The panic inside New Labour over the future of Tony Blair as prime minister is entirely due to the fact that as things stand, a number of MPs believe they are staring at the end of their careers. They fear that the longer Blair stays in Downing Street, the worse their chances are at the next election. On top of that, Gordon Brown is worried that if ever takes over as prime minister, he won’t have the job for long. That’s the message from the opinion polls, which currently put the Tories under David Cameron well ahead of New Labour.
One thing is certain - there are no principles involved in the naked power struggle to occupy No.10. The MPs who now scheme to oust Blair sooner rather than later have nothing against Blairism or the nature of New Labour. The overwhelming majority of MPs – as well as trade union leaders - supported Blair as he and Brown transformed Labour into New Labour, into a party whose capitalist views and policies are indistinguishable from the Tory Party’s.
Yet it is precisely the nature of New Labour that has been found out. Only one in four of registered electors voted for New Labour at the 2005 general election and you can be sure that figure would be even lower now. Those who supported New Labour from the right, because they thought it was the new establishment party, are drifting back to where they came from, finding themselves at home in Cameron’s Tories. Those who voted New Labour, hoping for progressive policies, had their hopes smashed long ago. They, along with tens of thousands of party members, have had their stomach full of Blairism and abandoned New Labour. They didn’t vote for the private sector take-over of public services, the invasion of Iraq, the building of a police state and the demonisation of minority communities. They didn’t vote to endorse the ruthless operation of the global capitalist market economy.
In these circumstances, removing Blair and replacing him with Brown (or whoever) will not save the seats of New Labour MPs, or get people to vote for the party at council and regional elections next May. All in all, we’re probably witnessing the end of New Labour’s attempt to replace the Tories as the new party of the ruling classes in Britain, which is no bad thing. The chances of ‘reforming’ New Labour to return it miraculously to a party based on reforming rather than running capitalism, are less than nil. That period ended more than 30 years ago, coinciding with the start of the recent period of globalisation, marked by the emergence of transnational corporations and international financial markets. That process signalled the end of reformist politics – and also drove a large number of nails into the coffin of the parliamentary state. We need to bring forward alternatives that challenge global capital as a political and economic system. The disintegration of New Labour adds urgency to this project.
Paul Feldman, communications editor