Our Say

After G8 and the London bombings - the way forward

London terror attacks condemned

After Live 8:
from pressure to action

The G8 summit and political power

Make the G8 leaders history

A sham election

10 good reasons to boycott May 5

Don't be blackmailed into voting

Reject ‘dependency’ politics

No votes for New Labour!

Parliament seals its own fate

A secret policeman's government

Vote for "none of the above"

How to remember the victims of the tsunami

A state of crisis

New Labour and the big lie

Yasser Arafat - a revolutionary life

After the US election

Blood on New Labour's hands

Butler and weapons of mass deception

With 'leaders' like these, who needs enemies?

How to meet the threat from the right

Barbarians at the gate

Torture, values and lies

The silence of the lambs

War crimes in Iraq

The slaughter in Madrid

The unfinished business of the miners’ strike 1984-85

L’état – c’est New Labour

The death of liberal democracy foretold

Hutton washes the state whiter than white

Top-up fees and the market economy

Our challenge for 2004

New Labour's march to a police state

Bush & Blair - partners in crime

London Region revolts against FBU leaders

Postal workers in the front line

No turning back

Where we go from here

Stop the War Coalition leaders and political fabrication

Regime change begins at home

Blood on New Labour's hands

There's more involved than just Blair

New Labour, lies and spies

Firefighters should reject deal and disown leaders

BECTU vote on New Labour link a step forward

Time runs out for FBU leaders

New Labour's one-party state

The blind alley of crude anti-Americanism

Occupation of Iraq - time to move beyond protest

War is a test for principles

Iraqi defiance shocks and awes

FBU leaders who backed capitulation should resign now

Down with New Labour's war - for regime change in Britain

FBU at war with New Labour

New Labour, not just Blair, is the target

50 years since the death of Stalin - an assessment

FBU finds itself in Precott's trap

War is Peace - Blair's fictitious 'push for peace'

15/2: Global marches put power on the agenda

Crisis of globalisation behind attack on Iraq

Tell it how it is

An injury to one is an injury to all

War plans expose fraudulent 'democracy'

A 'regime change' in Britain is the answer to war on Iraq

FBU needs a new strategy

Challenging New Labour

A moment of truth in the fight against New Labour

Gilchrist says it how it is

Time to defy the anti-union laws in support of the FBU

FBU must ask for solidarity strikes

FBU leaders must ask for support now

New Labour provokes confrontation

Italian police attack No-Global movement

New Labour declares war on FBU

Don't let the FBU fight alone

UN writes a blank cheque for war

Blood on Putin's hands

Unions must support firefighters with action not words

Support the firefighters - defeat New Labour

Bush-Blair war agenda revealed

Seeing through New Labour's weapons of mass deception

The US media and the new garrison state

The BEGINNING of Politics

How technology could
free humanity

'Terminator' engineering: A threat to humanity

The future is socialist

Asylum legislation fuels racist attacks

Road map to the future

E-mail to hear about site changes, placing 'update' in body of message


  There's more to Blairism than just Blair

There is chatter in liberal circles about the possible “end of Blairism” and the subsequent emergence of a New Labour government that pays more attention to the needs of the majority in society. For those in the media disenchanted with New Labour this pipedream seems attractive. Jackie Ashley in her Guardian column (June 21) suggested that you can’t have Blairism without Blairites. She wrote that New Labour had lost vast swathes of support from those who put them in office. These were all potential Blairites. Meanwhile, in the government itself, close supporters of Blair are out of office. Ministers like Byers, Milburn and Mandelson have resigned in a variety of circumstances.

“Below the level of minister, there has been another kind of drift. The quietly disillusioned special advisers, press followers and once loyalist MPs have been slipping away. So many of the people who were originally key to the New Labour project have gone,” she told her readers. Her real concern, however, is that all these developments could eventually lead to electoral disaster. The answer? “New Labour will never win an election with the support of the countryside lobby, the richest taxpayers or the Europhobe press. It is time to admit the obvious, and start to bias policy, ruthlessly, in favour of the decent majority.” So that’s it, then. The only thing wrong with New Labour is its mistaken “bias”. Once that’s corrected, it will all be jolly fine again.

Unfortunately, New Labour is not that simple a proposition. The course it has pursued for six years is not a mistake that can be “corrected” simply by steering the government in another direction. That conclusion can only be reached by divorcing the political phenomenon that is New Labour from the social forces that created it.  The Blair government’s current political difficulties do not, whatever Ashley thinks, flow from its attempt to “please so many”, satisfying none in the process. They are a result of pursuing policies that openly favour business which have in their turn produced real hostility to New Labour, on both domestic and international fronts.

What liberals, along with trade union leaders, cannot bring themselves to accept is that this is deliberate, worked-out politics. New Labour is actually a champion of the so-called free market economy and the alleged benefits that come from corporate-led globalisation. That is why its policies have the “bias” they do.

New Labour inhabits the world of globalised capitalism, with its transnational corporations and international financial flows that cross boundaries free from government influence. The role of governments like New Labour is to facilitate this process in the belief that the wealth generated will inevitably benefit the rest of society. Blairism is, therefore, not a bias or simply a set of ideas but an actual practice reflecting powerful and real economic forces.

The first action of the 1997 New Labour government was to denationalise the Bank of England, passing power over interest rates from the Chancellor to a group of unelected bankers. The architect of this policy was, of course, Gordon Brown and his American-trained advisers like Ed Balls. This was exactly in line with the requirements of the new economic order. Brown’s other “achievements” include the part-privatisation of the Tube and “foundation” hospitals. Tuition fees for students was the brainchild of one David Blunkett, who now specialises in appeasing suburban England’s fear of asylum seekers.

Ministers like trade secretary Patricia Hewitt enthusiastically speak about the market, competition and all the other jargon of the global economy. In a speech in Madrid on June 10 she first praised the government led by the right-wing Jose Maria Aznar. She then told her audience that they had to “make sure our labour market policy remains focussed on job creation rather than protection” and that “regulation is a tool of last resort, rather than a knee jerk reaction”. She added: “Make sure we give meaning to our liberal approach. We can't preach liberalisation abroad when we practice protectionism at home.” This could have easily been the chief executive of IBM speaking.

Every fibre of this government is bent in this direction. Everyone is viewed as consumer first and a worker a long way second. At last year’s New Labour “conference”, the then party chairman, Charles Clarke, insulted the trade unions by declaring that they only represented producers whereas the government represented consumers. This is what Blairism is all about. It is essentially a management team disguised as politicians, with a chief executive and a board instead of a prime minister and a cabinet. That is why it is increasingly detested by the majority who, out of necessity, are workers before they are consumers. At party level, non-political camp followers dominate. The rest have long departed. The internal machinery is dedicated to silencing dissent from people like George Galloway and little else outside of election periods.

With New Labour has come the death of the old politics in Britain. That is the shocking prospect that Guardian writers and union leaders do not want to accept. They long for a return to some sunny past, when Labour apparently dealt an even hand. None can point to when Britain actually lived through such halcyon days, of course. Rather than face up to what has happened, union leaders like Dave Prentis, the leader of Unison, with the largest number of low-paid workers, try to create the illusion that a bit of pressure will sort things out. He told his annual conference that Labour was "our party" and vowed to work with "our friends to reclaim it and to reform it". He fought desperately to help defeat motions that would have weakened the union’s links with New Labour.

The truth is that both Prentis and Ashley are whistling in the dark. Even Old Labour was always under the control of the right wing. In his diaries, Tony Benn notes in his entry for April 1972 how an internal election was a way of “reminding one yet again that the PLP (Parliamentary Labour Party) is a right-wing body. It may be anti-Market (European Common Market) because of the unions but it is fundamentally on the right. It is extremely difficult for anyone who has any left-wing ever to be elected to anything”.

New Labour is actually a new type of party, not just a more right-wing version of its predecessor. That is another reason why its can’t be “recaptured”, “refounded” or “relaunched”. It is made up of more than Blair and is in the last analysis a reflection of the radically altered economic and financial system which leaves no room for governments that want to balance between competing class interests. Turning the clock of history back a quarter of a century so that we might once again the joys of Old Labour is, of course, impossible.

The increasing isolation of New Labour is over fundamental questions like an invasion of Iraq based on lies and disinformation, the policies of privatisation, the absence of democratic procedures and the weakness of existing forms of political representation. Millions have seen through New Labour for the fraud that it always was. The rot has set in and our role is not to waste time trying to recreate some old-style reformist party but to prepare the alternative. There is a growing international crisis in terms of the world economy, the drive to war and environmental degradation. To answer these challenges means going beyond New Labour as well as the corporate and financial interests they speak and act for. In doing so, we will look to the future rather than the past.

Movement for a  Socialist Future
June 24, 2003