Yesterday’s men are popping out of the woodwork, desperate to slow Jeremy Corbyn’s momentum in the Labour leadership race – the latest being Alastair Campbell.
It’s a shame because, while enjoyable on chat shows, Campbell can hardly be described as a socialist – therefore his desire to counsel Labour members against supporting a return to the ideals for which they probably joined up in the first place should be a lost cause and he’ll suffer a backlash.
As a sufferer of depression, Campbell should also know better than to try to blot out other people’s hope; apparently that hasn’t occurred to him.
It’s an even greater shame that, it seems, Mr Campbell has nothing new to say. His article claims that “Corbyn will be a leader of the hard left, for the hard left”, even though that position has already been disproved. Corbyn is left-wing, yes – but he’s not “hard left”.
Corbyn’s claim that Labour lost because it wasn’t left-wing enough, deplored by Campbell, is correct; look at the SNP’s victory in Scotland. That party claimed an anti-austerity, pro-investment platform and trounced “austerity-lite, anti-investment” Labour. In England, Labour simply didn’t seem different from the Conservative Party – or at least, not different enough.
And that is a problem that has dogged the party ever since Tony Blair took office in 1997. The party lost votes at every subsequent election as the realities of his sub-Tory policies sank into an electorate that was initially unwilling to accept them. Where Campbell states that the argument that Labour hasn’t been left-wing enough has “been put forward by some in the Party all my political lifetime, and the ultimate beneficiaries have always been the Tories not Labour,” he is mistaken.
Who benefited from New Labour’s attitude to privatisation in the health service? The Conservatives.
Who benefited from New Labour’s failure to restore the rights of trade unions? The Conservatives.
Who benefited from New Labour’s policy on social security, moving towards a privatised, insurance-based system? The Conservatives.
Who benefited from New Labour’s introduction of private ownership into education, with academy schools? The Conservatives.
Who benefited from New Labour’s failure to regulate the banks? The Conservatives.
These are just headline examples of right-wing policies supported by New Labour. The Conservatives took them and ran with them, and we now have a government that slipped into power on a lie that Labour overspent, when the financial crisis was caused by profligacy among rich bankers who should have known better. We have a health service that is slipping into the hands of greedy privateers, a social security system that pushes genuine claimants off-benefit and into destitution, despair and death, and wages are diminishing rapidly with unions unable to stand up for their members.
That is only part of the legacy of New Labour, but Alastair Campbell wants you to believe that left-wingers are responsible for Tory success.
Yes, New Labour were better for working people than the Cameron-led Coalition, or the current Conservative Government seems likely to be – but that’s like comparing influenza with ebola.
Campbell even admits that Labour lost partly because of the “catastrophic misjudgement” of failing to rebut the idea that Labour caused the crash – a misjudgement of Blairite New Labour hangers-on, not left-wingers who have spent the last five years screaming for their front bench to get a clue. Just look at Michael Meacher’s blogs if you don’t believe it.
Note also that Campbell discusses the country’s desire not to have a Labour/SNP government, without every admitting that Ed Miliband had ruled it out; it was never going to happen, no matter what the result of the election.
Campbell resorts to the (now-familiar) suggestion that Corbyn is a dream for the Conservatives. This is not true. The Tories have put forward a bluff that they want Corbyn because he is unelectable, and like-minded members of New Labour, such as Campbell, have swallowed it without question – like good little Tory-lite boys and girls.
In fact, the Tories – and Blairite New Labour – are terrified because Corbyn represents a huge shift in the thinking of the general public. They will do anything to block that movement because it will throw both sets of politicians off the gravy train they currently occupy.
Neil Kinnock spent a lot of time dealing with left-wingers in his party (not the “hard left” of Campbell’s article, although there were certainly more in the Labour Party at that time because it was more representative of the country than it is now) because they knew he was a right-winger who wanted to drag the party away from its ideals and, ultimately, into the same neoliberalism as the Conservative Party.
There is no mention of particular policies in Campbell’s article. He writes things like, “Some of the positions winning him the loudest applause in his packed meetings are those that will be met with the most deafening silence when campaigners get out on the doorsteps of the undecided come election time.” What positions? Perhaps Campbell is silent because his choices will be exactly the policies that are winning Corbyn the most votes.
Worst still – for Campbell’s argument – is the fact that he cannot say anything in support of any of the other three leadership candidates. He can’t see them winning either. And that means he can’t address their worst obstacle at the moment, which is the fact that the general public currently sees the leadership race as being between Corbyn and the others, with no distinction between them. They are already also-rans.
So let’s put a cap on Campbell’s outburst, with a demonstration of how ridiculous his viewpoint really is.
If Alastair Campbell is so unhappy with Jeremy Corbyn’s candidacy, but the party’s grassroots are determined to have a left-wing leader, let’s propose an alternative: The late Tony Benn.
Yes, I’m well aware that Mr Benn has passed on. This makes him perfect for right-wing Labour. Whenever a new issue is raised, the party would have to look to pronouncements made by the great man when he was still among us.
And then, no doubt spin doctors in the mould of Mr Campbell could twist those words to make them seem to support whatever they want instead.
The voters would have their left-wing leader, and the neoliberals would still have power. It’s the best of both worlds.
That’s about the size of it, wouldn’t you say, Mr Campbell?
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