Atos, austerity, BBC, bench, benefit, benefits, Blairite, candidate, Coalition, Conservative, cut, death, disability, disabled, economy, employment, Falkirk, front, grass, investment, Labour, Len McLuskey, Michael Meacher, Mike Sivier, mikesivier, no confidence, Owen Jones, people, politics, roots, selection, shadow cabinet, sick, sideshow, social security, Tories, Tory, Unite, vote, Vox Political, welfare, Welfare News Service, work
The way things are going, we all need to reconcile ourselves to the possibility that the Labour Party won’t win the 2015 election.
This will not be because the Conservative Party has better policies (it doesn’t) or because it has won the ideological argument about austerity (it hasn’t – the state of the economy clearly demonstrates this).
It will be because Labour’s leaders are doing their absolute best to distance themselves from everything that makes the party a distinct political force.
They seem to think turning Labour into a pale copy of the Conservative Party will win over voters from the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives, while retaining the party’s current grass roots. It will do neither.
Considering the situation as it stands, one has to ask: Is it time for a ‘no confidence’ vote in the entire Labour front bench?
Look at the cock-eyed way they are handling the row over candidate selection in Falkirk. This is a silly sideshow that has been blown out of proportion by the other Parliamentary parties in an attempt to capitalise on discomfort that Labour did not have to endure.
On the face of it, the problem is that a union (Unite) allegedly tried to rig the selection process for a candidate in the next election. Unite’s stated strategy, according to the BBC, is to “shift the balance in the party away from middle-class academics and professionals towards people who have actually represented workers and fought the boss” – in other words, away from the career politicians and so-called ‘Blairites’ who currently occupy every noteworthy position in the shadow cabinet.
Why is this important to the largest union in the country? Well, let’s look at the reason the Labour Party was formed in the first place – to provide a voice in Parliament for the unions’ aim, which has always been to improve conditions for workers and working-class people in the UK.
It has become transparent, over the last few weeks, that the current Labour Party’s shadow cabinet has no interest in that ambition. If it did, it would not have given up the argument over austerity, saying it would continue Coalition economic policies if elected. Instead, it would abandon austerity in favour of a programme of investment in employment-generating, economy-boosting programmes that would bring a greater return into the Treasury than it would cost.
It would also be announcing policies to change the direction of the Coalition’s murderous – thousands of people have died because of it – attack on people receiving benefits, particularly the long-term sick and disabled. Instead, incredibly, Labour supports this policy.
In return, according to this article from the Welfare News Service, “disabled voters, who have supported Labour in past elections, are abandoning the party in droves”.
Clearly Labour’s leaders will not retain their voter base if they continue in this fashion.
I’ll come back to the Unite situation in a moment, but let’s stick with the WNS article because it features revealing comments from ordinary people about the cack-handed way Labour is handling cuts to social security benefits, following the leaders’ admission that they will not promise to reverse any coalition policies.
One person described it as “Labour’s cowardly cop-out on welfare”.
John Currigan of Tipton said: “Old Labour values have been consigned to the political scrapheap.”
Neil Anderson of Machynlleth said Labour’s “now-Tory attitude to social security means I will definitely never vote for them again”.
Phillip Hurley of Pontyclun voiced a fear that has been growing in many minds: “I think they wanted the Tories to get in, knowing they would make these cuts that they [Labour] were afraid to implement.”
At a time like this, with former supporters openly voicing their disgust with a Labour Party that has been gleefully running to join the right wing of the political spectrum ever since Tony Blair became leader, is it any wonder that dismayed union members may have tried to stop the rot?
(We must be honest with ourselves; Labour is rotting from the inside, and will continue to rot, as long as right-wingers who do not support the party’s original purpose are sitting around the shadow cabinet table.)
Len McLuskey, leader of Unite, says he personally had nothing to do with any attempt to influence the vote on a new Falkirk candidate by signing up 100 or more members to the constituency party, and at this time I am prepared to believe him.
The dissent against the Labour leadership’s wrong-headed, potentially-disastrous, and above all, STUPID policies has come from the grass roots; the working classes; the people they are – on the face of it – supposed to be representing. That is why it seems likely that, if this plan was carried out, it was hatched by people in the grass roots of the union and not its bosses.
There is hope; it seems that our political commentators are aware of the problem, and serious questions are being asked in Labour’s backbenches.
Owen Jones, that paragon of principled left-wing opinion, wrote in The Independent on Sunday, under the headine What’s killing Labour? A thousand failures to oppose the cuts: “Labour’s leaders… fail to challenge myths, and even occasionally feed them. It is utterly self-destructive.
“They think they are buying back credibility, rather than shoring up policies that should be seen as sunk, ruinous, shredded. By failing to offer a coherent message, they risk a sense of ‘at least you know where you are with the Tories’ bedding in.
“But the cost is not only to Labour’s electoral prospects: it will be to the working, disabled and unemployed people whose pockets will continue to be emptied.
“Our futures and those of our children are at risk. That’s not hyperbole. It’s the appalling truth.”
And in his blog, headlined Labour members in the country are crying out for policies they can believe in, Michael Meacher MP wrote: “I have just attended my party’s monthly General Committee meeting in my constituency and the mood was more despairing than any I can remember. They simply cannot understand how the party leadership can be accepting time after time whatever callous and unjust cuts Osborne throws at us – bedroom tax, withdrawal of benefit for the first seven days of unemployment, and now a welfare cap which even the Tories themselves haven’t yet defined.
“Is there no limit to how far this surrender goes, they ask?
“They don’t want to talk of betrayal, but they are bewildered, hurt, disoriented and despairing.
“None of them want Labour to out-Tory the Tories over cuts. They want three things: that Labour has a positive vision for the next Labour Government that they can believe in, that Labour has a plausible alternative to endless austerity, and that Labour campaigns across the country with bold policies to build the alliance to throw out the most vicious Tory government in modern times.”
I DO want to talk of betrayal – because that is precisely what we are all facing: Betrayal by party leaders who claim to be on the side of the workers and the working-class, but whose leaders have cheerfully joined the Westminster Gravy Train and are lapping it up as though this nightmare ‘austerity Britain’ is a party that will last forever.
Here in the country, Mr Meacher is quite correct: We ARE crying out for policies we can support. Labour’s leaders aren’t simply failing to give us those – they are actively REFUSING to mount any meaningful opposition, in the face of the overwhelming wealth of weaponry they could use.
The fact is, the vast majority of Labour members do not support the policies being foisted on us by the leaders. They are a shambles; they will be a disaster for the country, whether Labour is returned to office at the next election or not (and on these policies, as mentioned above, I don’t think they will). While the leaders persist, stubbornly, in forcing these policies on us, we have a classic case of “the tail wagging the dog”, and we cannot allow this to continue.
I have no confidence that they can win the next election. Even if they did, I have no confidence that they will pursue any policies that will benefit the UK as a whole. We will be swapping one gang of self-interested gangsters for another.
So I repeat: Is it time for a ‘no confidence’ vote in the entire Labour front bench?
If so, who wants to put the process in motion and how soon can we get it done?