Saturday, 16 May 2015

What Next? - Part 6

For Labour (4)

I wondered why this last week, a number of programmes had had on David Wilkes from W1A, to comment on Labour's election performance. But, it turned out that it wasn't him after all, but a lookalike called Alan Milburn, who apparently had something to do with Labour in a previous epoch, and who everyone had forgotten about, and nobody other than the right-wing media really care about.

But, he is just one of an endless procession of Blairites that have crawled out of the woodwork to support the narrative, that the right-wing media are only too pleased to promulgate, that Labour lost the election because Ed Miliband's Labour message was too left-wing, and that Labour had no credibility on the economy, because the last Labour government had overspent, and Miliband would not admit it.

This is just one of the latest manifestations of the reality described above. When the Left in the Labour Party loses an internal vote, we accept it and still try to get Labour elected, because we believe it is not only better than having the Tories win, but that by being the best advocates of Labour, it is the most effective means of winning over workers inside and outside the party to our own vision of what the party should be. The right, on the other hand, whenever they lose a vote, immediately set about sabotaging the party's prospects. They carp from the sidelines, they openly support opponents of the party, and are only too glad for the party to lose an election, so as to claim that the reason for the loss was because the party had moved left.  At least, the SDP had the decency to leave, when they lost, and their political death, in the years after, has been ample refutation of the politics which they and the Blairites seek to promote.

We are seeing that now, just as it was seen after 1979, and more specifically after 1983. The Blairites seem to be so stupid, or so devoid of any principle, other than the principle of promoting their current manifestation, and desire for power, that they don't seem to realise that, in rushing to promote the narrative that Labour had no economic credibility, because the last Labour government overspent, that they are, in fact, criticising Blair and his government itself. When the Tories talk about Labour overspending, they are talking about the period after 2001, when Blair's government spent money to build hospitals, schools, and to undertake other vital measures to repair the roof that 18 years of Tory misrule before it had let rot, as well as itself actively selling the lead from the roof to pay for its own economic mismanagement!

The Tories could not refer to the period prior to that, because Labour for four years had run a budget surplus! Not even the Tories could lie that blatantly. But, the fact is as I've set out elsewhere, the suggestion that Labour overspent at all during that period is a lie. The average deficit to GDP ratio between 1997 and 2008, was half what it had been over the the period of Thatcher and Major's government's from 1979 to 1997.

Labour's problem in this election itself goes back to 2010, when not only did Alistair Darling provide fuel for this Tory narrative by laying emphasis on the need to undertake austerity measures to reduce the deficit – at a time, for example, when the US was continuing to do the opposite, and was providing fiscal stimulus that continued to take it out of the recession caused by the financial crisis – but, when Labour embroiled in a leadership campaign, failed to decisively nail the Tory lies about the deficit. At that time, even the Liberals Chief Secretary to the Treasury, David Laws, had admitted to Sky News, that the deficit fears had been “hyped up”, and that the Liberals continued to believe that introducing austerity measures before 2011, when the economy should have secured the recovery that was taking place, would be a mistake.

In 2010, the Liberal-Tories could not have as part of their narrative that Labour had wrecked the economy, because, at that time, the economy was growing. In fact, in the last quarter that Labour was responsible for the economy, the second quarter of 2010, the economy grew by 1% for the quarter, a higher rate of growth than the Liberal-Tories have been able to achieve in any subsequent quarter. And although they tried to claim that the capital markets would stop lending to Britain, no one in the capital markets themselves thought there was even the slightest chance that would happen, and in fact, the yield on UK government bonds was falling.

As with everything else, it was in fact, the Liberal-Tory government that created a problem in that regard. It was well into their watch that Britain's AAA credit rating was withdrawn by the rating agencies, and in part that was due to the fact that, it was the Liberal-Tory austerity policies after 2010, which sent the economy into recession and stagnation until the end of 2012. It was also, under the Liberal-Tories that the nonsense about the problem of financing the deficit was exposed as £375 billion of money printing, to buy UK government bonds, was undertaken by the bank of England.

It should have been easy, therefore, back in 2010 to have exposed those Tory lies, before they became established as the official history of the period. But, Labour was too busy fighting internal battles to be dealing with the Tory lies, particularly as the Blairites were only too happy to support the narrative of overspending, by a Labour party that had moved too far left. It was the same approach that failed in 1983 through to 1997. In fact, the Blairites proclaim their success in 1997 as justification of their strategy, but the reality is that Kinnock was the first Blairite, a sort of antediluvian Blairite, who after 1983, moved the Labour Party away from any kind of principle, and shifted its position ever rightwards in search of any votes he could pick up, on whatever basis, like a political rag and bone man. Yet, despite that continual descent, Labour still failed to win elections, until the Tories themselves self-destructed in the mid 1990's. The only thing that this abandonment of principle, and the idea that a political party should stand for something, and try to convince others of, achieved, was to move the centre ground of British political debate ever rightwards.

The idea that Miliband lost the election because he was too left-wing is risible. Not only was Miliband's political stance to the right of successful Labour leaders such as Wilson or Attlee, but it was even to the right of Tory leaders like Heath, or even Home, and Macmillan before him, who in the post-war period governed within the social democratic consensus of Buttskellism. Even those Tory leaders saw no reason not to follow a Keynesian policy of deficit spending, even when Britain's debt to GDP ratio was 250%, rather than the 70% it is today. Heath even nationalised industries like Rolls Royce when they ran into trouble, a measure that would have been anathema to Milband's outlook, let alone that of the Blairites.

The fact, that Miliband could in any sense be described as left-wing even in comparison to these Tory leaders, is simply a reflection of the nonsense that is the Blairite conception of “the centre ground”, and the extent to which their grail-like search for it, has simply shifted the locus of political discourse ever rightwards, ever distant from any concept of political principle, a feature that has gone hand in hand with the commoditisation of politics, by a class of professional politicians, whose only goal in life, like a soap powder salesmen, is to increase their own commissions, and secure their own careers, irrespective of what is in the box.

A starting point, for the criteria we should adopt in selecting any new leader should be:

  1. That they forcefully reject the idea that Labour overspent in the period prior to 2008, and that they present the facts clearly to show that, comparing it with the performance of Thatcher and major's governments
  2. That they equally forcefully show that the measures that were being taken were leading to recovery, and that it was the policies of austerity pursued by the Liberal-Tories which cratered the economy.
  3. That they clearly and forcefully denounce the role of the Blairites in undermining Labour over the last 5 years, and for attempting to join now with the Tories and right-wing media in blaming Labour's defeat on Labour being too left-wing.
  4. That they clearly denounce the Blairites for leading Britain into the Iraq War, which was also the starting point of the electorates loss of trust in Labour.
  5. That they denounce the failure of Blair's government to change the economic model established by Thatcher and Major based upon low wages and high private debt, which was the real basis of the financial crisis that hit Britain, and whose equivalent in the US, was the cause of the financial crisis there.
  6. That they denounce Blair for failing to overturn the anti-union measures introduced by Thatcher, which undermined the potential for working people to deal themselves with the problems of low pay, and the abuses carried out by employers, including those relating to using imported labour.
  7. That they denounce Blair for compromising with nationalism both in relation to the EU, where they failed to promote an internationalist position of joining up with labour movements across the continent to promote workers rights, and an end to employers abuses and tax evasion, as well as in relation to Scotland, where instead of dealing with the actual problems of Scottish workers, which led them to seek easy solutions from the SNP, Labour instead offered them the non-solution of devolution, which only fed the demands of the nationalist beast.
As I wrote back in 2009, the sectarian Left attacked the Blairites often for all the wrong reasons that flowed simply from their own attempts to justify their own doomed party building escapades, along with their own sectarian combination of purism, statism and economism.  If they took Lenin's "What Is To Be Done?", seriously, if they had ever actually read it, they would have welcomed Blair's attempts to put the Labour Party on a more professional and disciplined footing for example. Similarly, from their own statist and economistic perspectives they should have welcomed the fact that Blair's government trebled spending on the NHS, and increased spending on other public services, to remedy the damage that the Tories had done in the previous 18 years, and that they could afford to do this, whilst shrinking the deficit to GDP ratio because the economy was growing.  They should have welcomed the fact that after years of the Left demanding it, it was Blair's government that introduced the Minimum Wage.

If Labour is to move forward, its necessary to analyse what was actually wrong with Blairism, going back to its ante-deluvian form under Kinnock.

No comments: