Labour’s hierarchy, the careerists and the SPADs, the spin doctors and the politics grads, are in full scale panic mode this week. Headless chickens have been known to run around more calmly and with a greater sense of purpose. The cliques in charge of the Labour party these past 20 years have suddenly discovered that their corpse like grasp on the party is rotting away and the token leftie might actually win the election.
Curse this democracy and one member one vote business. Having changed the voting system to reduce the power of the unions, the Labour leadership has now made the shocking realisation that some Labour members actually believe in all that stuff about socialism and fairness and redistribution of wealth and holding the banks and the corporations to account for the financial crisis they’ve caused, instead of blaming the poor and the marginalised. The road to hell is paved with self serving intentions and right wing machinations.
According to a Yougov poll, Jeremy Corbyn is well ahead in an election he wasn’t supposed to win. He wasn’t even supposed to make any significant impression in the leadership contest. He was supposed to come in a poor fourth, trailing behind Liz Kendall and her Blairite nostrums. He was there as socialist window dressing, a red sop to the membership, a little dash of red colourant to remind Labour of its roots. Jeremy’s real role in the election contest, according to the bland plastic people who make up the rest of the field, was to say left wing things that they could reject so they could appear sensible and middle of the road. He was there so that none of them would have to look left wing. Jeremy’s job was to give Liz, Andy, and Yvette someone to point a finger at and say socialism bad, so they’d get a marginally more sympathetic write up in an unsympathetic press.
But that’s not what’s happening. For those of us in Scotland this is popcorn time, as we sit back and watch the Westminster Labour party implode under the weight of its own self-delusion just as we watched its Scottish branch office do over the course of the past year. But the real worry is that whereas Labour in Scotland collapsed under the crushing weight of the SNP and the Greens and SSP and the well articulated aspirations of a highly politicised populace who knew what they wanted and knew how to vote in order to get it, Labour in England implodes into a vacuum. There’s nothing else left in the English body politic except the heartlessness of the Tories and the vultures of UKIP.
If Labour in England collapse there’s nothing to replace them. The SNP are going to have to do the job of the opposition in England too – is that what Better Together meant by Scotland punching above its weight as a part of the UK? Probably not.
The problem for Labour is that none of the four leadership contenders is a convincing leader, and if UK wide opinion polls are anything to go by, none are heading for 10 Downing Street at the next UK General Election. Labour looks set for a period in the wilderness while it rediscovers its soul and its purpose. So the question is will it find that soul and purpose under the management of the same plastic identikit politicians who brought it to this sorry pass, or will it find it with a leader who is likely to prove as unelectable as Michael Foot, but who will actively oppose the Tories and give the shattered party a sense of purpose again.
Meanwhile in Scotland we’re faced with a different set of questions. With a Labour party that’s not going to be re-electable in 2020, we have the very real and very scary prospect of George Osborne or Boris Johnson as the next UK Prime Minister – assuming that Cameron stands down before the next election as he has previously hinted. Is that the Union that No voters want to remain a part of, a dystopian hell of privileged elites and excluded masses, stretching ahead of us like a high speed railway that we are denied a ticket on. The UK train’s destination is off a privatised cliff. We need to change track, we need to take control of our own destiny.
Meanwhile a demon from the past popped up to tell Labour where it’s all going wrong. The war mongerer responsible, the soul-eater, the spirit crusher, the man who put morality through the blender of Iraq then waltzed off in a flurry of consultancies. Tony Blair gave a speech about the future of the party, and apparently didn’t even charge for it this time. But then near bankrupt Labour doesn’t have pockets as deep as Kazakhstani dictators. Tone created a Labour party in his own image and wants it to stay that way. Because soul-less money grabbing war mongerers are so progressive.
He also had a wee dig at the only effective political opposition left in the UK, the SNP. Tone said:
“When they talk about it being new politics, it is the oldest politics in the world. It’s the politics of the first caveman council, when the caveman came out from a council where there were difficult decisions and pointed with his club across the forest and said: ‘They’re the problem, over there, that’s the problem.’ It’s blaming someone else.”
And this would be true, because the topic of the first caveman council was the fact that them over there across the forest were eating people’s brains because they were unevolved apes with a sense of entitlement the size of a mammoth. We’re still opposing the brain eaters, Tone thinks the proper path is to eat brains too. Of course it’s not “new” politics, because we saw how Tony defined new when he rebranded a social democratic party as New Labour. Then what he did was nothing new. Greed, avarice, wars and invasions are the oldest politics of all. Blair gave us the shock and horror of the new Labour. He can keep his new, we want no part of it.
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