Since splitting from Labour, former MPs Chuka Umunna and Angela Smith have gone on to take well-paid positions in the boardrooms of big business. These Blairites should have been booted out long ago. We say: clear out the careerists!
The Financial Times recently reported that Chuka Umunna has joined communications company Edelman as Executive Director and head of Environmental, Social and Governance Consultancy. Edelman’s top 10 global clients are: Samsung, Microsoft Xbox, Unilever, HP, Shell, Johnson & Johnson, eBay, Novartis, Starbucks, and Adobe.
“Whereas in politics you do the theoretical side, I wanted to roll my sleeves up and get involved at the coalface,” Mr Umunna told the FT. “I’m a capitalist, but we need a different model for capitalism.”
Umunna split from the Labour Party with a small group of MPs last year to form Change UK. Most of these turncoats jumped before being deselected. Chuka later ended up in the Lib Dems, before being hoofed out of Parliament at the 2019 general election.
Angela Smith, meanwhile, another former Labour MP who left the party with Umunna, has now joined Portsmouth Water as an ‘independent’ non-executive director. She was also defeated in the last election.
Good riddance to bad rubbish
Chuka Umunna’s declared support for capitalism comes as no surprise. When campaigning for the Cities & Westminster seat in the election, for example, Umunna stated that he finally felt at home there, talking to the residents who occupied the constituency’s plush mansions.
Similarly, among Angela Smith’s qualifications for her role with Portsmouth Water was no doubt her opposition to Corbyn’s policy of renationalising water companies. Her view, by contrast, is that this would be “an expensive indulgence in the politics of the past…founded on the altar of ideology and constantly vulnerable to political interference”.
Nobody will be surprised at the attitudes and opinions that these characters hold. Blairites like Umunna and Smith – and those right-wingers still inside the PLP – are agents of big business inside the labour movement. They have contempt for the working class, and actively work to undermine genuine socialist ideas.
It’s also no surprise that they chose to resign from the party when their positions became untenable. After all, they had a parliamentary pension to preserve. We say: good riddance to bad rubbish!
Fight the right wing
But how did the Parliamentary Labour Party become so dominated by careerists in the first place? How is our party so infected by those with no tradition in the labour movement; with ideas that are so at odds with the class interests that Labour is supposed to represent?
Part of the answer lies in the attempts under Kinnock – and later Blair – to roll back party democracy. Instead of mandatory reselection, the right-wing leadership sought to fill the party with shiny careerists, who could be relied upon to fight against socialist ideas.
Sir Keir Starmer stood in the Labour leadership contest on a platform of continuing Corbyn’s legacy. But it is – and always was – evident that his real intention is to tack to the right. Already, the Shadow Cabinet has been stacked with Blairites; Rebecca Long Bailey has been sacked; and the right-wing majority on the NEC have voted through changes to suit themselves.
However, Starmer still faces some big obstacles – not least the fact that the party still contains hundreds of thousands of left-wing members.
Clear out the careerists
Labour needs socialist MPs; working-class fighters prepared to struggle for the interests of ordinary people. We don’t get seats on the executive boards when we lose our jobs. Workers will have to organise and fight for every job as the economic tsunami hits.
Grassroots members and trade unionists must fight for Labour MPs who are genuinely representative of the working class. This means taking only the average wage of a skilled worker, and campaigning for bold socialist policies.
Standing as a Labour MP should be seen as a privilege, granted by the movement; not as a means of filling your own pockets, nor as a launch pad for a fancy career in the City.
If the last five years of struggle inside the Labour Party teaches us anything, it is that there are no shortcuts. Activists must organise to transform the party from top to bottom. We need mandatory reselection in order to clear out the careerists, and to elect workers’ MPs who will take a worker’s wage.