By Ray Fleming

AT the moment the only serious political opposition to Britain's coalition government comes from dissidents within its own ranks. Although Labour's Harriet Harman is doing quite well as Deputy Leader while the leadership campaign is taking place she lacks authority because she insists she does not want the top job. Consequently a strong opposition is missing at just the time it is most needed to counter the coalition's headlong rush to change the nature of British society. Mr Cameron made clear this week that the economies being introduced to deal with the deficit will in most cases be permanent even after an economic recovery is in place.

The new Labour leader will be named on September 25 -- too late to have any influence on the 83 billion pounds cuts George Osborne will announce three weeks later. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that Tony Benn and 73 “usual suspect” supporters have announced a campaign against the coalition's “most savage spending cuts since the 1930s”. The campaign calls for protest here and action there but is short on specifics and will probably be overtaken by the National Day of Action which trade unions are calling on October 20 when Mr Osborne reveals the extent of his cuts in public services.

Nonetheless, Mr Benn is right to see the need for a stronger Labour response to the coalition's plans and to try to provide this until a new leader is in place.

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