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Blairite propaganda that “Miliband paid price for lurch to left” is nonsense

turn leftIt’s already being said by the Blairite rump that Labour lost because Ed Miliband took the party to the left. The fact is that the New Labour governments were well to the right of the vast majority of Labour supporters, and clearly needed correction, but let that pass. This last-ditch attempt to re-launch the manifestly failed Blairite project ignores the meaning of everything that’s happened in the last 5 years. Ed Miliband was right to see that the banks and finance sector, the corporate elite, and the media had far too much power and had abused it by inflating their own income and wealth at the expense of everyone else and by seeking to suppress all those forces, notably the trade unions, that stood up for the poor and dispossessed.

He was quite right to see that a de-regulated predatory capitalism had run amok and needed reform. His decision to freeze energy prices, cap private rents, replace a minimum wage by a Living Wage, end the bedroom tax, phase out zero hours contracts, double the number of houses being built, and begin to reduce inequality by the mansion tax and abolishing non-dom status were all extremely popular. He had the guts to take on Murdoch (and win) over BSkyB, the Tory tabloids over Leveson, and Cameron over starting another Middle East war in Syria. No other leader in Opposition, including Blair and Thatcher, would have dared to take such risks, and won. We need more Ed Milibands, not less.

So what would the Blairites have done? Their strident argument on the economy was that big cuts needed to be made to pay off the deficit, but that New Labour would ease the pain by cutting ‘less far, less fast’. This is the worst of all worlds. It implies that Labour accepts the Tory framing of the election that Labour caused an almightly economic mess, that the deficit is now the central issue and that deep cuts in pay, benefits and public services were the right way to deal with the deficit. All these claims are fundamentally wrong, but by not challenging (because they agreed with it) the relentless repetition of these Tory lies Labour left millions of undecided voters to believe either that there was no difference between the two parties or that Labour could not be trusted with the economy. It was this fear factor that swung the final vote.

16 Comments

  1. Janet Fisk says:

    The sad irony for me is that the Scots believed we (Labour) were not left enough and embraced austerity and so got rid of us while the English thought us too left if we formed a government and had to rely too heavily on the Scots. The Welsh are left reeling……

  2. Pete says:

    Tony Blair has not led our party for almost eight years. By the next election, the post-Blair era will have lasted as long as the Blair era itself did. Both the right and the left wings of the party need to move past the obsession with Blairism; whilst I appreciate that there are some individuals on the frontbench who we could still call Blairite because of their association with the Blair years, now we are seeing it used to describe people like Liz Kendall in the leadership race. Can we really say Kendall is a Blairite, rather than just someone who veers toward the right of the party?

    I feel like the Blairite label has increasingly become a word the left of the party uses to disparage the right, without actually having to debate anything. To be a ‘Blairite’ is to somehow be a Tory in disguise; some kind of wicked, awful traitor to the cause who is to be abhorred and loathed at all costs. There can be no constructive dialogue with such a person, so the mindset goes. It’s a bit like when people describe the left as ‘militant’ to conjure up memories of Trotskyist infiltration, or ‘hard’ to imply rigid unbending ideology. It’s a term to shut down debate and exclude people from identifying with the Labour Party they love.

    The harsh reality is that the left v right debate has become terribly immature and really quite nasty – it’s all worthy of the Tory party of the 1990s at this point. It’s not about ideas anymore; they’re secondary to the slagging match in which anyone on the other side is a bitter enemy to be loathed, and in which both desperately try to deny the other has ever existed as anything other than an election ruining bogeyman. There’s a left to the party, and a right. Both have a valid place within it and always have. The talent of both is needed to win the next election. How can we expect the voters to buy into our vision for a fairer, more equal, community-oriented Britain when our own party is increasingly modelled as a dysfunctional, self-loathing family? The right needs to move on from Blair, but the left also needs to lose its twisted obsession with him.

    1. Bryan says:

      Pete, you are completely right. The truth is Milliband, despite all his positive points outlined in this article, failed to impress the public as leader and the Tory view that they are more competent on the economy prevailed. Partly that is fear, but it’s also because we let the Tory view that we overspent get traction. We lost working class votes to UKIP, and the middle class with a social conscience didn’t vote for us outside the cities.

    2. It’s difficult for us to lose our “twisted obsession with him” Pete when he’s popping up on the news all the time, him and the rest of the zombies, telling us we’re too left wing. Too left wing? If only!

      1. John p Reid says:

        The news! Christine?, but look at al those great left wing outlets, socialist unity, Morning Star,Al Jazerah TV.or local papers in Tower Hamlets,
        They don’t talk about Blair or the right of the party,

        That tell us we’re not left wing enough,and were predicting a Ed victory.

        If only we were more left wing,that’ll get all the ex Labour Party voters in Essex, Kent or North of England ,who went too Ukip ,back,

        1. Matty says:

          It would be nice if the likes of Jeremy Corbyn got interviewed by Marr. Instead we get Mandelson who is not even an MP. And after that he swanned in uninvited into Piennar’s radio show.

          1. Robert says:

            But of course Progress are now the power base in labour, they are Blair-rites.

  3. Barry Ewart says:

    The Daily Mail on election morning screamed ‘Don’t let these class war zealots in’ or words to that effect.
    But unfortunately 36% of the 65% of voting people did vote for class war zealots – The Tories!
    We need to win working class people, the progressive middle class and to try to win the general middle class (who are socialised to vote Tory) to the progressive middle class.
    It would also be good if the regions like the South/South East had conferences with Labour leaders on how we can win here.
    The Tories have won on fear and by setting citizens against each other which in the end is a fundamental weakness.
    A lovely blog on the CLASS site said whilst we should all build solidarity and encourage people to join trade unions, all of us who are doing ok should do something kind.
    I vow to.
    Yours in solidarity!

    1. Robert says:

      Well of course it did not help when Reeves took over at the DWP and she has kept the position statements like we are the party of workers, went down well with those who lost jobs during the banking crises, then saying we are not the party of welfare or benefits, when the biggest group of voters the working poor or the working class who cannot live without welfare or benefits, it called cutting off your nose to spite your face.

      Labour chased the middle class and the middle class had somewhere else to go.

  4. Sandra Crawford says:

    If you listen to Steve Keen here, it should become clear to you why attacking the banks for creating too much debt and the crisis, while at the same time promising to cut the deficit is economically illiterate.
    http://everyinvestor.co.uk/2015/05/05/video-steve-keen-criticises-naive-austerity-politics/

    It shows that a politician has spent far too much time at Harvard being deeply indoctrinated with neoliberal economics.

  5. John p Reid says:

    Well to the right of labour supporters,
    I appreciate we lost supporters after 97′ mainly staying at home in 2001 as another landslide meant they didn’t need to vote, and liberal interventionism,of Afghanisatan Eastern Europe, saw some supporters withdrawal support before Iraq, remember this ex Tory voters who voted Labour for the 1st time in their lives in 97′ did it with caution, of fear of labour returning to the 80’s

    Yes Ed did increase labours vote by swinging to the left, last week, but with ex libdems coming back over it was inevitable, some actually came back at my constituency like David Owen had as they saw a united party, some would have come back have David M or the two other men win instead of Ed.

    The last opposition leadEr who voted against a government on war, was Hugh Gaistkell, whom the old left of the party blamed for everything
    But would Andy Burnham or Balls having been leader, convinced the public, not to be afraid of labour messing the economy up again

  6. David Ellis says:

    It is not just nonsense Michael it is nonsense on stilts.

    Surely the next Labour leader will have to reach out to the SNP or the Tory’s slim majority will be starting to look like a landslide. Alternatively pick a new Labour drone and write a suicide note.

  7. Mukkinese says:

    There was alway going to be a struggle between the left and the right of the party after a defeat, but some of the arguments are completely false and ignore the facts.

    This was not simply about unattractive left or right policies.

    Yougov polled on party policies of all parties and where people knew and understood Labour’s policies, almost all outperformed Tories policies.

    So on the policies themselves, this time, Labour got it pretty close to what people approved of.

    Where we fell down were on two areas.

    One was that they policies were not clear enough. It is a priority that any party must push a clear and simple message. Labour seemed so afraid of clarity and giving critics something solid to grab hold of that they, hedged around what they were saying and merely confused many of the voters.

    Lots of what Labour were saying was popular, they just did not hammer the message home with enough conviction and clarity.

    The second “elephant in the room” is our perceived economic competence, or lack thereof.

    Perhaps part of the reason why the polls were so wrong is that floating voters were much like the rest of the population and fairly evenly split over which way to go. A reasonable assumption.

    But the fear factor is always a major factor in voters decision making and when push came to shove, their fear of economic calamity, however misplaced it might be, overruled any consideration of other policy areas.

    Unless Labour find a way to spike this accusation once and for all, it will be an albatross around their necks, in England at least, for a generation or more…

  8. Chris says:

    Blairites aren’t the right. The right is people like Denis Healy. Blairites are a separate phenomenon well to the right of our traditional ideological spectrum.

    1. John p Reid says:

      You’re right to say Blair isn’t like Denis healey, when healey stood for deputy, Blair, straw, milburn, Darling ,Byers, we’re all backing Benn

  9. Mike C says:

    1. Labour took a very,very slight left turn and gained a million votes in England.
    2. Hated as Red Tories after the New Labour years and working with the Tories to put nation state class sealed the fate of Labour in Scotland as they lost to a party posing strongly to their left.
    3. The desire to look moderate and right wing post 2010 led Labour to let the lie created by the Tories and the Tory owned media that the deficit was the main part of the economic crisis and due to Labour profligacy even though Labour ran lower deficits than Thatcher.
    4. To accept the lie being peddled post 2015 election by the corporate spokepeople and career politicians in the Labour Party – backed up by the press and the Tories – that it was being too left wing that lost it for Labour will risk destroying even the fragile gains made.

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