Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Unhappy Labourites


The chairman of the left-wing Compass group, Neal Lawson, has issued the following assessment of last Thursday, under the heading 'Results mark death knell for New Labour'. I'm trying to work out whether that is intended as an opitmistic headline for them or not. Read and see:

It’s been a bad and bruising encounter for Labour. 27 per cent of the votes cast is a miserable tally. Just one per cent up on Labour’s worst result ever. This is not an opinion poll. These are real votes cast by real people. The Tories have consolidated above the 40% barrier and are inexorably shifting from hung parliament territory to potential out right winners at the next election. This can and must be reversed. But it demands the party changes.

Natural Labour supporters have been put off voting for their party because of a toxic combination of Blair, Iraq, sleaze and what’s happening to public services. All of this was avoidable. We said after the 2005 election victory that Blair should go and that if he insisted on prolonging his premiership he would damage the party and the country. The hard work of thousands of councillors and party activists around the country has been undone by a Prime Minister who out stayed his welcome. Where now are the people who said Blair should stay for a full term?

These elections signal the death knell for the politics of Blairism. We have lost five million votes since 1997 - mostly from our traditional base, who no longer feel able to turn out for us and stay at home or protest through the Greens, Liberal Democrats or others. Now Cameron threatens to drain away middle class support - creating a pincer movement that could be devastating for Labour MPs at the next election.

The Party cannot go on run as a tight clique, commercialising public services and playing the nodding dog to George Bush. It is not just Compass that demands a change of direction but the country. Let’s be clear – unless there is a break with Blairism Labour will lose the next election. That means the modernisation of hospitals and schools based the ethos of public services; it means less flexible labour markets; a shift towards Europe; a reconnection with the people of the country through democratic reform and with party members by starting to listen to them. We forgot that we are the servants. On new issues like the environment, well-being and quality of life we have got to get ahead of the Tories and stop lagging behind. All of this can be done and a forth victory secured – but not just through a change of leader – only though a change of direction.

The loss of hundreds of councillors and members will be a hammer blow to local parties. In Labour’s depleted party ranks, councillors tended to be the people who have kept the campaigns and the canvassing going. They are the ones linked into local communities, supporting Labour MPs and keeping the party alive. They are the fabric of the party. The Tory party had lost its councillor base by the early 1990s and the national party crumbled soon after.
Jon Cruddas is the only candidate on the ballot paper for the new leadership who understands the depth of the hole we are in and has the commitment and the plan for the renewal of the Labour party. Others, who have been in the Cabinet and the leadership team, have allowed the party to whither. Now we must chose change.

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