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Friday, May 18, 2007 

The Labour party is dead. Long live the Labour party.

The people's flag is palest pink
It's not the colour you might think
White collar workers stand and cheer
The Labour government is here
We'll change the country bit by bit
So nobody will notice it
And just to show that we're sincere
We'll sing The Red Flag once a year

The cloth cap and the wollen scarf
Are images outdated
For we're the party's avant garde
And we are educated
So raise the rolled umbrella high
The college scarf, the old school tie
And just to show that we're sincere
We'll sing The Red Flag once a year

The People's Flag is Palest Pink.

John McDonnell's blog advises those who supported him in his bid to at the least stand for the Labour party leadership not to mourn, but instead to organise. If someone was feeling bitter, they might well say that the organising should have been done before the wake became inevitable, but in actuality the election of Gordon Brown unopposed as the next Labour leader, and as a result, the next prime minister, is not his and his supporters fault. This was the final spasm of a party that since the Blairite takeover has been in its death throes. The corpse now lays in state on the government benches, and there's little chance that it will ever be reanimated. The Tory maggots are already drooling at the opportunity to gorge themselves on the flesh of the once great beast, becoming full on the Blairite policies which they will later regurgitate and reheat for the consumption of the public. City academies never looked so appealing.

How on earth did it come to this? We all knew that John McDonnell could not possibly win the Labour leadership, and indeed, that if he did that it would likely mean the defeat of Labour at the next election. This was never about John actually leading the party. The whole point of his candidature, at least as it should have been, was to emphasise the deep discontent over the Blairite (and Brownite) policies of the last ten years within both the party and the trade unions, not to mention within the public itself, and for at the very least for a line to be drawn under the control freakery of the past. McDonnell's candidature would have reignited debate within the party, helped to soothe the anger about numerous policies decisions and made clear to Brown that no longer could the leadership arrogantly and haughtily ignore the will of the activists and nominally Labour supporting masses within the country.

Instead, what happened was exactly what McDonnell's nomination would have helped to counter. When Michael Meacher, who up to the beginning of the week had been conducting an exercise in his own vanity finally abandoned his own leadership bid, for a few hours it was possible to believe that the left would be able to unite and fight for their right to be heard. In fact, the fracture stayed irrevocably broken.

It didn't have to be this way. If the Socialist Campaign and Compass groups of MPs had both combined their efforts, they could have easily got McDonnell on the ballot. Compass, in a mealy-mouthed statement on Brown's ascension, says:

On the leadership we know some Compass members and supporters will be very disappointed that John McDonnell didn’t get the backing to get on the ballot. A debate based on a challenger would have been a good thing. If there had been a contest we would have balloted you on who to back. But the Labour election process is not a debating society. MPs were nominating who they wanted to lead the country and the Party into the next election to successfully fight off the growing challenge from David Cameron. Many MPs who are members of Compass or have worked with us have supported Gordon Brown. Some backed John McDonnell. We think backing Gordon Brown was the right thing to do. John McDonnell is a decent and hard working MP but it’s just not credible to argue that his platform offers a leadership alternative to Gordon Brown. This is about who should represent the Party to the nation.

This is a nonsense. The MPs themselves are nominated by the constituency Labour parties; the Labour election process may not be a debating society during the parliamentary stages, but it is once the ballots are being sent out to the members of those very constituency parties. A vote was essential in order to gauge their hopes, fears and concerns after 10 years. Compass, a supposed grouping of MPs and others that are meant to be backing a return from the so-called radical centrism of Blairism to centre-leftism has helped in denying both the party and in effect, the country, as the debate would have been conducted nationwide and not just within the Labour party itself, a democratic choice over what direction should now be taken.

It turns out, thankfully, that we have nothing to worry or be disillusioned about, for Gordon has been "truly humbled". So humbled, that when he emerged to make his short, far from convincing speech on how things are going to change, that he couldn't help smiling and laughing in that discomforting way of his. It was obvious from the beginning that he would do everything in his power to try and block any contest: we now know for certain that his own band of groupies worked their damnedest to stop Meacher's supporters from switching their votes. At the weekend, the Mail on Sunday, which along with its sister daily is very favourable about Brown, published the allegations about John Reid which were talked about that made him finally drop his own bid, digging up old tales about Reid propositioning a female MP while he was an alcoholic. Reid might be a bastard Blairite thug, but smear campaigns are still beyond the pale. With Reid dropping out, Clarke and Milburn were the only other possible candidates, and both turned out to be too cowardly to even attempt to get on the ballot, despite their sniping, attempts at character assassination and ridiculous 20:20 vision site. The desperate attempts to put forward David Miliband were always doomed to end in failure.

There's been some suggestions that John McDonnell was simply too far left even for the left, and that another candidate would have done better, but no one else was either prepared to put themselves forward, or were even more obscure than McDonnell himself. Could Jon Cruddas have made the same arguments he's making in his deputy leadership bid? Would John Denham, a well-respected MP and to the left of the Blairites, had any chance?

Not that it will have necessarily made difference. The arguments, both from Brown and the Blairites, directed against both Jon Cruddas and McDonnell, are that they're only interested in taking the party back to the 1980s; in case they haven't noticed, Labour has recently been at around 1983 levels of support in the opinion polls. Brown, both at the hustings last Sunday and yesterday gratuitously insulted the left, even after McDonnell had praised his intellect. In one sentence he was promising that he would try to earn the trust of those that think the political system doesn't listen, then in the next denying those on the "far left" that trust because "they simply don't have support for their views in the Labour party", thanks to Brown's ruthless suppression of dissent and hushed threats towards anyone thinking of supporting McDonnell. We now face 6 long weeks of Blair's odious goodbye tour before Brown even ascends properly to the throne, full of the same inane, television-smashing inducing double acts like that seen yesterday in Washington. Even now Blair's seemingly endless vanity cannot be assuaged.

After 10 years of one hegemony, another will eventually begin. Should the left, as McDonnell urges, organise, or is it time that it finally woke up and realised that Brown's brave new Labour party seems to be just a continuation of the same old policies that simply aren't working? Should it shift its support behind Jon Cruddas, the only credible candidate for deputy leader, even though he supported both the war and now supports Brown, or should it instead jump off the deep end and back Blears, knowing that such an outcome will only help bring nearer the demise that it's sleepwalking towards?

The Labour party is dead. Long live the Labour party.

Related posts:
Blairwatch - The King is Dead
Nether-World - Sad day for democracy
Stumbling and Mumbling - The end of the left?

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Another version of the Red Flag that I heard began:

"The people's flag is deepest dead. New Labour's knocked it on the 'ead."

If you believe that local Labour parties pick MP's then sadly your not in the frame anymore.

We had an MP picked for us, and was told she was the only one we could vote for, at the first meeting she said she was a Blairite , now she says she is a Brownie, and last month told us without laughing she was a socialist. Funny how the loss of your seat can turn people into socialist.

I left the party after that fiasco 40 years in Labour this year, gone because Blair wanted to put his so called people into safe seats.

It's not safe any more and nor is she Labour.

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