Friday, 5 June 2009

Meltdown

Incredible. One week ago everyone knew Gordon Brown was on the ropes, but no one could have predicted the speed at which the cabinet splintered. It reminds me of last autumn, except then the banks and markets were tanking, not political careers. In an attempt to rescue the situation - set against the backdrop of the worst local election results ever, awful European election results to come, the long shadow of multiple resignations, AND a calculated and unnecessary by-election - Brown has reshuffled his cabinet, replacing one set of New Labour clones with an attack of another. As if to underline the maelstrom, as I write Caroline Flint announced her resignation, despite pledging her unswerving loyalty last night.

Take the James Purnell affair. It says everything about the chaos engulfing the government that the resignation of such a senior minister, which in ordinary times would dominate the politics agenda for days, excited the headlines for just a few hours. These manouevres have the happy consequence of cleaning nearly all the Blairites out from the upper echelons of government. For all the talk of Blairite coups chances are the treacherous actions of Blears, Flint and Purnell will stain their Labour party careers long after Brown has gone. Few on the mainstream and left of Labour will shed a tear if they were deselected ahead of the general election.

But you would be hard pressed to find political differences behind the factional infighting. On the continuing dismemberment of public services, the wasteful and authoritarian ID card scheme, the crisis management strategy, the war in Afghanistan - leading Blairites are in 100% agreement with Brown. At least when Howe and Heseltine toppled Thatcher, her disastrous Poll Tax policy was part of their calculations. But for Purnell and his colleagues it's all about power, position and personality; not politics.

Who benefits from this state of affairs? Not the Labour left. The
Labour Representation Committee, Socialist Campaign Group of MPs and even Compass command next to zero media attention beyond the left ghetto. And neither will the left outside. No2EU really missed a trick by not moving away from the Communist Party/RMT position of refusing to take up seats to the Socialist Party's pledge to do so on the basis of a workers' wage. As long as we stay weak, divided and pulling in different directions it will be the right who exploit the fallout of New Labour's meltdown.

4 comments:

Phil BC said...

Seeing as I was moaning about the Labour Left, it's only fair I post up the LRC's response (from yesterday lunch time so already out of date(!!))

Press release.

McDonnell calls for end to faction-fighting to focus on radical policy change

The expected disastrous election results for the Labour Party are now emerging, Ministers are resigning in personal faction-fights, and a Cabinet reshuffle is taking place.

John McDonnell MP argues that it is not the faces, but the policies that need to change - and urgently - if the Party is to survive.

John McDonnell MP, LRC Chair, said:

"The Labour Party was founded to transform our society. Undoubtedly disputes broke out in each era and were often bitterly fought but they centred on the basic policies and political direction of the party."

"Party members have looked on aghast, in disgust and anger, at the self interested, self serving political faction fighting amongst Ministers and MPs over the last week."

"It says it all that as Ministers has announced their resignations to the media not a single policy difference has been mentioned. Bouncing through a cabinet reshuffle simply to tie down potential rivals or plotters can only be a short term temporary fix."

"The message of the emerging election results continue to demonstrate the need for policy change if this Government is to survive. People have been alienated by the policies of illegal and immoral wars, privatisation of public services, attacks on civil liberties, unfettered greed in the finance sector and amongst the political class."

Charlie Marks said...

Compass are saying much the same thing, if in a more long-winded manner.

The thing is, Brown has now fallen to getting support from Mandelson and and bringing unelected people into the cabinet.

Phil BC said...

That in itself is incredible - seven unelected ministers? Is the parliamentary Labour party that devoid of ability?

Charlie Marks said...

The concern will be that, unlike Lords, MPs do have to confront ordinary folk and defend their actions - especially now MPs are fearful for their jobs and less influenced by rhetoric about socialist policies putting voters off...

Without the SDP, Brown's managed to get Labour's share of the vote lower than Michael Foot. Interestingly, that 1983 manifesto advocates withdrawal from what was the Common Market - a pretty popular policy nowadays.