Over at LabourList, the Blairites are up in arms about the “political cancer at the heart of the Labour Party“. Even with some of their own. Luke Bozier says Tony Blair is “partly to blame for today’s mess” because he failed on succession planning: “David Miliband was a weak successor in waiting without the fire needed to go for the jugular” and “James Purnell didn’t have the political clout“. But what really gets Luke’s goat is that, apparently, the state of Labour Party democracy is such that the Blairites are not getting a fair hearing:
The overwhelmingly negative reaction to Tony Blair has also set something ablaze in the wider psyche of the party. Would-be future reformists, Blairites, New Labourists, visitors from Mars (our emphasis), right-wing Labourites, whatever you want to call them, are not encouraged or supported in their endeavour up the party hierarchy. The chips are stacked against them.
Well, I’m not sure how things work on Mars but the way things have worked round here since the early days of New Labour is this: if you are on-message and whisper fawning words into the right ears, you will be encouraged. You will be ushered into audiences with leading Blairites, helped up the first rungs of elected office in your constituency, and encouraged to go to conference where they will write your speeches for you. You will be eased into a council seat and maybe landed a job with some Blairite MP. You will be tutored in public speaking and media relations and eventually helped into a safe seat. And if you make sure you are never heard uttering a word of criticism, you will make it even further up the greasy pole.
If, on the other hand, you were off-message, life was much simpler. No-one with any influence would listen to anything you said. Obstacles would be placed in front of you getting any public office, the greater the office, the greater the obstacle. And no-one pretended there was any party democracy anyway.
Now under Ed Miliband and Iain McNicol, things have improved. The people who used to run the machine are begining to disappear. There’s a long way to go. We’re still a long way from a level playing field on which party members actually get to kick the ball. But, for Blairites, life is a little tougher. Not nearly as tough as Luke Bozier suggests, of course.
And I have a little news for Martians: the leadership of Ed Miliband was not meant to draw a line “under the very painful three-year government of Gordon Brown” but under New Labour. For it was not Gordon Brown that lost Labour 5 million votes after 1997, it was Tony Blair. He won a great majority but then proceeded, gradually, to alientate our core supporters and become, by the end, a deeply unpopular leader, not with the party but with the country.
Labour would have lost much sooner if the Conservatives had not been seen as even worse. And even last year, they were only put into government by the Liberal Democrats who were pretending to be to the left of Labour.
So, Martians would be well advised to accept the rules of play. They’ll probably only get fairer. And if you don’t like it, you can always go back to Mars.