week is a long time in politics." Harold Wilson
European election results were published last Monday, following on
from the local election results of a few days earlier. They showed
Labour behind not just the Tories, but even behind UKIP, a lunatic
fringe party, on just 15% of the vote. For the first time since 1918,
Labour had been beaten by the Tories in Wales. Labour was smashed in
its other heartlands, where working class voters just sat at home in
disgust, and was completely marginalised elsewhere in the country.
Labour came 5th
in the South East with just 8.2% of the vote. In Cornwall they came
the Cornish Nationalist Party, whom presumably even the local folk
see as a lost cause.
a result of the low turnout the far right British National Party got
two seats in the European parliament for the first time ever. For
once Alistair Darling got
it right when he admitted, "People felt disillusioned with us
and didn’t vote for us. That’s our fault. We should be able to
inspire confidence", he said.
meltdown continues, with no end in sight.
story starts before the polls opened on black Thursday June 4th
with the departure from the Cabinet first of Jacqui Smith, then the
resignation of Hazel Blears. The present public disenchantment with
New Labour and with politicians generally has been encapsulated, but
not caused, by the MPs’ expenses scandal. Blears had been one of
the most egregious offenders. From the petty (claiming for a KitKat
from a mini bar in a hotel room where she had been staying) she has
plumbed the depths. MPs who live outside London can claim for a
second home. They can designate where their main home is. Blears had
‘flipped’ her first residence three times in one year in order to
claim home improvements from the public purse and sell on the
property free of capital gains tax. This is borderline criminality.
sheer shamelessness when exposed reveals all that is odious about New
Labour. Can anyone imagine Keir Hardie or even Clement Attlee doing
such a thing? We have a new generation of careerist politicians, who
have not so much lost their way in the Parliamentary thickets as have
started out with not a single principle. Like Tony Blair, they begin
their career by deciding what party they will ‘represent’ by
tossing a coin.
far from repenting, Blears resented the fact that Gordon Brown did
not rush to embrace her. Most of us thought Blears should be in
prison, not running the country. She then went through the farce of
writing a cheque to pay back the tax people. Apart from the fact that
the cheque could never be cashed – it was all a publicity stunt –
she seemed oblivious to the fact that the vast majority of her
working class constituents in Salford could never imagine handling a
sum of £13,332, let alone nonchalantly parting with it without
a sigh. So this was a further insult to them.
class people know that if they are caught shoplifting they can’t
just say, “Oh I’ll just give it back then and let’s call it a
day.” Why should different rules apply to MPs? Because, up till
now, they’ve made their own rules on expenses. So they charge us
for food. Don’t we have to pay for our own food? They charge us for
dog food. Don’t we expect to pay for that if we keep a dog?
on the day before the local council elections, Blears very publicly
resigned as minister for local government. This was a direct betrayal
of all the hard working councillors and activists (and they still
exist) who have been soldiering on despite twelve years of New Labour
disappointments and outright betrayals in government.
came a cascade of further ministerial resignations. It has to be said
that most of us have never heard of these people – Flint, Hutton,
Purnell and so on – so narrow is the pool of talent available to a
government whose main requirement is blind, unthinking loyalty. Six
ministers have gone in less than a week. This is unprecedented.
New Labour: Crisis at the top
resignations represent hammer blow after hammer blow to the Prime
Minister. Yet still he clings on. His weakness is revealed by the
fact that he refused to back Alistair Darling as Chancellor at Prime
Minister’s Question Time the day before the elections. Yet Darling
remains in his post. The Cabinet reshuffle over the weekend shows
that Brown cannot appoint the people even he thinks the best for the
job. The Cabinet is in effect a political coalition of those Brown
needs for survival in the job, not a body appointed to run the
is this more obvious than in the further elevation of Lord Peter
Mandelson to be in effect deputy prime minister. Mandelson is useful
to Brown because he is unelected and has no independent power base.
In fact the Prime Minister seems to despise the elective principle.
After all not a soul elected him as Prime Minister. Nowhere is this
lack of democracy more obvious than the ennobling of Alan Sugar and
his ludicrous appointment to high office. Really this shows Brown’s
lack of support in the elected Commons.
cast our mind back a couple of years. When Gordon Brown got the top
job he was seen by some (not us though) as a refreshing change from
the lies and spin of the Blair years – for a while. There was a
‘Brown bounce.’ But the idea that Brown was different was always
a myth. Then the electorate tumbled. Brown was the co-founder with
Blair and Mandelson of New Labour. Not only did he share their
bankrupt ideology, their blind faith in capitalism and adoration of
the rich, as a result he also shared their slimy methods. New Labour
has taken the Party it parasitically invaded to the abyss. New Labour
must be destroyed utterly if the principle of working class
representation in politics is to be maintained.
unprecedented political crisis is not just about MPs on the fiddle.
Their behaviour is squalid, disgusting and shameless but it is also
symptomatic. The sums they have wasted pale into insignificance
besides the wealth that was made away with by the bankers and hurled
at the banks by the bent politicians – possibly £1 trillion
according to the Financial Times. It is petty besides the wealth that
is being destroyed in the crisis and the hardship that innocent
working class people are undergoing on account of the recession. It
is small change by comparison with the waste of capitalism.
that is precisely the point. The political establishment is seen as
useless, fiddling while Rome burns. Brown’s arrogant nonsense about
“no return to boom and bust” is seen for the lie it always was.
Of course there has not been a mass conversion to socialism – not
yet – but the economic crisis has led to a profound questioning of
the political set up, and it has been found wanting. Radicalisation
will follow the anger and disgust. There is a revolutionary potential
in the present mood.
the constant plotting Brown staggers on, doing immense damage to
Labour’s chances at the next election but apparently incapable of
being removed. Let’s be clear. There is no point in getting rid of
Brown if the ‘alternative’ is one of the other right wing cabinet
ministers such as Johnson, Harman or Miliband who have been up to
their necks in the same failed, disastrous policies over the past few
years and don’t represent a clear political change.
Brown hangs on
is still there. On Monday June 8th
his premiership was confirmed for the time being at a meeting of the
Parliamentary Labour Party. The plot against him has failed to catch
fire for now. Part of the reason is that the plotters are seen as
Blairites, consumed with personal dislikes and grudges. Truth to tell
you can’t put a cigarette paper between their politics and Brown’s.
did Brown get away with remaining in office, despite his
near-universal unpopularity? On Friday June 5th
long-standing right wing Labour backbencher Barry Sheerman reported
on the Today programme on Radio 4 that his constituency had been
nobbled and prominent local party officials told to deselect him by
the Labour whips under instruction from Brown. The evidence for all
this was on his phone. His crime? He had called for a secret ballot
for the post of leader of the Labour Party (and Prime Minister).
Brown is incapable of solving the problems of working people, but the
bullying thugs that run the whips’ office are still capable of
spitting out venom and using lies and spin against opponents real and
imagined within the Party.
Brown says he will bring forward measures to reform Parliament. He
declares he has always been in favour of this! Well he’s had twelve
years to open his mouth and it’s remained firmly closed up to now.
He performs these magic tricks with all the aplomb of the late Tommy
new found reform measures include a form of proportional
representation. We ask the reader: how will PR stop MPs putting their
hands in the till? How will it get us out of the present crisis?
Cynics among us, and there are now 60 million cynics in the country
thanks to the behaviour of our ‘elected representatives,’ will
suspect this is now on the agenda because it is the only way the
wretched Brown could hang on to power.
new twist is akin to his repeated request to be given more time to
spell out ‘his vision.’ We have waited two years in vain for
this. The obvious conclusion is that Brown has no vision apart from
remaining in office for as long as he can, whatever the damage he
causes to the Labour Party and the country in the process.
says he needs time to deal with the crisis before there’s an
election. He seems to have all the time in the world to intimidate
his own backbenchers like Barry Sheerman. And he hasn’t made much
of a fist of lifting us out of the slump so far. The fact of the
matter is that Brown is clinging desperately on till the last moment
hoping the economy will improve of its own accord or some other
miracle will save his bacon.
PLP is in a cleft stick. Brown is an unelected Prime Minister. Can
they just dump him and carry on as if nothing has happened? Surely
they can’t get away with a second ‘coronation’, a second
unelected Prime Minister, particularly since the last one produced
such a useless monarch? People would demand a general election. And
Labour would be wiped out, possibly with the worst results since 1931
when they were reduced to 54 seats. But hanging on and praying for a
miracle won’t make it better, not without a change in policy. So
they can’t ditch Brown and they can’t let him stay. They are
failure of the government is political, not a matter of personal
foibles. They have worshipped at the altar of capitalism. That is why
they have failed the working class. They have filled their boots at
the public’s expense because they think that is the way of the
world. And under capitalism it is.
don’t want bourgeois politicians who just play the game
masquerading as representatives of the working class. We can see how
useless they are in the face of a crisis of capitalism. The Labour
Party was founded, mainly by the trade unions, to represent the
working class in Parliament, and that means fighting capitalism.
the trade unions that hold the key to the situation. The leaders of
the TUs have just sat there while New Labour rolled back all the
democratic gains of the 1970s and 1980s. At present Labour Party
Conference is in effect a trade fair, while policy is discussed but
not implemented on the side. This is wrong and disastrous. The trade
unions and party members need to have a decisive say inside the Party
in order to turn it round.
levers are still in place for the trade unions to reclaim the Labour
Party for the working class. There is an absolute majority of rank
and file representatives on the National Executive Committee, the
supreme policy-making body between Conferences, if we include the
representatives of the trade unions and the Labour Party ranks (17
out of 33) . They can demand a real Conference, one with the right of
trade unions and local parties to move resolutions and full
decision-making powers, in the present emergency. We need an
emergency Conference to reverse the present course. Otherwise Labour
will be in opposition after twelve years of failure. That would be
the real poisoned inheritance from New Labour.
Workers’ MPs on a worker wage!
activists feel stunned and betrayed. They feel powerless to make the
changes necessary. They will join a movement of renovation as it
develops and give it added strength. The union members are in a much
stronger position. They must be asking themselves, why are we giving
money to these wasters when we get nothing in return? They are the
best people to get stuck in.
for the self-serving careerists who represent too many of the working
class constituencies solely in order to feather their own nests, they
should be swept aside in a mandatory reselection process. Gordon
Brown has put in place a Court of Star Chamber that tries MPs who it
thinks have brought the Party into disrepute. The procedure is
completely arbitrary. We need a clean sweep. People who stand for
Labour should have clean hands. Is that too much to ask?
bottom it’s all about politics. These Labour MPs are bent because
they accept capitalism as the only system possible. Capitalism bends
politicians to its will because, under capitalism, big business and
not Parliament takes all the important decisions. We need Labour MPs
who really represent the working class and are prepared to fight in
their interests, against the dominant power of the capitalist system.
They will need to be armed with a clear vision of a socialist
alternative. Since they represent the working class, they will live
among the working class, talk to the working class and share their
ambitions and hardships. They will live on a worker’s wage.
Danger! Tories about.
leader Cameron has played a blinder on this one. His bunch of MPs
have been shown to have their snouts in the trough as deep as anyone
else, yet Cameron has come across as whiter than the driven snow.
Partly this is cynical calculation. Cameron and his circle are quite
ready to throw the Tory grandees with their hands in the till to the
wolves. They are known as bedblockers to the new generation of Tory
politicians. Cameron has been able to score points and win support
without spelling out his programme. Ironically, people have been more
keen to punish Labour rather than the Tories not only because Labour
are the party in power but also because people have always assumed
that the Tories are on the fiddle whereas higher standards were to be
expected from people who are meant to represent our class.
Tory victory at the next general election is now overwhelmingly the
most likely perspective. It is not inevitable, as long as the labour
movement rearms in time. That is the only way a shattering defeat can
Tories are not up and away. The Euro elections showed them are on
27%, though the UKIP vote will mainly come back to them in a general
election. UKIP supporters are mainly right wing Tories by instinct.
key is to get those working class abstainers out to vote. Less than
40% of the eligible population voted in the European elections. And
getting the vote out means giving them a reason to walk down to the
is a real, massive crisis out there. According to Martin Wolf in the
Financial Times (04.06.09) “This financial year the UK government
is forecast to spend £4 for every £3 it raises.” The
result of this, as Micawber in Pickwick Papers would have realised,
is misery for British capitalism. What the ruling class needs is an
attack on public services and working class living standards on a
scale unprecedented since the 1930s. Wolf goes on, “The debate on
how to curb public spending is, quite simply, the central issue in UK
politics.” (Note the question is how
to cut it, not whether
to.) Wolf and the ruling class have given up on the Labour
government. They need a vicious right wing Tory government to
implement the cuts they feel are necessary. But the scattergun attack
on MPs’ expenses begun by the Tory Daily Telegraph, though intended
as an attack on Labour, will also weaken and undermine the Tories.
The ruling class needs a strong Tory government to take on the
working class. Shadow Chancellor Osborne has admitted to business
friends, “After three months in power we will be the most unpopular
government since the War.” He is ready to be the Attila the Hun of
public services. He knows what he has to do.
Time to change course
should be made clear. The disastrous result for Labour last week was
not solely because of the expenses scandal – as some in the party
have been spinning – but mainly because of 12 years of retreat and
counter-reform on the part of New Labour in power. The scandal was
just the icing on a very bad stale cake. Indeed Labour has been
shedding votes at election after election after election from almost
the day after Blair walked into Number 10 in 1997. Had the expenses
scandal never come to light then these election results will still
have been pretty bad. Only the unpopularity of the Tory alternative
in 2001 and 2005 kept Labour in at Westminster with a large majority.
That can no longer be relied upon. The facts are clear. The current
PLP have shown that they will not be changing course and abandoning
the creed of New Labour. Although no election is ever 100%
predictable we must expect the worse, fought as it will be by the
defenders of reaction and betrayal. We will need to look ahead to the
post election period with a right wing Tory government in power ready
to cut public services like mad to restore profits for the City –
and a badly beaten Labour opposition. The task will then fall to the
trade unions to take the lead and start the process of clearing out
the wreckage of New Labour and turning Labour towards a socialist
programme to fight the Tories and the bosses. This will be the only
way back for Labour and the organised working class.
question is – is the Labour movement ready to rearm on the lines we
advocate? The alternative is destruction. This really is our last
chance to keep the Tories out.