Desperate times call for desperate measures. And so it is that after a week of frothing at the mouth and spewing forth a torrent of bile and vitriol, the New Labour acolytes have finally called forward their Messiah to try and push back the surging Corbyn tide. Unfortunately for these Tories in disguise, the intervention of their Dear Leader will not have the intended effect. So hated is the war criminal Blair, and so patronising and condescending is his “advice” to Labour members, that his contribution in the debate will only push further layers into supporting Jeremy in his leadership bid.
This latest effort by the right-wing of the party comes on the back of a new opinion poll predicting a victory for Corbyn, with the left-wing MP estimated to gain 43% of first preference votes – 17 percentage points ahead of his closest rival, Andy Burnham (with arch-Blairite Liz Kendall trailing the pack on a meagre 11%). After transfers, the YouGov poll of members and supporters, conducted for the Times, predicts Jeremy winning with 53% to Burnham’s 47%. Previous reports of internal polls showing a Corbyn victory had been dismissed by the Labour establishment (possibly whilst in a state of shock and denial) as untrue or inaccurate; but the latest survey – unfortunately for the Blairites – cannot be ignored so easily, and has struck fear into the hearts of the Labour right-wingers.
A bull in a china shop
And, indeed, the question of hearts was at the centre of Blair’s blunder. In a speech to a Progress (the New Labour tendency, vice-chaired by Liz Kendall) audience, hosted by the LSE yesterday, the former leader of Labour Party made a series of incredibly insulting and arrogant remarks, including a response to claims that Corbyn supporters were following their hearts with the assertion that they should “get a transplant”. As a devout Catholic, perhaps Blair considers himself to be the heart of a heartless world. Or perhaps, as someone who already has plenty of blood on his hands from his various imperialist adventures, the warmonger Blair is the ideal candidate to carry out such a procedure. Although, as one person wryly commented on Twitter, this attempted insult against Corbyn could just be a “smart trick from Tony to find potential donors for the gap in his chest”.
Following on from the back of excellent results over the past few years as the UN/EU Peace Envoy to the Middle East, the ever-astute Tony clearly felt that his presence in the leadership debate would be an asset at this time to those seeking to fight against Corbyn’s rising popularity. Unfortunately, the consistently out-of-touch founder of New Labour has once again been caught with his foot in his mouth. With his characteristic self-delusion and arrogance, Blair’s cack-handed remarks have – if anything – alienated even more Labour members and sympathisers from the triumvirate of Blairite candidates, and driven the rank-and-file straight into the arms of Jeremy’s and his campaign. Like a bull in a china shop, TB has left a complete state of destruction in his wake – again, something he has plenty of experience of from his illegitimate invasions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Indeed, in a rare glimpse of self-awareness, Blair commented that he would not give his blessing to any of the three heir-apparents, as it would “possibly not [be] helpful for them”. As Jeremy quickly retorted to Blair’s mud-slinging, “I think Tony Blair’s big problem is we’re still waiting for the Chilcot Report to come out”. Blair – and Blairism – is toxic; and far from having the authority to ordain any future Labour leader, the right-wing’s seemingly most valuable asset has an anti-Midas touch, infecting everything he comes into contact with.
Blair’s arrogant intervention has even helped to open up splits at the top of the Party, with Lord Prescott, the Labour deputy leader under Blair, coming out against his former New Labour partner’s more antagonistic comments, urging people on all sides to “calm down”. Elsewhere, others have urged Liz Kendall to step down, in the hope that the right-wing can rally around a less abrasively Blairite candidate. There are clearly some within the Labour establishment who do not have their head in the sand (or somewhere else where the sun doesn’t shine) so much and can see the extremely negative effect of Blair’s contributions to the leadership contest debate. Nevertheless, this has not stopped all the other New Labour grandees, from Lord Mandelson to David Blunkett, from queuing up to regurgitate the same Blairite tropes.
To top it all off, the man who told barefaced lies in order to lead Britain into war, swallowed free market ideology hook-line-and-sinker, and repeatedly attempted to split the unions from the party had the audacity to call Corbyn – the only anti-austerity contender – and his “radical leftism” “reactionary”! Repeating his age-old mantra about the need to return to the “centre ground” and “support business as well as unions”, Blair helped to remind everyone of what his real interests are: not to see Labour beat the Tories as a means to improving the lives of ordinary people; but to irreversibly transform the Labour Party into a reliable second-eleven for the bankers and the bosses.
Like all the other right-wingers stepping in to offer “advice”, it seems that Blair is more concerned with imitating the Tories that trying to win back the millions who abstained in the last election or who deserted the Labour Party under his reign. It seems that the only sagely pearls of wisdom that such ladies and gentlemen have to offer in beating the Tories is…to out Tory the Tories!
The argument of the Blairites is universally the same: the public is to the right of Corbyn and his supporters; members must therefore vote, not for the candidate they agree with, but the one that will make Labour “electable”. Never mind that Corbyn’s policies – far from being “old fashioned” – are actually extremely popular with the wider electorate, and not just with Labour members – why let the facts get in the way of a good story! And as Mhairi Black, the 20-year-old SNP MP, explained in her maiden speech, quoting Tony Benn in response to the Tory announcement of drastic cuts to welfare: politics is not just about being a “weather-vane”, vacillating back-and-forth in response to whichever way the wind of so-called “public opinion”– in reality the opinion of the right-wing press and the bosses and bankers that they speak on behalf of – is blowing. No – real politics requires “signposts”, those who stand tall and point forward the way no matter what, never capitulating to right-wing pressure, but remaining firm on key principles.
Indeed, what the Blairites fail to recognise is the role of leadership. With a fighting lead and a bold socialist alternative, the labour movement could combat the right-wing paradigm that dominates the media, and thus galvanise a mass of workers and youth in a militant mass movement against the Tories and their programme of austerity. Echoing the need for cuts, as Harriet Harman has done this week in a pathetic “opposition” to the Tories’ attacks on welfare, will inspire no-one, and will instead only further strengthen the argument that there can be no alternative to austerity. If one accepts this basic argument and premise of Cameron and Osborne, then the logical conclusion is indeed for Labour to try and outflank the Tories to the right. And that is exactly what Blair and his gangsters seem intent on doing!
Having once tried to dissolve Labour into the Liberal Democrats, New Labour’s main man showed his true blue Tory colours in Wednesday’s speech, stating that “I wouldn’t want to win on an old-fashioned leftist platform. Even if I thought it was the route to victory, I wouldn’t take it”. In other words, this idol of the so-called “modernisers” (read: capitalists) is in fact not interested in Labour winning and improving the lives of the vast majority, but only in seeing the party become a reliable servant of the ruling class. Unfortunately for Blair and his New Labour disciplines, Corbyn and his growing movement of rank-and-file Labour members, supporters, trade unionists, and activists are determined not to let the right-wing of the party push any further ahead with this New Labour project.
Fight the Tories with socialist policies!
Like all the other right-wing commentators, Blair and his cabal, whilst calling for Labour to “move on” and not “move back”, seem to have conveniently missed the last seven years of crisis, austerity, and radicalisation. Indeed, with his millions “earnt” from speeches and consultancy (including £330,000 for a 20 minute speech at a world hunger event), it is no wonder that the former prime minister is so ignorant of reality. He is right to state that “2015 is not 2007 or 1997” and that Labour needs “new thinking”; but, due to his own class interests – to defend the bourgeoisie and the capitalist system – he draws the opposite conclusion to what is necessary.
Indeed, the situation has dramatically changed since the Blair years; but not in such a way as to validate the New Labour creed. After seeing years of attacks and declining living standards, the working class is looking for a way out – for a genuine alternative to austerity, and not for a return to the mythical “centre-ground” offered by Blair and his clones (in reality, a right-wing programme aimed at big business).
In the absence of a bold socialist programme from the leaders of the labour movement, the anger in society has repeatedly found an expression in one distorted way after another, as masses of workers and youth desperately search for an alternative: from the SNP in Scotland, to the Green surge and the rising popularity of anti-establishment figures such as Russell Brand. Indeed, even UKIP’s growing support is a partial reflection of the radical dissatisfaction with the status quo that exists in British society today.
The mole of revolution has burrowed away underneath the surface, popping up in one explosive development after another. In this respect, the rapid growth of the Corbyn campaign is not so much the fruit of years of concerted efforts by the trade union leaders and Labour Left to reclaim the party, but is an accidental expression of the ever-accumulating anger in society – itself the reflection of the increasingly turbulent and volatile period that we find ourselves in, amidst this seemingly never-ending global crisis of capitalism. As the great German dialectician Hegel often commented: necessity expresses itself in accident – in this case, the need for a lightning rod through which to channel all the radical energy and desire for change that exists amongst the mass of workers and youth.
With momentum behind him and wind in his sails, it is time for Corbyn to seize the day. The trade unions must now throw their full weight behind Jeremy in order to guarantee his victory. And following such success, the real battle will start inside the Labour Party – the fight for the heart and soul of the party. With the Blairites already threatening sabotage or a coup in the case of a Corbyn victory, it is clear that the path ahead will not be an easy one. But having galvanised a mass movement of workers and youth behind him, Jeremy is in a strong position to push ahead and transform the party into a fighting organisation – a party that stands firm against the Tories and their austerity.
The road ahead has many twists and turns. And the crisis of capitalism offers no room for manoeuvre, as demonstrated by the austerity imposed upon Greece and its Syriza-led government by the Troika. Jeremy has inspired many with his clear anti-austerity stance, as outlined in his economic alternative to create “a balanced economy that ensures workers and government share fairly in the wealth creation process”, which was released at the same time as Blair’s scandalous speech. But, in the final analysis, only a bold socialist programme – to nationalise the key levers of the economy and bring them under a rational, democratic plan of production – can offer a way out. There is no other alternative.