Thursday, May 17, 2007

A crushing defeat.

The next Prime Minister’s campaign manager, Jack Straw has said: "We are delighted that the party is uniting behind Gordon and giving him such overwhelming support."

Overwhelming indeed, with 308 MPs nominating him, and the speaker and deputy speaker of the house probably would have done, parliamentary convention prevented them.

MPs nominating Brown included fairly frequent left rebels like Bob Marshall-Andrews, and centre left rebel Kate Hoey nominated no-one.

Any sensible electoral strategy against Brown would have sought to split the centre away from the hard Brownite/Blairite right. But instead the hard left ran a campaign aimed only at their existing core constituency – an approach that was always unlikely to get sufficient MPs nominations.

In truth of course, there were few other options, as since the death of Robin Cook there was no credible electoral candidate for the centre left. Further evidence of the way the right in the party has structurally and irreversibly underpinned its dominance.

There was some truth in Michael Meacher’s rationale for putting himself forward on the basis that McDonnell could never get sufficient MP nominations, but he was in no better position. Indeed his policy platform was almost indistinguishable from McDonnell’s, and there are other issues that undermine his credibility with some activists.

Could the defeat for the hard left have been any more overwhelming? They have failed to achieve a contest, with a crushing majority of MPs rejecting them, and the right attracting the votes of even the soft left. This is an utter rejection of the Labour Left, even more remarkable after ten years of PFI, privatisation, inadequate pensions, imperial war, growing inequality and a terrible housing crisis.

McDonnell failed to achieve the support of any major union, and on the NEC, when a motion was moved to reduce the required number of nominations only two members voted for it. Even two of the left’s own members on the NEC voted against it. Indeed the apparently high votes of the left for the Grassroots Alliance for the NEC are shown to be illusory, because Anne Black who appears in their list is actually a right wing Brownite!

The Labour left need to seriously consider what their strategy is now. Strangley the last issue of labour Left Briefing before the leadership election was declared had no discussion of what they should do after the McDonnell campaign.

Part of the difficultly is that within the Labour Party the ideological victory of the right is almost total, that there is no alternative to neo-liberalism, privatisation and deregulation. What is more the constitutional changes in the party and reduced powers for local government make it very hard for the left to influence policy or debate or build a base.

The aspects of hope is that the Labour Party may have irrevocably been won for the right, but the political views of its electoral base have not followed and are now to the left of it. And the unions articulate political opposition to PFI, private equity and inequality.

We need to turn the tide of politics and rebuild ideological and practical opposition to the market. It is therefore vital that we work with our strengths and encourage the unions in finding their political voice.

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