Sunday, August 16, 2015

For the first time, it's now possible to say it would have been better for Labour right-wingers if Tony Blair had never become leader

RevStu has highlighted a quote from Tom "Bomber Admin" Harris, in which the ex-MP basically says that the only thing that would make voters - in Kezia Dugdale's words - "take another look" at Scottish Labour is to give them what they want, which is independence. (Presumably by "voters" he's not referring to the electorate at large which narrowly voted No, but to Labour's lost voters who mostly voted Yes.) He implies that this would be an unthinkable step, because he is opposed to it as a matter of fundamental principle.

Odd, that, because the New Labour doctrine, which Harris has been signed up to throughout his career, is that the "mature" thing to do is give voters exactly what they want, no matter how uncomfortable it is for you. If you don't, you're wickedly condemning the country to Tory rule and denying the vulnerable people of this land the wonderful, wonderful things that a Labour government can do for them by stealth. (Sure Start! Sure Start! A very low minimum wage! And, er...Sure Start!) It seems that the small print on the New Labour doctrine is that it's only mature to give voters what they want if it's right-wing and British nationalist in flavour.

If only he was consistent about it, Harris' suggestion that there are some lines of principle that cannot be crossed even in search of electability, even if it means "millions will suffer without a Labour government, blah blah blah", would be perfectly respectable. It's essentially the position of the true Labour moderates of old, like John Smith and Roy Hattersley. You tack to the centre to the extent that is consistent with the party's traditional values of equality and social justice, but if that isn't sufficient to win an election, so be it. If you go any further and start transgressing those values, a Labour victory is quite literally pointless. That is, of course, precisely what happened in the Blair/Brown years, which is why Liz Kendall's whingeing about people telling her to join the Tories rings rather hollow. It's one thing for a Labour government, in the name of moderation, to refrain from renationalising industries that the Tories privatised. It's another thing for them to enthusiastically engage in their own round of privatisation. It's one thing for them to not reverse Tory welfare cuts - it's another thing for them to make even deeper cuts. It's one thing for them to not reverse Tory cuts in student grants - it's another thing for them to go infinitely further by imposing tuition fees of thousands of pounds.

Corbyn-mania is essentially the Blairites reaping what they sowed by crossing those red lines. For the first time, it's now possible to clearly say that it would have been better in the long-run for Labour right-wingers if Tony Blair had never replaced John Smith. Under Smith, Labour would have won in 1997 - perhaps not with a majority of 179, but maybe with one of 80-100. They would probably have won in 2001 as well, with the Tories still reeling. By 2005, it's harder to work out what would have happened, because by that point everything had been thrown into flux by the Iraq War, which Smith would probably have kept Britain out of. But regardless of whether Labour had eventually lost in 2005 or 2010 or later, they would not be in the hopeless position they now find themselves, lacking any potential leader from the party's natural centre who can command the affection and loyalty of both the radical left and the modernisers (as Smith did).  Why does such a person not exist?  Because the party doesn't have a natural centre anymore - just tribes who hate each other's guts.


  1. That sums it up pretty well.The last TNS poll had SNP on 62 and Labour on 20.Is there info on Labour support in each age group ?

  2. Looking at the new Comres data on Corbyn, it seems the Blairites are correct; Corbyn is just too left wing for England. He's not electable.

    Stephen Daisley saying the same thing on STV news; and he's a man who would love a Labour leader which could unite the UK.

    1. But then Stephen Daisley thinks Liz Kendall is the leader who can unite the UK, so what he says should be taken with a pinch of salt. He's an old-school Blairite ideologue who thinks it's still 1996.

    2. Actually, you inspired me to have a look at Daisley's latest anti-Corbyn diatribe, and early on there's a joke about Corbyn's supporters viewing Jesus as an "illegal Israeli settler" because he was born in Bethlehem, which is now part of the Palestinian territories. I'm trying to work out what the humour in that line is intended to be - is the idea that opposing illegal Israeli settlements is some sort of "extremist", "loony left" position? I know that Daisley is an enthusiastic defender of Israeli foreign policy, but it seems to me he's pushing it a bit there.

    3. For every Louise Mensch there's an Yvonne Ridley.

      He's RT'd a few bizzare anti-Zionist conspiracy comments by some fringe nuts with Corbyn twibbons. I don't see how they are JC's fault though (either JC, take your pick).

    4. Sure, I don't hang on his (Daisley's) every word; I know his leanings very well.

      I guess part of me wondered how much the Tory laughing about Corbyn was nervous laughing and likewise how much of the Blairite shrieking was a dislike of the left / wish to maintain the status quo. After all, the likes of Blair is in the highest tax bracket now; champagne socialist that he is.

      I guess I thought a real left would be a good thing for England and found Corbyn not bad / thought he could maybe make a good leader.

      However, reading around, looking at polls and stuff, the truth is that Corbyn probably is unelectable (as a PM leading labour).

      England is naturally centre-right; hence the old 'the Tories are the natural party of government'. They'll never elect a full on hard leftie; even a moderate centre left social democratic party like the SNP would struggle.

      If Corbyn wins, Labour are fucked and we're looking at decades of the Tories. I doubt any of the other candidates will do much better though; they'd only likely win due to the Tories totally making a mess of things, not on Labour merit. Just like Tony won in 1997.

    5. I don't think it's so much how "left" Corbyn is that's the problem (Though it undoubtedly is a factor), but his baggage. His name has been lent to all sorts of politically embarrassing campaigns throughout the years.

      This is why I can't vote for Corbyn. He won't win, everyone knows he won't win, and electing him would be publicly saying that we've thrown in the towel for the next election. I think that England can vote for a centre-left party, but it needs to be a credible one. The Tories are enjoying their post-victory honeymoon period right now, but that won't last forever. We have to be ready for them to slip up. The EU referendum holds promise for that.

      I just hope that Dan Jarvis decides to stand for leadership in future.

    6. It's been 41 years since England voted for a left party; will be 46 years come 2020. Looks like a big ask to me Stoat.

    7. Why is Dan Jarvis considered such a shining prospect? Is it just the soldier thing?

    8. I agree that Corbyn is unlikely to lead Labour to victory. The snag is that Burnham is also unlikely to do it. So from that point of view, people might as well vote for what they believe in. There isn't a Tony Blair or Harold Wilson on offer.

      I don't know who Labour's ideal leader is, but that person hasn't put themselves forward in this contest.

    9. Skier, I think there is an appetite for centre-left policy. The Labour victory in 1997 was won on a centre-left platform. The problem was that it didn't meet up to its promises.

      keaton, the soldier thing helps. Having someone with a little more "real world" experience than the typical politician is always a good thing. But it's more than that. Jarvis understands the problems that Labour faces. He understands the need to move beyond Westminster sloganeering and talk the language of ordinary voters. He's a formidable campaigner. And most importantly, he has gravitas. The contrast between him and Miliband couldn't have been more stark.

      James, I agree that the selection that we've got isn't great. But even if losing with Burnham as leader is a certainty (Which it isn't), we also have to ask the question of how badly we would lose by. It could be the difference between a relatively close loss and being utterly destroyed.

    10. It is the damage Corbyn will do before he is deposed. He has already been defined as hard-left, the ComRes poll demonstrated his weakness on then Economy, only 3% of Con voters though it would improve, 63% get worse under Corbyn.

      The minute he is elected the Tory spin machine will go into over drive...
      "Friend of Terrorist"
      "Loony left policies that will bankrupt Britain'
      "Leave Britain defenceless"

      Corbyn only has the support of 15 MPs the infighting post victory will destroy Labour and by the time Corbyn is deposed the damage will be done.

      Sometimes when Tories are laughing they really are just laughing....
      As for the Labour hierarchy they are terrified looking at 10-15 years of Tory rule.

  3. England won't vote for a Corbyn-lead Labour party. Thus it is pointless for people in Scotland to vote for Corbyn's Labour; pointless also voting for Dugdale's Westminster-knows-best Labour party in Scotland.

  4. If these Labourites are true to their beliefs, then Labour is heading for a split.
    Most who have expressed an opinion, have stated they would not join a Corbyn Cabinet. Why then, are they in political life at all?
    The Lib Dumbs should be rubbing their grubby hands, but they are in even more dire straits than the Brothers.
    Dugdale is peddling backwards as fast as she can, so as to be as "accommodating" as she can be to her new Head Office.
    Less than 6,000 voted for the Murphy bag-carrier. I've been to Rangers matches where crowds like that led to headlines next day.

  5. I think that there is zero chance of Corbyn winning an election in England .And as far as I and I suspect very many other Scots think Labour is dead just another unionist party towing the Westminster line. I have been an independence believer all my life and an SNP member for decades however for some putting that wee cross in the SNP box was psychologically crossing a line which I suspect most will not now go back on.
    In a party filled with liars and fools Dugdale has excelled herself on both count . Frankly if she is not the final coffin nail in “Scottish labour” { I post that with irony for they are no such thing} I will be very very surprised

  6. Thanks. The significance of John Smith's untimely death rarely gets enough attention in the airbrushed history we are fed.
    Extremist nulab had the one useful benefit that even ultra apathetic voters were disgusted with MPs in hitherto safe seats.