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The Withering of Labour

by Helen Tue Sep 9th, 2008 at 03:43:23 AM EST

With the end of August, Gordon Brown has attempted to re-launch his beleaugured Premiership of the UK. Yet, events are running faster than he can announce initiatives and he's being blown off course at every turn. Tuesday, he and Alistair Darling announce a package of support for housing. Almost before it can be digested by the media, a better story comes along to remove him from the front page. So it was that yesterday, FatBoy Clarke wrote an article for the UK soft-left political weekly, The New Statesman. Now all we can do is talk about that.

New Statesman - FatBoy Clarke - Time to end "Just William" Politics.

The article is more a defence of the Blairite politics of opportunism, dressed up in a sort of babbling apparatchik-speak that suggest all are to blame for the current woes, except the author. however, the bit that the UK media have seized upon is the closing paragraph.

Blairism as a concept offers little by way of rescue. It is certainly not a guide to action. Equally, however, it is inaccurate and misleading to dismiss as some kind of Blairite rump those who fear that Labour's current course will lead to utter destruction at the next general election.
Similarly, there is no Blairite plot, despite rumours and persistent newspaper reports. There is, however, a deep and widely shared concern - which does not derive from ideology - that Labour is destined to disaster if we go on as we are, combined with a determination that we will not permit that to happen.

Promoted by In Wales


As this is somewhat divorced from the thrust of the article, I presume it's just a clever way to get a little publicity for what is, in all other senses, a lightweight self-justification from a pompous and largely discredited politician. He is, after all, known to have hated Gordon Brown from almost the dawn of time. So it is only natural that he seeks to suggest Brown has laid waste to all the good work Blair (and he) did.

However, there is a response in the Guardian today from Neal Lawson, who heads up  Compass, which is slightly more left wing grouping of MPs who are trying for a more liberal left social democratic politics than we're currently getting.

Guardian - Neal Lawson - To change direction, Labour must first decide where it's going

At least Charles has the benefit of having always been sceptical about the leadership qualities of Gordon Brown and he is right to state that we are heading for disaster. But that is as good as it gets from Charles because he goes on to say we need to change but offers few policy clues about what that change means.

Worse than that he seems to disown ideology as the basis of change. And so we end up with a debate basically about personalities while the underlying politics of the party remain as they were - essentially Blairite. We need to remember that Tony Blair was removed from office because his politics were failing. Brown flourished briefly in the summer of 2007 when he first took over precisely because he looked like a change of direction from Blairism. When he started to adopt some of the worse policies and tactics of New Labour he plummeted in the polls. If we are to change direction we need to know where to, why and how. That requires a clear set of values and an organising framework to enact them - an ideology, if you like.

Sadly the article doesn't really discuss much beyond that observation, valuable though that is in itself. He admits there isn't a credible candidate worth supporting to replace Brown, but believes that only a more radical change in policy direction than Clarke could support will be needed to avert the disaster all now expect.

Fortunately Seamus Milne stepped into the policy ideology breach;-

Guardian - Seamus Milne - Half measures and tinkering don't make a recovery plan

...one year on from the first impact of the US-incubated credit crunch the direction is pretty clearly all one way, as consumer and business confidence continues to plummet, unemployment heads relentlessly upwards, living standards fall, manufacturing output drops and the housing market has as good as ground to a halt. And far from New Labour putting an end to boom and bust, the OECD club of rich countries has now forecast that Britain will be the only major world economy to tip into full-scale recession this year
[...]
It's perfectly true that the main factors behind Britain's current economic woes, as elsewhere, are global: the credit squeeze and the escalation in oil and other commodity prices have all been external shocks. But New Labour's single-minded promotion of a highly deregulated, short-termist and lightly taxed financial sector at the expense of the rest of the economy - manufacturing has taken the greatest strain - on the back of a consumer borrowing binge has left Britain especially vulnerable both to the global downturn and to the credit contagion in particular. It is almost as though the economy had been set up for a crash - and we're now living with the consequences.
If the government is to escape from its current political black hole, and the country from the worst of a recession, it's going to have to turn its back on the structural mismanagement of the past decade and be prepared to take much more far-reaching measures than the sort of tinkering on offer this week.
[....]
With at best a stagnant economy, pressure will grow to make sure the costs of the downturn are borne by those most able to afford them. And if the mistakes that led us to this impasse are not simply to be repeated, there will also have to be a shift towards tougher regulation of corporate Britain and the capital markets, as well as a programme of publicly driven investment in manufacturing and research and development. In a changing economic climate, with the Tories unable to break with a failing model, that should be good politics as well as economics. But as things stand, the prime minister shows little sign of even beginning to make the necessary change.

All of which means that Labour is doomed when it goes to the polls and the wilderness years could be long and bloody while the party re-discovers what it exists to achieve.

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European Tribune - The Withering of Labour
All of which means that Labour is doomed when it goes to the polls and the wilderness years could be long and bloody while the party re-discovers what it exists to achieve.

I don't think we've got 'til 2010 before the economy goes so pear-shaped that it becomes apparent that all bets are off.

And I don't believe that any of the parties have the solution, certainly not those favoured by Mr Milne, who keeps his unreconstructed ideology pretty well under wraps in that article.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 02:48:31 PM EST
Milne has a nice understandingof the Anglo Disease.

What's the story behind the FatBoy moniker? I missed/forgot that.

Regarding Brown: I just shake my head. This was supposed to be the man Bliar feared, the mover of strings behind the scene, New Labour's brain? He seems simply stupid. Not the religious self-deceiver and serial self-brainwasher Bliar was, but just clueless, falling into every trap and not knowing what hit him.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 02:56:03 PM EST
Although in physique he's not overly porky, he has a look about him that suggests he's no stranger to a second visit to the buffet table. He also has a slightly sweaty look as well.

And I deliberately used it because it's slightly demeaning and that's how I think of him. A person of muted ambition who has decided that his best way to aggrandize his own modest contributions is to denigrate others who achieved more.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 03:45:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
funny i was just thinking about his well-fedness as well.

pompous, thoroughly second-rate pol, standard issue accountant skills wedded to the usual hyper-vanity quotient pols need to keep facing what they see in the mirror every day and keep smiling for the cameras.

where are the fire-breathers?

who will be the next keir hardie?

maybe there's just no reason for a labour party, now the factories that fueled their early rise are all in china!

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 03:59:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Then the white working classes will all vote BNP. there is a need for Labour, we just need them to connect to the electorate effectively.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 04:12:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
melo:
maybe there's just no reason for a labour party, now the factories that fueled their early rise are all in china!

That is of course the point.

Blue collar work is pretty much dead or overseas. In a world of "Intellectual Capital" and "Knowledge Value", what is the point of "Labour"?

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 04:22:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
they should rechristen themselves the 'not quite as conservative' party, or 'almost distinguishable from the tory' party...

or boring old fraudulent farts party.

cameron's gonna cream the election, i'm beginning to wonder how it would be worse, tbg will doubtless enlighten me.

as for the bnp, that's too nasty to contemplate...

if brown's labour party is the bulwark holding that back then britain's in deeper shit even than i thought.

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 05:47:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I scanned the Daily Mirror yesterday. The working class voice!

Two items - one was a feature praising the robust effectiveness of McCain's speech. The other was an op ed which said 'The UK is full! Immigrants go home!'

So - the working classes who don't vote for Cameron will vote for the BNP.

I'd guess there's also going to be a significant switch from some of the more hardcore Labour voters to the BNP. I wouldn't be so very surprised to see the BNP winning a seat or ten.

Nu Lab meanwhile has become a failed middle class party. It's going to be eaten from the top by the Tories and from the bottom by the racists.

A few of the more well intentioned types will move to the Lib Dems. But by avoiding the malodorous prole vote, the Lib Dems have doomed themselves - and possibly the entire country.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Sep 9th, 2008 at 05:57:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
excellent synopsis, tbg!

too bad about the lib dems, clegg talks a good line, but it seems the libdems are the tweedledoo party to go to if tired of tweedledee and tweedledumb.

so the whole menu stinks.

i hope sven's right and something more co-operative comes along to vote for, something europewide.

screaming lord sutch'd do a better job than this lot.

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Sep 9th, 2008 at 11:41:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Unfortunately, that's only going to lead to more Blairism, as Labour becomes more and more frightened of losing the middle.  And all Cameron's got to do is talk nice and not do anything too stupid in order to win.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue Sep 9th, 2008 at 02:12:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Blue collar work is pretty much dead or overseas. In a world of "Intellectual Capital" and "Knowledge Value", what is the point of "Labour"?

Bashing Mexicans?  (Or Poles in y'all's case, I guess?)

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Sep 5th, 2008 at 07:58:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
He also has a slightly sweaty look as well.

It's summer.  Everybody has that sweaty look in Britain during summer.  It's because you don't have air-conditioners.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Sep 5th, 2008 at 08:01:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I appreciate it's different in DC but here the weather cut straight from spring to autumn wihout going through summer.

But it's not a healthy perspiration of the normal fit person, it's the sheen of watery lard associated with somebody who's not broken into a brisk walk since school and is constantly out of breath keeping up with the normally fit.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Sep 5th, 2008 at 08:56:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
here the weather cut straight from spring to autumn wihout going through summer.

Anglo Disease or not, I am considering a move...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Sep 5th, 2008 at 10:32:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
LOL

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Sep 5th, 2008 at 10:33:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For those who don't get it, read this.

Here, the last attack of summer is in full swing: 31°C today, 36°C predicted for the weekend.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Sep 5th, 2008 at 11:01:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Without wishing to put you off, this summer has been unusually wet and cool. normally about now temps would be in the mid 20s. tho I think its 16 at the moment.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Sep 5th, 2008 at 11:16:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I seem to remember mid-20s (could be wrong) being about right this time in 2006, although I think that was a pretty hot year.  Certainly the heat wave in late-July was ungodly.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue Sep 9th, 2008 at 07:30:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the mover of strings behind the scene, New Labour's brain?

ROFLMAO

 Not the religious self-deceiver and serial self-brainwasher Bliar was

ouch...hammer, meet nail.

good diary. el gordissimo is w-a-y out of his depth. and new labour is revealed as mere lipstick on the pig.

there is a sliver of goodness in brown, i think, but he's become a mere tool of the plutocracy, deep in the delusion of being some kind of swashbuckling leader to nowhere, somewhere right of john major, the overton window has slid so far right since blair's advent even.

british politics seems stuck in a bog of boredom. like helen often mentions, any tendency to out-the-box thinking has been eradicated from labour, leaving apparatchiks awash in mediocrity, flailing to stay above water, as global conditions strip bare the governmental imprudence and incompetence that have become the norm.

i keep flashing back on harold wilson, i don't know why, maybe because he didn't seem like a poster for elitism, like blair and brown do.

didn't the redgraves start a new party?


"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 03:49:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So with the disappearance of actual lobour (labor for us Americans) Labour is defunct and WE need a new political party to represent us.  Here's a thought.

Europe has the longer history.  Go back to the days of the wealthy/powerful living in castles and the rest of us poor schlubs ... well, you remember.

In college, early '70s I first read the term have/have-nots and I recognized my family as belonging to the have-nots, also ignorant as all hell, etc.  Rich vs. not-rich has been the game for hundreds of years, with the rich calling themselves Conservative, Republicans, Tories, whatever ... I guess calling yourself the Rich/Powerful/Fuck You Party would give it away.

We need a new Party which recognizes the ongoing class warfare and will actually DO something about it WITHOUT SELLING OUT (aka Democrats).

As Obama has demonstrated, with the INTERNET, IT CAN BE ACHIEVED!

The good news ... it's only a life sentence. You eventually leave this planet of idiots.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Fri Sep 5th, 2008 at 06:13:22 AM EST
... more harnessing the power of the Internet to amplify a traditional "New Improved
Laundry Powder With More Sudsing Power" marketing campaign than for "recognizing class warfare and actually doing something about it".


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri Sep 5th, 2008 at 05:28:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
True.  There are elements of the old left in Obama's campaign structure, though.  The real result of the Interwebz is that everything old is new again.  Instead of the ad-based campaigns of the '60s to the '90s -- the Mark Penn Era, I guess you could call it -- the emphasis is now back on organizing, as it was prior to television.

Still have to be patient.  Obama's just the first edition.  The netroots are still working the bugs out.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue Sep 9th, 2008 at 07:38:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't see the Obama campaign as authored by the netroots, but it does offer some useful lessons for the first edition if we ever have a chance to publish it.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Sep 9th, 2008 at 03:56:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But New Labour's single-minded promotion of a highly deregulated, short-termist and lightly taxed financial sector at the expense of the rest of the economy - manufacturing has taken the greatest strain - on the back of a consumer borrowing binge has left Britain especially vulnerable both to the global downturn and to the credit contagion in particular.
New Labour has, in other words, continued the Thatcherite revolution.

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Sep 5th, 2008 at 06:31:36 AM EST
While Socialism was supposed to be half way house on the road from capitalism to communism (according to Marx), it is, in essence, the middle ground - at least in Europe.

And while the middle ground can sometimes be bland and over-consensually weak, it still represents the aims of democracy. It is about society as a whole, not about classes or groups or heirarchies.

But the word Socialism brings a lot of baggage, just as Labour brings all that baggage of us against them.

What I'd like to see is a party based on cooperation, not competition. A sharing party. 'Cooperative' also has its own baggage as a historical movement, but it is by no means crippled by its past. Far from it, as several ETers will testify.

I again post a link to the principles of cooperation, as defined by the International Cooperative Alliance. The principles imho that could define a new political party as well as a way of doing business together.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Sep 9th, 2008 at 05:33:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, the UK

Co-operative Party

has been around for a long time, and its roots go back to the 1880's

Cooperative Party - Wikipedia

It has quite a bit of representation, moreover


In 2005 there were 29 MPs in the Co-operative Parliamentary Group, 9 Members of the Scottish Parliament, 4 Members of the Welsh Assembly and 11 Members of the House of Lords, as well as over 700 local councillors.

There is also an informal Co-operative Party group in the European Parliament.

The MP's include Gordon Brown's right hand man, Ed Balls, and John McFall, the Chairman of the Treasury Select Committee.

Unfortunately, for historical reasons it's got the Labour Party like a constitutional albatross around its neck and allows no other affiliations.

Even our friend "Dave" Cameron was talking about "Cooperative Conservatism" a while back, and I really don't see why the Party should not support any MP or councillor in calling him/herself a "Co-operative Liberal", "Co-operative Green" or whatever, provided they go along with the ICA principles....

So, in principle you are right, Sven, but in practice, don't expect any change this Century.  

Surprising though it may seem, some of the most entrenched opposition to the inherently "mutual" and "cooperative" partnership models I advocate has come from people who call themselves Co-operative, but who are doing quite nicely out of the existing stultified organisations and hierarchical bureaucracies still prevalent in the Sector.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Tue Sep 9th, 2008 at 01:46:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How much dislike of gordon Brown is media generated and how much really deserved? In the sense that probably all politcians can be made to look like Gordon Brown is presented...

So do we really lack a center-left economic policy in England as always or more like a centered economic (not wingnut) policy is missing?

It is hard to believe that there will be no differences with the Conservatives.. I think they are going to be much much much much incredible more and more awful for the lower middle-classes in England..

And from far away it seems to me that no matter what gordon Brown tries, and spetially if he tries left-wing policies, he is going to be doomed by the powers that be.

but I look it from far far away.

SO maybe I am wrong

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Tue Sep 9th, 2008 at 07:21:30 AM EST
Oh it's deserved. Britain was sick of blairism and we thought (hoped) that brown would be different. It now turns out that it wasn't blair's policies he hated (although he criticised them at the time), it was only Blair himself. Blair went, but the policies stayed.

Also brown isn't a leader, he has no vision he sells, he's a backroom detail person and just looks out of his depth in this role. When things go wrong his first response is to scuttle back to his lair to sulk, leaving underlings to face the music.

Yes, there is a difference between Labour and conservative. Brown has social improvement policies that do target some genuine issues. But the major plank of his ideas, economic policy is identical to the tories. While that remains true, his social policies invariably fail cos they're inadequate to deal with the problems economic policy creates.  So, effectively there's no difference as the end result is the same. We just get to hell more quickly on the tory bus.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Sep 9th, 2008 at 07:59:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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