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Blair wrong that centre ground wins elections: not this time

The latest polling shows that Blair and his acolytes have lost the argument over the direction for Labour policy. A YouGov poll of 1,655 participants reported this week that by a majority of more than 2:1 they were anti-austerity, anti-war and wanted less subservience to the US, and anti-big business and over-mighty corporations. But what was specially notable about the results was that the majorities were far the biggest among swing voters. Blair always had an instinct for the centre ground, but what he meant by that was adopting Tory market ideology – making the State subservient to the market, de-regulating finance which led directly to the 2008-9 crash, privatising public services to deliver a wholly money-driven market system, and turning a blind eye to, if not actively promoting, drastic inequality. None of that is what people want today.

The writing on the wall comes from the Syriza victory. Of course the British economy is in a vastly less parlous position than Greece, but there are links that cannot be denied. Both electorates have learnt the hard way that austerity hasn’t worked and are now demanding an alternative. Austerity in Greece has imposed such crushing debts that the economy cannot generate the growth to pay them off. Austerity in the UK is not reducing the deficit, but is driving through an emasculation of the State and public sector which will transform the power relations in favour of the wealthiest class at the expense of everyone else.

This is what is fundamentally at stake in this 2015 election. The only way that Labour can head off the damaging loss of votes to the SNP, the Greens and left-wing LibDems switching to them, and even to UKIP tapping into disillusionment, is by recognising this growing and irresistible demand for a change away from austerity and in favour of public investment, jobs, rising incomes and sustainable growth. And it needs to be said loudly and over and over again that this is not a soft option or a retreat into Labour’s comfort zone; it’s a hard-headed recognition that this is by far the quickest and most efficient way to pay down the deficit, both in Greece and the UK.

The predictable Tory rejection of the Greek election result has descended into hilarity, if not fantasy. Osborne’s comment was that: “What people don’t like is economic policies that don’t work; in the UK we have an economic policy that is working”. You couldn’t make it up. Nothing in the British economy is working – disposable incomes are still lower than they were 13 years ago, productivity is flat, business investment is lethargic, the trade deficit is a disaster, unemployment and under-employment are still huge, household debt is dangerously high, growth is fading, and reduction of the deficit (ostensibly the aim of all the impoverishment) isn’t even happening. With success like that, who needs failure?

13 Comments

  1. Robert says:

    Well of course Blaming Blair is one thing you voted for the wars, now you say you learned the facts, I think most of us knew the facts when the dossiers went back and forth. We all knew something stank and we were 100% right.

    Now then labour say austerity needs to be cut no matter who is in, and that means hard times ahead, that of course means for the poorest the sick the disabled the unemployed and I suspect some who are in work on low wages.

    hence people are now looking at other parties like the SNP or the Greens and who can blame them Miliband is not a lefty he just needs to win an election. hence labour is the party of the NHS.

    I was reading an article from labour this week which went off on another of those we must help working people because labour is the party of working people it in the name, what labour, is that all it means then.

  2. John reid says:

    Define centre ground, law and order was thought of as an authoritarian state things ,to preserve the Status quo, but labour were more the law and order party while in power as being authoritative, if immigration brings workers wages doens it creates cheap labour, then labour being pro immigration was anti workers having a pay rise, left doesn’t mean liberal, socially conservative socialists have always existed, so labour ned to find the trade union member working class home owner, and get their views and the votes of the lower middle class if they want to win the centre ground, is high taxes, that don’t create job, a left wing idea?

  3. ray davison says:

    Read yourself again and try to make this literate or just refrain from comment until you are clearer in your thinking. Best wishes comrade.

  4. David Pavett says:

    Michael Meacher says

    The only way that Labour can head off the damaging loss of votes to the SNP, the Greens and left-wing LibDems switching to them, and even to UKIP tapping into disillusionment, is by recognising this growing and irresistible demand for a change away from austerity and in favour of public investment, jobs, rising incomes and sustainable growth.

    I agree with him. But there is a major problem: it isn’t going to happen and Michael Meacher knows that, as does anyone who takes an interest in Labour Party politics. Labour is incapable of changing course. It has no basis to do so. It does not have the internal democracy required. Moreover, the grip of Progress is now so strong that it would have to be taken on as the party within a party that it is. That is not going to happen either and we all know that.

    Simply repeating what Labour needs to do in the full knowledge that it will not happen puts those saying it in serious danger of salvaging their own consciences while generating spurious support for a party which is increasingly obviously incapable of doing what is required to decide on a radical change of direction.

    Miliband is the prisoner of a Blairite Shadow Cabinet and of the organisational power of Progress. He has so little courage or conviction that he has in effect turned himself in to captivity.

    If there is a resurgence of the left in Europe and if it reaches Britain Labour could find itself going into rapid eclipse as have the traditional socialist parties of Greece and Spain.

    The old Labour order (which for me includes so-called “New Labour”) has finally transformed Labour into a party with no other pretensions than to manage capitalism a bit better than the capitalists preferred party. Hatred of the Tories plus our absurd FPTP electoral system still keep Labour alive but it is not difficult to imagine circumstances in which its collapse could be as rapid as that of PASOC

    1. Robert says:

      Glad somebody else see Progress as a party within a party, but for how much longer I’m sure Blair will make a move soon.

  5. Peter Rowlands says:

    I believe David Pavett is wrong in thinking that Labour is a prisoner of Progress – the NEC election results hardly bear that out. It is rather the case, as Jon Lansman has pointed out, that Labour is divided between its left and right wings without either being dominant. That is why it is necessary for the left to keep plugging away, as Michael unflinchingly does.

    1. Robert says:

      Sorry but he is right Progress now can stand it’s own MP’s in seats knowing the Unions cannot do anything against it.

      In Wales three seats al all Progress candidates all hand picked we do not get labour parachutes any more they are now Progress.

      No doubt that Progress are building a right wing power base a new labour power base.

      They already hold the sway over the left wing but why are they fighting the Union to stop them putting forward working people. The battle with the Unions with Miliband, this means that Unions cannot now stand candidates against progress.

      I’ve no doubt the right is now the main group the new labour group the Progress group.

    2. David Pavett says:

      I am astonished by Peter’s suggestion that there is a balance between left and right in the Labour Party without either being dominant. I think that one would have to be excessively immersed in the minutiae of Labour internal manoeuvring for positions on various committees not to notice that Labour’s direction of travel and the fundamentals of its policies are all securely right-wing. If we take our eyes off the internal jockeying for position for a moment and look at the big picture I don’t see how there can be any serious doubt about the right-wing grip on Labour thinking and Labour Policy. It is so strong that even when it is known that the general public favours a position to the left of Labour the Party is completely incapable of responding. It can’t because it is so tied to its self-image as the nice capitalist party as opposed to the nasty one that it simply cannot respond. It no longer has even the pretence of the idea of a socialist society.

      Progress has understood what in general the left has not understood. That slogans are not enough. One must provided detailed analyses and programmes to win political battles. Progress is good at this the left is not. This ultimately is much more telling than the winning of seats on the NEC. Progress understands that.

      So I stand by my claim that Labour is the (ideological) prisoner of Progress. Where is the corresponding source of left-wing analyses, and policies? Left Futures does a good job but it is just not on anything like the same scale.

      The weakness of the left was well illustrated by the recent elections for leadership of the Scottish Labour Party. All the left had to offer was a few broad statements of aims and policy one-liners. It was really poor stuff. We on the left need to take a good hard look at ourselves.

      Still, it intrigues me that anyone as serious as I know Peter and Jon to be can convince themselves that there is a fine balance between left and right in the Labour Party. Do they think this balance showed itself in the NPF policy decisions last July? Do they think that it will be evident in the policies which will go into Labour’s manifesto? My prediction is that the few truncated elements of left-wing thought that survived the NPF week-end will be quietly dropped as the Manifesto is drawn up.

      People have been dreaming of and scheming for a Labour turn to the left for 100 years but now Labour is more solidly committed to the defence of capitalism as the only show in town than at any moment in its history prior to Blair. Socialism was unceremoniously dumped by Blair and no one in the leadership wants to revive socialist thinking.

      P.S. Someone recently wrote that circumstances are forcing Tristram Hunt to the left. I asked for evidence but got none. Can it be that this sort of self-delusion is actually quite widespread on the left?

      1. Robert says:

        Hunt going to the left forced or not that is hilarious.

  6. Peter Rowlands says:

    David has gone from Labour being an organisational to an ideological prisoner of Progress, with its policies being securely right wing. This is just not so. If Progress was dominant there would be no commitment to a Mansion tax, to breaking up the big banks, to building 200,000 houses a year or an energy price freeze. The party has moved leftwards from Blairism, but the latter’s strength has prevented further movement towards what I would regard as a realistic left social democratic position. How this resolves itself and what the consequences will be we will shortly know!

    1. Robert says:

      Well we all know labour has to win the next election so of course to show us your on the peoples side you state we will break up the banks. But just look at how many from Progress are on the front bench look at Scotland with Murphy look at whom is hammering down on welfare all progress.

      The best one of all of course was Falkirk when Progress had an candidate all picked out and the Union put one up to fight back. Progress ran to Miliband I suspect Blair was on the phone and Miliband responded.

      Yes but we have all heard about labour promises once before about keeping the NHS safe, about building houses Miliband and Progress want to win an election so will work together does not mean it will be like that once they have won.

      Labour is now to the right and Progress is the major part of the labour movement.

      Price freeze what a shambled, building affordable homes for whom ever can afford, them being against those nasty immigrants because labour thinks the people are. New labour and progress the proof is simple Falkirk

    2. David Pavett says:

      Sorry for the delayed reply – I have not been out of Internet contact for a few days.

      What Peter describes as my two positions is just one position: Labour is the ideological prisoner of Progress. He is right to point out that not every detail of Labour’s programme would be a natural choice of Progress but that is not what ideological dominance means. It means that the dominat spirit and logic of Labour’s policies are those of the anti-socialist right of the Party. There are a few elements of left policy that survived the NPF process but these in no way constitute its backbone. They will be quietly dropped either before producing the manifesto, or in the stress conditions of its implementation, or will be formulated in a way that destroys any radical content.

      As for particulars it is worth remembering that a mansion tax has been a ling-standing Lib Dem policy before seeing it as a left break-through. The energy price- freeze is makes little sense while leaving energy production and distribution as a private business. The 200, 000 houses would be for private sale and not social housing. I believe that Labour will not take on the big banks and will find a way of taking the sting out of its proposal.

      Peter says that we will shortly know how the pressures from the left and right will be resolved. I suggest that he needn’t hold his breath. Take a look at the Shadow Cabinet, listen to the Shadow Secretaries of State, read the NPF material and ask “Do we have possible ingredients here for a challenge to the determining power of capital?”. I suggest that there is only one possible answer and it is not the one that generations of socialist activists have dreamed might one day come from Labour.

      1. Robert says:

        Well we will see at the next election it’s getting closer.

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