Sunday, 31 May 2015

Labour Leader's Panic Turns To Farce

The Labour leadership seem, having panicked into Ed Miliband resigning just because Labour lost the election, to be completely losing the plot.  On the one hand they say that its necessary to have an in depth analysis of why Labour lost the election.  In the meantime, before getting the results of that analysis, they have jumped into an acceptance that Labour lost because they were too left-wing, that need a charismatic Blair like leader, whatever policies they might support, and that Labour needs to listen to the electorate to determine what those policies might be that would attract support.  On that basis you might as well scrap all political parties, as Tory strategist Steve Hilton has proposed, and just allow the media to determine the way the country is run, on the back of regular Mussolini style plebiscites!

The idea that a political party of the working-class should actually listen to the concerns of workers ought to be not something that has to be considered an innovation.  It is considered such, because a large part of the LP machine, and of the PLP is itself distanced from that working-class.  The closest most of them get to it, is in their MP's surgeries, but then only in a restricted context, and a lot of that work is already done by constituency staff, as well as by local councillors.  If Labour MP's were actually from, or connected to local working-class communities, they would not need to treat talking to workers to ascertain their concerns as though it was some sociological survey, or focus group exercise.

But, the whole basis upon which this exercise is being proposed, of having the hustings for Labour leader in public, according to Harriet Harman, in front of the public to see who best connects with them, is totally wrong.  It is based upon this idea that Labour needs to "listen more".  Actually no, Labour needs to convince more.  If the object is only to listen so as to draw up popular policies to get a select group of career politicians elected, then there is no reason for thousands of activists to have any concern with such a process.  Socialists, and even social democrats join a workers party like the Labour Party, not because we want to enable a few members of the elite to have comfortable careers in Parliament, but because we have a vision of a better society.  The only reason to get anyone elected is to bring that better society about.  If we can't convince enough people about voting for us to bring that better society about, we have to consider how we are putting that message across, and try harder. We should not simply abandon the vision itself.

What if as a consequence of this "listening" process we find that the majority of the people we listen to are attracted to Nigel Farage, or Nick Griffin?  Should we then simply adopt the policies of the BNP or UKIP, because they are popular with the public, and a means of winning votes?  The Labour Leaders think no such thing is likely, but already the Tories have ssifted sharply rightwards under pressure from UKIP, and their right flank, and Labour has followed along with them, as witnessed by its policies on immigration.  Its not long ago that the BNP had large numbers of councillors in cities across Britain, and nearly had members elected to the position of Mayor in Stoke.

If they think its not possible, they should perhaps look across the channel, at the way their "colleagues" in the French Socialist Party have been eclipsed by the Front National.  What would the Labour leaders advocate there, that the French Socialist Part should "listen" to all those who have now swung behind Marine Le Pen, and adopt policies more akin to the fascists in order to win back their votes?  If Greece is pushed over the brink in the next few weeks, they may see a similar thing there, as Syriza is either destroyed or split, leaving Greek voters only the option of swinging behind the fascists of Golden Dawn to get them out of their desperate situation.

You do not deal with these forces by pandering to their prejudices, as socialists discovered in Germany in the 1930's, where the bourgeois politicians there too thought that it was inconceivable that a majority or even large plurality could swing their support behind such views.

But, this collapse into panic and opportunism is now taking on farcical proportions.  In the aftermath of the election defeat, 30,000 people applied to join Labour.  One of them was Derek Hatton.  He described the proceedings following his application, last week on The Daily Politics.  First he gets an e-mail, welcoming him to the party, then he gets another communication from the General Secretary saying his membership had been blocked, because it was considered he could be detrimental to the party, then he gets another e-mail welcoming him to the party.

Now, I have no time for Hatton, no more now than 30 years ago, but as he pointed out, its 29 years since he was expelled from the Party.  Neil Kinnock's attack on Liverpool City Council at the 1985 Party Conference was a disgrace.  Whatever, the idiocy of Militant in using the tactic of issuing redundancy notices, it was clear that it was just that a tactic.  By contrast, within a matter of weeks, Kinnock himself along with the party bureaucracy were handing out actual redundancy notices to Labour Party staff, and right-wing Labour Councils up and down the country have handed out similar actual redundancy notices to their workers, as they simply accepted, and acted as good managers for the Tory cuts of Thatcher and her successors.

Hatton is no longer a member of Militant, which has itself morphed into the Socialist Party.  On what reasonable basis then can the Labour Party deny him membership, at a time when it could do with everyone it can get to fight the Tories?  After all, as he says, in the last 29 years, he has neither stood as a candidate against Labour, nor given any support for any other candidates standing against Labour.  The same cannot be said for many of those in the Labour Leadership.  John Hutton, for example, has spent the last few years supplementing his income working for various large companies, by acting as an advisor for the Tory Party!

Similarly, in the last few years, Labour has welcomed with open arms lots of former Liberal Party members, who have stood against Labour candidates or supported those standing against Labour. That is not just the case in relation to ordinary rank and file members.  Digby Jones sits in the lords as a cross-bencher, but its obvious from every word he utters that by ideology he is a right-wing Tory, yet Gordon Brown made him a government Minister!  Sean Woodward went straight from being a Tory MP, to being a Labour MP, and a Minister shortly afterwards!  How is it that the Labour leadership has no problem allowing in every Tory Tom Dick or Digby, and yet has a problem with allowing socialists to join the workers party?

How is it that the Labour leadership are so keen to allow the views of anyone influenced by the Tory media, and the generations of bigotry that it has engendered to have a say in determining Labour policy, and selecting its leaders, but does everything it can to prevent socialists taking part in that process?  Yet, even here, it turns into farce.  On the one hand, it seems that Hatton may be prevented from joining the party, and thereby helping the party to get elected.  On the other, there seems nothing to prevent him from registering himself as a "Labour supporter", and thereby taking part in the election process for the next Labour Leader, without any requirement, thereafter to do anything to get labour elected!  Labour's leadership seem to be concerned that UNITE might sign up a lot of their members as such supporters, it will no doubt give them more concern than if the CBI and IOD use their much superior finances to do exactly the same.

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