Making History: Labour's 3rd Term: TONY BENN ON WHY LABOUR MUST NOW STRIVE TO REGAIN BRITAIN'S TRUST; despite Differences of Opinion with New Labour, Veteran Tony Benn Has Spent Four Months Campaigning in Key Seats for the Government. Here, He Explains What He Believes the Electorate Will Demand from a Historic Third Term:
Byline: TONY BENN
HAVING campaigned for Labour in 26 constituencies over the past four months, I have been struck by how few problems faced by the Government were addressed in the campaign.
In many places hostility to New Labour was so strong I realised we will make no progress until we can recreate the party as an alternative that people can believe in and work for.
For three weeks we have heard in great detail what Tony Blair, Michael Howard and Charles Kennedy have been doing and saying, but many issues have been ignored.
There have been endless arguments about why we were taken to war against Iraq and why we were not told the truth, but nothing about when we will withdraw all our troops. Nor have we been told what the Government will do when George Bush bombs Iran - as many believe he intends to - and in the event that we become a US colony taking orders from Washington as it extends its empire and undermines the UN.
Older people want to know when their needs will be met by a substantial increase in pensions linked to earnings. Students worry about the debt they will carry when they graduate.
Both will mean higher taxation for the very richest people, who can afford to pay it. Europe has been sidelined. Likewise privatisation, at a time when most people would like to see the railways back in public ownership.
There is also the question of union rights, which are in breach of our obligations under the International Labour Organisation which we signed years ago. Severely cut back by Mrs Thatcher, they have never been restored.
Perhaps the greatest concern has been the way in which the Prime Minister has behaved like a king, ignoring his party, taking Parliament for granted and sidelining the Cabinet.
The issue of democracy has moved back to the top of the agenda and people will expect to be consulted before decisions are made and not treated as if they are under orders. In the next Parliament, Labour MPs must make their voices heard, vote according to their consciences and not just follow the party whips. …