The NEC results are in and……..oh there are just Momentum types a-go-go, it’s all terrible and we’re all doomed. So, I’ve decided to share this timely blog about how there’s nothing wrong with being a Blairite. I feel it’s very zeitgeisty, very ‘now’.
It’s so tempting to write a blog that just says, “there’s nothing wrong with being a Blairite” over and over again, because it’s true (be proud, people, be proud). But it wouldn’t be particularly illuminating or helpful, so I won’t. It’s more seriously tempting to write a blog giving the moral defence of Blairism, but this isn’t that either. Instead I would just like to point out a few things that I find quite ridiculous about the epic battle to save the Labour Party. In short: 1. In the current Labour Party ‘Blairites’ (whatever that actually means) have basically accepted our role of Hated of the Broad Church, 2. ‘Blairites’ have largely taken a vow of policy-based-silence during the Leadership contest. 3. It really is something that those who have been able and willing to make the case for electable Labour politics are the only people whose views are, right now, distinctly unwelcome in the debate about the future of the Labour Party.
Exhibit A: Last week Polly Toynbee published an article headlined, ‘Thank you, Jeremy, for sweeping away the third-way brigade, but it’s Smith who has the policies, daring and coherence to take the party to power‘. I mean, just wow. Thank you Jeremy for sweeping away the last vestiges of the political philosophy that allows Labour to deliver real change in government. What a guy, what a compliment, what a shameful thing to say. When you rubbish the memory of Labour in government – again, and again, and again – you make it ever harder for us to win. In fact you help lead us to a place where, trapped in the prison of the labour movement’s perpetual, self-aggrandising, nostalgia the leadership contest – in 2016 – is being fought in terms of which contender was more supportive of the miners’ strike.
Exhibit B: In Owen Jones’ much hailed blog of questions, he asks, for example, ‘What’s Labour’s current vision succinctly summed up? Is it “anti-austerity”? That’s an abstraction for most people.’ You have to be kidding me, I mean, the brass neck of the man. He travelled the length of Britain (with Jeremy Corbyn) demanding – yes, demanding – Labour become, explicitly, an “anti-austerity party”. He helped create an entire “social movement” based squarely on this demand – the People’s Assembly. He helped to whip up a frenzy of contempt for Labour people, such as Ed Balls and David Miliband, who said this sort of political grandstanding was irrelevant to the lives and politics of most people – an abstraction, if you will – and that it wouldn’t help achieve a Labour government. He is utterly complicit in our dire situation, yet mention this and be told that you’re just a grumpy “Blairite”, unwilling to “debate the ideas”. (I for one am very happy to debate ideas – name the date/time.)
Owen Jones, Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, Diane Abbott, et al, you have spent years strengthening the anti-Labour movements and making Tory governments more likely. When you gave speeches to large crowds dismissing Labour and the Tories as “all the same”, you strengthened the anti-Labour movement and made Tory governments more likely. When you used public platforms to voice the warped realities of the SWP-dominated Stop the War Coalition and People’s Assembly, you strengthened the anti-Labour movement and made Tory governments more likely. This hasn’t come from nowhere.
I’m hoping Owen Jones will follow his reflections to their logical conclusion and endorse Owen Smith for Labour Leader. It’s obviously what his blog is saying – he should have the courage to be explicit. I’m also hoping that Owen (Jones), Polly and all the other members of our happy Labour family who habitually rubbish the *only* people who have managed to deliver a Labour government in almost 40 years might just reflect on that too. We’ve all heard a million times that if we don’t learn the lessons of the past, we are bound to repeat them. That doesn’t just mean acknowledging that you were wrong, but acknowledging that others – like Tony Blair – were very often right.