Thursday, July 31, 2008

The decline of New Labour

New Labour as we know cosied up to big business, in fact many are quite in awe of wealth .

As it won the backing of businessmen it really didn't care too much about the unions or the grassroots members . The money would come from business to pay workers to do all the focus groups and TV adverts , so what did it matter if at a local level many Party constituencies were pretty inactive.

A few years back I blogged in response to Ann Clywd who said at the time, in response to party members being critical of policy, that they should 'just go away.'

What I said then pretty much stands now:

She quotes members as saying "And why don't these other people just go away.'" Well Ann, as I have pointed out many have. I'm glad you feel that the Party is strong enough at the grass roots level that it can afford to hemorrhage further activists. Not sure if the big business donors fancy a bit of leafletting and all the dull work that needs to go on locally. As they start to desert , and the money dries up,will there still be the activists who fund raised and donated money for many years.

Why am I dredging up an old post from two years ago? Well figures show that the Party is losing members and is pretty broke:

The collapse in Labour's grassroots membership numbers has contributed to its precarious financial position, with the party still £18 million in debt despite slashing its staff and spending.

In an official submission to the Electoral Commission, Labour admitted that its membership at the end of 2007 was 176,891.

That is scarcely 40 per cent of the 405,000 peak reached in 1997 when Tony Blair took office, and thought to be the lowest total since Labour was founded in 1900.

Total Labour membership fell by nearly 6,000 during 2007, the year Gordon Brown replaced Mr Blair as leader. It is believed to have gone on falling during the first half of this year too.

The accounts published by the Electoral Commission showed that Labour remains in dire financial straits.

While Labour cut its debt from nearly £25 million to £17.9 million over the course of the last year, it still owes more than £15 million to individual lenders.

More than £11 million of those loans is due to be repaid this year.

The party has run up interest payments of more than £2.2 million on money it borrowed from wealthy backers before the 2005 general election.

According to the commission records, Labour had 213 staff at the end of 2007, down from 302 in the election year of 2005.

But with the exception of Lord Sainsbury, the supermarket heir and Science Minister, and Lakshmi Mittal, the steel magnate, Labour has failed to attract any big name donors, and the bulk of its funding came from the unions.

So membership is down, money is tight and in the polls and at by-elections Labour is doing badly. The Blairites and Brownites continue to bicker about what is fundamentally personalities rather than any major policy difference. Whilst New Labour scheme to knife Brown and find a replacement, it seems that a change in leader is not going to save Labour.

Changing one New Labour PM for another won't help. Its not about 'getting the message across better.'Its not about moving further to the right and making the Tories look all cuddly and electable.

This Labour government now resembles the last years of John Major's . It will stumble on, fighting and blaming but unable to grasp the need to change direction. The Tories are not cuddly and left, but this New Labour Government is letting them pass as such .

I'm not sure what can be done from the left in the Party. I think we need to push a left wing programme but let the right wingers knife Brown. If there is an election then I'd support another John McDonnell campaign, albeit with much cynicism. The unions could now exert pressure , but it seems they do not have will for that judging by reports from Warwick.

The reality is the real fight for the direction of the Labour Party will come after the next election. Much as I like retro furniture I don't much like retro politics, and revisiting the 80s and 10-15 years of Tory rule is not my idea of fun.Been there, done that and got the badges. Somehow I do think there will be a difference , especially once they have power again and the arrogance that goes with it.

Stay and fight in the Labour Party, join another party/group or leave the country ? The last option sounds the best.
The left is fucked.

Pic from that other campaign for Labour Leader.