As the feuds continue, factionalism spreads, and the likes of Blair and Mandelson are drawn on their views on the latest Labour leadership contest, now seems a good time to stop and consider what exactly we know about the UK’s second strongest political force; the Parliamentary Labour Party.
We know they have an extensive record of wholesale economic destruction; both in the 1970s, when Labour’s inability to clamp down on their Union backers turned the United Kingdom into the laughing stock of the world, as bins stood uncollected, the dead lay unburied, British exports gained an infamous reputation, and the IMF ultimately had to rescue our debt crippled economy, as well as more recently when 13 years of new labour profligacy left Britain in the worst position in the developed world and beyond to contend with recession, with our gold reserves sold at their lowest price, and debt soaring even through the better years.
We know they are a deeply factious party, ridden with personal battles and in-fighting; sometimes this is explicit, such as the Brown-Blair squabbles as the latter prepared to jump ship in 2007, or Miliband the Younger’s infamous ‘Heseltine moment’ quote around the same time, or indeed Alistair Darling’s admission that the ‘forces of hell were unleashed’ upon him during his time as Chancellor. Other times we are left to speculate, or read the accounts of the furious rows between Brown, Mandelson, Blair, and others.
We once knew them as the party on the Left of economic thinking, pursuing redistribution and committing to nationalisation, but whatever became of their ideology after the birth of ‘New Labour’?
It’s a question you could ponder for a good while and still draw a blank. The reason for this, I fear, is obvious. When New Labour did away with their old policy ideals of the 70s and 80s, they more or less did away with their ideals altogether. The simple fact is, that after nearly 20 years in the wilderness, the architects of new labour realised that, to get elected, they would have to start believing (or pretending to believe) anything and everything that was popular at the time. So where did they draw their motivation to fight on as a political party? Perhaps a mere instinctive urge to succeed, or perhaps more cynically, for their own special interests.
The evidence of this is depressingly easy to see. Listening to any Conservative politician, or our coalition partners in the Liberal Democrats, you will hear them justify their views, or the policies of their parties or the new Government on the basis of what they believe is right for the country, or else the economy. Contrast this with any given piece of commentary from the Labour side and you will find no mention of the interests of the country, no explanation how any policy helps any of the nearly 70 million people in the UK today. What you will hear is Brown, Balls, Mandelson and both of the odious Milibands expound on what they believe is best for the party, their electoral chances, and how they can best attack the Coalition. The degree of sheer self-interest is nauseating, and the absence of any sense of purpose or broad ideology is profound.
The more time goes by, the more it unfolds just how little Labour were interested in running the country during their time in office, as career struggles and personal wars raged behind the closed doors of Downing Street, and Britain was left to the dogs. Electoral success meanwhile was bought, not earned, at the cost of billions in debt as Labour spent to win, pouring money into the benefits system, education, and the NHS, on projects of no effective use, other than to be highly visible and electorally popular, or worse, to force the poorest in society into a sense of dependence upon Labour as a party. Spending on spin more than trebled. Debt soared. The economy crumbled.
Despite all of this, however, Labour will use this conference season to claim a victory of their government, and exude pride in their record in office. And more than 30% of UK voters will fall for it, as well as their hollow claims to be a ‘party of the people’. The fact of the matter is, however, that Labour is today, and always has been, nothing more than a Party of the Party.
By Owen Williams
BUCF Publicity Officer