When New Labour tells the voters of Blaenau Gwent — Labour majority 19,313 — that they must vote for the Blairite candidate or the Tories might win, it is scarcely convincing.
Tony Blair repeatedly insists that if we don’t all vote New Labour we will wake up on Friday to find Michael Howard in Downing Street. But you can sleep soundly. The Financial Times reported New Labour was “assured of victory”.
But the paper also quoted a Labour strategist saying the size of Blair’s majority would be the central election issue. “Anything over 75 is good for Blair,” he said. But he added, “If it’s between 50 and 60, he can survive, but it will be difficult.”
Blair could live with Liberal Democrat success, having said all along he would be happy to form a coalition government with them.
But success for George Galloway and Respect would create panic over the desertion of core Labour support to a radical new force.
A vote for Respect can hasten the demise of Tony and his cronies. His return with a large majority will be seen as endorsing the Iraq war.
No change on offer from the chancellor
“Vote Labour and you will get Gordon Brown.” That’s the argument from off-message Labour candidates seeking to reassure wavering voters.
The promise is that not only will Brown succeed Blair in due course but that he represents a break with Blair’s war policy.
When Brown told the Daily Telegraph that if it came to another war “people would expect these kinds of decisions to go before parliament” — adding, “except in the most exceptional circumstances” — this was trumpeted as criticising the Iraq war.
But asked last week how he would have acted had he been in charge, Brown answered, “I would have behaved exactly like Tony over the war.”
In 2003 Brown rushed to rescue Blair over the House of Commons vote for war on Iraq, telling his supporters to vote for invasion. He bailed him out again over top-up fees and has done the same during this election,
The hope that Brown represents an alternative to Blair flies in the face of his record.
The unions and New Labour
Time to make links with fresher forces
A French reporter covering the election in east London last week asked a Respect campaigner why British workers put up with long hours, low pay, poor pensions and few rights at work.
Britain has one of the highest levels of child poverty in western Europe. But more than half of the 3.6 million children living below the poverty line have at least one parent who is working. It is poverty pay that blights their lives.
British workers suffered the worst mauling of any European working class in the 1980s. It has been a long recovery.
But the trade unions have failed to capitalise on the massive movements against war and world poverty. One reason is that most union leaders have repeatedly put the Labour Party’s interests before those of their members.
They can maintain this dysfunctional relationship and see membership figures continue to stagnate — or make a break and connect with the new resistance. A change has got to come.