Only a month ago Tony Blair pledged to resign if he became an electoral liability to Labour. The results of the triple elections held on Thursday June 10 confirm him, and more importantly his policies, as just that. In not one, not two, but three elections on the same day Blair was given his marching orders. Labour suffered their worst electoral defeats ever.
This firefighters' strike - whatever the eventual outcome - represents the opening shot in a new stormy period facing Britain. It is a fundamental turning point. Socialist Appeal has repeatedly explained that we have entered the most turbulent period internationally since the second world war. A series of general strikes have rocked Europe, from Greece, Spain and Italy. France has been shaken by mass demonstrations against privatisation. Now Britain has become affected by this changing mood, reflected by the shift to the left in the trade unions.
The surprise defeat of Mick Rix by a right winger for the position of General Secretary of the rail union, ASLEF, will have come as a great shock to many in the union and in the wider Labour and trade union movement. Certainly it was not something that could have been easily predicted or even guessed at. The winner, Shaun Brady, is an old-style right-winger, relatively unknown in the union. He talks about taking the union back to the membership but in reality he means the membership of the Strategic rail Authority, CBI and the City of London! How did this happen? What does it mean? What lessons must be learnt from this?
Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith is "murally dyslexic," according to one of his own backbench MPs Anthony Steen, "he can't read the writing on the wall!" The "nasty party" as their own chairman Theresa May MP dubbed the Tories, stumbles from one crisis to the next. The issue of adoption for unmarried and gay couples is an important one, but is not the root cause of the latest debacle. The press make much of Duncan Smith's history as a plotter and a backstabber in the days of John Major's leadership. He voted against the 'party line' more than 40 times over Europe. True as this undoubtedly is, the Tory leader's paranoia, seeing plots around every corner, is not the source of their crisis either. The Tory Party is the most successful bourgeois party in history, its longest period in the wilderness came between 1846 and 1866. Otherwise from the 1830s to the present day, the Tories have never been out of office for more than 11 years. Today they are not only out of office but hopelessly split, reflecting the divisions in the capitalist class about the way forward for their system.
The magnificent one million-strong strike of local authority workers on July 17 has forced important concessions out of the government. Anyone who still doubted the power of militant industrial action has been answered. Before the strike there was no more money available, no matter what, for chronically underpaid council employees. Furthermore Blair insisted that he would not be involved, this was "a matter for the employers not the government." However, the militant action of the workers and their determined mood has forced an immediate U-turn. Blair personally intervened to persuade the employers to propose a new, improved offer. The threat of a further one-day strike on August 14, and the possibility of all-out action in September changed everything. The Blair government which had made clear its intention to confront the unions head on, especially over the involvement of the private sector in the running of public services, suddenly developed cold feet. The first lesson of this dispute - which will not be lost either on the workers involved, or on postal workers, firefighters and London Underground workers preparing to take strike action is: Militancy Pays! Militant action gets results, just one 24-hour strike has got Blair on the run, and this is just the beginning. We explained this process in advance.