Ditch Blair, but don't back Brown

Submitted by Anon on 22 October, 2003 - 6:00

By Rhodri Evans

It was Gordon Brown who made the New Labour government's first act independence of the Bank of England from any democratic control.

The Labour manifesto had not mentioned it; the Labour Party had never discussed it; but Brown moved straight away to do what the bankers wanted.
It was Gordon Brown who kept the limits on public spending he had inherited from the Tories in force for years, even when the Tories themselves were saying openly that they would have loosened them.

Brown has supported one hundred per cent the Blairite "project" of reinventing Labour as a pink-Tory party with no accountability to the active labour movement.

He has distanced himself from Blair, even on the level of coded messages, only on one clear issue. He is more cautious about taking Britain into the euro than Blair is. That does not make Brown more left-wing, or more responsive to working-class concerns.

If Brown had been prime minister, he would have followed exactly the same policy as Blair over Iraq.

At the Bournemouth Labour Party conference, Brown posed as the "Old Labour" rival to Blair. "We are best when we are Labour". It is only a pose. Replacing Blair by Brown would not reverse the New Labour project of excluding the organised working class from politics.

It does not follow that we might as well leave Blair in place, and not challenge his position as Labour leader.

At its conference this summer, the GMB voted that Blair should resign if it is proved that he lied over Iraq. More unions taking the same stand, declaring no confidence in Blair, would be a step forward, reducing the ability of the Government to steamroller measures through, opening up thought about alternatives.

In any leadership contest any time soon, of course Brown would be pretty sure to win. But that doesn't mean it is pointless forcing a contest.

Other candidates can stand. If vocal discontent from the unions has risen to the point of forcing a contest, it will probably also have risen sufficiently for a left-wing candidate to win nominations.

In a leadership election, one third of the vote belongs to Labour MPs, one third to constituency Labour Parties (via an individual membership ballot), and one third to affiliated unions (via individual membership ballots).

Even at present, even in the Constituency Labour Parties, whose delegates at Bournemouth were heavily right-wing, ballots for National Executive Committee places show a majority of votes for leftish candidates.

If a genuine left-wing candidate like John McDonnell or Jeremy Corbyn gets nominated, they could get a sizeable vote from trade-union and constituency Labour Party members, and put down a marker.

A sizeable protest vote even for a dissident-but-not-really-left candidate, like Robin Cook, would help reassemble and reinvigorate the forces of the left.

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