Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Same as the old boss
On the eve of the Labour Party conference, an ICM poll showed the Tories at 35% and Labour at only 32%. What is more worrying is that the poll showed almost two thirds of voters believe that Labour does not deserve to win the next election, that the government has “run out of steam” and it is “time for a change”.
Armed with this knowledge, it seems leadership front runner Gordon Brown would rather lose the next election than change direction.
In his leadership bid speech yesterday he lavished praise on Blair and Blairism. “Tony, from the first time we shared that office in 1983 to today, you taught our party, you saw it right, you saw it clearly and you saw it through – that we can’t just be for one section of society, we’ve got to be for all of society”
There will be more privatisation under Brown, who claims that (in his own words) the “renewal of New Labour” must be built upon “a flexible economy, reformed and personalised public services, public and private sectors, not at odds but working together”
Brown also signed up to more wars, and uncritical support for George W Bush’s foreign policy. He claims Blair “taught us something else, and once again saw it right, you saw it clearly ands saw it through. That the world did change after September 11th. That no-one can be neutral in the fight against terrorism, never anti-Americanism.” He promised a Brown government would continue the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan – Brown specifically praised “American values” in his speech.
Continuity of foreign policy means backing Tony Blair’s own self-delusional assessment of his legacy. In a question and answer session yesterday Blair said “getting rid of Saddam and getting rid of the Taliban are things I happen to be proud of”. The British soldiers currently fighting and dying in Helmand province might dispute just how much the Taliban have been “got rid of”. And the cost of getting rid of Saddam has become a brutal occupation mired in an implacable insurgency.
Despite the fact that brown is continuing on a suicidal course of continuing policies deeply unpopular with Labours’ core voters, the criticism from the unions leaders was so faint as to be inaudible. T&G general secretary, Tony Woodley, said it was “a visionary speech from a great Chancellor”, although Woodley did correctly say “carrying on as we are will not win the next election”.
Paul Kenny GMB, General Secretary gave a master-class in saying absolutely nothing: "Gordon Brown has been quite clear that he sees himself as the natural heir to lead the Labour Party. He has claimed his share of the successes in the past and has laid out his vision for the future.
It was a speech of great substance. Gordon Brown has more substance in this little finger than Cameron has in his whole body. "
Dave Prentiss of Unison bizarrely claims that “there seems to be less reliance on conviction and more on listening and learning. There was enough in this speech that he will listen about the direction of reforms”
Derek Simpson of Amicus took the biscuit, saying that Brown had “showed a willingness to listen to people, to unions and to colleagues. It was very uplifting”
So the top union leaders are going to collude in a Brown coronation. With no change on direction, no policy commitments, and full steam ahead for more neo-liberalism and imperial war. This will lose the next election.
But it seems they would rather lose the election, and endure an even worse government, than open up a debate about the future direction of the party. Which would mean publicly backing John McDonnell (like 59% of TUC delegates did)– the only leadership candidate whose policies match those of their unions. Maybe if Labour adopted progressive policies it might still lose the next election - but as Eugene Debbs said many years ago: "It is better to vote for something you beleive in and not get it, than vote for something you don't want and get it".