface and has already had a major impact inside the trade unions. All these factors combined with the mass opposition to the war in Iraq, and the perception that Blair and co are liars, no matter what Hutton reports, are already beginning to have an impact inside the Labour Party too. Blair's apparent iron grip has now been broken.

Just as the ruling class are preparing themselves for a new period of struggle, the working class must put its house in order too, by transforming their own organisations, the trade unions and the Labour Party.