Roy Hattersley's recent article in the Guardian offered a telling insight into the mind of the Blairites. With his semi-coherent ramblings, Hattersley - the former deputy Labour leader under two-time election loser Neil Kinnock - provides a perfect example of just how out of touch Labour’s so-called ‘moderates’ are from grasping the real mood in society, and how powerless their position has become.
Opposed to democracy
Hattersley’s hysterical article follows on from recent events in Haringey and Manchester, where right-wing councillors have been the victims of deselection. This is part of a wider trend of Momentum-backed candidates winning in local Constituency Labour Party (CLP) elections, reclaiming control of the Party for the Left.
The deselection of such councillors is part of a general process of democratic accountability within the Party; an opportunity for rank-and-file Labour members to ensure that their local representatives genuinely represent their ideas and interests. This is a basic democratic right for any political party’s members, but Hattersley simply will not stand for it.
“The threat to Labour's future is real and obvious,” our frenzied columnist spits from his frothing mouth. Whilst continually referring to the ‘moderates’ as “real Labour” throughout his piece, he complains that, “the Haringey meetings were swamped by recent recruits”.
“Many of them came to selection conferences with the premeditated intention of sacking the sitting councillors.” This is rank hypocrisy from a man who acted as Kinnock’s right-hand man in the 1980’s witch-hunt against Marxists in the Labour Party. For all of the accusations of coups, purges and takeovers emanating from Labour's right, it is now socialists (once again) who are being bureaucratically expelled without appeal.
The same old Blairite slanders are dragged out yet again - and still the right-wing accuse the Left of regurgitating ‘old ideas’!
“Labour cannot win while it is associated with extremism,” Hattersley says. But where is the ‘extremism’ amongst the Corbyn movement? With such charges (and his own history), it is this Labour grandee who reveals his own ‘extremism’ - that is, his desire for a Labour Party that represents big business and the parasitic City of London. It should not be forgotten what kind of ‘reasonable’ party Kinnock and Hattersley gave rise to: that of Blairism, imperialist wars and privatisation included.
What exactly is Hattersley’s problem with enthusiastic young socialists joining the Labour Party? In the space of two years, Corbyn's policies have attracted a layer of politicised and radicalised workers and youth to the Labour Party - ordinary people who would never in an entire lifetime have joined under the Blairite regime. These new party activists and supporters are rightly demanding left-wing policies and leadership. That’s Hattersley’s problem.
Again, Hattersley’s words and actions do not quite align. He and Kinnock had no problem with organising the right wing in order to boot out the Left - all in the name of “modernising” the Party. These are the real ‘infiltrators’ and ‘entryists’: the career-driven frauds who wish to turn Labour into a second Tory Party. But now that the workers’ movement is on the rise again, our esteemed figurehead of the Labour Establishment is crying foul.
Right wing disheartened
Even so, for all the clichés and furrow-browed warnings, there are some very interesting comments in the article (albeit not interesting in the way the author intended).
Hattersley, despite calling for action from his fellow right-wingers, sounds thoroughly demoralised. “Not one of those who resigned from the shadow cabinet in protest against Jeremy Corbyn's leadership,” our disheartened author laments, “has publicly condemned what amounts to a takeover”.
To someone with Hattersley's history of undermining party democracy, this must seem very strange. To anyone else, it is clear that Corbyn’s opponents in the PLP largely haven't publicly decried this “takeover” because they are powerless to stop it. The membership - and public - have sussed these treacherous MPs out. Their word counts for nothing, so now they keep quiet and desperately try to protect their own careers.
Hattersley’s comments represent the irrelevant wailings of a broken man, and a broken faction. Ironically, the Labour right wing and their mouthpieces in the media accuse Corbyn and his supporters of being stuck in the past, yet here is a spectre of Labour’s history trying to take us backwards. All from a man who presided over not one, but two electoral defeats!
Threats and sabotage
There is one long-term perspective raised by this Blairite representative, however, which serves to show how crooked, how devoid of principles, and - in the immortal words of John McDonnell - how “f*cking useless” the ‘moderates’ are.
“If the extremists [I think he means us] begin to deselect moderate MPs, others,” Hattersley warns, “will split the party and keep Labour out of office for a generation”. This prophesy of sabotage is an open threat to split the Labour Party if the Blairites don't regain control. This is the real “threat to Labour's future”.
Such a split of ‘centrist’ MPs would not lead to any lasting electoral success for a new party (see the earlier failure of the SDP in the 1980s), but would simply serve to divide Labour voters and grant the Tories another victory.
Likewise, the Blairite ‘chicken coup’ in the summer of 2016 was a resounding failure. Even so, it stirred up chaos within the Labour Party and hit Corbyn’s polling so badly that it only recovered as a result of the Labour leader’s inspiring general election manifesto and campaign.
Such attempts to continuously undermine Corbyn over the past two years are clearly a factor in Labour's failure to win the recent election outright. As always for the ‘moderates’, it is a case of ‘rule or ruin’.
Remove the relics
Blairite MPs and councillors are opposed to Corbyn and his supporters because of the class interests they represent. They are our irreconcilable opponents, and will never accept socialist policies - so we must not accept them as our party’s representatives.
Deselection is a democratic right. More importantly, it is a way for us to remove the gangrene within our party. Grassroots members must continue to organise to reclaim the party at every level, from top to bottom, electing representatives along the way who are willing to fight for the interests of workers and the youth. The ‘moderates’ are removed from reality, and so must be removed as MPs and councillors.
As a final word, it is interesting to note that Hattersley, in his recent article, writes that: “fears about victory for the far left helps to hold down Labour's poll lead to 4-5%.” A day later, newspaper headlines announced that “Labour open up eight-point lead over Conservatives in new poll”.
Hattersley and his like clearly have no comprehension of what is taking place before their eyes. They represent the past, whilst the Corbyn movement represents the future. We must continue to organise to put such Blairite relics into the dustbin of history where they belong.