By Sacha Ismail
GORDON Brown’s comment about wanting a “government of all the talents” was originally interpreted as signalling reconciliation with the “Blairite” faction within the Labour leadership. Since coming to office as Prime Minister, however, he has gone much further, offering positions to a wide-variety of right-wing, non-Labour figures in what looks like an attempt to construct a government of “national unity” (read: capitalist unity).
• Brown’s camp have engineered and hailed the defection of Tory MP Quentin Davies. Previous Tory defector Shaun Woodward was, unsurprisingly, an anti-working class toff (he took his butler on the campaign trail at the last election), but at least a liberal on social issues (hence his departure from the Conservatives). Davies is a reactionary bigot.
This unrepentant Thatcherite ex-stockbroker, who in 2001 praised Thatcher for “turning round” the country and said that she “takes second place to no one” in his political affections, has also voted in favour of the death penalty and fox-hunting, and against extensions of gay rights. He hailed the crushing of the trade unions in the 1980s and in the 1990s described the minimum wage as a “crazy idea”. His insistence today that he has “always greatly admired” Gordon Brown is presumably part-toadying and part-truth.
• Perhaps even more significantly, Brown has appointed far-right Thatcherite and former head of the bosses’ Confederation of British Industry, Digby Jones, as a minister of state in the new Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. Jones, who, since no one except his fellow capitalists has ever elected him to anything, will have to be made a life peer before he takes up office, naturally opposed the minimum wage and every other microscopic reform offered up by the Blair government as a sop to the labour movement.
• Brown is creating a new Business Council to advise on “all policies affecting business”. This will be used to further promote the involvement of businessmen in government and remove further areas of public power from accountable, democratic control. (Brown: “It will be able to look at whether some parts of business policy – industrial policy, technology – should be independent of government, like the Bank of England is.”) This Business Council will include well-known Thatcherite thug Alan Sugar and Tesco’s gangster-in-chief Terry Leahy – and be chaired by private equity boss Damian Buffini, whose company Pereira’s take-over of AA was immediately followed by the sacking of 3,000 workers.
• Hawkish Admiral Sir Alan West, who as head of the Navy criticised the government for not spending enough money on big guns, has been appointed a junior Home Office minister in charge of security.
• There has been renewed flirting with the Lib Dems, with two Lib Dem lords signing on as Government advisers.
All this is anti-democratic in the extreme: ministers should be selected by and from the ranks of Parliament, not chosen by the Prime Minister from wherever, in effect, he feels like. In addition, however, the class dimensions is also obvious. Brown is attempting to build on Blair’s work in creating a bourgeois political machine independent of what is left of the Labour Party, and immune to attempts by the labour movement to exercise control from below. Together with his moves to gut Labour Party conference, these appointments represent another move in the Blairites’ struggle to push the organised working class out of politics, and create a new bourgeois political realignment.
Down with the minister-capitalists! As part of a fight to challenge the Labour leadership, the labour movement must demand the removal of these bourgeois parasites from the government.