Britain

Andy Newman, an editor of British blog Socialistunity.com, spoke to Salma Yaqoob for Green Left Weekly. Yaqoob is the national vice-chair of anti-war coalition Respect — the Unity Coalition, as well as a leader of Birmingham’s Stop the War Coalition and a Birmingham city councillor.
Some 130,000 post office workers in the Communication Workers Union (CWU) have brought mail deliveries in Britain to a standstill by holding two 48-hour strikes over pay and working conditions. The strikes, which began on October 5 and October 8 respectively, are over management plans to axe 40,000 jobs, to close workers’ final salary pension scheme, to offer a below inflation pay rise, and to tear up all existing national and local agreements on working hours.
The 120,000-strong University and College Union has called off a debate on a possible academic boycott of Israeli universities, as well as a speaking tour of Britain by Palestinian academics. UCU delegates at the union’s annual Congress in May had voted to circulate and debate a proposal for an academic boycott of Israel issued by Palestinian trade unions, NGOs and community organisations.
On September 13 Britain’s Trade Union Congress (TUC) reaffirmed its solidarity with Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution at its annual conference, backing Venezuela’s decision not to renew the public-broadcast license of the private TV station Radio Caracas Television (RCTV), which had “supported the military coup [in 2002] against the democratically elected government of Venezuela”.
Delegates at the Trades Union Congress (TUC) in Brighton gave Gordon Brown a frosty reception during his first speech to the TUC as Britain’s new Labour PM on September 10. Brown used the speech to underline his demand that pay rises in the public sector be limited to no more than 2% over the coming year.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown looks set to break Labour’s 2005 election manifesto pledge to hold a referendum before Britain signs up to a new European Union constitution. At an August 22 press conference with German leader Angela Merkel, Brown announced that there was no need to hold a referendum and that the matter would instead be decided by parliament.
One of the leaders of demonstrations in Gaza calling for the release of the BBC reporter Alan Johnston was a Palestinian news cameraman, Imad Ghanem. On July 5, he was shot by Israeli soldiers as he filmed them invading Gaza. A Reuters video shows bullets hitting his body as he lay on the ground. An ambulance trying to reach him was also attacked.
The head of Britain’s Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has called for police to be given the power to imprison “terror suspects” indefinitely without charge.
On July 17 the British House of Commons’ standards and privileges committee recommended the suspension of George Galloway, the former Labour MP who is now an MP for the left-wing Respect coalition, for 18 days. Galloway was expelled from the Labour Party in 2003 because of his opposition to the Iraq war.
On June 27, Tony Blair finally stepped down as prime minister, exiting Downing Street to the sound of loud jeers from anti-war protesters and families of soldiers killed in Iraq. His successor, former Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, gave a brief speech at the door of Number 10 in which he used the word “change” no less than eight times. Many British trade union leaders have been hoping that Blair’s departure and Brown’s ascendency may signal a move away from the neoliberal agenda pursued by three successive Blair governments. This was always a vain hope, as Brown was Blair’s treasurer for the entire 10 years of his reign and architect of many of New Labour’s most reactionary policies, including the infamous Private Finance Initiatives that have brought many National Health Service trusts to the brink of bankruptcy.

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