So there it is, friends and comrades; this week we saw, for the record, just what Labour is worth now.
Nothing. Nada. Nil. Zero.
I’ve spent the last few days alternating between despair and fury over what happened in the Commons the other night. In my long history as a political activist it is, easily, the most lamentable, the most disgraceful, the most farcical and stupendously self-centered thing I have ever seen.
I have not felt this divorced from the “values” of Labour since Iraq.
The most unintentionally hilarious moment of the last few days was Andy Burnham, talking to a trade union fringe meeting the day after he had abstained from the vote on Monday night.
“The Labour Party needs strong leadership,” he said.
I don’t think there’s a single one of us who would disagree with that statement.
Where we’d have a problem, I think, is with the inferred suggestion that he, or any of the favourites for the job, can provide it.
And I include Jeremy Corbyn in there, whose vote against the Tory Welfare Bill was profound, genuine and ultimately futile.
Had his own party’s MP’s voted with the same devout belief, that diabolical piece of inhuman legislation, which Stephen Kinnock described as having “the whiff of eugenics about (it)”, would have been defeated.
I guess that’s not what these desperate frauds want and that’s the final, appalling, proof that Scotland was right to send its own Labour MP’s packing save one, Ian Murray, who has rewarded his own constitutents by lying to them about what he actually did in there.
Murray has spent the time since telling people that he voted to oppose Tory cuts when, actually, he sat on his arse with so many of his other cronies and allowed them to pass without a whimper.
Last night’s YouGov poll, which shows that Corbyn is on course to win the Labour leadership contest by some six percent, has sent shockwaves through a party that has lost any clear idea of what it is for.
Corbyn would make a superb Labour leader because before this party can even contemplate government it needs a long spell where it rebuilds, having rediscovered its very purpose in politics.
It was Harold Wilson who said “The Labour Party is a moral crusade or it is nothing.”
Today that crusade lies on the slag heap with all those “Jim For Leader” posters we all sniggered at so much.
With their benches overwhelmingly filled by men and women who possess not one iota of fight, not one ounce of backbone, not a scintilla of idealism, they have shown, quite clearly, what they are.
Many are no better than Nye Bevan’s “vermin”, arguing for cuts to the poorest people in the country in order to appeal to an upper crust audience Labour has no business trying for.
The cowards who surround Corbyn on the Labour benches will use his latest vote against the party whip as the excuse for appallingly disloyal behaviour if he is the leader. If he is elected he will have to swim upriver each and every day.
The question now being increasingly asked is exactly what is Labour for?
As a party, it has lost all of its moral purpose, but just as bad, it has lost any sense of what it is doing.
Do these people really believe any opposition party ever won power supporting the policies of the government?
You would have better luck trying to win a political debate in a CIA rendition room.
Who taught those clowns politics?
An opposition has to do two things.
The first is to actually oppose the government.
A stretch, I know, but you only have to look at the behaviour of its MSP’s to realise that they understand the concept, because no matter what the SNP is doing on any given day Kezia Dugdale has something to stand against and moan about.
This fighting spirit, occassionally manifesting itself in simply opposition for the sake of it, is entirely missing in London.
The second role they should have is to chart an alternative course.
An alternative. That doesn’t, in any language, translate to agreeing with the government on the fundamentals of their own argument.
As we can see, Labour is doing neither of these things. At all.
An opposition can be criticised for simply being woeful … but what do you say to one that doesn’t even oppose anything? That tries to build its own manifesto out of the worst parts of the government’s?
They’ve accepted the Tory economic arguments, and seem pretty much set on following the pattern of cuts, both to public services and the taxes of the well off.
Furthermore, in order to appeal to UKIP voters whose motivations they barely understand, they are on the verge of adopting Tory social policies too.
A rational person might ask what the point in voting for them is.
Even the most reasonable and fair minded person who just did might wonder why they bothered.
Explain to me how this works, because I’m having difficulty with it.
Labour is currently chasing voters who rejected them last time, by pissing all over the people who voted for their candidates?
Is this some kind of new strategy they’re trialing?
Watching a troop of their MP’s over the last 24 hours, as they’ve tried to defend what is plainly indefensible, a complete moral surrender, I joked that if I was soulless enough to be a member of Labour at the present time I would be suing under the Trade Descriptions Act.
But this isn’t a laughing matter at all.
For years I’ve been surrounded by people who’ve been telling me that Labour was never really a party of the left, merely a collection of charlatans who spoke the language of working people (back when they did that; they don’t any longer) but who were simply interested in their own advancement. For a long time I didn’t believe that, but I saw these people for myself, first hand, and I became convinced that they were right.
Is anyone even in the remotest doubt about that now?
This is about more than just their moral and ideological collapse.
Labour doesn’t look, or behave, like a party which aspires to government.
They are a windsock, blowing in the prevailing breeze. All this “listening to the public” talk they are engaged is arrant nonsense. The majority of this country did not vote for this cruel, psychopathic government and even those who did could not have known the scale of what they were voting for.
Labour doesn’t want to hear that. Too many of its MP’s, concerned for their own futures, are turning to the focus groups and the opinions polls and in doing so they are twisting the national political picture until they find the path of least resistance.
They talk about hoping the party doesn’t “retreat into the comfort zone” of going left.
Since when is arguing, with passion and conviction, for the rights and wellbeing of ordinary people, in a country where the whole of the media is howling mad and right wing even remotely retreating into “the comfort zone”?
I do not believe for one minute that Miliband was left wing, as some claim – a left wing Labour leader couldn’t have been outflanked by the Tories on the Living Wage for God’s sake – but the press portrayed him as one relentlessly.
He did not look remotely comfortable and nor did most of his MP’s.
This, the embrace of the enemy, Labour’s adoption of Tory policies because they lack the bottle to actually challenge this vicious and ideologically driven social and political narrative and the climate the debate is being had in … this is retreating to the comfort zone and it is absolutely, unforgivably, reeking and gutless of them.
Today, because most of Labour’s MP’s come from professional and not working class backgrounds, they are completely removed from the reality of what these Tory cuts actually mean.
Meanwhile, out there in the world, in the communities these people are supposed to be fighting for, the pain is real.
The fear is real.
The social effects are real.
There is nothing comfortable about the lives of millions of people in this country, and Labour has stopped giving a shit what happens to them and is focussed only on maintaining its own power, by pandering to those who are already well off and don’t have to concern themselves with the hurricanes that are devasting communities outside of the leafy shires.
As a consequence, the Tories, now emboldened, are proposing even deeper cuts, carving out the heart of the state and presenting it to their financial allies on a plate. The sell-off of even more public assets is on the cards.
The jobs of tens of thousands of public sector workers are now in the gravest peril.
Workers and unions rights hang by a thread.
The state is being reduced to virtual irrelevence, whilst millions drown in an ocean of despair.
Labour gazes inward, with only Corbyn daring to call all this a scandal.
And for that, he is pilloried in the media, slated by his own colleagues and a movement which was once filled with men and women just like him convulses with dread that he may emerge as its leader, ironically at the very moment they need someone with his conviction most.
Without the opposition party bothering to show up for duty, Cameron and Osborne press ahead, with only the stalwart Team56 and a small coalition of progressive allies speaking out against all this.
No wonder they took over the Labour benches the other day.
The redoubtable, wonderful, Mhairi Black was, as is becoming typical, right on the money when she said that those spaces are for the opposition party and the SNP now fulfils that role.
It was symbolism, but it was effective because it’s undoubtedly true.
All of this makes it inconceivable that Labour will reassemble itself in time for the 2020 election.
The party is sinking like a stone, and in the inevitable aftermath of Burnham or Cooper being elected leader the move towards the right (or the “centre ground as the media now defines it, helped, in no small part, by Labour’s continuing insistence that “moving left” would be suicide) will be throttled up and ever more relentless.
In the end, however, no-one votes for a pale shadow of a party.
The public likes politicians and political movements that have conviction, that believe in things.
Labour, clearly, no longer does which is why it is no longer relevant.
Unfortunately, in spite of the colossal defeat they just suffered here in Scotland, too much of our media class in the north still panders to them as though they can’t read the writing on the wall. You can’t have watched John McTiernan get an easy ride by the BBC the other night despite saying things that were pure, undiluted lunacy (Cameron and Osborne haven’t been radical enough in dismantling the state, and then his crazy comments about the Fire Brigade being largely useless because “there are no fires anymore”) to doubt it.
In addition to the media’s servile fawning over these people, there are still too many of our voters who take their lead from what John Smith House tells them, because too many still believe in the now all too obvious fiction of a progressive option for the UK.
Labour, even in this desperate form, still exercises an unhealthy hold on our major trade unions and on the hearts and minds of many of our citizens, even those it has betrayed who, like jilted lovers still hope for a day of reconciliation, even on someone else’s terms.
Without Labour’s involvement in Better Together, without them being able to tug on the heartstrings and draw on that reservoir of goodwill, the residue of which remains in a lot of places, and for a lot of people, who ought to have been tormented out of this dark fixation by the events of the last few days, the Yes campaign would have won the referendum at a walk.
In order to put ourselves in the best possible position for the one that is coming, perhaps as soon as five years from now, Labour in Scotland has to be completely erased as a political force.
In order to do that, we have to radically change the political map here in a way that even the general election failed to do.
We have to establish Scotland, and its political leadership, at the leading edge of the anti-austerity movement.
We have passionate, conviction politicians at Westminster now but that, on its own, is not going to do the job.
We need more of them here at home.
We need to poison the atmosphere in Scotland for anyone preaching the gospel of cuts and talking of strivers and skivers.
We need to re-balance the scales and re-write the book.
Fortunately, we have a chance to do exactly that next year.
Tomorrow I’m going to explore one of our options for doing it.
Once the very idea of helping destroy Labour would have outraged me.
Sitting down and thinking about it rationally, and looking at how it might be done, would have made my skin crawl.
In the words of Bob Dylan “Things Have Changed.”
I used to care.
The difference is, back then I thought they did too.
I know better now.
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