Saturday 25 July 2009

"Open Left"; How dare they call themselves Left?

The Guardian's Comment is Free website asked me to comment on the Purnell/Cruddas Demos "Open Left" exercise. I wrote this article on Friday after we heard the Norwich North result. I had in mind the work that Ian Gibson had put in in trying to prevent New Labour bringing in tuiton fees. Just one of the New Labour policies that has contributed to undermining our support.

If the Norwich North byelection result tells us anything it is that it's time to tell it straight about what and who has brought us to a situation where the Labour party gets hammered in a seat where it should come safely home, and which has clearly opened the door to a Tory government.

So in that spirit of telling it like it is let me say that my first reaction to James Purnell's Demos Open Left project was how dare they bloody well use the term "left".

This is about the fourth or fifth, (I lost count some time ago), attempt by former New Labour apparatchiks to try and reinvent themselves. We have had former Blair/Brown insider advisers Neal Lawson and Jon Cruddas with Compass, Charles Clarke and Alan Milburn with 2020 Vision, and now James Purnell and Jon Cruddas with Demos's Open Left.

No matter how clever the project's title, how well its re-launch statements are drafted and how smart its website, none of them can escape from the objective history of the part they played in creating and supporting the reactionary, political deviation that was New Labour, a political project that has brought the Labour party to the edge of extinction.

Between them all they have either been the architects of, the advisers to, the parliamentary lobby fodder in support of or the ministerial implementers of policies which have left at least half a million innocent people dead in Iraq, doubled the number of homeless families in Britain, privatised more public sector jobs than Thatcher and Major put together, undermined long-cherished basic civil liberties and forced through so brutal an attack on the recipients of welfare benefits that even the Thatcher government refused to implement.

Quoting past Labour party theoreticians, intellectualising justifications for betrayal in the language of an A-level sociology paper, and speaking left while voting right will not wash off the blood of the murdered Iraqis or stem the tears of a single parent forced off benefits or help explain to the unemployed person how they can live on £65-a-week jobseeker's allowance.

Some among this crew realised sooner than others that the only hope for their future political careers was to jump ship from New Labour and to rebrand themselves on the left. They have been assisted by parts of the media that are implicated in delivering the Labour party and the country up to Blair, Brown and Mandelson, and who are also trying to distance themselves from the creature they helped create.

Asked what was the difference between the left and right, Italian philosopher Norberto Bobbio replied that the left always seeks greater equality and the right always produces greater inequality. New Labour has created a society scarred by inequality, more unequal than at any time since the second world war.

The debate about the future of progressive advance in this country cannot be left in the hands of the guilty people who pursued the policies that inflicted this inequality on our community. They deserve to be swept away.

Instead, a progressive future is being debated and determined by others, especially those forging their ideas while taking action. The real debate about a progressive future is among the workers occupying the Vestas factory, among the blacklisted workers, among the cleaners fighting for a living wage, among the climate campers who will take the debate to the streets of the City of London in August, and among those Labour party members, trade unionists and others on the left whose credibility has not been undermined by association with the degenerate policies of New Labour.