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Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Being Labour

Phil Edwards reflects on what it means to be Labour. He suggests that the ruling clique of MPs and special advisors is now not only to the political right of the activists, the membership and the wider union base, but also, and importantly, this clique is now to the right of Labour voters.

Phil describes his father’s reaction to the rise of Blair:

“he saw Labour take power, and he saw what they did with it - and he was convinced that the "New Labour" turn was a stratagem adopted to gain power, and that Blair would eventually steer back to the Left. "He's going to surprise us all," he used to say.”

Not too strangely, this is exactly what I remember my grandfather saying, when we would argue in his kitchen over the path of Labour at the end of the Nineties. The kind of statements Blair made [see here] were just cover to make Labour electable, and that the political ideas of the traditional Labour supporters would not be taken for granted.

But, for people across the other side of the Severn, tomorrow is an election day. One of the few opportunities for people to express their political will, albeit through the crude and uncommunicative mechanism of marking ‘X’. So, once again, who to vote for [regarding the same problem in 2005, see here and here]? As I have said before, Labour is the party that I want to vote for, but could I do so now? I could not do so last May. The problem, more than anything, is the ludicrous doublethink practised by Labour campaigners; on May 4th 2005 the plea was ‘vote Labour, it doesn’t mean that you support the war, the authoritarianism or the privatisation. No, it merely means that you stand with the traditional party of the left against the much bigger enemies on the right’. By May 6th the 2006 this had mutated into ‘this election win is a mandate for Blair, for war, for authoritarianism, for privatisation.’

And so, the problem really is that the Labour Party is no longer a truly democratic party. It no longer derives, or even pretends to derive, the party position and direction from vigorous internal debate, from the result of consulting a party of mass membership. It is a party of which the ruling clique disdains the unions, the political force by which non-millionaires can drive democracy, most especially on issues of work and, yes, labour, the state at which most of us spend a tremendous amount of our waking life.

And, in my opinion, it is in unions, and only in unions, where we can reclaim and build democracy. Where else, and how else, can ordinary people build a voice loud enough, and powerful enough, to counter the interests of the tiny minority of people who possess disproportionate and undemocratic power through wealth and ownership?

Right now, though, I would be tempted to follow the advice of José Saramango and cast a blank vote of utter dissatisfaction. Given the standard slate of candidates, it would bend the imagination completely out of shape to suggest that blank votes were not, in the majority, the crude, democratic expression of people who are Labour.

Once, Labour had a strapline that read; For Peace and Socialism. You do not see that much anymore, do you?

For an alternative:
What should be the Labour's platform be then?
No war? Easy enough of a sell in Britian, but what else? What besides the war?
More taxes? That'll get the votes in. Besides, Blair has done a splendid job in stealth taxes.
More authority? Cameras aren't in enough places?
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