He Can’t Hold On

At least I don’t think he can. Last night’s resignation by James Purnell seems to be the final nail in the coffin for Gordon Brown’s premiership. It appears to be a Blairite coup, which begs the question – if they try to move New Labour ever rightward and the failing of Brown’s time as PM has been not to move leftward enough, would doing so now decapitate them? Martin Kettle asks:

Dire though the current hysterical atmosphere is for Labour – and the local and European election results will surely make things worse – there must now be a leadership election. Experts say it can take place quickly. The new leader can be in place by the start of July, even under the cumbersome procedures which Labour has inflicted on itself. Everything points to Alan Johnson being the man of the hour, but there can still be a real debate of the sort that the massively shortsighted coronation of Brown two years ago precluded. My god, they were wrong to give Brown the leadership.

So Brown will be gone in hours, maybe days. He’s right to say that regardless of however much the rules of succession get truncated they must debate the future of the party and the future of the government, and do so publicly. Last time such issues were never discussed at the leadership level, only during the deputy’s race. And remember Harriet Harman, who talked the talk of an independent mind, but who as deputy has never truly changed New Labour for the better. Labour must realise that the reason why this is happening is only partly because of the expenses scandal, for which it is being blamed. Polly Toynbee notes:

The left of centre Compass group agonises over the dilemma: they think Brown a disaster, but a privatising, modernising, rightwing alternative could be worse still. Disappointed that he failed to turn the party progressive, this time they will demand an open debate if a new leader is to emerge. But these bleak calculations of least-worst options are devoid of the support a leader needs, too thin fuel to keep Gordon Brown flying long.

Is neoliberalism working? No, Brown’s been busy trying to patch it back together. Has a limp, half-engagement with the EU been any help there? No. Was Jacqui Smith’s strategy in the Home Office anything other than a disaster? No. Should the party apologise for going to war in Iraq? Hell yes. If Alan Johnson is now to become Prime Minister he needs to realise that the argument has transcended Blair/Brown, left/right divides. The party has become a warmongering, corporate bully, owned entirely by transnational capital, which uses its army and police militia to do its bidding. This is not what New Labour was elected to do. Eradicating child poverty, closing the gap between rich and poor – not endless talk of marketising areas of public life where markets don’t belong and trying everything in its power to stifle the freedom the public should have over the information of government. ID cards must be sacrificed, trident, city academies, superdatabases, RIPA, SOCPA, you name it. Of course if Brown announced all this or Johnson (surely the party can’t be mad enough to appoint Purnell or Miliband, ahead of the now inevitable November General Election) they’d then just become the Greens. And that’s part of the tragedy playing itself out.

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One response to “He Can’t Hold On

  1. Brilliant summation of what New Labour has become. It’s difficult for me to understand why the Labour party is so scared of adjusting leftwards – under a charismatic leader I think it would be a winner. The Thatcherite consensus is dead; the financial crisis has completely exposed its flaws. Ideologically its completely ironic (and tragic for the country) that the Conservatives are poised to win the next election.

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