John McDonnell’s bid for the Labour Party leadership ended in May when he didn’t secure enough nominations from Labour MPs. After months of campaigning amongst grass roots Labour supporters and trade unionists, his bid hit the stops of others' moral cowardice and the power of patronage.
It was cowardice on the part of Gordon Brown, who shied away from a leadership election where he would be forced to discuss politics with a serious left wing candidate. And this was coupled to the power of his patronage over the 308 Labour MPs who nominated him. Not enough had even the common decency to give ordinary Party members and affiliated trade unionists a vote on the matter. Roughly one in 10,000 of those entitled to vote got a say in who would be the next leader! That shows their disdain for democracy and the rank and file of the labour movement.
In this, and in many other ways, the Blair-Brown leadership has effectively disenfranchised the working class. Workers do need a political party, just like we need trade unions. And it is up to those trade unions in the first place to either fight to reclaim the Labour Party or to create a new working-class party, starting with a fight to break the sleeping giant of the labour movement away from the Brown-Blair gang.
In a real contest for the Labour leadership, a McDonnell-Brown competition would have seen a great roll call of people in the trade unions and the Labour Party who were willing to fight Blair-Brownism and an opportunity for them to rally and regroup. A McDonnell campaign would have roused or woken up everything alive in the labour movement, and taken a big step forward towards rallying them against New Labour. The Brown-Blair gang knew that. That’s why they refused to let him challenge Brown.
Now while Brown’s “campaign” lasted all of about a week and addressed itself to MPs, John McDonnell’s dialogue with members and trade unionists is ongoing. Standing for leader was part of the larger project of refounding independent working-class political representation through the agency of the Labour Representation Committee. The LRC aims to organise the Labour left, but is also open to people - and unions - who are not part of the Labour Party. RMT, FBU (fire brigades) and CWU (communication workers) are all affiliated. For those energised by his leadership campaign, getting involved with this will be one way for them to continue to pursue its demands.