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Coalitions – For or Against the Cuts?

“New Labour is dead – discuss”. Well, before the treatises and dissertations are penned on the sudden and final death of New Labour, let us consider this.  Labour, despite the albatross of Lord Mandelson’s  “Blair plus” manifesto, despite the bizarre reappearances of Tony Blair and in spite of a campaign based on the defeatism of simply seeking to deprive the Tories of a majority, has just had a very soft landing.

Labour was saved – not by all too many of the professional political class, who even now seek “re-alignment” with the Liberal Democrats, but by millions of ordinary people in distinctly unfashionable places such as Derby, Gedling, Tooting, and a host of other constituencies that the meritocracy would be hard put to place on a map. These voters kept the faith and largely out of fear and folk memory of the Tories in power.

Despite the Ashcroft Millions, the Tories “key seat strategy”, appears to have partially flopped.  And while everyone was busy mulling over the results of the General Election, Labour recovered ground on the ground in local government elections. Talk of the sudden death of Labour England has been premature. It does seem that we do have everything to fight for; that Labour can be re-built.

For this to happen Labour cannot enter into a pact with the Liberal Democrats and Nationalists, seeking to cling on to power in the full glare of public knowledge that we have actually just lost. Having just fought the election on the emptiest suicide note in history, there is every good reason for not biting into the cyanide capsule. Any Lib/Lab coalition constructed on the basis of those who currently hold power in both parties would not only commit itself to widespread and swingeing public services cuts, it would not break with the neo liberal consensus that has got us to where we are today.

If the Tories and their Lib Dem friends want to hand responsibility for the grotesque greed and irresponsibility of international financiers to ordinary people, let them. They will soon learn their mistake. Labour on the other hand must now become their champion.

Labour needs to begin the long process of re-discovering its soul and raison d’être. It is unlikely that this period of introspection will last long – the collapse of the public finances, and the still off the books costs associated with the disastrous short termism of the PFI, will force Labour to choose between stark alternatives, that may loosely be presented as a choice between welfare, work – and war.  Labour will have to take to the front line and fight the cuts.

The old politics is well and truly over now. For nearly two decades the main political parties have increasingly become ossified prisons, speaking the same language and driving out anyone who dares to disagree with the consensus. As a result these same parties have become corrupted and emptied of activists. Increasingly seen as hollow shells, they have been saved by the first part the post electoral system.

We demand – and we will get – a revived democratic Socialist Labour Party, a party that sees the trade unions as brother and sisters, not as milch cows. A Labour Party that is as welcoming to libertarians, Greens, true Liberals as it is to all of those tens of thousands who have left it in recent years. If the rump of what is left of New Labour don’t like what is about to happen, they can go elsewhere.

For one thing we can be sure, they won’t be missed.


  1. Matthew Stiles says:

    Very good article. I’m all for fighting the Tories tooth and nail, even if that means coalitions, but a coalition to implement massive cuts would be crazy. There are plenty of influential economists, eg Blanchflower, who see the main threat as being recession and higher unemployment and that fears about the deficit are overblown. As Mark writes the party needs to rediscover the its “soul and raison d’être”.

  2. Carol Wilcox says:

    It is a great consolation that the party which has bit the dust was called New Labour. We can now go forth with an unblemished Labour Party.

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