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Blairite lessons from US Presidential Election miss the whole point

David Miliband and Douglas Alexander have just spent a lengthy time in the US at the Republican and Democratic presidential conventions trying to draw lessons from them for the Labour Party. Nothing wrong with that, except that the lessons they draw are perverse.

They’ve apparently learnt that Labour won’t win the next election by disavowing New Labour or relying too much on working-class votes. Yet the opposite is true: New Labour lost 4 million votes between 1997-2005 plus a further 1 million by 2010 precisely because it wholly neglected its working class base and showed that its closest affinities were with the employers, the City and the very rich.

They say Labour must show it is committed to reform of the State. This is code for further privatisation and deregulation even though it was a privatised and deregulated market economy which produced the biggest financial crash for nearly a hundred years as well as turning off vast swathes of Labour’s electoral base.

They then come up with another bizarre statement, that “government is on trial as well as the markets” when everyone actually knows there is a need for restoring a strong positive role for government which alone was able to bail out the banks and prevent a global economic crash as well as alone having the capacity to deal with soaring energy bills and transport fares, tackle climate change, and counter the bonus greed and tax avoidance of the super-rich.

They then hint obliquely that Labour should distance itself from the trade unions (its main voting base) and their funding when they say “there is a structural imperative for Labour to take down the influence of money in politics”. The Blairites have always wanted to break from the trade unions  – and presumably depend instead on billionaire friends like Lord Sainsbury, as they already do at present.

They then go on: “this autumn Labour should again reach out to the Liberal Democrats with the aim of working together to get big money out of politics”.   One would have thought that, with the LibDems trailing at 10% in the polls and likely to end up after the next election with little more than 10 MPs, and with Labour leading the Tories by a solid 10% in the polls, we should be going flat-out for an outright Labour victory.  The Blairite obsession with casting off the trade unions certainly takes strange forms.

But what is so absurd about these flights of wishful thinking is that there is not a single word about the real lessons which Labour needs to learn – the need for radical banking reform, the need for a massive revival of British manufacturing (when this year the UK deficit on traded goods is likely to exceed the entire UK budget deficit), the need to take back public control of the NHS and education system, the need for a jobs and growth strategy rather than a programme of endless cuts, the need for an effective anti-poverty strategy and a huge reduction in inequality.

Now that really would lay solid foundations for a big Labour victory at the next election.


  1. Chris says:

    They’re yesterday’s men.

    I’m baffled why anyone would think Labour could learn anything from the horrible American political system anyway.

  2. Patrick Coates says:

    True and fair elections; 2010 General Election,
    Labour £2,000 borrowed paid back to candidate Tory about £20,000 but unknown, now in Cameron’s Cabinet.
    2015 So far £100 from CWU, no contest really is it.

  3. Robert says:

    Well of course you only need to look at labour welfare reforms, the new deal, pathways to work, and of workfare, all American all taken by Labour, now you have Labour in American trying to steal how to get us to wave flags and dribble at the thoughts of Miliband being leader.

    Then you sit watch Balls at the TUC conference and wonder why you bother.

  4. Mick Hall says:

    there is another take on this here

  5. john p reid says:

    all this talk of labour losing 4million working class votes since 97, well for a start a lot of those people who were working calss are now middle clas, and what of the 5.6million working class votes laobur lost between 1951 and ’83

  6. Robert says:

    John middle class, working class mate still four million people walked away.

  7. Hoa says:

    Ideally democratic oaosniartigns adopt ONLY one member, one vote.Union voting should be confined to individual unionists who are ALP members who are members of the electorate/sub-branch.Fascinated, (a.) Even though unions made up the lion’s share, .(b.) The votes of these members were weighted to be less than the votes of constituency party (Labour sub-branch) members. In my post at 13 I wrote that I believe this actaully put David Miliband at a disadvantage, as his strategy therefore focussed on winning the support of MPs and subbranch members. Ed Miliband got over the line by appealing to this category of voters, racking up big margins over David of almost 2 to 1 in major unions.(c.) There was no block voting, members of affiliated orgs cast their own ballots for whomever they liked, they didn’t vote collectively.And at the same time cuts union factional powerbrokers out of the equation.Kim, I’m not convinced this is entirely true. Sure, Ed Miliband won the votes of 47,000 Unite members to David Miliband’s 21,000, and that would never have happened if the process was an old fashioned conference system involving block voting (in which case the Unite members’ delegated’ votes would have been delivered 100% to E.Miliband).But obviously all candidates had their own organisers within the ranks of the unions, and I surmise these organisers weren’t all political amateurs. Some of them must have been local- and sub-factional players. Then there’s the power of endorsements from union secretaries and presidents. Ed cultivated this support, and it paid off bigtime.

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