IT IS a measure of how right-wing the Labour Party is that the rout it suffered in Thursday’s general election has prompted a chorus of demands for a return to “New Labour” and the legacy of its former leader, Tony Blair.
Both Blair and his chief strategist, Peter Mandelson, have intervened to reinforce the message that Labour lost because it failed to make an appeal to the aspirant middle classes. Worse, according to Mandelson, was that it gave the impression that it was “for the poor, and it hated the rich”.
Following the resignation of Ed Miliband, a leadership contest is under way in which there are already seven potential candidates, with more likely to follow. All, in my opinion, are careerist nonentities, strident defenders of unregulated capitalism, privatisation and militarism.
They insist that Labour’s defeat was because Miliband was too left-wing and focused his strategy on mobilising its “core” working-class vote. Instead, Labour must return to Blair’s strategy of the “big tent” and efforts to win over Conservative voters.
The election does indeed prove that Labour’s core constituency has been eaten away. But workers have deserted it because they already view it as a Conservative party MkII, with almost one-third of the UK electorate seeing no point in voting at all because no party has anything to offer them.
Miliband’s feeble tack to the left was entirely unconvincing, coming from a party that was pledged to austerity and that is incapable of putting behind it the actual record of Blair and his successor Gordon Brown as a tool of big business and architect of the Iraq war.
Labour’s rout is far more than the failure of just one party. It is the failure of an entire political perspective and of all the parties and organisation based on it.
Across Europe, the former ruling social democratic parties are disintegrating. Having long ago abandoned their reformist pretensions in response to globalisation and capitalist breakdown, whether in Britain, France, Greece or elsewhere, they have become the ruthless exponents of austerity and war.