Socialist Worker

Architects of Labour's right turn battle it out for the leadership

Labour and the union leaders seem determined not to learn the lessons of defeat, writes Simon Basketter

Issue No. 2454

Andy Burnham looks set to become Labours next leader

Andy Burnham looks set to become Labour's next leader (Pic: Labour Party/flickr)

In Labour’s campaign headquarters at 1 Brewer’s Green, Westminster, they were tearing down “A better plan, a better future” posters last week.

The search for a new Labour leader may need a better plan.

The most likely scenario is that all the candidates will agree Labour need to move rightwards, attack migrants and cosy up to the bosses.

As Labour MP Diane Abbott put it, “Not a single one of the current candidates opposed the Iraq war, not a single one supports taking back the railways into public ownership, not a single one opposes “austerity-lite” and not a single one opposes the welfare cap.”

Jon Cruddas, who wrote the last Labour manifesto, is holding yet another review into policy. It will be as helpful as the last one a year ago.

The campaign started with Blairite flag-wavers Liz Kendall and Chuka Umunna criticising Labour for having failed to reach out to “aspirational” voters. 

This forced the “old guard” of Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper to adopt similar language.

Former Blairite cabinet minister Alan Milburn gloated, “Everyone is talking about aspiration and the political centre.”

Aspiration is not about working class people getting more choices, it is about being nice to rich people.

Burnham said, “What is aspiration? It is about giving every single person the dream of a better life. About helping all of our businesses, small and large, to get on and grow.”

There are already casualties. Former army major Dan Jarvis gathered widespread support from nowhere—and then dropped out. 


Then Umunna’s bid collapsed as he realised that his “heart wasn’t in it”.

Then it emerged that Labour MPs believed that an unstoppable momentum was building behind the shadow health secretary Burnham.

If there was one thing everyone is agreed on, it’s that Labour must learn the lessons of its defeat. But what are they? 

Kendall, Creagh, and the Hon Tristram Julian William Hunt, who’s set to announce his intentions this week, said Labour should not have run a deficit in the boom years. So Burnham and Cooper agreed.

Labour seems determined not to learn any lessons.

Ed Miliband was presented as the left of the party. He promised little, pandered to the right on immigration, and didn’t win the election. 

The race is increasingly about Burnham. His aides say he already has backing from more than 50 MPs.

Burnham, once a Blairite flag-waver for the privateers’ takeover of the NHS, has won union backing for condemning NHS privatisation.

But preaching the opposite of what he practised is not necessarily a barrier to success in Labour.

His supporters are busy telling other MPs that Burnham is “centrist” on the economy, law and order and national security.

Burnham’s campaign team includes Charlie Falconer, who advised the bosses during the 1984-85 Miners’ Strike, and Rachel Reeves, who said Labour was not the party of people on benefits.

He came fourth out of five in the 2010 leadership contest, chosen by just 3 percent of members. Now union leaders are convincing themselves he is on the left while he tries to convince the media he isn’t. The result will be out in September.

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Tue 19 May 2015, 16:20 BST
Issue No. 2454
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