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  • Published in Opinion

Blairite Jim Murphy, who plans to stay on as Scottish Labour leader despite the Party's massive defeat

James Doran on why the Labour Party's crisis is worse than anticipated


1Labour suffered electoral and moral defeats without even being in government. This, I had not expected. On the surface, the party seemed united and the model of "party-union distancing" had been replaced by party-union bonding under Miliband - despite the ludicrous denunciation of strikes and the Falkirk selection battle in which he called the cops on Unite, he was seen as the affiliated unions' best bet.

2Labour wasn't as united as it appeared. Behind a show of unity, Miliband's compromised leadership pleased neither the Blairites, who feel he was too radical for talking about inequality and being "anti-business", nor affiliated members in the union movement - who feel the party's leadership failed to oppose austerity and offer a socialist alternative to scapegoating migrants and claimants. As Paul Mason has observed, the party's leaders in parliament know that if they were to lose Unite, there could be an English Syriza formed with more resources and dynamism than the party it would replace.

3Labour has lost Scotland. When I first started banging on about the risk Labour would face the same defeats as it's sister parties across Europe, I had no idea that the independence referendum would galvanise tens of thousands of people into debating the possibility that Another Scotland Is Possible. Or that the SNP would win despite the Yes campaign losing. By choosing Jim Murphy as its leader, the Scottish Labour Party guaranteed the SNP surge would be translated into gains in the UK parliament - Murphy had argued that Labour should accept the cuts, he was associated with "Westmonster" and Britain's recent wars, and he had campaigned with the Tories against the social-democratic vision of an independent Scotland as part of Better Together.

4Labour already faces radical and populist challengers. Though they have not advanced in terms of seats, the Greens have attracted tens of thousands of new members - and thousands of keen activists on the ground - on the same basis as the SNP by positioning themselves as a more authentic force than Labour when it comes to challenging the Tories. Similarly, UKIP have been a threat to Labour's claims to authenticity - making a mockery of the Blairite assumption that groups of voters ignored by New Labour had "nowhere else to go".

5Labour's leadership in parliament is unlikely to respond in ways that resolve the party's crisis. The "pro-business" opposition to a referendum on EU membership, combined with mugs proclaiming a tough stance on migration, doesn't convince voters attracted by the Greens (who don't blame migrants) or UKIP (because EU free movement is seen a threat).

For Labour members and supporters who want to oppose the Tories, extra-parliamentary action will be the key to success. Because it wasn't policy debates in the Labour Party that put corporate tax avoidance on the political agenda - it was UK Uncut.

And for radicals outside of Labour, building an English Syriza will not come from unity efforts between existing groups, but by movement building: here, united fronts against austerity like the People's Assembly could be key to supporting the growth of social movement trade-unionism in precarious sectors of the economy.

Protests, strikes, and occupations - with the aim of building a bigger and more diverse labour movement - will have to be our central concern in the coming months and years. For all of us opposed to the Tories, the End Austerity Now demo in London on June 20 can be the focus for uniting against further cuts and privatisation.

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