Socialist Worker

A change in direction for Labour is not on the table

Labour’s leaders are tearing the party apart as they flail around in desperation, but we should have no sympathy, writes James Barr

Issue No. 2113

New Labour is collapsing into civil war. Gordon Brown’s premiership is surrounded by turmoil and the party’s poll ratings seem to be entering freefall.

Even warmonger and disgraced former prime minister Tony Blair has let it be known in a leaked memo that he regards Brown’s record in office as “lamentable”.

Blair has criticised Brown for “dissing” his ten year spell in office.

Headlines have centred on a possible leadership bid by foreign secretary David Miliband.

Former ministers Charles Clarke, Alan Milburn and Stephen Byers are joining together to push for a return to Blair’s “modernisation agenda”.

A year ago, when he took over from Blair, Brown’s lead was 9 percent in England and Wales while in Scotland it was 14 percent.

Now the Tories are enjoying a 20 percent plus poll lead in England and Wales. In Scotland the Scottish National Party has a 14 percent lead over New Labour.

Working class people who have been on the receiving end of New Labour’s free market policies under both Blair and Brown delivered their verdict on its record in office at last month’s Glasgow East by-election.

This delivered a spectacular defeat to New Labour.

All of the possible candidates to take over at 10 Downing Street are just as much prisoners of the New Labour “project” as Brown is himself.


That is why a poll last week found that replacing Brown would not restore Labour’s standing.

Some 40 percent said they would be less likely to vote Labour if he was removed, and 38 percent said they would be less likely if he stayed.

Some 90 percent of Labour MPs nominated Brown for prime minister last summer. Few are boasting about that today.

But even fewer are suggesting that a radical change in policies is required rather than a change in personnel. John McDonnell, the left wing Labour MP who attempted to stand against Brown last year but could not secure the nominations of enough MPs, is a lonely voice.

In Scotland the Labour left gave up on running a candidate in the current leadership election because it could not get the backing of just six MSPs.

One argument put forward against replacing Brown is that a second leadership change in such a short time would probably require a general election to endorse the new leader.

That would bring forward probable defeat while Labour is near bankruptcy and would struggle to finance a campaign.

Many within New Labour privately believe they will suffer a drubbing at the next election. That begs the question, what next?

The only answer coming from within Labour’s ranks is, “Dust yourself down and start all over again.”

As the trade unions provide the vast bulk of Labour’s funding the issue for workers is why the labour movement should help to resurrect the fortunes of a bunch of failed politicians.


After all they have driven down working people’s living standards to the benefit of the super-rich and taken us into wars at the beck and call of the US.

At New Labour’s recent policy forum in Warwick trade union leaders seemed prepared to keep on backing Brown in return for a few policy crumbs.

The rank and file must demand that union members’ money should not go to any MP who voted for the Iraq war, privatisation or New Labour’s proposals to target disabled people and other vulnerable people in our society.

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Tue 5 Aug 2008, 17:37 BST
Issue No. 2113
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