"De-Labour-ising" Labour?

Submitted by Matthew on 29 April, 2010 - 12:35 Author: Martin Thomas

“The ultimate fulfilment of the New Labour mission.” BBC political reporter Nick Robinson says: “That is how one senior Labour figure described... the prospect of a Lib/Lab deal in the event of a hung Parliament.”

According to Patrick Wintour in the Guardian of 20 April: “Beneath the dispute is a concern that some figures are using Labour’s campaign as a vehicle to bring about the formation of a progressive coalition between Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

“Some cabinet members were deeply concerned...”

In the late 1990s, as Blair pushed through his “coup” in the Labour Party, it was often remarked — and without Blair and his friends contradicting it — that his aim was to reverse the historical step forward through which the British labour movement made between 1900 and 1918.

In those years, the trade unions and the socialist groups formed a Labour Party — at first a satellite of the Liberal Party which had been allowing a few trade-unionists to stand for Parliament under its banner — and built it up to a point where it contested elections without a formal alliance with the Liberals.

Blair didn’t push things as far as fully “reversing” the Labour Party back into the Liberals. He found he didn’t need to, he wasn’t confident enough to do it — whatever, he didn’t go that far.

Some of the most outspoken advocates in the late 1990s of “de-Labour-ising” Labour, like Stephen Byers, are now out of politics or more marginalised in the Labour Party. But some, evidently, are still “senior Labour figures”.

They may have in mind a full merger of Labour and the Lib-Dems, like the merger in Italy in which the rump of the old Communist Party merged with the Margherita (Daisy) splinter of the old Christian Democrat party, or a long-term alliance, like that in Australia between the two conservative parties, Liberals and Nationals.

Either way, “concern”, to put it at the mildest, is certainly in order. Let’s hear some trade union leaders express it in public, as well as “some cabinet members” in backroom conversation with the Guardian.

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