Home > Labour Party News > Gordon’s fretful hour on the stage is almost over (we hope)

Gordon’s fretful hour on the stage is almost over (we hope)

The world must seem a dismal place for Gordon Brown right now – the vultures are very obviously circling. Even what he wears and where he goes on holiday are now the subject of political speculation from the vapid morons who populate various corners of the media. Yet even the more respectable corners of the political world are obviously in ferment. Gordon Prentice has called for Brown’s resignation and the very state of Labour’s disintegration in office is calling into question whether or not the Party itself can be saved.

I find the Prentice call for Brown’s resignation to be relevant because far from being just another backbench idiot seeking his fifteen minutes in the spotlight, Prentice serves on the Public Accounts Committee. This means that Prentice has been in the front line of government oversight, whether listening to the disingenuous answers of Dawn Primarolo or watching millions of wasted pounds walk out the door to consultants. Not for nothing has this chap voted against foundation schools and hospitals.

It’s very easy for the chairman of the Party, Tony Lloyd, to dismiss Prentice as unrepresentative of the rest of the parliamentary Labour Party. Doesn’t anyone stop to think that self-same PLP was basically hand-picked by the leadership precisely for their excellent quality of following in a docile fashion to their own slaughter?

The result within the Labour Party is pretty evident; a ‘leadership’ candidate to replace Brown has apparently emerged in the figure of Jack Straw. More than likely this is only a candidate in the sense that John Redwood was a threat to John Major. Much more promising is the re-emergent candidacy of John McDonnell, and the John4Leader 2008 campaign. Owen Jones and Marsha-Jane Thompson have been circulating different emails via Facebook and email lists.

John McDonnell himself has made a new run for leader conditional (though I say that almost ironically) on the outcome of the Warwick University negotiations of the National Policy Forum, and whether or not they adopt a radical departure from current New Labour doctrine. John has said that “Warwick 2 may contain some very limited advances in the preparation of a policy agenda that could limit the damage to our party at the next election but it is equally clear that it does not go anywhere near enough.”

On the other hand, anything remotely like an advance will be balanced by acceptance of the government’s agenda in things like welfare reform. For the record we really need a new way to describe what goes on when the government makes inroads into welfare; it’s no more ‘reform’ than using a wrecking ball to knock down the Houses of Parliament is ‘reform.’ I’m still of the opinion that we’re going to get screwed at the next election but Warwick throws up some difficult issues.

As in 1983, when by the time of the election, the Party heirarchy was once again firmly in control, whatever people say about it being a left wing manifesto, Warwick 2 will present the hacks of New Labour with an opportunity to spin our oncoming electoral annihilation as the result of selling out to ‘unelected trade union barons’ as Nigel Willmott describes them in the article linked to at the end of my opening paragraph. Not a heartening thought, to be sure – but no doubt the Nick Cohens of the world wouldn’t object too much.

In short, my patience with the Labour Party is rapidly becoming exhausted. As a machine for electoral victory it can still pull off some surprise results – but the very fact that our greatest electoral success over the last year was Oxford City Council, heartland of political hackery, worries me. John McDonnell’s campaign for a 2008 victory as Labour leader seems like the last gasp of a left-wing which is rapidly running out of options as the supposedly ‘social-democratic’ Brown moves further right than Blair

The general trend of abandonment of the Labour Party will eventually kill the soul of the Party, bent and battered as that may be. The only way to reverse that trend is to start giving power back to members – and not in the formless OMOV manner so beloved by the leadership: but through a democratic and binding conference, where delegates are chosen by constituencies and aren’t hounded by leadership lickspittles and confronted with the representatives of world capitalism.

Warwick 2, whatever it might achieve, isn’t going to deliver that – so as far as I’m concerned, game on.

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Categories: Labour Party News
  1. July 28, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    Redwood not Redmond, surely?

    Anyway, what are we to read into your patience with the Labour Party becoming exhausted? There are things that really piss me off about the government but surely it’s better to stay and fight?

    McDonnell could no more lead the party than walk on water (though I suspect you may think he can do both). The fact is that even as PM, his room to manoeuvre would be limited by the deficit, the economic situation, and other treaty obligations to not shit the economy up. Besides that, he would be massively divisive (even amongst soft-left Compass types who seem to be growing in strength wiithin the party).

    And Oxford City Council the home of political hackery? Certainly there are lots of ambitious party members here, some of whom can be somewhat over-eager, but the fact is that the campaigning organisation works on the ground and gets people out for us even in hard times. If some of the more slack CLPs got out and spoke to voters more often I can’t help feeling that the polls wouldn’t be as bad…

  2. July 28, 2008 at 10:40 pm

    And what would we speak to voters about Andrew? Which achievements should we be lauding even while the government shafts people who are on welfare, reneges its promise to build 3 million homes and talks about global warming and world poverty while its privatised overseas investment arm gets rid of its agribusiness investments because they aren’t profitable enough?

    Your insinuation that I worship McDonnell is somewhat insulting, and you well know just what a cynical sort I am. As for what McDonnell could or could not do in office, as you well know we’re approaching this from different angles. Mine is the subordination of profit to a greater social good. Yours, while not going so far as to equate the two, is of the typical MacDonald-Bevinite view that a healthy capitalism is a healthy social democracy.

    PS: Yes Redwood, not Redmond: a bell was tinkling but I couldn’t place it. Well spotted.

  3. July 28, 2008 at 11:54 pm

    “In short, my patience with the Labour Party is rapidly becoming exhausted.”

    Just remember that the party needs more left, not more right.

    So does the country.

  4. August 4, 2008 at 11:12 am

    What?! What does that even mean?

    The whole point of his article was that the increasingly rapid organisational and popular collapse of the Labour Party has arisen from the fundamentally right-wing policies of the Government. Of course we, and the country, need more “left”. But this isn’t it!

    You can’t just present nonsensical one-liners as though a cliché will magically get the real left out of the awful predicament it finds itself in: unable to change the policy direction due to the assault on internal democracy, and with Labour madly deciding with each year that there are fewer reasons to present sops to working class people, why be patient any longer?

  5. August 8, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    “And what would we speak to voters about Andrew?”

    Ask if they’ve got any problems we can help with, or suggestions for improving the local area or things that we ought to be doing differently.

    Then follow up by doing our best to help sort out the problems, and send a genuine and thoughtful response about whether we agree with their ideas or not – with ways they can keep in touch in the future, to build up a dialogue.

    At election times, make sure that the platform we stand on reflects what people at the grassroots are interested in.

  6. August 8, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    Which is wonderful but it reduces any election to a contest over management of the status quo, and more importantly it reduces many activists to the disavowal of the leadership because pointing out that we don’t agree with the war on Iraq etc is the only way to get traction on many of the doorsteps I’ve knocked at.

  7. August 8, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    Don’t agree that it reduces elections to management of the status quo – policy programmes generated by ideas from the grassroots tend to be more radical then ones which a technocratic elite come up with, and more popular and relevant to people’s lives than those drawn up by a vanguard party.

    I think that people like having the chance to chat to Labour activists who don’t agree with the leadership and that it helps the Labour Party.

    We need to think about how to make it more appealing for volunteers to do and to value more people who do it, mind.

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