I’ve found another article from 10 years ago that could have been written about politics in 2023.
This one is about Labour’s then-leadership, who were preparing to throw the 2015 general election by surrendering to the Tory/Liberal Democrat coalition on pretty much every policy issue a person could call to mind at the time.
Here’s what I wrote:
The way things are going, we all need to reconcile ourselves to the possibility that the Labour Party won’t win the [next] 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.
See what I mean about how this could have been written today? The only difference is that Keir Starmer may be succeeding where Ed Miliband failed – in attracting a few outlying Tories to his Substitute Tory Party (STP) (see my article from July 12, 2023).
The article goes on to discuss a row at the time, over candidate selection in Falkirk. It had been alleged that the UK’s biggest union, Unite, had tried to rig the process in favour of its aim 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”.
The Blairites didn’t like it and squealed. I wonder whether this incident, and any others from the time before Jeremy Corbyn became leader, gave the Labour far-right the experience to do what it has been doing ever since – hijacking candidate selections in favour of its own people.
Of course the result has been to move Labour even further from its roots among “people who have actually represented workers and fought the boss”. These people have stolen the party out from under the noses of the people it should be representing.
I said something about this at the time which, again, is ultra-relevant to today’s STP under Keir Starmer:
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.
Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves have both said they will continue current Tory economic policies after being elected, until such time as the economy improves. The problem is that current Tory economic policies will not lead to any economic improvement at all.
Instead, it [should] 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 [should] 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.
The article went on to quote ordinary people discussing the cack-handed way Labour handled the benefit issue. We don’t see this kind of reporting nowadays, even though there is a huge amount of discontent with Keir Starmer and his cronies. Why is that? Are the mass media hacks avoiding asking such questions, to falsely make the STP look more electable?
This Writer presciently passed comment on the current situation in Labour, from back in 2013:
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.
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.
I wasn’t alone in my opinion. Owen Jones, who is still around today, had this to say:
“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.”
I wonder whether he would stand by those words today but there is no doubt that they are as true now as they were then.
I also quoted someone who can’t have an opinion today because he has subsequently shuffled off this mortal coil. The late Labour MP Michael Meacher 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.”
We still want those things. Under Jeremy Corbyn we had them – but the Labour right-wingers put a stop to them, in alliance with the Tory media and other political organisations including the Tories themselves.
So these words are, again, devastatingly pertinent to today:
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… 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 went on to say that I had no confidence in 2013 Labour winning the 2015 election and I was right, wasn’t I?
Today, I am more inclined to believe that Keir Starmer’s STP can win the election at the end of 2025 or beginning of 2026. But I think it would be as much of a disaster for the UK as it would be if the Tories got back in – and for the same reasons I put forward in 2013:
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.
There must be better choices out there. If you don’t see any in your constituency, then for crying out loud, do the decent thing!
Put a better choice out there.
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