Not in my mind! It makes me laugh every time I hear some right-winger describe the Labour Party as ‘socialist’ when they are quite clearly a capitalist party. The Labour Party lost any pretence of being a socialist party in 1987 when Kinnock embarked on his witch hunt at the behest of the Tory press. The migration to the right was completed under the leadership of Tony Blair – who cut the heart out of the party, held it high over his head and drop-kicked it into the bin. Hey presto! No more Clause 4. It was good for the new voter-friendly brand image of the party, thus it became a newer version of the Tory Party – this is/was New Labour; a sort of Tory-lite. The age of postmodern politics had arrived: ostensibly free from any ideological discolouration; new, shiny and clean, Labour under Blair embarked on two disastrous wars – one of which was based on a lie; refused to build new council homes and placed The City at the heart of their economic thinking. So instead of creating more manufacturing jobs (in other words having the capacity and infrastructure to create tangible products to sell on the international market place), more jobs in the City were produced and the financial sector expanded as a consequence. Almost everyone, it seemed, was more interested in taking money for producing nothing. Telly programmes like Homes Under the Hammer encouraged people to buy properties at knock-down prices at auction, fix them up and sell them on to make a profit. Apparently anyone could be a property developer or a speculator; an entrepreneur, though the reality was less romantic than the image portrayed. These are the people whom Marx described as the rentier class: stockbrokers, mortgage brokers, buy-to-let property owners and so on who take their money from rents, shares and dividends. This is the effect of financial deregulation that was initiated under Thatcher but continued under the last Labour government. The spivs and the casino capitalists were even more free to do as they wished and dream up any ‘product’ they liked – this is creativity. Remember how Brown spent a lot of time schmoozing the wizards of Ye Olde Cittie of London before the 1997 General Election? Yeah, he was convincing them of the merits of socialism. That’s why they were genuinely pleased with New Labour throughout the 13 years they were in power.
Having lost the election, the Labour Party now has to choose a new leader but the field of candidates as I mentioned in an earlier blog is dominated by Blairites and sub-Blairites. Only the late inclusion of Diane Abbott as a candidate makes the field appear interesting. Let’s have a look at the leadership candidates:
David Miliband, studied PPE at Oxford. He sounds like Blair and has even adopted some of his mannerisms but, so far, he has resisted the temptation to use Blair’s famous phrase, “Listen to the argument”. He is political careerism personified.
Ed Milband, like his brother, he studied PPE at Oxford. He made a very moving speech about how Labour needed to get back to its core values and derided Blair’s decision to make war in Iraq. He talks a good talk but does he have the will?
Ed Balls, another Oxford PPE graduate, is a slippery character. A friend of Gordon Brown, he sounds like a continuation of the Calvinist One.
Andy Burnham is portrayed as a ‘Merseysider’ (Scouse by implication) and working class but I fail to see his appeal. Another careerist, he is sub-Blairite and offers nothing different – save for the fact that he went to Cambridge and didn’t read PPE.
Finally there’s the late arrival, Diane Abbott, the first Black woman MP to be elected to the House of Commons and a Cambridge graduate. Her decision to send her son to a private school has attracted a good deal of criticism from the left and has been mocked by the right. Abbott seems to be the Tories preferred leadership candidate which tells us something about the Tories: they see her as a soft target – maybe it’s her relationship with on-screen hubby Michael Portillo on This Week? Remember “Chat Show Charlie”? But chat shows weren’t Charlie’s undoing; it was his fondness for uisge beatha that finished him off…well, that and his back-stabbing chums led by Brutus Clegg. It’s hard to see how Abbott can win, given the numbers of New Labour types in the party and the sheer adoration some members have for Miliband 1.
I can’t see Labour discovering socialism soon, let alone social democracy. But with PR who knows what could happen? We could witness the rise of a party that is more in tune with left-thinking voters. It can only be a good thing for the left as well as democracy: the compulsion to hold one’s nose and vote Labour when they’re working against you would disappear forever. No more contradictory consciousness…yeah, well, we’ll see – eh?