The stories cropping up of Labour MPs critcising Andrew Fisher for campaigning for other parties, then being revealed to have also campaigned for other parties is worryingly reminiscent of the moment in the final season of The Thick of It where the PM calls an inquiry into leaking, leaving Malcolm Tucker to exclaim, “What the fuck is going on? The Ark has been opened, and your face is going to melt.”
I mean look at this, a seemingly sensible tweet from Ken Livingstone:
I hope Labour’s General Secretary will now move swiftly over Simon Danczuck and Frank Field. Not one rule for staff and another for MPs
— Ken Livingstone (@ken4london) November 6, 2015
That seems reasonable? Right? But no:
@ken4london As you supported Lutfur Rahman against the Labour candidate you might want to keep a low profile at this point Ken.
— Colm (@colmuacuinn) November 6, 2015
Now, I haven’t a clue if that’s true, but it seems to be a real case of “if you start throwing dirt, everyone gets dirty.” Is this really a thread we want to keep pulling at? Really? How many Labour members, most if not all of whom are members for deeply held moral and political reasons, can honestly say they’ve never criticised the party leadership? And how many can say they’ve not flirted with the thought of supporting another party?
For sure, the only reason we’re talking about Fisher is that there is considerable will to discredit Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, even within the PLP, it is sad to say. But, before the left gets on its high horse about the Blairites needing to shut up and get in line (they do), they also need to be mindful of their behaviour over the years.
The British left has hardly been supportive of the Labour party over the past few decades and, while I’m sure it was done in good faith out of the strength of moral convinction etc. etc., every act of dissent against Labour was as damaging to its prospects as is the Blairites’ bleating today. There is no moral high ground for most Corbynites to take here, especially as Corbyn is guilty of it himself for violating the whip so often. For sure, two wrongs don’t make a right, but it’s important to remember that it’s not just the Blairites who need to get in line.
Remember that time we said the LibDems were “left of Labour”, when we said that, maybe, parties like Respect could “pull Labour to the left”, when we voted Green for a protest vote? Well, it worked. We protested and we utterly fucked Labour’s electoral prospects. Well done us. The Green vote is, for example, more or less the reason the Tories have a majority instead of a minority in parliament. And most obviously the SNP annihilation of Labour guaranteed a Tory government (so much for “locking the Tories out of Downing Street”).
Well, it worked! Labour is crippled and it has, not so much been pulled to the left as collapsed and fallen into it. Was this because of a grass roots campaign for a real political alternative? Partially, but most primarily it is because New Labour are out of ideas and exhausted from trying to keep splitty, whingy twats like us behind them.
As much as I really like this open letter to the Blairites, one they really need to listen to, the following quote could easily apply to those of us who took too long to get behind Milliband and also failed to get behind Brown.
Who do you think we’ll blame if we perform poorly in any of the upcoming elections? The man we chose to lead the party, or those who have spent the last few months turning their fire on the leader we chose, rather than the Tories who we are meant to oppose? We will give you one guess.
The fact is, it’s still betrayal even if you do it for left-wing reasons. New Labour did not fail: we failed it. Through it, we could have achieved the most urgent of our aims almost overnight: an end to the austerity myth and the safeguarding of the NHS. But, because we, like the Blairites in the PLP now, refused to play the game, refused to just keep quiet and stay in line, we now have the first Tory majority in two decades, and we’ll be lucky if there is a state left by the time Labour come to power again. In short, it’s not just the Blairites, everyone needs to get in line!