Friday, 19 June 2015

Why are the Right Endorsing Liz Kendall?

I'm not talking about the right of the Labour Party, but the proper right. People like The Sun. People like "helpful" Tories telling any hack who cares to listen that she is the candidate they most fear. People like heads of business who like what she has to say about deficit determinism and "living within our means". Of course, it's most unlikely these people will be calling for a Labour vote in 2020 whether Liz is leader or not. After all, a section of Britain's establishment remain forever uncomfortable with our party's progressive potential and would rather not have it in office again. Yet Liz, as they acknowledge, really believes the Blairite playbook and, as far as they're concerned, does offer Labour's surest way back to power. What then is happening? Do they genuinely wish to see Liz as Labour's leader, and why?

Some thoughts.

1. This is not an under-the-radar sting operation, albeit more competent and more shady than Toby Young's hapless efforts to sign Tories up to support Jeremy Corbyn's leadership bid. They genuinely do believe, unlike me, that Liz is Labour's route to success. She's the nearest of the contenders to the Blair formula of tacking right, saying the "unsayable", and piling up the votes. They share the tedious, and almost wholly wrong view that Labour was too left to win the election - and conveniently ignore the evidence that the Tories didn't win it from the centre either. So there is a meeting of minds, an acknowledgement of something of a kindred spirit.

2. The right like to see themselves as gatekeepers. If someone is to be elevated to high office, it can only be done with their permission. As "leaders" they have to look as though they're ahead of events, even if this is not the case. In 1997 and 2010, The Sun in particular endorsed Blair and Dave respectively because, they thought, they had to be seen to back a winner. Similar calculations came into play when the Scottish edition of the paper plumped for the SNP, even while in the rest-of-the-UK Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond were denounced as Caledonian commies. Whatever you think of Liz, she has an analysis of what went wrong, has already set out what she would do as leader, and has that element of freshness about her that people can project their hopes and desires onto. She looks every inch the break with the dread Miliband, and as her star rises who wouldn't want to be associated with that?

3. The Tories are more than capable of winning the next general election. Forget the coming gerrymander, though that is important, the government's policies are going to create ever great social anxiety and precarity that, ultimately, helped them with the majority this time round. Who's to say that can't happen again? However, there will come a time when the Tories are dumped out of power and Labour forms the government again. What would the Tories and their helpers in the press like that new Labour government to look like? Would they, like the 13 years of Blair and Brown, have a government that changes some things but leaves the fundamentals of the political economy from which they benefit fundamentally intact, or take a chance on someone whose Labourism involves some challenges to the powers that be, as Ed Miliband's politics certainly did. Better to have the Tories replaced by someone they can do business with than otherwise.

4. A Liz Kendall leadership also offers the best chance for a more disciplined Labour party, disciplined that is in ways congenial to the right. We know what the party is like. Most activists and Labour-loyal commentators very much pull their punches and generally abstain from scathing internal polemic when a leader is in position. The last thing the right want is Labour to challenge some of their austerity agenda. That adds legitimacy to the kinds of politics promulgated by the trade unions who, at least as far as our opponents are concerned, are utterly beyond the pale (knighthoods or no). They're banking on the loyalism of lesser-evilism kicking in, and the party - as well as the wider movement - getting behind a programme that does not challenge the settlement the Tories are trying to impose. It's a long range strategy of containment.

5 comments:

asquith said...

http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/nick-cohen/2015/06/liz-kendall-doesnt/

red tux said...

Kendall goes way beyond the limits of lesser evilism

andrew adams said...

She's the nearest of the contenders to the Blair formula of tacking right, saying the "unsayable", and piling up the votes.

It's funny how "saying the unsayable" seems to mean actually buying into the Tory/media narratives on the deficit, immigration and welfare. It it's so "unsayable" that we must "live within our means" and all that stuff then why is every f*cker saying it?

BCFG said...

I was interested in the collective report by the top universities in the uSA which found that we are in a great extinction period. I think this can be linked to this article.

Blairism is a philosophy that needs to be actively struggled against. It is a reactionary philosophy in progressive sheeps clothing.

It is a philosophy which embraces wholesale the idea that life is a struggle for dominance and status, it is social Darwinism, which is an ideology that will take humanity to destruction as far as I am concerned. Blairism, instead of fighting this, strengthens and deepens it. It is a philosophy which entirely capitulates to the damage done by the tabloid media, a dark force that needs challenging head on, a dark force that needs to be fought toe to toe. If I were Labour leader I would say I wouldn't let my kids anywhere near the Sun or the Mail as it is the equivalent of exposing them to toxic chemicals.

Blairism may well be the most dangerous idea on the planet.

David Timoney said...

I think there are two other considerations here that explain her attraction in the eyes of the right. First, Kendall is the most likely of the available candidates to deliver a split in the Labour party through a combination of Blairite true belief and a lack of strategic nous. At the very least, she can be relied on to alienate the unions and prompt a funding crisis.

Second, she has displayed considerable tactical naivety, repeatedly narrowing her options through eye-catching "admissions" that make her the hostage of the media, while implicitly criticising the wider party (many were prepared to hear that message and self-flagellate in the mid-90s, but not now). The upside is that her executive incompetence is likely to scare off many potential supporters, who will probably warm to Yvette Cooper's brand of ruthless pragmatism instead.