“THE King is dead. Long live the King!” Blair is dead — long live... er... Blair, Mark II.
Brown is the Blair for today and tomorrow. Brown is the new, New Labour blue!
Or try it in Stalinist-Orwellian vein. Political choice is most free when there is a complete absence of political choice — when the new leader is elected unopposed. The best New Labour leadership election is — no election!
The leader is at his most democratic when he is crowned unopposed. Brown works best at freeing himself from Blair’s “image”, that of liar, spinner, manipulator, fraud, chicane-merchant, when he goes through the motions of a pretend election campaign in which there is no other candidate.
As this is being written (Wednesday 16th) it is clear that McDonnell will not be on the ballot for Labour Party leader. That there will be no ballot!
Yet Brown is — so the media mysteriously puts it — “campaigning” in the Labour leadership election. Campaigning? With no opponent!
Brown’s MP friends and supporters could, by “tactically” nominating McDonnell — as a formality — have ensured that there was a democratic contest. They refused to do that. Indeed, Brown’s people put maximum pressure on every Labour MP to nominate Brown. They pressed pro-McDonnell MPs not to nominate McDonnell.
The Brownites subscribe to the principle which every 20th century dictator knew and tried to live by. He wins most convincingly who allows no competitor to stand against him!
The anomaly here is that the labour movement, most importantly the trade unions, could only get a chance to vote for McDonnell if enough MPs wanted them to have such a choice.
This episode is one more indication that the New Labour Party is to the old Labour Party what an empty egg shell is to an egg.
Brown, who will be Prime Minister, is Tory Tony’s political other self. There is not one of the premises and principles underlying what Blair has done that Brown did not subscribe to. There is not even a hint that he has changed his mind about any of it.
Brown is fully committed to the principles of “private-public partnership” and the “private finance initiative”, that is, to letting the rich loot the people by way of the “public services”.
He is committed to the Blair-Brown policy of the last dozen years of sucking up to the rich, and pandering to them, using the power of Government to facilitate their plundering and looting operations.
Brown “criticises” New Labour’s achievements in education. But will he reverse “Blair’s” policy of promoting “faith schools” — that is, schools run by priests of various religious persuasions - and putting “business” in charge of schools?
There is no reason to think that he will.
And the National Health Service? The reason why the vast sums put into the Health Service have not “worked” is that simultaneously the Blair-Brown government has disrupted the NHS by promoting the “internal market” set up by the Tory government.
Brown will change that? There is no reason to think he will, or even that he might.
New Labour will, under Brown as under Blair, worship the market, and work to make everything in society profitable to the rich.
The single most dramatic New Labour act of prostrating itself before market forces, and those who personify market forces — the big bourgeoisie — was Brown’s decision , at the start of the New Labour government, to hand control of financial policy to the Governors of the Bank of England.
This comprehensive pandering to the rich has been one of the two fundamental pillars of New Labour, defining what it is. Its hostile attitude to the trade unions, its refusal for 10 years to repeal the anti-union laws put in place by the Tories has been the other. That too defines what it is.
During its decade in office, New Labour has kept on the statute books the Tory-imposed shackles on free trade unionism. After ten years of a “Labour” government — and government by a party which, despite large donations and loans from millionaires, is still financially dependent on the trade unions — it remains illegal for workers in Britain to take sympathetic strike action in support of other workers!
Blair has kept his notorious promise to the Daily Mail on the eve of the 1997 general election: “Even after the changes the Labour Party is proposing, Britain will remain with the most restrictive trade union laws anywhere in the western world” (26 March, 1997). So, if we let him, will Brown.
We have grown so accustomed to it that the labour movement sometimes forgets how outrageous it is! And what scoundrels all those “Labour” people who keep it in place, or silently acquiesce at its being kept in place, are.
One of the candidates for the deputy leadership of the Labour Party, Peter Hain, has talked vaguely and cagily of, maybe, perhaps, taking a fresh look at the anti-union legislation with a view to lifting some of the legal restrains on effective trade unionism. Hain is one of the few New Labour ministers — maybe the only one — who may somewhere, in the back of his mind, know himself for the renegade socialist he is. But there is no reason to think that Hain intends to fight for the repeal of the anti-union laws.
In all the to-ing and fro-ing around the enthronement of a new Leader and Deputy Leader, nobody else except McDonnell has had a word to say about the crippling legal restraints under which Britain’s trade unions are forced to operate.
And Brown? Brown once wrote a (not very good) biography of the leader of the Independent Labour Party, the Clydeside socialist Jimmy Maxton, who died in 1946. He described Maxton as his special hero.
From our point of view, Maxton was a badly flawed socialist hero. But he was a socialist. He was committed to the working class and to our trade unions. He was on the other side of the river, wide and deep, that divides socialists and Labour-loyal people of many political shades from those, like Brown, who serve the bosses.
There is not the slightest suggestion that this “admirer” of Jimmy Maxton wants even to moderate the anti-union laws.
The political platform on which John McDonnell has run his campaign is not ours. Some of it is vague identikit-left politics — on the war in Iraq, for instance.
But McDonnell is an honest man. He showed that in 1985 when, as Ken Livingstone’s deputy leader on the Greater London Council, he cut loose from the sell-out merchants, and in consequence was sacked as deputy leader. And he is solidly in, of, and for the labour movement. He wants to repeal the Tory anti-union legislation which has crippled effective trade unionism for a quarter of a century.
In a real leadership election, in which Brown was forced to discuss politics with a serious left-wing candidate such as McDonnell, before the bedrock labour movement, the feelings of the rank and file would come out. Pressure from the labour movement would be exerted on the MPs and on the Government to repeal the anti-union laws, and do other labour-movement-required things too, and stop doing much of what it does. That is one reason why Brown and his friends did not want a contest, even one Brown could feel sure of winning.
It is a measure of the state of the Labour Party, or what’s left of it, that even that — the chance for a labour-loyal candidate to contest the leadership — is under the control of Brown and his backers. It is a measure of the New Labour gang, and of what they have done to labour movement democracy that they choose not to allow it. And that they will get away with it. Control freakery rules — OK?
The rules that require a large number of MPs’ nominations even to reach the ballot paper are entirely undemocratic. It used to require 5%. Now it is 12.5%.
For the trade unions to accept Brown as Labour Party leader, with or without a contest, is a political absurdity. That they accept him without an election, is a political atrocity!
Union leaders such as Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley have said repeatedly that “Despite the personal hostility between Mr Brown and Mr Blair, I don’t think you can get a cigarette paper on policy between the two men” (Simpson, 9 March).They have criticised Blair strongly Yet not one of them has backed McDonnell.
All the union representatives on Labour’s National Executive voted against a proposal from Christine Shawcroft and Walter Wolfgang (at the March Executive meeting) to reduce the MP-nominations threshold to a reasonable level.
The hijacking of the Labour Party by the Blairites has effectively disenfranchised — or gone a long way towards disenfranchising — the working class. Without a working class political party, the value of a worker’s vote at elections is massively de-valued.
The labour movement, in the first place the trade unions, needs its own political party. It must thus either fight, and win the fight, to reclaim the Labour Party — or create a new working-class party, starting with those in the existing Labour Party prepared to fight the Brown-Blair gang.
In a real contest for leadership of the Labour Party, a McDonnell-Brown contest for the leadership, would have seen a great roll call of people in the trade unions and the Labour Party who are willing to fight Blair-Brownism, and an opportunity for them to rally and regroup.
A McDonnell campaign would have roused or woken up everything alive in the labour movement, and taken a big step forward towards rallying them against New Labour. The Brown-Blair gang knew that.
That’s why they refused to let him challenge Brown.