The Last Hurrah

5760So Labour – Real Labour as opposed to its Blairite shadow – goes down fighting after all.

I’ve been very harsh on the Labour Party as far as this site goes, and I’m certainly not going to apologise for that or say I was wrong.

But today I saw evidence of why I once joined in the first place, embodied in Jeremy Corbyn.

I was always a John McDonnell fan, that articulate, brilliant, passionate advocate of left-wing politics who should have got on the ballot when Blair left office, to give Brown and his people pause for reflection and thought about what they really stood for.

McDonnell, whose slogan in that campaign was “Another World Is Possible” was a huge inspiration to me in the years after my Labour Party membership lapsed but before my emotional connection with them was severed once and for all during the referendum.

He is a thoroughly decent, genuine, compassionate man who the world should know more about.

But because he was the front man for the Labour left, Corbyn never blipped on my radar at all until very, very recently.

That’s a great shame, because reading his fine answers to a media Q&A this morning, I was hugely impressed and a little bit sad.

Because at the same time as he was speaking, Chris Leslie was talking to the media in his capacity as shadow chancellor, and reversing the party’s position on the 50p tax rate.

Corbyn and those around him, those who still believe in the purpose of the party, in its founding principles, they are manning the barricades for the Last Hurrah. Oh they are going down fighting, and they may even deliver a final defeat to Blairism by finishing ahead of its chosen standard bearer, Liz Kendall, but theirs isn’t to be triumph and glory.

Almost all of what I heard today was thoroughly depressing from the point of view of us ever returning to a progressive politics at the UK level.

With English Votes for English Laws on the verge of being passed – without a full Parliamentary debate – which will effectively lock 58 MP’s out of having a voice at all, those articulating hope are being drowned out like never before.

Nothing Corbyn supported – granting Greece debt relief, backing striking Underground workers, paying the living wage, reversing Tory anti-union legislation, protecting the arts budget, ending governmnet subsidies for private schools – was considered worthy by the other candidates.

They said all the right things in their statements – except for the appalling Kendall – but when it came to the questions themselves they obfuscated, refused to commit or downright eschewed all Corbyn’s ideas, things Labour would once have fought for.

Aside from those like Corbyn, Labour has no conscience left.

Its prospective leaders don’t even know where to start when it comes to rebuilding their shattered movement, which takes priority, always, over the far more important job of rebuilding hope in this shattered country.

So much of their debate was about naval gazing, and not re-engaging with people.

The media hacks who were gathered to listen to them (and question them) are equally unable to get it. Amongst the many suggestions for devolving power from its base in London, The Guardian moots moving the UK Parliament to somewhere like Wigan … this is their version of an answer. Cosmetics. Gesture politics at its stinking worst.

Above everything, it’s the stance of all these people – Corbyn and his colleagues in Real Labour excepted – on the subject of Greece that truly depresses.

For one thing, it is cowardly.

I’ve been watching the goings on in Greece, and I am honestly gutted for every person who lives over there, whatever their political leanings. The country has been squeezed like a tube of toothpaste for years now and a crisis like this was coming for a long time.

That country doesn’t have a hope in Hell of meeting the demands of the EU, no matter how deeply it cuts.

It is doomed to this endless, vicious cycle unless some version of debt relief comes into effect.

And most people know this.

Yet for political reasons – not economic ones, not moral ones, sheer political ones – debt relief is the one thing that appears to be off the table.

The knock-on consequences could plunge the whole of Europe back into recession, and provoke exactly the kind of crisis those who want us to leave the EU could only dream about.

That has effects far beyond the here and now and the limited fallout of giving Greece what it needs to get its economy up off the floor again.

None of Labour’s candidates but Corbyn appears to understand that, and if they do they are singularly unwilling to argue the case for it.

What I read today were the arguments of two scared individuals, one shameless bastard and one principled person, still trying to fight the good fight.

If Corbyn were elected, about one third of the party he is supposed to lead would down tools and walk off the site the same day.

Kendall would probably consider crossing the Commons to sit on the Tory benches, which anyone who’s heard her knows is simply her arriving at the destination she’s due.

The trouble with her is that she wants to take all of Labour with her.

I never expected either Cooper or Burnham to be more than what they are; political hacks without an original thought or ounce of backbone between them. Neither inspires confidence. Neither comes across as a leader should.

This is a party going nowhere, headed for the inevitability of another long term in the wilderness of opposition.

The 50p tax rate proposals – which would have at least moved us some way down the road towards a fairer society – are shelved.

None of these people is committed to anything until Osborne delivers his next budget, which now officially has no opposition to it but that from Scotland.

In the meantime, Scottish voters, and MP’s, are going to be ruthlessly removed from the equation and having any substantial voice.

That is disastrous for Labour’s efforts even to look like a credible alternative.

Even if they should somehow recover in Scotland, it will do little good.

We’re now in the early stages of making Westminster into a two tier parliament, and that only suits one party in the end.

Labour’s naval gazing has, in effect, turned Britain into a country without an official opposition.

Nothing will damn them more than this.

All of this, of course, the short-sightedness over Greece, the consequences for the EU referendum, the cowardice of Labour’s main leadership contenders, the coming Tory budget and the expected vote for English Votes for English Laws makes Scottish independence more likely than ever, because it destroys the No argument at a stroke.

With every day that passes, that decision becomes more ludicrous.

All of the uncertainty they had hoped to avoid – and worse – now looms just over the horizon.

It is the perfect storm.

The near certainty that Labour is doomed to lose the next election hasn’t quite sunk in yet, but give it time and it will.

Whichever of the candidates wins the leadership, the offer they’re putting in front of the country is little better than the one Miliband just lost on.

The irony, of course, is that so many No voters put their faith in this party to save us from the potential consequences of that decision.

Soon enough no-one will be in any doubt just what that cost Scotland.

In the meantime, Labour’s left is mounting one last offensive.

It, like every one they’ve attempted in the last 20 years, is doomed to failure, but for one shining moment today I felt my heart leap.

We can see what this party very nearly was, and what many in it once strove to be.

Their struggle is without hope.

The last battle rages, but the war is already won.

Scotland is our concern now, and ours is only just getting started.

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3 comments on “The Last Hurrah
  1. i have always believed in an independent scots socialist republic, and always voted snp as they were once republicans, but labour have been unionists appart from their early flirt with home rule years, and i had a suspicion that england therefore by default “uk” would never vote left wing so the only party giving me an avenue for a socialist left wing scottish republic was the snp, I appreciate in its early years the snp was never left wing but a one policy party however i felt scotland would always vote left wing so getting independence would start the ball rolling towards my goal a left wing government , then comes the road to dumping the royalty especially as they are hanovarians, this is not a religiuos decision its a democracy decision, so the end result is a left wing scots republic

  2. Your part about English votes for English laws stopping 58 mp from having a voice. Not sure if you have noticed but the so called 56 have no voice already so what would be the difference?

  3. The comment above needs to consider the longer-term implications.

    Leave aside the SNP for a minute and imagine that Labour somehow rebound and win the next election (seems silly, I know!). However, they do so with a marked increase in Scottish MPs (let’s say back up to 40) and beat the Tories overall by less than that UK-wide. These Scottish Labour MPs are not able to vote on anything perceived to be English only….would that be acceptable?

    Note that I use ‘perceived to be’ as this would be twisted by the media etc so that even things that had obvious knock-on implications for Scotland would be included.

    While it looks like it in the short-term this is not only English MPs trying to shut SNP MPs up, but taking a long awaited opportunity to shut up all Scottish MPs of any stripe.

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