“party Within a Party”, a Structural Obstacle to Labour’s Revival

by Jon Lansman from Left Futures

In the face of defeat in Bradford, Ed Miliband has recognised that Labour needs “real, deep, genuine change” to reconnect with the 5 million voters lost under New Labour. At the same time, Labour right-wingers like Luke Akehurst express “disgustthat other Labour members can put aside loyalty to their party to express solidarity not only with the voters of Bradford West who rejected Labour but even with Respect leader Salma Yaqoob. They fail to recognise that what prevents others feeling the tribal loyalty they espouse is the very same barrier that is preventing Labour breaking through to regain the support of its lost core voters. And it is Blairism.

At the heart of the ideology which is the legacy of Blair (and underpins the party-within-a-party, Progress, which he created to sustain it) is a rejection of the politics of class and equality, and of the organisations of labour that created Labour to promote them. Blairism has no interest in the redistribution of wealth and power; the removal of reference to redistribution in Clause IV was not symbolic. Its loyalty is to those who own and manage business, and its practice is managerial.

The only equality to which Blairism pays lipservice is equality of opportunity, that false hope that cannot be delivered without a much deeper equality. Blairism offers the politics of the American dream, the politics of “I want to be a Millionaire“.

This is not true of the traditional Labour right. They share the Centre-Left’s understanding of class inequality. They support the redistribution of wealth and power. They understand the need for trade unions and solidarity, for collective decision-making and action.

The division between the traditional Labour right and the Blairites is roughly the division between Labour First and Progress, though many individuals operate in denial of the underlying differences. New Labour habits die hard. And many traditional right-wingers undoubtedly see the alliance of Labour First and Progress as necessary to restrain the party from a shift to the Left.

What all those who share social democratic values, left and right, should understand is that demonstrating a commitment to class equality and to solidarity, and to making a total break with Blairism, is absolutely essential to winning back those 5 million voters. It may be hard for those who remain grateful to Blair for the victories over which he presided as leader, or who suffer the cognitive dissonance resulting from their own involvement in his government. But unless we make that break, we will not breakthrough to win.

And they should also understand that the reason so many of those who have social democratic values are so unsympathetic towards Progress is not so much the money and the influence bought, not the lack of openness, internal democracy and transparency — we have grown used to these things under New Labour — it is that they see the values of Blairism, and Blair himself, as alien to social democracy.

4 comments on ““party Within a Party”, a Structural Obstacle to Labour’s Revival

  1. john p Reid on said:

    Is this a joke, Firstly, you want to end a party within a party, then praise those who backed Respect,

    secondly you say Blair was an alien to soical democracy ,yet your using lies ,like Progress are a party, rather than just a magazine to try to use undemocratic ways to oust them.

  2. Hi John welcome back
    Could you answer the question I asked you the last time you made your usual and wholly predictable .,though somewhat bizarre intervention on behalf of all things New Labour
    You claimed that when Labour were ‘union funded’ they lost elections I asked you if they lost in 1945,1964,1966,1974(x2)1997,2001,2005 when If I am not mistaken they were union funded
    You can keep it brief if you want

  3. John Richmond on said:

    Hello from Canada – always enjoy this site. Seems to me almost all social democratic parties are moving from their working class roots (some moved a long time ago) and becoming more and more the party of a segment of the white-collar, relatively highly-educated “elite”. Nothing wrong with this in the sense that this is a somewhat (still) powerful segment of society in Western liberal-democratic countries that directly benefits from the system and needs someone to speak for them and try to protect their status. I myself am one of those people! Although I feel social democracy as an idea is an outdated product of the post-World War II welfare state. But these parties won’t go away – even in places like the Venezuela where the AD continues to exist on paper. But the new, ever growing segment of society that is nor represented by anyone will find a new voice eventually – it might be something like the Left Front in France or Quebec Solidaire in QUebec (Canada) or something different again. I doubt the social democratic parties can reverse this trend – or even care. They have no idea what to do about the huge numbers of people who are the “loosers” of modern neo-liberalism.

  4. john p reid on said:

    I said that only 30% of their funds were union based in 97 and 2001. it was A different world in the 1960’s and 1970’s a 2 party state I seem to recall that labour won in 1964 with 12.2 million votes and just 13m in 1966 and with 37% of the vote in 1974, Yet thatcher won four times with an average of 13.75 million and 44% everytime