Where do you start with people who claim to be Labour supporters but who point to the Tory lead in the polls over Labour and lay the blame at the current Labour leadership?
I genuinely believe that well-meaning Labour supporters do just that. For whatever reason, they do not factor in the damage done to Labour by its Third Way remnants. They do not factor in the campaign by Labour’s Right Wing, who have been jockeying to take back control of the reins of Labour since Blair accepted the offer to give up the crown in 2007. They do not factor in that Labour has been undermined through three leaderships by people within its own ranks. I don’t understand why those people don’t see the bigger picture but they don’t. I can only imagine that they are a small minority.
Other Labour supporters appear to include those who are fully aware of the damage done by the detritus of New Labour but who believe that, whoever caused the damage to Labour in the minds of the general public, it sticks to the current Labour leadership and will not be relieved until the current leadership step aside for fresh faces. It’s a view that carries weight but has lost sight of some key issues. First and foremost, the current leadership has shown greater resilience to those, who even Polly Toynbee admitted 10 years ago were, ‘wreckers’ and it has done so because of the mass support it has attracted to the party through a strengthened membership. No replacement leadership will maintain this freshly strengthened membership, let alone continue to grow it, so how will Labour’s next leadership resist the wreckers? The current leadership are suffering because of the weakness of the two previous leaderships and the fact that they did not tackle the problem of the wreckers. Labour has been resolutely undermined from within for close to a decade and you will not solve that situation by removing a leadership that has the level of support required to take on the wreckers. People like Polly Toynbee may not see it but it does not make it any less so.
Then we have those Labour ‘supporters’ who are party to the wrecking but can yet be sub-divided into those who fly under a Labour flag of political convenience and those who genuinely believe that the success of 1997 was due to Labour abandoning Labour principles and that a government that is still aligned to the failed experiment of social neoliberalism is better than the out and out fascist neoliberalism of the current Tory party. Where I believe New Labour failed was in their absolute belief that neoliberalism could deliver a socially just society. For me, the greatest failing of New Labour was their naivety or ignorance in thinking that neoliberalism could deliver anything other than trickle up monopoly economics. We have all witnessed the utter disaster of privatisation and marketisation and New Labour were the ones to sow the poisonous seeds which the Tories have been greedily harvesting since 2010. New Labour got it tragically wrong.
Granted, those who answer the call of New Labour’s jaded trumpets will point to the banners of three election victories under New Labour but being in government isn’t enough, politicians are judged by what they do in government and New Labour attempted to hold back the inevitable tide of the worst of neoliberal economics but failed. When you sign deals with the devil, the devil will not be denied and we are living with the consequences. What is scarier yet is that those who choose to fly under a flag of convenience in Labour care little for Labour principles, they want to have power because that means wealth and, given the sense of entitlement of so many of their creed, the party matters not a jot. They can damage Labour’s reputation and standing because they don’t care. Like the weather vanes that spin in the prevailing winds, sating their thirst for ‘authority’ is what counts, not political ideology that interferes with their ambitions. Not landed enough to be a Tory MP, join Labour’s ranks and pursue the politics of self-aggrandisement and self-service. It is no coincidence that the MPs most feverously pursuing self-advancement align themselves with the vestiges of New Labour past. The interests of the moneyed Labour ‘donors’ were serviced by New Labour’s neoliberalism, so that is where they cast their silver.
I finished 2016 with the hope that 2017 would bring solidarity and bridge building within Labour’s family and I still hold out that hope, even as I don’t know how those dialogues will manifest. It is clear that Labour’s wreckers still present themselves as a problem that the party must rid itself of; the current leadership have shown that they can tackle some of their trouble by stopping the leaking of questions for PMQs, I hope we see more of the leadership working with the membership and CLPs to bolster its position as opposition. We can be sure that the politico-media circus who fear so much from the current Labour leadership forming a government will continue their fevered attacks against it. Those with most to lose fear those with most to gain and Corbyn’s Labour leadership are promising to reverse the gains made by those who have profited from the calamitous neoliberal experiment of the past two decades.