Brown's fire-sale an insult to true Labour traditions

STUDENT loans, the Tote, part of a uranium enrichment firm, the Channel tunnel rail link, the Dartford crossing - they don't exactly get the pulses racing, do they?

Aidan Semmens

STUDENT loans, the Tote, part of a uranium enrichment firm, the Channel tunnel rail link, the Dartford crossing - they don't exactly get the pulses racing, do they?

Which may be why Gordon Brown thought he could flog them off without causing a fuss. And why he was apparently right to think so.

The announcement that he was sticking a �16billion sale sticker on an assortment of public assets seems to have passed with barely a murmur of dissent.

The Tories and the Daily Mail (is there a difference?) put up a predictable token protest.

Which is a bit rich coming from the party that began the trade in knock-off family silver by hawking everything that was of real value in the 1980s.

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But Brown's fire-sale was shunted off the front pages after one day by the returning tale of MPs' expenses claims (yawn). Which shows it hasn't got people as angry as it should.

I have serious misgivings about the morality of uranium enrichment, gambling and student loans.

One is a component of an industry I consider unacceptably dangerous to us all. The other two are directly counter to the principles the Labour Party was founded on.

But that's not the real issue here.

Neither is the fact that selling assets, especially profitable ones, is the economics of the madhouse. The despair that leads to the pawnshop.

Perhaps this short-term thinking is not surprising from a government that must know its own future is now strictly short term.

But it's bad financial policy for the nation.

More to the point, it's stark evidence that the party that still has the nerve to call itself Labour has utterly forsaken its roots, its tradition, its principles - in fact, its very purpose.

The finest government this country has ever had was the Labour administration of 1945-51.

In little over two years it set up the National Health Service, the Social Security system and state pensions. It brought in a much-needed reform of education, including raising the school leaving-age from 14.

It took responsibility for re-housing the millions whose homes had been destroyed by the Luftwaffe and those who had been existing in slums for generations.

It shone a beacon of hope into lives whose light had been dimmed by war. A beacon that successive governments have steadily set about extinguishing.

Under Clement Attlee, Labour brought coal, gas, electricity, steel-making, the railways (then still the main transport network) and the Bank of England into public ownership.

It wasn't generally called nationalisation then - it was called socialisation. It was popular, necessary and accomplished astonishingly quickly (maybe too quickly for its long-term success).

No great surprise that the Tories, coming from a background of privilege, should have reversed most of that.

But what we have now is a Thatcherite government, opposed to socialisation - in other words, not just non-Socialist but anti-Socialist - trading under the name of Labour.

And it makes me sick.

HENRY Kissinger, Yasser Arafat, Menachem Begin, FW de Klerk, David Trimble - they're all former winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. By those standards, the choice of Barack Obama for this year's honour doesn't seem quite so bizarre.

But hang on. A previous Democratic US president, Jimmy Carter, completed his term in the White House 21 years before being awarded the Nobel gong in 2002.

It was given “for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development”.

Decades of effort.

Obama's got it for a few months of promise.

It's as if FIFA noticed England were playing more promising football under Fabio Capello than his predecessor and awarded them the World Cup without bothering to play the tournament.

Or as if I were handed the Man Booker Prize for the book I haven't yet got round to writing.

A MAN mistook his fianc�e for an intruder and shot her dead the day before they were due to marry.

He has not been charged with any offence and police said everything pointed to a tragic accident.

Tragic indeed. Grim. And where on Earth could it have happened but in America?

Especially the bit about no charges.

Imagine it had happened in Chantry, say. Might questions perhaps have been asked about how a loaded gun came to be in the house?

And how come it was fired at someone in the dark - presumably before any questions had been asked? Before intent or identity had been established. Without so much as a “Who goes there?”

(Actually, I'm surprised that even in Florida there were no questions about the lack of questions.)

In America, though, it's just a tragic accident. One of life's natural hazards.

Which is very sad. And might also seem to a suspicious person to be rather convenient for some.