Blair attacks welfare as bosses’ pay soars

As the bosses agree that they are worth every penny of the millions they pay themselves, more and more they are looking to Tony Blair’s ‘new Labour’ to screw down even harder on workers

FOLLOWING the outcry after Cedric Brown, head of British Gas, agreed to give himself a 75% pay rise, a committee of Britain’s bosses was set up to recommend changes in the way top directors are paid. This week Sir Richard Greenbury, chairman of Marks and Spencer, backed by his devoted team of millionaires, finally announced the result of their careful considerations.

But don’t hold your breath. The report recommends top knobs like themselves should continue to rake in their fortunes, to “attract, retain and motivate directors of the quality required.”

One of the biggest scandals that this bosses’ committee was supposed to examine was the way they help themselves to extra bonuses through the right to buy their company’s shares any time in the future at today’s prices.

Last month Marks and Spencer decided that Sir Richard himself ‘deserved’ a cool half million-worth of shares. Their value has already increased by £24,000 in one month. The committee decided this was perfectly fair.

So how does Her Majesty's very loyal opposition, the Labour Party, react? Jack Cunningham, the industry spokesperson, could only complain that the committee had not tackled the “central problem” of abuses in the privatised industries.

But the party has committed itself to clamping down on ‘abuses’ of a different kind. It wants to stop ordinary people having the nerve to claim state benefits.

Following his recent outbursts on health and education, Tony Blair last week outlined his latest attacks on the working class, this time on welfare. He complained that ‘the right’ was spending one third of the government’s budget on social security, while what he called ‘the left’ (he meant the Labour Party) “not before time, is facing up to the need for a new approach”.

He wants to ‘reward steps into work’ by making it less ‘profitable’ to live on benefit, ‘enhance the family’, promote ‘personal responsibility’ and deter ‘fraud’ - all clever ways of calling for yet more cuts in social spending and driving poverty-stricken working class families into even more desperate straits.

An earlier draft of his speech to a Press Gallery lunch contained a section which was dropped at the last minute: “The right to benefit must be matched by a responsibility to seek work and respect the system - or risk real punishment.”

In his rush to cuddle up to the bosses, Blair is even sidelining the Labour Party’s own national executive committee, elected by the party’s conference to elaborate policy. Instead he has set up a new ‘think tank’ under rightwing hack man Peter Mandelson and staffed by former members of the SDP.

No wonder Blair and Margaret Thatcher are exchanging expressions of mutual admiration. In a speech to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation in Australia he praised the governments of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan: They “got certain things right. A greater emphasis on enterprise. Rewarding not penalising success. Breaking up some vested interests. In that sense Mrs Thatcher was a radical, not a Tory.”

Blair is winning the support of the entire ruling class. The bosses know their thieves’ gold will be safe under him. They can rely on him to turn the screw even tighter on the working class.

We need our own genuine working class voice. We must start to build it now!