Ken Livingstone, Billy Hayes, Mehdi Hasan, Chris McLaughlin, Emily Thornberry and Lisa Nandy were speakers at Monday's large meeting called by Progressive London, Tribune and the CWU.
Barely a week after the defeat of New Labour you would have expected that such a gathering would be eager to be analytical and open about the election. An election which was surely an election centrally about the Tories. The results make clear people were voting either for or against the Tories, anti Tory votes being packaged into votes for Labour. The Greens (other than Caroline Lucas), TUSC and others came nowhere.
Mehdi Hasan did say that the public was to the left of all the parties on offer and argued that Labour had to apologise for Iraq, their record on civil liberties and the deregulation of the City.
Livingstone knowing that Labour had lost support over the years argued that redistribution now has to be central. But overall there was little critical thinking or analysis. Urges to have more discussions and debates , to have a greater closeness to the unions, to have a more democratic party does not answer the antipathy for Labour.
New Labour had seized power and the most important campaigns have been instigated despite not because of the Labour Party, and have been against a Labour government.
Whether it has been struggles by trade unionists, campaigns around the war or development of support for asylum seekers or mobilisations against the erosion of civil liberties or in defence of education, such campaigns would have been smothered at birth in the Labour party - and assertions that times have now changed prove nothing.
Let us see the colour of their eyes. Let us see their identifications with workers in trying to protect their work and their jobs. Let us see their role in fighting against the spread of their academies. Let us see their determination to work with those fighting for social justice, for equality, against the Labour models - privatisation and PPP.
In this election there were few who voted for a government which took us into two wars and are keeping us there. Whose leaders have shown no honesty about the wars and instead now drag out the tired phrases saying “had we known then what we know now ….” In 2003 outside that cushioned grouping, most of the population knew the lies and distorted evidence delivered to us as reasons to continue yet another imperialist adventure on the coat tails of the neo cons. Who this year voted for the drain that is and will be Trident? Who for a government which developed and implemented the myriad privatisation projects following from Thatcher’s seedling? A government, which on leaving office, had students and lecturers in universities and colleges facing budgets cuts decided by Labour. Yes, of course, the minimum wage or Sure Start but for a government, which had ruined any form of national progressive education system with the lauding of academies and trust schools. Who was voting for a government which knelt towards high finance and was in the craw of the bankers and big business?
Billy Hayes opened his speech with the news of the defeat of the Unite strike in the courts and you might have imagined that someone would have been speaking about the iniquity of the last 14 years where Labour refused to repeal any of the Thatcher anti-trade union legislation. No. Nothing. There was talk about the possible 500, 000 public sector jobs, which would be slashed but nothing said about how these cuts would be fought. The anti trade union laws are designed to hamper and prevent workers defending jobs and conditions. The total intransigence of the Labour government to repeal any parts of these Tory laws were passed over.
There was a celebration of the number of Labour councils seized back from the Lib Dems or from hung positions. But did anyone mention the Poplar Councillors? Or Hackney in the 70s and 80s or Lambeth? Is there any expectation amongst the Labour left that we are facing attacks which are more massive than Thatcher accomplished and which will lead to intense and bitter struggles? Or is it that somehow there will be the gradual atrophying of the services and workers will just leach away?
On 19th May reporting about the injunction against Unite, the FT said, “Forty-three injunctions against strikes have been sought in the past five years, including seven so far this year, said Gregor Gall, professor of industrial relations at the University of Hertfordshire. Employers were successful in 90% of cases.
….”It’s not that there is no effective right to strike, it’s rather that there is no right to an effective strike,” said Prof Gall, meaning employers were “tightening the noose” on unions as lawyers found more clauses to exploit in the trade union Act 1992, which governs ballots.”
News of the “front runners” in the Labour leadership contest give little hope of anything different. Each of those tattooed with the experience of office were central to the Blair/Brown project. Rooted in New Labour thinking, we know that they are the ones who we had to fight and who we will have to fight again.
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