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Ed needs to work out where disunity comes from, and let the party decide its direction

It is true that “Len McCluskey does not speak for the Labour Party” as Ed Miliband’s spokesperson put it last night. Nor (anymore) do Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson, Alan Milburn, David Blunkett, John Reid, or Tessa Jowell, who have between them been subjecting Ed to persistent attacks, without regard to the impending local elections. But the unnamed shadow cabinet members who have been briefing journalists against Ed and the direction in which he is taking the party are supposed to speak for the party, and it doesn’t stop them either. And then there’s Progress.

And yet, in spite of their total absence of loyalty, and their periodic active, damaging disloyalty, Ed continually makes concessions to them. In the interest of party “unity”. He speaks at their conferences. He writes introductions to their manifestos. He defends them when they are attacked even where he disagrees with them, and they’ve misled him into Labour’s own omnishambles, into a revolt that cut right across the party spectrum.

Who does Ed think that Len McCluskey represents? Has he bought the line from the Guardian’s report of a “warning by a member of the shadow cabinet that Britain’s largest trade unions have been taken over by a new “Bennite tendency” which must be fought by Labour“? Does he not realise that Len is actually doing his best to protect Labour from the prospect of Unite’s disaffiliation from Labour which will very likely follow the 2015 election if the Blairite tendency gets its way. The consequences of that for Ed, and for Labour, would be dire.

Hundreds of thousands of Unite members are amongst the five million voters lost by New Labour. At Unite’s regional political conferences, activists report persistent hostility to Labour. Jerry Hicks’s vote in the recent general secretary election reflects that: as an anti-Labour candidate, he made much of the money he claimed was wasted on Labour affiliation, although much of the increase in his vote since the last election were those of cynical right-wing members such as those in a number of Black Country branches normally loyal to John Spellar MP.

Labour has yet to be clear about its future direction. One Nation Labour has been a useful stop-gap but not more. The policy review process(es) currently look unlikely to provide an answer this year. The government spending review in two month’s time is surely a point where Labour must indicate where it stands on spending – will it stick to Tory spending plans or reject the austerity proposed by the Tories?

Will Ed Balls return to the position he argued in his Boomberg speech? Or is he more interested in currying favour with our own in-house austerity camp. Will Labour clearly align itself with its former core voters, with the working class, or will it keep them thinking that we’re still “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich” and on their side.

That’s what Len is concerned with. Ed has a difficult task, it’s true, in keeping the Labour Party together. His best course would be to trust the Labour Party to settle the matter, through its policy making process, and ultimately at party conference. The party is loyal to him and it wants change. The Blairites are neither.


10 Comments

  1. Malcolm Hunter says:

    As a LP member, Len McClusky speaks for me far more than the Blairite rump, who are basically Thatcherite 5th columnists.

  2. Tom Blackburn says:

    McCluskey is right and at least he’s got the bottle to come out and say it in the open, unlike certain anonymous members of the shadow cabinet. Miliband’s response was unwise, to put it mildly. It’s funny how it’s only ever the left that’s ‘disloyal’ and ‘reprehensible’ when it speaks out – apparently anonymous briefings to Tory papers are fine for Blairites. Miliband’s silence over Norman ‘Section 75’ Warner has also been deafening, despite Warner making a big song and dance about voting against Labour policy.

    I can see why the Labour leadership is wary of rocking the boat seeing as it has a reasonably steady poll lead, but social-democratic parties across Europe have seen their support crumble as a result of tying themselves to austerity and I don’t see any reason why that can’t happen to Labour. PASOK, PSOE and Irish Labour are all floundering. The UK Labour leadership would do well to take heed – it can’t afford to make the same mistakes.

  3. Simon Deville says:

    The Today programme reported throughout the morning that “The Labour Party” had accused McCluskey of being disloyal, when in fact nothing of the sort hapenned (I’m not sure how a political party can make an accusation against one of its members anyway).

  4. Bill Hutt says:

    I have been a trade unionist for many years, I have always noticed that if there was a major issue with the Government. There may be a chance it may just make the front page of 1 or 2 newspapers. However if you a trade union or trade unionist it never fails to make headline news in all walks of media.

  5. RedKev says:

    Yep, but don’t forget it was “Comrade” Len who supported Ed, instead of John McDonnell, for the Labour Leadership

  6. John p Reid says:

    redKev, John mCdonell had to withdrawal,which was a great shame for me, regarding Blair not speaking for the party, yes but Blair isn’t calling for certain parts of the shadow cabinet to be sacked because he doesn’t agree with their views,

    It was also worth noting in a poll in 2009 that one third of unite members vote Tory, so Mckluskey doesn’t speak for his members regarding labour policy either

    Simon Devill, anyone who calls for people within the Labour Party to be ousted,when they have no right to do so is being disloyal

  7. janette says:

    COMMON STRIKE WILL YOU SO THE MANY CAN COME AND JOIN YOU LETS BRING BRITIAN TO A STAND STILL, LETS GET THIS GOVERNMENT OUT OF OFFICE B4 THEY DO ANYMORE DAMAGE.

  8. Lance Fisher says:

    I would like to see Yevette Cooper or Ed Balls running the party.Ideally Yevetter Cooper.
    It still doesnt sit comfortably with me the way Ed ousted David.If David was leader, I’m positive the next election would be a formality.I’m afraid under Ed, even this wrethced government is far from dead.

  9. Bob says:

    Miliband’s correct in the choice before the Labour Party: its government or socialism. Blairites dragging him to the right will not lose the election, trade union leaders dragging him to the left will. If the left and McCluskey were so convinced of the willingness of voters to elect an out and out socialist party to government – they’d go off and put their money where their mouths are.

  10. Tom Blackburn says:

    Bob: not sure about that to be honest. The Blairites are clinging tenaciously to a failed orthodoxy. If the Labour party goes down that route it risks totally discrediting itself. That’s precisely what has happened to social-democratic parties across Europe and it’s a fate I’d rather see Labour avoid.

    McCluskey is absolutely right that Labour has to offer something truly transformative if it’s to avoid going the same way as PASOK et al. Neoliberalism is kaput and neither the centre-left nor the centre-right has been able to revive it over the last five years. Blairite triangulation offers us no solutions. It’s time to move on.

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