Socialist Worker

Blairism rejected in Labour leadership vote

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2221

The right wing press and the hard Blairites have reacted with fury to the victory of Ed Miliband as Labour leader.

They had decided that David Miliband was the safest possible defender of the New Labour legacy. His defeat, especially when it involved the votes of trade unionists, was therefore a disaster.

Ed defeated David by a little over 1 percent. Ed Balls came third, Andy Burnham fourth and Diane Abbott last in the ballot of MPs, members and trade unionists.

On Monday the right wing papers were full of bitter fury. The Sun carried a cartoon which had Ed Miliband as a creature from another planet surrounded by trade unionists as little green men wearing cloth caps and chanting “Shoot to Kill”.

“New Labour is dead,” lamented the Telegraph, denouncing Ed Miliband’s “doctrinaire socialism”. “Last rites for New Labour,” agreed the Mail.

It’s very positive that the man chosen by Peter Mandelson and Tony Blair isn’t Labour’s leader. But Ed Miliband is not the “Red Ed” some of the press has tried to paint.

His policies are not at all radical, though there’s no doubt that many in the Labour Party will feel there are new opportunities and new possibilities now.

Tony Woodley, joint general secretary of the Unite union, said, “Ed has won by hitting the issues people care about—stopping the assassination of public services, fighting for a living wage, standing up for manufacturing, for a better future for young people.”

Gap

Ed Miliband’s victory can open a gap for the left that would not have been there if David had won. It can be used to involve more layers of the Labour Party in action against the cuts, and is another avenue to bring pressure to bear on Labour to fight.

The votes of union members were crucial and the media have tried to whip up a storm about the unions’ involvement in the campaign.

But there is nothing undemocratic about this.

Nearly 250,000 trade unionists and members of affiliated societies cast votes. It wasn’t a block vote where a union leader simply swings hundreds of thousands of votes one way.

And there’s nothing wrong with unions recommending that their members vote a particular way either.

The bankers and the bosses have massive political influence through their money and their ability to blackmail governments with the threat of financial chaos. Why shouldn’t workers have a say?

The real unfairness of the Labour voting system is the weight given to MPs and MEPs. The vote of one MP is equal to 608 ordinary members and 12,915 trade unionists.

Ed Miliband’s victory is an echo of a growing mood. People don’t want more of the politics of Blair that proved so disastrous.

But Miliband will now come under huge pressure to accommodate to the consensus that cuts are inevitable. And the counter pressure from inside Labour will be weak. Just seven MPs backed Diane Abbott. She came third in the members’ vote in her own constituency.

A real break from New Labour needs more than a change of style or saying that you understand “the mood about Iraq”. It means dumping support for privatisation, bullying bosses, the dominance of the market and the war in Afghanistan.

There’s still a way to go to get that. And the real battles will be fought outside Labour.

Labour in office paved the way for David Cameron’s assault on working people. The party has never been, nor can it be, transformed into a socialist force.

But there is an urgent need for united activity against the Tories.

During his election campaign, Ed Miliband talked of the need to win a higher minimum wage and said that Labour’s leadership campaign could be about more than electing one person and instead be about “building a movement”.

To win this requires action against the government, involving mass campaigning, protests and strikes.

Everyone should demand that Ed Miliband supports the resistance.


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Tue 28 Sep 2010, 18:03 BST
Issue No. 2221
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