Saturday, 30 July 2016

Blairism On The Rocks

So, was the Blairites’ whole Chicken Coup thing meant to achieve this scale of disaster, or were they really just stupid?

Labour Party “moderates” (dogmatic Blairites to you and me) are already preparing for their defeat in the leadership election they triggered. They’ve leaked to that friend of the working man, The Daily Telegraph, that they plan to construct parallel structures within the party to create an alternative to The Labour Party that elected Corbyn as leader. This new structure would then challenge through the courts for the right to be called the only Labour Party and also lobby the Speaker in Parliament to become the Official Opposition. They say it is preferable to “a party split”. Quite how splitting the party so definitively will avoid a split in the party is anyone guess.

They are not above delusion, but surely these educated people didn’t ever really think that Owen Smith would win the leadership election against Corbyn? It’s tempting not to totally discount the create chaos to create order theory given the sheer volume of Blairite duplicitousness that has already been laid bare for all to see:

The pantomime of Angela Eagle’s “candidature”,
The pretence that Owen Smith's candidature supposedly was only being considered from June when even John Mann stated he was asked to back Smith for leader back in January,
The statements of John McTernan and others (saying even before Corbyn won his first election that “if Corbyn wins the vote then he should be removed immediately”) contradicting the notion that opposition to Corbyn only started pre-May local elections or post Brexit vote, depending on which Blairite you’re speaking to.

So, regardless of the vote for leadership, which now looks like a superfluous exercise, these Blairites will retreat into a darkness of their own making from where to snipe at the Labour Party as we know it. Ostensibly this creation of a parallel party within a party is to “save Labour”. No one aside from the most swivel-eyed Blairite could argue that planning action that will administer 1000 cuts will result in anything other than death. They will be like the Japanese soldier still fighting a lost war for decades after defeat was confirmed. Quite how this strategy can ever result in any kind of sustained assault on the Tories they don’t seem keen to explain.

This recklessness with the fate of The Labour Party is not totally unplanned. The dogma of Blairism is power at all costs. Not power for the people, not even power for The Labour Party, but power for the Blairites. For them, its power or death. Existing without power they’d be like parasites without a host. If Corbyn loses the next GE, then they are powerless. If Corbyn wins the next GE, they are politically redundant, their thesis of how to gain power disproved. Which is why, despite a clear view of the rocks ahead in the course they have charted, they are motoring on regardless. What use is The Labour Party to them unless they own it?

So, it is really just personal gain or at least self-preservation that motivates this powering towards the rocks? As always with politicians there is some truth in that. But also common among politicians is their zealous belief that only they can save not just The Party, but also mankind. Only they have truly grasped the realities of the world. Blairite messianic zeal runs through them to the point of real delusion among some. This is why they have no shame is being quoted when they remark “who cares about the grassroots” (John McTernan) or “The Labour Party should be run by the 1%” (Tristram Hunt) or other pre-democracy feudalistic comments. This is an elite after all.

In addition to their own self-importance, they feel only they have been anointed by The Empire to run a loyal opposition in parliament or, preferably, a compliant government in service of The Empire. Not the British Empire, on which the sun set long ago. But the latest Empire, the American Empire.

And if anyone says, “we don’t have empires any more” ask them what they think historians will call the most powerful nation on earth during the late 20th and early 21st centuries. We don’t hear the word “empire” now because it’s an unfashionable phrase and it gives the game away. Now we have the Coalition, or NATO, or whatever terms best serves any given war.

Blair believed that the Empire was ultimately benign and that, as he had a Special Relationship with it, his role was not to challenge it on wars but rather to use his specialness to encourage its inherent benigness for the greater good and for British Interests (this is still Blair’s thinking when he advises various despots around the globe – expose their better natures to a dose of wonderful Tonyness and they will do less harm than they otherwise might). Sure, it might mean involvement in the odd illegal war and the deaths of 100,000s of women and children, but hey, it was going to happen anyway, and perhaps it happened “better” with that liberal sprinkling of Tonyness, specialiness, and benigness everywhere. Some of these words of course don’t exist but they are still more real than the naïve, messianic fantasies of Bairites.

So what does geopolitics have to do with the Blairites challenge to Corbyn? Everything really. Think of the close links between Blairites and the Clintons, or Blairites and the Bush family. Think of the close cultural and exchange ties between the movers and shakers of both establishments. How many of the Blairite Progress party within a party luminaries have close affinity and links with the US power establishment?

You see, the Blairites feel they are the anointed ones, as if in ancient times anointed by Rome to administer the outer reaches of empire for the benefit of civilisation. Any personal benefits would be incidental, of course. But mostly it’s not the personal benefits that inspire Blairites. As with all zealots, it’s much worse than that. It’s the opportunity to rule that inspires them. Only they have the knowledge, the experience, the belief, the willpower, the intelligence, the education, the grasp of hard realities. That is why they were anointed by the empire, which in itself only compounds their sense of entitlement.

But the ordinary people of the Labour Party, those considered “grassroots” that no one “cares about” and part of that pesky 99%, got in the way and voted in Corbyn. How do you think that made the Blairites look to the world? Not in control. If they weren’t careful, someone else might become the anointed ones. Power co-opts power. It discards the no longer powerful. There’s no mercy.

With that in mind, and now that the Blair Mutiny has failed, Blairism has nothing to lose by trying to steer The Labour Party onto the rocks. By wrecking it they will have the opportunity to rebuild it in their own image. Jumping ship would be to leave the vessel capable of delivering everything that offends their dogma and faith. God forbid that “the rabble” take charge and chart a new direction that challenges every belief Blairism every held dear. Telling people that no one will vote for an anti-austerity, anti-war, anti-trident, anti-tuition fees party doesn’t wash any more, not since the SNP with its “unelectable policies” wiped Blairism from the face of the earth as far as Scotland was concerned.

The only real source of power within the party these wreckers have left are the 172 MPs. Correction, they have less than 172 MPs now that many of them have seen their gambit for what it was. Of that 172, various estimates have approx. 50 of them “thinking again”. With the mutiny a failure, the Blairite patronage is non-existent. With their CLPs asking them what the hell they were doing, many are chastened. With only bullying and threatening methods left in their armoury the Blairites are becoming heartily resented by many of those 172 MPS. Many agreed Corbyn was not a perfect leader. Some believed that he might even lead them to defeat. But some of these MPs have calculated now that the biggest danger affecting Labour in the polls is not Corbyn but the continuing Blairite assault. Although repelled, it still manages to look ugly. Even pathetic. The laughable attempt by Seema Malhotra to accuse Corbyn’s team of dirty tricks re Breakingate (coming so soon after Smashed-Windowgate and others) only succeeded in highlighting that even the viewing and reading public have got Smear-Fatigue. Greater minds than these two MPs of course are behind the constant search for more of these “half-chances”, as football commentators might call them.

So, just when we thought Ballotgate was the last hurdle for democracy to face, now we have Parallel-Structuresgate, demonstrating that this debacle has never been about democracy, defeating the Tories, or even offering credible opposition to them. It’s always been about ensuring no Labour Party apart from a Blairite, establishment-compliant Labour Party shall exist. They have learned nothing from the Iraq War, from their electoral obliteration in Scotland, from Chilcot, from Greece, from Spain. They are not the face of Labour for the future if Labour wants to win elections, a la the SNP. They are not even a poor man’s elite. They are history.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

The Unelectable Mr Corbyn

Some Blairites, after Corbyn was allowed on the ballot for leadership election after the NEC decision last night, are saying that the Labour Party is dead. It's not dead. It's just shed some dead skin. Blairism died, so, in fairness, the Labour Party the Blairites imagined is dead.

An early symptom of its terminal illness was apparent when the Blairite Labour government ignored two million people marching to protest against the Iraq War. Thousands of active supporters gave up at that point. A rot set in. Blair once said of Labour activists and voters more progressive than his ilk that they 'have nowhere to go', meaning it was more appropriate for Labour to chase the centrist political constituency rather than focus on the progressive element of the electorate for whom Labour was the only choice. There’s a cynical logic to that. But they did have somewhere to go - home. They stayed home rather than campaign unpaid in the rain for leaders they considered not only unrepresentative but morally bankrupt. Others stayed home rather than vote for a party that had blood on its hands.

In Scotland they had 'somewhere to go' - the left of centre Social Democratic-lite SNP, which has now supplanted what was a New Labour Scottish civic establishment with something competent and popular. How progressive it really is is a valid question. However, in reply the SNP can reply 'No to Tuition Fees', 'No To Trident', 'No to austerity', 'No to War in Iraq', 'Yes to Chilcot'. That's more progressive than Blairism. But it is traditional Labour clothes, attire that was cast aside as 'unelectable', that is worn. This discarded political clobber was picked up by the SNP who have now been in power for 9 years, whose party membership has trebled, and whose leader is the political Queen of Scotland, more popular even than her predecessor. And her popularity, like that of her party, is still rising.

Labour's attempts at opposition in Scotland have been crushed ever since they'd stood shoulder to shoulder with the Tories, not just during the Indy Ref, but also on tuition fees, Trident, austerity, etc etc. Labour under Blairism became a national embarrassment, an unelectable one. Blairism’s main Scottish achievement is that it has managed to become even more toxic than the hated Thatcher’s Tories. And Blairism claims Corbyn is 'unelectable'?

Aside from Iraq there xwas also the gradual realisation that, beyond the smiley façade of beaming Blair, there was little 'new' about New Labour. In fact it looked more and more like Old Tory, pre-Thatcher Tory. In other words, New Labour, or Blairism, stood for managing the neo-liberal policies of the Tories marginally more humanely rather than offering a real alternative. Blairism, over generously, conceded the argument regarding any possible alternatives on behalf of the whole Labour movement. This was grudgingly tolerated while elections were being won. There was always hope that a few progressive titbits might be offered, as sops to real progressives. But anything offered after 2003 was offered by a party with blood on its hands and many refused to feel grateful while taking gifts from hands that dirty. I was ashamed of being a Labour supporter. I didn’t vote for them from Iraq until now. And I’d actually bought into Blairism. What the hell. It was a new way. I’d been in management and liked the talk. I thought I’d been an old hand stuck in old ways and this new guy was sweeping all before him. But niggling doubts became disagreements and eventually, with Iraq, utter disgust. We’d been conned. There was nothing new here at all. If Blair was doing Bush’s bidding on the global stage, whose bidding was he doing at home? It sure as hell wasn’t mine. Or the millions who shared my disgust. I became one of these people who had nowhere to go, joining a lost generation of progressives who, if we opened our mouths, were considered blasphemers, out of date and unrealistic, politically unwanted and untouchable, disenfranchised and disengaged. After all, Blairism was more interested in circumventing ordinary people on its journey to continued power by getting into bed with the media moguls, the billionaires, the powerful. We were bypassed.

Blairism had political capital. Some of it was created by itself. Praise where praise is due. Undoubtedly, Blairism charmed the media and Labour as a result got a fairer hearing than for years. But this was only in part due to Blairite charisma. The easy ride the media gave Blairism (and still does) was in part also due to the knowledge that this was no radical group intent on challenging power, far less intent on redistributing it. The moguls and the establishment were safe. They knew that after 18 years of Tory rule the people were tired. So a change of the most cosmetic type was inevitable, if only to maintain the illusion of democratic choice.

Blairism offered minimal hope to an electorate intent on change regardless and yet offered maximum hope to the powers-that-be that nothing would change. This isn’t just an example of a narrow consensus naturally coalescing across the political landscape. It’s more than that. It’s a consolidation of the seismic Thatcherite-inspired shift of the political consensus to the right. Thatcher once famously stated that her ambition was not just for the government to never be socialist, but for the opposition to never be socialist. Once again, Blairism delivered. A socialist free opposition whose job was not only to maintain the new Neo-liberal “consensus” but also to act to ensure no alternative to this “consensus” appeared to threaten this “stability”. Hence the purges of socialists from Labour in the late 1990s. Hence New Labour joined in the demonization of anyone questioning the existing order, calling them “unelectable” and “unrealistic” if they suggested alternatives to New Labour’s course.

New Labour had the political capital (Massive House Of Commons majority, friendly media) to ride this out. It had enough capital even to ignore 2 million protestors on the streets of the UK in 2003. And ignore them they did. Their political capital was seeping away though. Firstly through the loss of activists, and then, as a natural consequence of that, through a loss of voters. Blairism ignores the link between activists and voters. Yes, we get it. We understand that voters are not as committed as activists. Yes, we understand that they listen more to other arguments. But the purpose of a party of vision is to lead the political argument, not follow it. If you just follow the voters and the media “opinion formers” because you are too scared to challenge misconceptions or misrepresentations then you risk following them to Brexit or worse. However, if you have principles you believe in and wish to persuade other people of them you must challenge people’s existing views. Not aggressively, but an alternative view must be fought for nonetheless.

On the other hand, if your principle is nothing more than wanting to be in power you’ll be found wanting when it comes to inspiring voters with integrity. Then of course cosying up to power is your only option and your only argument to the world is that being so close to power will enable you to “do some good things”. This is a delusion. If you are cosying up to power you are not its challenger. You are its pet. Now, show me a pet that’s changed the world.

Corbyn offered all those in the wilderness a voice, There were a lot of us. Some objective political scientist might have identified us as a “large constituency” worthy of re-engagement with the political system. But Blairites described us as “dogs” “rabble” “mob”, ironically while complaining about political abuse. History has a different word for us. That word is “People”.

When Corbyn apologised for the Iraq war it brought back none of the dead, cured none of the injuries, soothed none of the life-lasting grief that thousands in this county, and that millions in the Middle East, have suffered.

But, it turned a page. Here is a man fearlessly taking on power - and they say he’s not a leader? By this very act, he’s demonstrated more leadership than any of his critics. Apologising for the war crimes (and history will show that’s what they were) cures no one. No memories of horror or of loss will subside due to those words. But, with Corbyn at the helm, Labour will NEVER again be co-opted into Neo-Liberal wars abroad. Nor will any Corbyn-led Labour Party impose Neo-liberal austerity and disenfranchising thousands of people.  

As for being unelectable, the very fact that every weapon in the cynical, dark-art armoury was employed to keep Corbyn off a ballot that even his worst enemies conceded he'd win in a landslide tells you that these enemies do not believe Corbyn is unelectable. It tells you they fear his very electability. Why? Well, maybe, just maybe, when Corbyn wins the next General Election, the Blairites will have nowhere else to go. 

Yes, part of Labour definitely died. But it died years ago. The squeals and yelps we hear from Blairites now is the sound of Blairism facing its death.