Socialist Worker

Plots, panic and paralysis as New Labour fractures

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2155

Gordon Brown stumbles from crisis to crisis. Every day the headlines scream news of new resignations and tales of the fresh challenges to Brown’s leadership – which are then followed by breathless announcements that he is safe for now.

The Labour Party has erupted into civil war and is tearing itself apart.

The crisis saw Brown attempt to make decisive changes to his cabinet. But this descended into farce as ministers were resigning even as he announced his new cabinet.

The plots and counter-plots are not the root of the crisis. They are just a reflection of the astounding collapse of Labour’s vote.

And that is a consequence of Labour’s unswerving commitment to the interests of the bosses.

Labour’s share of the vote in both the European elections and Britain’s county council elections fell to under 20 percent for the first time since 1910.

The crisis has led to the Labour Party turning against itself.

So, ministers stay or go from the cabinet expressing their loyalty while organising campaigns against Brown.

At the same time as panic and plots grip the government, there is also paralysis.

The panic was shown at a meeting for Brown with friendly Labour activists in east London last Sunday – which was brought forward an hour at the last minute, just in case anyone not loyal enough snuck in.

MPs in marginal seats say they are being threatened with a withdrawal of support for their election campaigns if they speak out against Brown.

Meanwhile, the paralysis meant that backbench rebels failed to get the 50 signatories they wanted for an email calling on Brown to quit.

But this is not the end of the challenge to Brown as the contenders still circle and plot.

Alan Johnson, the home secretary, seems to have removed other contenders for Brown’s job through a mysterious process of backroom deals.

He has been in the Labour government almost since the beginning of its term in office.

There is much talk in the media of Johnson’s working class roots. He is a former leader of the CWU union and so some conclude that he must therefore have some left credentials.

But Johnson is the person who described unions as coming from “the planet Zog”.

And for all the talk of his “roots”, Johnson has been a key figure in pushing through attacks on the working class, particularly university tuition fees.

Some on the left may want to find some hope within the Labour Party.

But in reality there is no difference, other than tone and desperate self interest between the Blairites and the Brownites.

The New Labour government is in terminal crisis. But the real victims are ordinary people.

New Labour has normalised the fact that the unaccountable power of wealth and money is the deciding factor in everything.

The current crisis also reflects Labour’s totally inadequate response to the growing recession.

The crisis may make sections of the government nastier. But it also makes them much weaker.

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