Socialist Worker

New Labour lurches right towards a deeper crisis

by Matthew Cookson
Issue No. 2101

“Soft on yobs” is how New Labour is attacking the Tory frontrunner in the Crewe & Nantwich by-election campaign.

One of its leaflets attacks the Tory contender for failing to “make our streets safer” and for opposing “making foreign nationals carry an ID card”.

The Tory press focused on Labour’s labelling of their candidate as a rich Tory boy who lives in a country mansion, saying Labour was returning to “class war”.

Some chance. The one thing everyone in New Labour’s leadership has ruled out is any shift leftwards. Instead they are attacking David Cameron’s party from the right.

In contrast, when Cameron visited Crewe called for the poll to be a by-election on Gordon Brown’s abolition of the 10p tax rate – which will hit half of the workers in the constituency.

Trailing

Polls show New Labour trailing the Tories in the crucial by-election that takes place on Thursday of next week.

A defeat there will deepen the pandemonium which has followed the party’s meltdown in the 1 May local elections.

Tony Blair’s followers have rushed to attack Brown, with stinging attacks on him being delivered by Cherie Blair, Charles Clarke, Lord Levy and John Prescott.

Meanwhile New Labour ministers’ only response to the slump in their support is to plunge, ever more wildly, rightwards.

So, immediately after the local election losses, immigration minister Liam Byrne announced yet further curbs on migrant workers entering the country. Home secretary Jacqui Smith then announced plans to “harass” teenage offenders.

Following the same law and order agenda Gordon Brown reclassified cannabis, so users face a greater possibility of jail sentences.

Yet the simple lesson from 1 May is that if New Labour focuses its agenda on which party is harder on crime and immigration, this will move the political agenda rightwards – benefiting the Tories and, to a lesser extent, the fascist British National Party.

Ignored

New Labour believes its landslide election in 1997 and two subsequent election wins flowed from its ability to move onto Tory territory and to capture middle class “swing” voters.

According to this theory, working class voters could be ignored because they had no alternative but to vote Labour.

This account simply ignores the tidal wave of revulsion against the Tories that swept Tony Blair into office.

Now Cameron has rallied the Tories and is attacking the

government on issues like increasing taxes for poor people.

The deep unpopularity of Brown’s government underlay New Labour’s 1 May debacle.

Whatever their war of words, “Brownites” and “Blairites” rule out any retreat from their pro-market, pro-war agenda.

The argument that we have to rally behind Labour to keep out the right is not just threadbare.

It leaves hundreds of thousands of disillusioned Labour supporters with a choice of either not voting or for voting for right wingers keen to direct their anger towards scapegoats such as migrant workers.


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Article information

News
Tue 13 May 2008, 19:09 BST
Issue No. 2101
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