Sunday, 6 May 2018

Better Fewer But Better

In 2016, when the Blair-rights, and soft lefts launched one of their previous attempts to unseat Corbyn,and to undermine the party, with their previous smear campaign against him and the party over anti-Semitism, ahead of the 2016 local elections, some of their leading lights emphasised their campaign by flouncing out of the Shadow Cabinet. A lot was made of the fact that, Corbyn would not have enough loyal supporters in the PLP, to replace them. In fact, the Shadow Cabinet managed just fine without the huge entourage of Ministers that modern governments have provided seats for, on the gravy train. 

As I pointed out, at the time, it was, in fact, a good opportunity to have shown that we do not need this huge number of Ministers or Shadow Ministers. The size of government has increased over the decades, as part of a process of strengthening the power of patronage of the Prime Minister, whose position has become more Presidential, or as the former Lord Chancellor, Lord Hailsham described it, an elected dictatorship. By giving more than a hundred MP's Ministerial posts, and a similar number, from the opposition, shadow ministerial posts, with all of the income and other perks that come with it, the idea was to tie them in more closely, as loyal supporters, and reduce the potential for backbench rebellions. It meant that between a third and a half of all MP's had some kind of Ministerial, or Shadow Ministerial role, let alone those other MP's who got jobs as chairs of Select Committees and so on. 

As I wrote at the time, the fact that all of these Blair-right MP's stepped aside from the Shadow Cabinet, should have been an opportunity to show the corruption of that system of parliamentary patronage, and to start to build something far better, far more transparent and democratic. Instead of this large, bureaucratic machinery of Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet, with their members either prisoners of the Civil Service, or else of unelected, unaccountable SPAD's, Corbyn and the party leadership had the possibility of reducing the number of Shadow Ministers down to a minimum. With 600,000 members, the Labour Party has the possibility to provide each of its Shadow Ministers with teams of party members, as support units, providing administration, research and development, supported also by our comrades in the trades unions, the co-operative movement, the Socialist Health and Education Associations and so on. Away with the SPAD's, in with large scale, democratically accounted teams of Ministerial advisors, elected by the party, open and transparent. 

There is no reason why we have to accept the constraints of the conventions of a parliamentary system that was designed to represent and entrench the interests of a tiny bourgeois elite, in the 19th century, when only a small fraction of the population even had the right to vote, and which were modified in the 20th century, after the majority of workers eventually got the vote, so as to limit their ability to bring about rapid and radical change. Our interest is to create a completely new, more open, more inclusive form of democracy. As I said, previously, there is no reason why the Leader of the Party, or the Cabinet or Shadow Cabinet, should even need to be MP's. All members of the party should be able to stand for these positions, and elected to them. As with, the SNP, for example, at Westminster, all that is required is for a parliamentary spokesperson on these issues. 

And, the importance of that has become apparent. The Blair-rights and soft lefts, clearly believed that they would have done enough in 2017 to undermine Corbyn and the Party. Having launched repeated attacks on Corbyn himself, including a vote of no confidence by the PLP, the resignation of Shadow Ministers, the unsubstantiated allegations of anti-Semitism, and repeated again unsubstantiated allegations of bullying and so on, the documentary programme following around various Blair-right MP's, during the General Election campaign, showed that whilst individually they clearly wanted to hold on to their cushy jobs, as MP's, the Blair-rights could not wait for Labour to collapse at the election, so that they would have the pretext to launch yet another offensive against Corbyn, and the rest of the party. But, as we now know, all of their attempts to destroy the party in their own self-interest failed. Corbyn and his supporters not only succeeded in winning over hundreds of thousands of new members to the party, but they succeeded in obtaining the biggest swing to Labour in a General Election since 1945, clearly outperforming any of the election performances of Blair, let alone the dismal failures of Kinnock. 

Following the election, the Blair-rights were stunned into silence for a few months, until they felt that, with the 2018 local elections coming along again, it was time to try to undermine Corbyn and the party once more. The old charges of anti-Semitism were again pulled out of the cupboard, just in time to give Theresa May an easier ride of the Windrush Scandal, which the Blair-rights were not unhappy to do, given that their racist immigration policies over the years, were as much of a contributor to the scandal as was the actual implementation of the 2014 Act, which introduced the measures required for the “Hostile Environment” the Blair-rights too supported, by the Tories. And, of course, for all their huffing and puffing, the oh so, liberal, oh so humanitarian Liberals were themselves part of that government, which introduced those racist measures. 

A key part in the campaign by the Blair-rights against Corbyn and the rest of the party has been the fact that they have an array of these former Ministers from the previous Labour governments, as well as former Shadow Ministers, under Miliband, that the Tory media can repeatedly call upon to be the voice of Labour to the public. Some of them have secured greater access, and legitimacy in that role, by taking on the positions of Select Committee Chairs. And, on top of that, there is the army of former SPAD's, spin doctors, and other snake oil salesmen that mushroomed in the dark under the bureaucratic, opaque regimes of Blair and Brown, and continued under Miliband. There is nothing we can do to prevent the Tory media from drowning out the true voice of Labour, by repeatedly providing these people with a public platform, other than rapidly developing our own Labour Movement daily newspaper, our own Labour Movement TV cable TV Channel, and so on, but there is no reason, in the meantime, we have to facilitate them. 

Since the 2017 General Election, there has been a steady drip back of MP's to the Shadow Cabinet. Many of the people occupying Ministerial positions are people most of us will never have heard of, and some of the Ministerial positions themselves, are jobs we never knew existed, or why they do exist. A large number of these Shadow Ministers are no friends of Corbyn. Putting them in these jobs, simply provides our enemies in the PLP with yet another redoubt from which to launch their attacks on Corbyn, on the party, and on party policy. Most of these MP's are actually people that the party should be moving rapidly to deselect. Its better to have fewer but better. Its better to have a Shadow Cabinet that is smaller in size, but clearly committed to supporting Corbyn, promoting party policy, and resisting the right in the PLP. The last General Election showed that the old cry of the Blair-rights that elections can only be won from the centre is a fallacy, and were it not for their wrecking attempts, and had we been able to select, in time, more left-wing candidates, promoting the same radical policies with a single clear voice, there is every chance we could have won that election. But, even if that were not the case, it is again better to have fewer but better MP's comprising the PLP. A united PLP, full of radical, left-wing MP's, all promoting the same policy, and not having to continually confront wrecking attempts, sniping, and unsubstantiated charges of anti-Semitism, bullying and so on, would quickly be able to win the battle of democracy, to win over the hearts and minds of voters, and consign the Tories to history, along with their friends in the Liberals, the Greens and the Blair-rights.

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