[Marxism] Eighteen months to save Labour by Mark Seddon

Jack Cade jack.cade at btinternet.com
Sat May 21 07:45:52 MDT 2005


Mark Seddon is on the NEC of the Labour Party (one of the
so-called Grassroots Alliance) and a former editor of Tribune
magazine. This seems to be as good as it gets from the left: away
with Blair, let's have Blair's alter ego. The Socialist Campaign
group may be able to mount a challenge but do not have the votes
(or the candidate) to win it. Many Labour seats are now very
vulnerable and the way the 'first past the post' (FPTP) system
works there is likely to be a sharp reversal in 2010. Who will
benefit then is unclear as the Tories are going to have to
reinvent themselves to do so. Labour is also likely to find that
Blair has left them a shell of a party, as Thatcher did with the
Tories-there are no troops on the ground any more.

	As for union leaders 'getting the leader and the
political change they want' perhaps Messers Woodley, Simpson,
Prentis and Hayes should consider running for the US Senate-it
would be about their level.

Jack Cade

Eighteen months to save Labour

The Blairite tendency can't see it, but the chances of a fourth
term depend on a swift transition to Brown

Mark Seddon
Friday May 20, 2005
The Guardian

The deal, it would seem, has been done. And this time there is
little wriggle room for Tony Blair, although the semblance of
unreality - the promise from his friend Lord Falconer that the
prime minister "will serve a full third term" - is maintained.
Blair will ensure a smooth transition to Gordon Brown, well
before that third term nears its end - or at least that appears
to be the plan. Few MPs seriously believe that Brown or any other
leadership hopefuls will have to wait much longer than six to 18
months.

A smooth transition, the hope of most Labour MPs, might be at
risk if this timetable is abandoned. An economic downturn would
cost Brown, like Nigel Lawson before him, some of his lustre, and
the planned coronation may become a bigger and bloodier
competition, with Charles Clarke, Patricia Hewitt and John Reid
seeking the crown.

But now there are new voices, the most prominent being the
Campaign Group MP Alan Simpson, who warns that the Titanic sank
not because it failed to change captain, "but because it failed
to change direction". From opposing ID cards to support for
public ownership of railways, this 30-strong group is set to make
a good deal of the running. So there is likely to be a leadership
challenge from a re-energised Labour left determined not only to
put its agenda on display, but also to ensure Blair's legacy is
short-lived.

The pivotal and politically streetwise union leader Derek
Simpson, of Amicus, may be the one to watch for the nods and
winks he gives in the coming months. Tony Woodley, Dave Prentis
and Billy Hayes will be important too. For the remarkably
quiescent union movement again gave its all to Labour's election
campaign. The unions bit their collective tongue over Rover and
the haemorrhage of manufacturing jobs. They did so because of the
largely promissory Warwick accords that they negotiated with
ministers last summer.

Extending rights for working people has never been a priority for
Blair - and one of the government's first actions on re-election
was to try, unsuccessfully, to block European legislation
introducing a 48-hour week. Not surprisingly the Warwick accords
hardly figured in the Queen's speech. Surely, argue some, this is
the time to begin a negotiating process with Brown that will give
them - and much of the parliamentary party - the leader they
desire and, more importantly, the political change they want.

The chancellor is comfortable in a traditional Labour setting -
from teenage Tribune seller outside Rosyth dockyard to thoughtful
essayist in the seminal Red Paper and biographer of red
Clydesider James Maxton, Brown's journey has been very different
to Blair's. But what of the substance?

Brown is as capable of delivering a peroration that is music to
the ears of Bevan's heirs in the south Wales valleys as he is of
delivering an encomium to entrepreneurs in the City. Brown's
close circle of friends carries more weight and substance than
Blair's. He seems unimpressed by the rich and the powerful,
though his attentiveness to Rupert Murdoch's man on earth, Irwin
Stelzer, and the Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre, carry political
health warnings. Yet there is a consistency to Brown. For years
he campaigned against the scourge of mass unemployment and low
pay.

But Brown sometimes seems more comfortable with free-market
America than social-model Europe. As a consequence, British
workers work longer hours, are less productive and have less job
security and fewer rights at work than their continental cousins.
For the best part of two decades, Britain has limped by without
an industrial policy, and more than a million skilled
manufacturing jobs have been lost in the past six or seven years.

So prime minister Brown is likely to be influenced by ideas that
deliver the traditional goals of the Labour pioneers but by less
orthodox means. "Prudent Gordon" may give way to "pragmatic
Gordon". Labour's job will be to pull him towards European social
democracy. He may even be given a steer by his more thoughtful US
Democrat friends, who have abandoned Clinton-era "triangulation".

Labour won a historic third term in spite of, not because of,
Blair - a reality that still hasn't percolated through to some of
the braying New Labour loyalists. Last week some of them shouted
down colleagues at the first meeting of the parliamentary Labour
party. "It was reminiscent of the worst days of the Militant
Tendency," reported one chastened MP. "You could call it the
Blairite Tendency. They are simply out of touch with reality."

Change cannot come soon enough. Not only was Labour's share of
the vote less than Neil Kinnock managed in 1992, but 40 or so MPs
are highly vulnerable to small swings to the Lib Dems. Brown must
know that a fourth term will be a mighty tough call. A change of
leader and direction is what the public ordered. How long they
are obliged to wait may ultimately decide Labour's fate at the
next election.

. Mark Seddon is a member of Labour's national executive
committee

seddonzq1 at aol.com






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