By Chaminda, who I haven’t asked ifi can reproduce it- so it may disappear.
”IMO Kinnock was simply the precursor to Blairism, who set everything in place and had very little problem with what followed once Labour were in office. The fact that he supported the policy that finished off Major – ERM – sums it up fairly succinctly.
I was only nine in 1992, so I don’t remember much of it. I remember going to bed on election night saying I supported Labour, because everyone said they’d win. When I woke up next morning and the Tories had won, I suddenly declared my support for the Conservatives. Call it the Bozier Doctrine. But from what I do know of then and now, there are big differences in the make up of the Labour Left (LL) then and the LL now.
In 1992, LL MPs were people like Tony Benn. Hundreds of thousands of grassroots, working-class members were still in Labour and considered themselves left-wing. Many, perhaps most, were to walk away from the party in disgust after 97. There was still some party democracy in place. In 2012, LL champions bright young things such as Chukka Umunna and Stella Creasy, whose only qualifications appear to be youth and media savviness. And then you have an army of media types. The sheer weight of blogs and newspaper comment is a recent development. LL has become far more professionalised and middle class.
So that’s what’s changed. But more important is what’s stayed the same. Back in the mid-90s, around the time of Clause IV and the birth of Blairism, a lot of angsty Labourites supported the party because it wasn’t the Tories. The fear of another 92, another election defeat, was a way for the leaders to whip everyone into line. Anything was justified if it would win the election in 97.
Perhaps that wasn’t surprising at the time. But what’s surprising is how this lasted. Throughout the Blair years – and increasingly as his credibility fell apart – Labour’s sole pitch became ‘we’re not Tory’. I saw how Labour activists in Lewisham – a Labour fiefdom – campaigned in elections in 04 and 05 on the basis that a vote for anyone else would ‘let the Tories in’. In Lewisham!
The coalition government has reinforced this. What’s left of the old LL, and the new young pups who’ve rushed in to join them, all basically hold to the line that if you don’t back Labour, you’ll get the evil nasty Tories. The Labour government did the same things as the Tories, but more subtly – too subtle for them to notice, evidently.
And crucially, they plug the idea that there is no alternative to Labour. Perhaps there isn’t. But they play a hell of a part in that. Labour members were always castigating Respect back in the day, over their dalliances with homophobes and anti-abortionists, blithely ignoring their own leader’s deals in the desert with Libya and Saudi and what not. Now Labour are busy trying to wreck the Greens in Brighton. The literally one or two Labour councillors nationwide who threatened to even abstain from voting for Labour cuts budgets in 2011 were harassed by party chiefs – Kingsley Abrams in Lambeth was even suspended from the party. Even though they posed no threat at all to the budgets going through. Left Foot Forward is always attacking the SNP, even though the SNP (viewed from afar) are making a rather better fist of things than Labour ever did.
Where am I going with this? Not sure. I think what I’m trying to say is that, even though the social fabric of Labour has completely changed, the basic gimmick remains – that they are far more comfortable with ‘evil nasty Tories’ in power who they can define themselves against and use as an argument for people to vote Labour, than any kind of alternative to themselves. LL couldn’t really give a toss about the Tories being in power, because they know it’s their turn next. But should any alternative emerge, no matter how flawed – and god knows Respect are flawed – Labour’s existence comes under threat. Brighton Labour have to try and crush the Brighton Greens, because if the Brighton Greens succeed in running the council, Brighton Labour are finished.
It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy – crush any alternative that emerges, and they say there is no alternative. LL reckons it can ‘change’ Labour. It can’t change Labour from within because there’s no democracy. The party could in theory be dragged by outside forces – but Labour are committed to crushing any such forces, as they would represent an existential threat.
The Tories guarantee Labour’s existence. Alternative representation threatens Labour’s existence. The actions of the Labour Left essentially boil down to that.
BTW – the modern Labour Party arguably wasn’t born in 1992, but in 1991, when Kinnock backed the jailing of Labour MPs who refused to pay the poll tax. That was the moment Labour put the needs of the system above the needs of everyone else. The fact that the system was neo-liberalism set the colour for what was to come.