Socialist Worker

Clare Short: Labour is collapsing on the ground

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2019

Clare Short speaking at the Stop the War rally in Birmingham  (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Clare Short speaking at the Stop the War rally in Birmingham (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Tony Blair's forced admission that he will go within a year has done nothing to stem the growing crisis in the Labour Party.

When it meets in conference this weekend it will be obvious that the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon have split the party from top to bottom.

Whether that comes out openly, or whether the power brokers paper over the crevices, is less important than the growing evidence that the party is disintegrating organisationally.


The clearest sign of the crisis last week was former cabinet minister Clare Short’s statement, in which she said, “I have been thinking long and hard about whether to contest the next election as a Labour candidate, and decided that I will not.”

Moves to expel her - after 23 years as a Birmingham MP and 37 years in the party - were expected to begin this week.

She has travelled the same political route as many Labour supporters - opposition to the 1991 Gulf War, a desperate hope that something good could be done for global justice, just about supporting the Iraq war on the basis of what turned out to be lies, and now crushing disappointment and anger.

Crucially however, she has despaired of change from within - “Stay and fight, some argue. But there is no discussion of policy any more.

“The challenge to Blair and discussions of a new leadership are confined to personalities, and all commit to continue the Blair errors.

“My conclusion is that the key to the change we need is a hung parliament, which will bring in electoral reform.”

Short spoke at a packed Stop the War meeting in Birmingham last Sunday and underlined the importance of the war in Lebanon to the crisis in Labour.

Replying to a question from the floor from Socialist Worker’s Pete Jackson, she said, “Lebanon was the final straw for two sets of reasons.

“What happened was so blatantly unacceptable, and it came on top of people gritting their teeth over the Iraq war. This was the same error, and it’s building error on error.

“The other element is the electorate. One of the most depressing things is that the Labour Party never corrected Blair.

“I thought that after it became clear that they got it wrong, the party should have taken him on. The cabinet should have told him to go and then there would be some renewal taking place.

“The truth is it’s the electorate that’s doing the corrections. It takes longer because the political formation is so difficult and our electoral system is so difficult.


“Stop the War is playing its part. So yes, you’ve got people moving away from Labour.

“Secondly what’s the situation in the Labour Party? Terrible. It’s collapsing on the ground.

“People have been Labour because they believe in making the world a little bit more just.

“When that goes away, both internationally and at home in terms of all the privatisations, there are less and less reasons left.

“And when you take the privatisation in the health service and what’s going on in the plans for education, Thatcher couldn’t have got away with this because Labour folk and trade union folk and all the rest of us would have resisted together.

“The Thatcherite policies are being rolled forward and of course Labour folk can’t bear it so the party is collapsing.”

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.