Greenman's Occasional Organ

Ecosocialist. Syndicalist. Critical Techno-Progressive.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Where is the British Labour Party going?

Long time Labour Party members continue to leave the Party. This is being spaked by a number of "last straws" like dodgy local candidate selections, the announcement of massive public spending cuts being likely, sleaze on the internet emanating from spin doctors and fixers. This week, respected long term Labour member and former Halifax MP Alice Mahon decided to leave as reported by the Left Luggage blog.

What might happen to Labour in the wake of what seems like inevitable crushing defeat in the next general election? This is my take, slightly adapted from what I posted on Urban 75 earlier-

Where Labour go might depend on who stays with them and who goes.

In the wake of a whacking defeat the first to go (already deserting really) will be the financial and business backers, the careerist elements and the crypto-tories. I would guess some of the ousted New Labourite MPs and their entourages will just revert to being the "business people", lawyers and accountants that they were or aspire to be - and abandon politics. Some may just defect to the new ruling party. Membership loss will be certain.

Who will stay?
- The right wing controlled union bureaucracies for a start! They have nowhere else to go and some of the bureaucrats need a link to even a marginalised Labour party as it gives them extra power in affiliated unions and the glimmer of a place in the House of Lords.
- The Blairites with no preferable jobs to go to, who are already predictably saying that Brown's demise is because the Brownites abandoned full-on Blatcherism.
- The rump of lobby fodder, the soft left when it suits them, and Brownite MPs - there are unlikely to be many more accurately described "left" MPs remaining as (already small in number) they will be culled in proportion by the voters, and notable members of the Campaign Group (e.g. Simpson) are retiring at the next election anyway. At a local level, the lifetime, right-wing, tribalist hacks might remain, to preside over even smaller numbers of members. (Take a look at the recent selection in Simpson's seat)

Who will be "left"?
- There may be some reflux of leftists into the party seeing an opportunity and encouraged by the corporatist union leaders' rhetoric about reclaiming the party (ignoring that these are right wing union leaders). I suspect these leftists will have a hard time of it - Blairites and bloggers like Akehurst are already preparing for a new set of purges and witchhunts, and the right control the mechanisms and structures of the party - there is virtually no chance of a new 80s 'Bennite' period for structural reasons alone - before we even get into the numbers game.

So we will have a Labour Party dominated at the top by Blairites spouting Labourist rhetoric, backed by "reformed " Brownites and chancers like Cruddas talking all left (take a look at his voting record for where he is really coming from) - see the "unions' friend", privatiser Alan Johnson and the sickening Mandelson on Newsnight last night (welcoming a new age of "left wing" interventionism and regulation) for a taste of the dishonesty and language mangling that is to come.

Whether slimmed down New Labour get away with this and whether the ridiculous cycle repeats is down to how cynical and pissed off the British working class really are come the election and afterwards, and whether real alternatives emerge. We will get a chance to see how the land lies with the Council and Euro elections in June.

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At 11:36 pm, Anonymous Alice said...

Perhaps if you tried to engage with the “British Working Class” rather than the “left activists” you might get somewhere.

At 8:49 am, Blogger Robert said...

The working class are the left.

At 9:42 pm, Blogger greenman said...

Completely agree Alice - that is what the Left Luggage blog people are arguing and what I shall be arguing from now on. The really important things to develop are workplace and community struggles and organisation rather than partyism and issues that engage students and the already politicised - that is not to say that students do not have a role to play or that popular lefty issues are irrelevant, but that the order of priorities is wrong on much of the British left.
Of course this will be difficult and even unpopular with elements more concerned with climbing the greasy pole or those preferring grand abstract theory to nitty gritty base politics, but so be it.


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