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Chuka Umunna’s partial olive branch

olive branchIn his speech yesterday Chuka Umunna appeared to be offering from the Blairite faction of the PLP an olive branch of reconciliation. If this is the correct interpretation, it is a useful and welcome one, although he made it conditional on Jeremy Corbyn showing flexibility on EU, NATO, Trident renewal, and tax (unspecified). I don’t remember Blair, when he won the leadership in 1994, offering flexibility on policy in order to gain support from potential front-bench members of the PLP, having won. My memory is that, come 1997 in particular, we were all told to knuckle down and loyalty was the order of the day. But let that pass. The key point is that he emphasises solidarity and agrees, what is obviously true, that the vast majority of the hundreds of thousands who have joined Labour in recent weeks are not entryists, but have done so because they are animated by Labour values.

That is helpful, and if Corbyn wins, we should certainly respond in kind, though not by acceding to veiled threats of non-co-operation as though certain persons are indispensable, nor with intimations of a purge – even if again that is exactly what Blair and Mandelson organised via consolidating control of parliamentary selections and making huge efforts behind the scenes to replace large numbers of centre and left MPs with preferred Blairite alternatives in the run-ups to general elections.

But Umunna still does not quite get it. Defending New Labour, he argues that “it is not unreasonable to be ambitious for what your party in government can achieve in building greater equality, liberty, democracy and sustainability”. He seems not to recognise that New Labour actually did the precise opposite. It increased inequality, restricted civil liberties, centralised power, and prioritised wealth-creation over sustainability. He doesn’t seem to grasp that it was for reasons such as these that the country does not want New Labour back. And that’s quite apart from the Iraq war, paving the way for the almighty crash of 2008-9, the despised culture of spin and manipulation with which Blair poisoned political communciation, and Blair’s rancid love of money-making.

Umunna still can’t get it that this Blairite agenda is really not wanted. It’s a failed and busted business model which, given Labour’s unprecedented majorities between 1997-2010, was a massive wasted opportunity. If Corbyn wins and Umunna and his Blairite friends show reliable loyalty to the new leader, then the party can co-operate well. But nobody is indispensable.

Image Copyright: photopips / 123RF Stock Photo


  1. Robbie Scott says:

    After a job more like.

    1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

      That’d be my guess as well.

      Wasn’t he along with the equally odious and equally Tory Reeves supposed, (one of them,) to be the next leader of the Labor party?

      Whatever happened to all that ?

  2. Robert says:

    Monies good better then being on the back benches doing nothing and stagnation sets in.

    I would think Progress will soon be offering ultimatums of who does what and when.

  3. David Pavett says:

    Whatever Umunna’s motives his partially conciliatory tone is a good sign. His “conditions” are rather strange though.

    Jeremy C has already shown a flexible stance on the EU and is open to debate. The problem is that so he, no more than Chuka U has a clear programme of democratic reform of the EU.

    Making support for Trident a condition for support is absurd and ChU must know that. He will have to change his tune on that if he is serious about cooperating.

    On NATO I think that Jeremy C would do well to relegate the issue to the back burner. If he is elected he will have much more pressing matters to focus in. If necessary we could resort to de Gaulle’s tactic of non-cooperation within NATO.

    I agree with Michael Meacher that if Corbyn is elected strenuous efforts must be made to keep as many on board as possible and that compromises will be needed to achieve this.

    1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

      That will certainly be the nature of the challenge, particularly for people such as myself who quite deliberately turned our backs on the Labor party of Blair, and for all the reasons outlined above and who doubted we’d ever return, but have, (at least for now.)

      But it’s been damn close run thing and how firm and true our support for Labor will remain, (that isn’t a threat,) will depend on how well Corbyn can manage to establish a working consensus among people who not only disagree with one another profoundly, but who actually loath each other with a passion, (for my money Blair is simply a grubby criminal well overdue to be brought justice and so on.)

      What is remarkable about JC is that he somehow managed to remain in the labor party despite holding firm and principled objections to it’s policies, objections that were shared equally by many who left.

      So despite that we’re, (some of us are,) prepared to to make the effort to see if some kind of compromise is possible.

      I hope that it is; but my doubts remain powerful, nor do I think that I am alone in this.

    2. Verity says:

      Omunna’s change has been a change of tone. Surely what is needed is an appreciation of mistakes in Labour’s economic approach. His contributions will only be meaningful if it has some changes of substance. For instance does he still hold that TINA to recession? Has he appreciated the need for productive investment as the means for productive growth in the economy? Has he appreciated that the expansion of consumer spending by no means other generating in a bubble in the housing market solves little? A

      A change of tone is very welcome, but we surely for the shadow cabinet we need people with a good grasp of the required changes. If we finish up with the next leader as ‘Umunna + more experience’, then there is little benefits for the future, although I do recognise that there are some people who think that winning is enough by itself.

      1. Robert says:

        You mean like Hunt has just come out with one telling us he is a Blair-rite progress and now willing to accept Corbyn as leader, the problem is I do not believe either. because he other speech was telling us Corbyn will lose us elections, only a right winger will win.

        Sod them if they do not like the choices we make they can of course walk across the floor.

        1. Jeff says:

          “We can make” you’re not a labour member

  4. David Ellis says:

    Umunna can shove that olive branch right up his fundament and anyone from the left who wants to reach out to it should be roundly flogged with it. Kick every New Labour clone out of the shadow cabinet and let the de-selecting of the Oxbridge, public school, careerists begin. Anybody repentant Blairites can earn their repetance in the trenches for a while.

  5. John P Reid says:

    Seeing as there’s been talk the last 2 days of deselection by unite in London for those who aren’t on the left,maybe he’s afraid

    By the way , weren’t achriscmullin, Michael ,Meacher Clare short all part of a lairs first government? And when Blair was pursuing the Sun, they wouldn’t gave liked Meqchers union views or Mulkins views on the IRA

    1. Mervyn Hyde says:

      Clare Short appears to be the only member of Blair’s first government that you mentioned:

      1. Robert says:

        The only bit he got right was lairs first Government, or should that be Liar first government.

  6. Bazza says:

    I’m not really interested in ‘top downers’ – those who may see themselves as great men and women of history as though we are somehow dependent on their wisdom.
    I still in my heart hope that Jeremy can win and then we as members are re-empowered and policy will come from below, from us as democratic socialists, from our life experiences and reading plus from our ability to research; from our humanity.
    Then we build policies of mass appeal in the UK and hopefully our brothers and sisters in every country in the World will do the same.
    I was actually really impressed with JC”s performance on Sky TV on Thursday and if I am honest actually saw him for the first time as a leader & as a genuine facilitator of grassroots power.
    Perhaps the World may be turning and the future is grassroots, bottom up, democratic and peaceful.
    And perhaps Labour membrs have an historic opportunity to ride and lead this wave.
    I still hope JC can win & if so we could be in for exciting times!
    Yours in international solidarity and peace!

  7. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

    “Yours in international solidarity and peace ?” not heard anyone say that that for a long time; it’s good to hear it again.

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