Wednesday, 25 May 2016

The Blairite Delusion

Remember, Corbyn voted for the good Blair stuff (the stuff that John Smith would also have done), while the Conservatives voted for the bad Blair stuff (the stuff that Corbyn voted against). Chelley Ryan writes: 

According to several news sources, Jeremy Corbyn is planning a post-referendum reshuffle and is trying to persuade Ed Miliband to accept a role in the shadow cabinet.

Seems like a good idea, is the general consensus of most Corbyn backers, and that’s because Miliband still commands a lot of respect. 

Yes, he was leader when Labour lost the election, but it was a tough election to win, particularly after the seismic political shift in Scotland. 

If Corbyn backers blame Miliband for anything, it was his willingness to appease the Blairites; or to borrow a phrase coined by MP Jon Cruddas, “the cold dead hand” of the party. 

Predictably, the Blairites are already bleating about a Miliband revival. 

According to one Labour MP, “Ed shouldn’t be in the shadow cabinet. He should be in jail for what he did to the Labour Party.” 

This excessively harsh statement was in reference to the changes Miliband introduced to democratise the leadership election system — changes the Blairites lauded at the time, but which they now wrongly “blame” for Corbyn’s leadership win. 

Of course the MP’s identity was protected by the paper that reported the quote, but I have been on the wrong side of the Blairites for long enough now to not accept its validity. 

The Blairites are a narcissistic bunch.

They strut around news studios and on Twitter like a bunch of preening peacocks, bestowing their “wisdom” on us mortals. 

If they appeared on Mastermind, their specialist subject would be “winning elections,” because they speak about little else. 

They try to patronise “non-believers” into their way of thinking. The word “deluded” is the favoured insult of Blairite Twitter trolls. 

 When the Labour leadership campaign started to throw up shock polls that gave Corbyn a resounding lead, Blairites beat their chests in anguish over our “naivety.” 

We were told to end the madness, get heart transplants and accept our urges to vote Corbyn were nothing more than “emotional spasms,” caused by Labour’s election defeat. 

But how well placed is this arrogance?

Well in truth, the Blairites, and their 1980s forebears, should have their portraits in the rogues’ gallery or the hall of shame, rather than have a statue made in their honour. 

Take the Gang of Four. Prior to their sulky departure from the Labour Party in 1981, Labour had a healthy lead in the polls. 

The Gang of Four didn’t walk out because they thought a more left-wing Labour Party wasn’t electable. They walked out because they were terrified it was.  Certainly all the polls were pointing that way. 

The Gang of Four’s departure, and subsequent alliance with the Liberals, tore the left vote in two. 

But even after this split, Labour either kept a small lead, or was neck and neck with the Tories, until the Falklands war catapulted the Tories into an unassailable lead. 

By the time Labour’s election manifesto was launched, the Tories had a lead of approximately 14 per cent. 

Even a manifesto sent down by the gods would have struggled to flip a lead that large in such a short time. 

That fact didn’t stop embryonic Blairite Gerald Kaufman from successfully spinning the blame for the election defeat at the manifesto’s door, when he branded it “the longest suicide note in history.” 

Oh, the irony.

Not only did the rightwingers in the party massively boost the Tories’ electoral chances with their decision to break away in 1981, they cemented a false blame narrative in the minds of the masses, using their friends in the media.

I urge anyone interested in Labour’s 1983 manifesto, to read Neil Clark’s excellent article “Not so suicidal after all.” 

Clark peels away the propaganda to expose a simple but heartbreaking truth. 

The 1983 manifesto was not a suicide note. It was a prescription for the vaccine this country needed to stop it getting sick. 

OK, so we can rest some of the blame for Labour’s 1983 election defeat at the rightwingers’ door, but surely we should still give Tony Blair credit for three consecutive election wins, right?

Wrong. The only credit Blair deserves is for being in the right place at the right time. Labour was on track to win the 1997 election long before Blair became leader. 

In the months prior to the tragic early death of Labour leader John Smith, Labour was enjoying 14 and 15-point poll leads. 

If Smith hadn’t died, he would have almost certainly led the party to victory in 1997. Smith was not a leftwinger, but neither was he on the right.

It is of course impossible to say with any certainty how Smith’s leadership would have differed from Blair’s, but, according to Smith’s biographer Andy McSmith, some key differences would have been a higher minimum wage, less reliance on spin, a higher top rate of tax, and the icing on the cake — no military intervention in Iraq. 

 If McSmith is correct in these assumptions, Smith would have avoided some of the lethal political errors made by Blair. 

The four million core voters who abandoned Labour under Blair’s divisive leadership might have stayed loyal to the party. 

Not that Blairites accept the fact that millions of voters abandoned Labour under Blair. According to several Blairites I have run into on Twitter, the core vote died.

No, I am not kidding.

Maybe they all caught a new strain of flu which only affects people with an aversion to spin, illegal wars, private finance deals, an absence of housing investment and light-touch banking regulation?

The simple truth is this — a stuffed chimp wearing a red rosette would have won the election in ’97.

After 18 years in opposition, and up against a deeply divided government mired in sleaze and scandal, Labour’s time had come.

It was just a terrible shame that time came when Blair was leader.

Before the Blairites’ jump down my throat to list all of New Labour’s achievements, I want to say of course I accept good things happened under Blair. 

I just happen to believe most of those things happened in spite of him, not because of him. 

They would still have happened under Smith, but in a better, bolder way. Who knows, if Smith hadn’t died, maybe Labour might still be in power now.

So there you have it. The Labour rightwingers are not deserving of our awe or our respect.

They spilt the party once to make it unelectable when it was led by a leader they did not approve of, and now they are trying to do it again, but this time from within.

And even when they do get their way, and the party falls to them, they drive away voters en masse by turning Labour into a party that’s indistinguishable from the Tories.

We must never let the Blairites get into the driving seat again.

They are too much like drunk drivers with a misplaced sense of their own skill.

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