The Corbyn Leadership: Slowly Slowly Catch A Tory Monkey

Mick Hall looks at the British Labour Party's prospects under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. Mick Hall is a Marxist blogger @ Organized Rage.

The neoliberal Bitterites* in the Labour party and their friends in the mainstream media have made much of Mr Corbyn being unelectable in 2020, thus they claim he must be removed.

At this stage of the political cycle electability or the lack of it is not the most important issue the new leadership face.

The most important task is to remodel the LP into a vehicle of radical political change. This may take more than the five years, but unless Corbyn succeeds in this endeavor his leadership could well be wasted years. Thus winning in 2020 cannot be the sole aim of the left or even at this stage the overriding aim.

For the Blairites power was all. They prattle on about without it the LP is pointless as if they are the only party members who understand this. But pointless, as far as millions of working class people are concerned is exactly what the last two LP government turned out to be.* * For example they failed to remove any of Thatcher's anti-trade union legislation, hence today the UK has a low wage economy. Nor did they even re-nationalise the Railways which a majority of Britons wanted. In their thirteen years in power the Blairites passed a great deal of legislation, but most of it was far from cutting edge. New Labour's Politics were so slippery and servile it threatened few if any institutions or moneyed interests.

If anything socially it simply carried on where John Major left off. Equal rights for Gay people had clearly come of age and and rightly so. Although a government of any political persuasion, bar the religious right, would in all probability have introduced the same type of equality laws as New Labour.

Their legislation which broadly covered the NHS was downright reactionary and opened the door for the Cameron led governments to privatise parts of it which had been previously sheltered from the hedge funds and asset strippers. The NHS infrastructure was rebuilt after the devastation of Thatcherism, but in the most expensive way. Funded by inflexible private finance initiatives which are now bankrupting NHS hospitals. Staffing levels in hospitals were increased, but not by training UK health workers in great numbers but by allowing recruitment agencies to poach nurses, doctors and technicians from the EU and increasingly the third world. These nations could ill afford to lose these highly skilled workers as there was a desperate need of them within their own countries.

By using PPIs and agencies the Blairites let the private sector in by the front door, and it's been plundering the NHS ever since.

Leaving aside their military adventures overseas, which is difficult to do given the violence and mayhem which was inflicted on the peoples of Afghanistan, and Iraq, the second biggest disaster of New Labour's 13 years in power was their total neglect of the housing market, whether for rent or buy. These reactionary fanatics believed the market knew best and it would solve the housing crises. Something their heirs in the Tory party have repeated and further exacerbated since they came to power.

The increase in the benefits paid to pensioners, the sick, disabled and unemployed were welcomed, but again the private sector was invited in. The most wretched example of this was giving ATOS the contract for government’s controversial fitness-for-work testing scheme. It was a thin end of the wedge on the road to Cameron's infantile austerity measures.

Susan Roebuck sums up the NL years far better than I when she wrote this:

New Labour did do some good (and so they should have, given their huge majority), but people like me cannot forget the harm they have done, nor forgive their arrogance. Their worst sin was, of course, the illegal and immoral invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, whose citizens have suffered unimaginable grief. It’s a pity that the Blairites can’t seem to acknowledge that it is their policies that lost the last two elections, nor understand that people don’t want any more of the same.

People seemed to have forgotten what government gives it can also take away. About the only piece of the aforementioned societal legislation which has stood the test of time and remains on the statute book today is the improvement in pensioner benefits. But even this is now under attack.
It's a fact almost all of this progressive legislation was wiped from the Statute book in the first five years of Cameron's reign; from Sure-Start, to disability benefit rises, they're all gone. This is an astounding achievement for any Tory government when you consider it took the Tories thirty five years before they even began to roll back the life changing progressive legislation introduced by the Labour Government of Clement Attlee, the greatest British prime minister ever.
Thus the first question the Labour Party membership needs to ask is what point is power when an incoming Tory Government can turn the clock back on LP rule after only five years? This was achieved because no attempt was made by the Blairites to first embed within the British people's consciousness the legislation which centered on the welfare state. All the progressive elements were achieved through Gordon Brown's sleight of hand.
After Ramsay MacDonald deserted Labour in 1931 to lead a National Government in which only two of his Labour colleagues agreed to serve,*** it took the LP almost fifteen years of opposition and a world war to iron out an effective policy which would change this country beyond all recognition.
Attlee understood if there is to be change which benefits all, powerful vested interests will have to be taken on and defeated. To achieve this a broad base of support was vitally important but most important of all was a party which unites around policy which promises the necessary change which millions of people are aching for.
This the Blairites not only failed to do but the failed utterly, it's impossible not to conclude it was New Labour which prepared the way for Cameron and Osborne lies and austerity.
If you look at the main issues the UK faces today, low wages, lack of affordable housing, lack of core manufacturing and industrial base, an underfunded NHS, post imperialist wars, mass inequality with society tilted to favour the upper middle classes and multinational corporations, a lack of democratic accountability, failure to deal with the legacy of the British empire, banking and financial institutions who are beyond democratic control, and many more, all were introduced or made worse by NL.
Jeremy Corbyn was elected party leader to deal with these issues but he cannot even start to bring about change unless he gains control of the Labour Party. His article in last Sunday's Observer in which he set out his main aims, is a road map for progressive change. Corbyn possesses one of the most important attributes for a successful radical politician; patience. He needs time to achieve his aims, slowly slowly and not only will he catch the Tory monkey but with our help he will slay it.
La Lutta continua.
* I use the word Bitterite loosely to mean both Tony Blair's supporters and those of Gordon Brown, many of whom went on to support Ed Miliband's leadership in a half hearted way. The term was first used on the turning the tide blog.
** Under Blair and Brown.
*** The overwhelming majority were Tories.

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Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

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