Socialist Worker

Moving to the right is no way for Labour to win

Issue No. 2504

Don’t be like Tony Blair—whose war killed a million Iraqis, who lost Labour four million votes, and who paved the way for NHS privatisation.

That’s not controversial advice for most people. But it is if you’re newly elected London mayor Sadiq Khan.

He said last week that getting “back into the habit of winning elections” meant being more like the former Labour leader and war criminal.

As well as the slaughter in Iraq, Blair is responsible for the Labour Party enthusiastically embracing big business and shunning trade unions. Hated Tory prime minister Margaret Thatcher saw him as her greatest achievement.

Yet the Labour right insists that without a new Blair they are doomed to electoral failure.

The right spent the run-up to the elections earlier this month trying to smear Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour left with accusations of antisemitism.

The idea was that the furore would lead to disastrous results for Labour—and Corbyn’s leadership could be challenged.

It didn’t work. Labour increased its vote share since 2015, and overall the party lost only a few council seats across England.

Labour won every mayoral election, including big victories in London and Bristol where Marvin Rees more than doubled Labour’s 2012 vote.

Demands

With no chance of getting rid of him soon, Corbyn’s opponents are demanding that he moves to the right. There is a danger that Corbyn supporters concede to such demands.

Corbyn was the keynote speaker at the conference of right wing Labour faction Progress last Saturday. He called for unity and “inclusivity” across the party.

Corbyn has already made too many concessions to the right. Dropping his opposition to the European Union in order to appease Labour right wingers who want a Remain vote could end up saving David Cameron.

But his speech also showed signs of fighting back.

He rightly said Labour should challenge the right wing “economic narrative” of “rolling back the state, privatising services, cutting provision”.

Progress was founded by Blairites to push for Labour to embrace all of those things.

That same day Corbyn spoke at a housing protest in north London. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell joined a protest that blocked the road at Oxford Circus in central London.

McDonnell told Socialist Worker that Labour had to be a “social movement”—not just an “electoral machine”.

Corbyn was elected as Labour leader last September because his campaign mobilised hundreds of thousands of people looking for an alternative.

They wanted to beat the right, not to join them. Turning that enthusiasm into real resistance is the way to do just that.


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