Socialist Worker

George Galloway: Unite to end disaster of Blairite policies

by George Galloway, Respect MP for Bethnal Green & Bow
Issue No. 2018

He who half makes a revolution digs his own grave. Those words from the great French revolutionary Saint-Just don’t appear to have made much of an impression on the well read chancellor of the exchequer, Gordon Brown.

With Tony Blair weakened by eight resignations and with rats - and I mean rats - such as Chris Bryant and Sion Simon abandoning ship last week, Brown chose not to wield the sword but, again, to sheathe it in return for yet another gentlemen’s agreement.

There are casualties on both sides. Blair is now clearly the weaker, but there is also a pall over Brown’s future. It is no longer of question of when he succeeds as prime minister, but if.

Meanwhile, Blair’s embrace of Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert at the weekend shows either that he has lost all touch with reality or that he has embarked on the valedictory tour his advisers suggested in the memo that was leaked last week.

Much more is at stake than fratricidal plotting. The crisis engulfing Blair is a product of the chasm that has opened up between Blairism and the centre of gravity of politics in Britain.

Nowhere is that clearer than over his craven support for George Bush’s “war on terror”. After Labour’s losses in the general election last year, most commentators complacently claimed that the war was an issue only among a few Muslims and Hampstead liberals.

Now it is a journalistic commonplace to locate Iraq at the centre of the Blair crisis and Lebanon as the last straw, not just for most people in Britain but also for Labour backbenchers who can see their majorities vanishing.

The question is not so much Blair’s fate - that’s sealed, though it can be foreshortened through the actions of the anti-war movement. Rather the big issue is whether we can bury Blairism along with Blair.

To appreciate the magnitude of what this means, consider what Blair has done to the labour movement. An unfortunate set of circumstances allowed him and his claque to get their hands on the Labour Party in 1994 - a shock election defeat in 1992; despair among Labour activists; the sudden death of a popular leader.

He set about immediately shattering anything that was remotely Labour. The commitment to common ownership of the core of the economy - gone.

The worst anti-union laws in western Europe - preserved and extended. Privatisations that the Tories would never have dared push through. Disabled people smeared as scroungers. The gap between rich and poor widened.

Above all, at the heart of government, a foreign policy that reverts to the 19th century in seeing most of the world as the “white man’s burden”.

That’s why I say there is nothing recognisably Labour in New Labour.

But that’s not to say there are not still people supporting the party. Many in the grassroots have bridled at what Blair has done. We have worked with them on issue after issue in the unions, the anti-war movement and other campaigns.

Foreign policy

There are others, among them some councillors and MPs, who are belatedly coming out against the war and Blair. It would be churlish just to note how wrong they had been for so long.

Rather, I believe our attitude should be: greater is the joy in heaven upon one sinner that repents than upon 99 righteous people who have no need of penance.

But that can’t be the end of the matter. We know that Brown, left to his own devices, will continue with all those aspects of Blairism that have created such bitterness among traditional Labour voters. We know this because he was the joint architect of New Labour. He and Blair are two cheeks of the same backside.

There is much pent-up rage at what the Blairites have done. We have to make sure it does not stay suppressed when Blair goes. For the more Brown faces a serious challenge from a Blairite, the more the squeeze will be on Old Labour people to shut up and get behind him.

That means raising now the core policies of opposition to war and privatisation, the restoration of trade union rights and civil liberties, and the redistribution of wealth from rich to poor around which large swathes of the movement can unite.

It’s in that spirit that I welcome the announcement by left Labour MP John McDonnell that he will stand for the leadership of the party. His prospective candidature can help us all raise those policies.

Respect will be doing everything it can to help expunge Blairism from the labour movement. The trade union conference we have initiated on 11 November will serve that end.

The movement against war and the cumulative resistance of working people have holed Blair below the waterline.

I’d appeal to those in the Labour Party who want to see the back of Blair - even if only for reasons of self preservation - to throw themselves into that movement with the rest of us to put paid to the disaster of Blairism.


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Sat 16 Sep 2006, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 2018
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