My New Year's resolution is to find time to start blogging again.
This is an article I wrote for the Guardian's Comment is Free website. I was asked to comment on Purnell's article in the paper. The political control of the Guardian by classic New Labour dilettantes and hangers on means that it is virtually impossible to get published or even mentioned in the printed paper but occasionally it is possible to get an article onto the paper's website Comment is Free.
Coming back from my friend David Taylor's funeral and reading all the usual self serving rubbish from Purnell, Balls, Miliband and Cruddas over the weekend really got my goat. Hence this article.
New Labour's rootless pretenders
The late David Taylor was a principled Labour MP, rooted in his community. Balls, Purnell et al have lost touch with this tradition
John McDonnell guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 12 January 2010 16.00 GMT Article
On Saturday, after an intensely moving ceremony, David Taylor was buried in the churchyard near to his home in the village where he was born and brought up in and which – after years of stalwart campaigning – he represented so well in parliament. Rooted in the lives of the people who sent him to parliament and in the traditions and values of the Labour movement, he always spoke truth to power. That meant that despite his obvious talent and depth of experience in the real world, his opposition to wars, his incisive critique of the privatisation of public services and his refusal to support attacks on benefits and civil liberties meant he would never be allowed near office under New Labour.
Over the same weekend the young guns of New Labour – Ed Miliband, Jon Cruddas, Ed Balls and James Purnell – placed articles in the national media, ostensibly to set out their recipes for winning the next election, but in reality probably aimed at positioning themselves for the post-election leadership scramble. These "thought pieces" follow a standard pattern: some genuflection to an admission of past mistakes, the assertion that all is not lost for Labour in the election, a few examples of alternative policies that could save a Labour government and then usually an appeal for vision, radicalism or leadership.
A generous interpretation of this phenomenon would be to see this group as the "lost boys" of New Labour. In this light the various articles become desperate attempts to find some meaning to the role they played over the last decade in the Labour party and in our society. In contrast to the life of David Taylor, rooted in his community, these young men have been the hired guns of New Labour. Recruited into the particular gang of individual members of the warring New Labour elite and eventually rewarded with safe parliamentary seats to continue their gang member roles in government office, these people are rootless.
In a significant coincidence, all their recent articles have appealed to figures such as Keir Hardie and the historic traditions of the Labour movement in an attempt to associate themselves with what is left of the Labour party – the party that their New Labour has contributed so much to destroying. When the collapse and isolation of the activist base of the Labour party becomes all too evident to them, they turn to reference other activist movements such as London Citizens or climate change campaigners as examples of what can be. They refuse to appreciate that these movements flourish because they are populated by the same people who – but for New Labour – would be the mobilising, activist base of the party and its supportive allies in the wider Labour and trade union movement and civil society.
They also mistakenly see virtual organisations – based upon a large list of email addresses, an expensive website, and a fickle coterie of Guardian journalists guaranteeing nauseatingly uncritical coverage – as an alternative to a party of committed activists, rooted and working within their communities, standing up and mobilising on issues of principle, even when they are not immediately seen as popular causes. Even the Obama campaign, which genuinely mobilised the largest surge of political enthusiasm in recent US history, is now learning the lessons of standing its impressive electoral army down just when it needed to be maintained and transformed into a genuine, democratic political party.
Similarly, at the time when there is cross-party consensus that ordinary people will pay for the economic crisis with large-scale cuts in public expenditure, the people of Iceland have shown how to confront the divide between the political class and the people by direct action. If as the cuts bite in Britain, and people here also see their potential to act, there may come an opportunity for political principles and a record of committed, grassroots activism to become the basis of securing political representation within the Labour party again.