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Will the crisis lead to the rebirth of the Labour left?

This article is over 13 years, 4 months old
Some in the Labour Party believe that the economic crisis will herald a revival of the party’s left wing.
Issue 2120

Some in the Labour Party believe that the economic crisis will herald a revival of the party’s left wing.

Neal Lawson, of the centre-left Compass think-tank, told a fringe meeting at this week’s conference that the era of free markets could be over, effective management of capitalism was on the agenda and the crisis has given Labour a lifeline.

Jon Cruddas, Labour MP for Barking & Dagenham, told a fringe meeting that Labour had a chance to have a radical policy rethink and “return to the values and ethics” of its past.

Cruddas called for a new 45 percent top rate of income tax to fund tax cuts for low and middle income workers to stop the Tories winning the next election. He wants those earning over £175,000 a year to be taxed at a higher rate.

After a decade and a half of being marginalised, this has been hailed as the best chance the left has had to stage a come back.

Yet Cruddas is one of 20 Labour MPs to sign a letter urging other MPs to back Gordon Brown. This is part of a campaign launched by John Prescott.

Prescott’s role as deputy leader to Tony Blair was to talk left while justifying every move to drop Old Labour policies. Now he is carrying out a similar role under Brown.

Prescott and Cruddas argue that those plotting Brown’s removal are hardcore supporters of Tony Blair who must be stopped at any cost.

Left wing Labour MPs including Diane Abbott have joined in the fight against these Blairites.

While the left talks of unity in the party, chancellor Alistair Darling was telling conference delegates that workers have to swallow below-inflation pay rises.

He also made it clear that working people would have to pick up the bill for the government’s plans to increase its budget deficit to cope with the financial crisis.

The one opportunity delegates had to vote on something that would directly help the poor, pensioners and those struggling to pay energy bills was a motion calling for a windfall tax on the profits of the energy giants.

Tony Woodley, the joint general secretary of the Unite union, received a rousing response when he said, “If the power companies don’t get the message, this government should consider taking these essential industries – gas, electricity, water – back under public ownership.”

But the motion was then referred to the party’s policy forum.

This has consistently killed off and buried motions disapproved of by the leadership, under an undemocratic procedure that the trade unions conceded last year.

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