After a period of silence, the Blairite careerist rump inside the Labour Party has started stirring things up again. Rumours have even been circulating of a plot to remove Ed Miliband as leader and replace him with the Blairite Alan Johnson. Steve Jones looks at the latest machinations of the Blairites.
After a period of silence, the Blairite careerist rump inside the Labour Party has started stirring things up again. Furious that their man failed to get elected four years ago as Labour leader, they have been looking for a new opportunity to get what they want. Rumours have even been circulating of a plot to remove Ed Miliband as leader and replace him with the Blairite Alan Johnson.
The Blairites have noted how flat the last Labour conference was and think an avenue of opportunity has opened up for them. Needless to say, they have no intention of drawing attention to the fact that the reason the conference was so flat was that the leadership presented virtually nothing in the way of even mild reforms, but instead made very clear that Labour in power would continue with a version of the austerity regime implemented by the Tory-led Coalition government.
However, this has not stopped the Blairites from trying to stick the knife in. Ironically, these are the people who, in the past, were the first to complain about the criticisms of the Left as being “disloyal and divisive.”
Labour “barons” re-emerge
A report in The Sunday Times of October 5th presented the stirrings of all the usual suspects, bar Lord Adonis and Lord Mandelson – not to forget Tony Blair himself, although he is probably too busy making money to find the time to stick his oar in for now. The complainers were presented under the collective title of “Labour barons”, although no such positions exist in the party organisation.
First up was Lord Noon who led the complaint against the Mansion Tax plan presented at conference, maybe because he and the rest all own mansions themselves – who knows? Apparently the Mansion Tax proposal is taking the party “back to the 1970s.” This is right-wing code for what they used to call the old mythical “Loony Left” days of the party. This says volumes about how they view the world. Noon also demands that Labour panders to UKIP by being harder on immigration.
Up next was Lord Levy, who owes his claim to fame to having been Tony Blair’s chief fundraiser. He also doesn’t like the Mansion Tax proposal and demands that Labour be more friendly to big business, whose financial support the Party, we are told, needs; “Do I believe the Party needs to be more close and friendly to big business? Yes, I do and hope that this will happen over the ensuing period.” So let us be clear here. According to these people, the voices of a rich few count for more than the voices of millions of people who have little cash but do have a vote.
Rich back their own
Even if you were to be totally cynical and shape everything according to the need to get big business backing then you would end up disappointed. The normal position is for the rich to back their own parties, which in Britain means the Tories with a little bit for the Lib-Dems. These people understand the class basis of the main parties, and for that reason do not trust Labour despite the fawning of the right wing elements at Westminster. They still fear the influence of the unions and the membership, even after all the attempts to water down or break the Labour-union link. They do not trust Labour to stand firm for capitalism should sufficient pressure be exerted under crisis from below.
Only when their preferred option of a Tory government has been totally discredited and become unviable does big business reluctantly look towards Labour as a stopgap measure, as was the case in 1997 when the Major administration had become totally unelectable. Even then they tend to target any funding towards the right wing, hence the support for Blair and the New Labour project. During this period, all manner of right-wing Labour pressure groups suddenly sprung up, all well funded from business sources. The money of the rich will always be tainted.
The reality is that the Blairite strategy being presented would be even more of a disaster than the one now being pushed along by Miliband and Balls. If Labour is looking for finance, then they should look towards the trade unions and the Party membership, rather than a coterie of rich backers who seem set to demand that Labour acts like a Tory second-eleven.
However, to get the required cash from the movement, Labour needs to offer a programme that will enthuse the ranks and the working class itself. Even mild reforms under a state of capitalist crisis will not now cut it. For every plus point will be more than outdone by the minuses of an austerity regime which is part of the DNA of capitalism itself. Once you accept the requirements of the system then, whether you want to or not, the harsh demands of Capital will surely follow.
The demands of Capital
The mistake that many even on the Left make is to believe that the cuts and attacks of the current austerity regime are just ideological and that governments can take them or leave them based on their political bent. Yes, the Tories are keen to attack benefits, workers’ rights and carry out further privatisation (where profitable); but had they been given the choice, they would no doubt have preferred not to have carried out such a vicious and vote-costing programme as the one they have gone ahead with during the current government, and which they intend to continue with should they win the next election.
The problem is that capitalism in a crisis, such as the one we are now seeing, has made it very clear what is needed to save their rotten system. The same demands have been made on all the Western governments and all have complied whether they are from the “Left” or the “Right.” Such a situation demands a total rethink from the mass organisations of the working class. This means socialist policies, not mini-reforms and austerity-with-a-smile. This is the way to win the next election, not trying to pander to big business.
It says volumes for the lack of confidence in the Miliband-Balls approach that the Guardian newspaper, after the Labour conference had finished, was able to speculate that many of the party apparatchiks and careerists were now openly thinking that it would be better to lose the next election. The reasoning was that Miliband and others would go with job opportunities then opening up, but also that it would be better to let the Tories carry out the “required” programme of cuts during the term of the next parliament (as well as pulling themselves apart over Europe) and then leave the field clear for Labour to return to office in 2020. In other words, let the Tories do the dirty work.
Fight for a socialist programme!
Such cynicism says all that needs to be said about these people, that they would prefer to let ordinary people suffer another five years under the Tories in order to just protect their career paths. These careerists hang around Westminster waiting to be parachuted into safe-seats and then wonder why they are seen as part of a rotten establishment.
This is why Labour needs to have not only a change of policies, but also a fighting socialist leadership to carry them out. The demand should be for democratically selected Labour candidates who will stand at election on the clear platform of “a workers’ MP on a workers’ wage”. This is the only way to break the corrupting grip of the bosses’ establishment that ensures that Westminster is now seen by many as being a cosy-club where pockets are lined and ordinary people have to pay the bill.
Rather than accept the reactionary line of the Blairites as the “new way forward” (which is actually a very old way forward – one which has always failed as we have seen with successive Labour governments under the grip of right-wing leaderships), we need a clear change of course – a socialist one – which will push aside this system of crisis and austerity. This is the way to win the next election, not pandering to the line of Noon and Levy and the rest of these so-called “barons”.