So the revolt against Gordon Brown fizzled out last night and it’s easy to see why. Ultimately, his opponents were only interested in saving their own skins come general election time and had no differences of principle or policy with the prime minister.
Backbench MPs as well as scores of ex-ministers have participated for over 12 years in shaping Labour to the point where any remaining signs of the party from which it had come have been extinguished for good. In its place appeared “New” Labour – openly dedicated to facilitating corporate and financial power and influence in a partnership with the state.
Being a Brownite or Blairite has made no essential difference to this naked and open alliance of capitalism and government. Between them they carved up the public sector for the benefit of private enterprise, urged on the City speculators and created a society where inequality grew at an unprecedented rate.
Apart from a handful of MPs, the vast majority sanctioned these changes as an easy way of getting re-elected. Now that their charmed existence is threatened in the wake of the economic, financial and parliamentary crises, it’s a case of every MP for him/herself. SOS in this case stands for Save Our Salaries (and pensions etc).
What finally convinced the so-called rebels to call of their attempted coup was the threat of an immediate general election should Brown be ousted, with the certainty that the vast majority would lose their seats if that happened. But the inevitable is surely only postponed.
The collapse of the New Labour vote in the European and council elections is historic in its depth and shows a party in terminal decline. While two-thirds of the electorate boycotted the polls, some sections of totally disillusioned working class voters even switched their allegiance to the neo-fascist British National Party out of desperation.
So it’s a bit late and more than a little disingenuous for Alistair Darling to say that his government’s failure to “articulate a sense of vision” and to “inspire confidence” was to blame for the BNP’s gathering of almost one million votes at the Euro elections (the BNP, naturally enough, used Brown’s slogan of “British Jobs for British Workers” during the election).
New Labour actually has had a “vision” – one based on people (and not a few MPs) getting wealthy through property dealing and spending their way out of poverty on credit cards. At the same time, many workers have endured low wages and poor to non-existent housing provision. Now younger generations especially are thrown on the dole as a result of the collapse of an economic boom based on fantasy finance and are prey to the appeals of the BNP, even if only temporarily.
This crisis is deepening by the day. Yesterday, the van maker LDV went into administration and a total of 3,000 direct and indirect jobs will go. Today, the Lloyds Banking Group, partly state owned, announced the loss of 1,500 jobs with the closure of its Cheltenham & Gloucester mortgage arm.
The break-up of New Labour and the crisis in the parliamentary system, which the election results reinforce, indicate that we have passed into a period of unprecedented social, economic and political instability. Ending the recession, creating decent jobs and housing will have to be achieved outside of the narrow confines of the parliamentary arena. You should sign our People’s Charter for Democracy and help build a movement to make leap that society needs.
AWTW communications editor