Above: Brown and Blair
Gordon Brown is in many respects a tragic figure: a man who lived and breathed politics, but when he finally achieved his burning ambition, blew it in spectacular fashion.
He also has had some real tragedy in his personal life.
By most accounts, a brooding, resentful character and (according to some) a bit of a bully, he can also (again, according to some) be very entertaining in private and is very loyal to his friends. Compared to his erstwhile friend, the superficial chancer Tony Blair, Brown is a deep and thoughtful character. In contrast to the lightweight and eclectic Blair, he is a man of the labour movement. – which makes his role in creating the foul aberration that was New Labour somehow more treacherous than that of the ideologically footloose semi-Tory Blair.
Brown’s splendid role towards the end of the Scottish referendum campaign gave us a momentary glimpse of just what a principled and passionate figure he could have been. As far as I’m concerned, he’s a traitor even to the reformist tradition in which he stands, but part of me can’t help liking him and even feels some pity for him. Perhaps, away from mainstream politics he’ll make some amends for New Labour and do some worthwhile campaigning on issues like girls’ rights, that are clearly very important to him and his wife Sarah. I certainly hope so, because I really want to like and respect him.
“As a result of the speech, I believe that perceptions of Labour policy are in danger of being taken backwards. At the business department I tried to move on from the conventional choice in industrial policy between state control and laissez-faire. The industrial activism I developed showed that intervention in the economy – government doing some of the pump priming of important markets, sectors and technologies – was a sensible approach” – Peter Mandelson
Above: puppet of big business
It was, of course, inevitable that Ed Miliband’s modest proposal to freeze energy prices for 20 months would induce howls of outrage from the big six energy profiteers and their mouthpieces – one of whom performed exactly the same service for the banks not so long ago.
Scare stories about the lights going out, and thinly-veiled threats of an investment strike, were entirely predictable from the energy giants, the City, the right-wing media and the Tories.
But doesn’t poor Miliband have the right to expect at least a discreet silence from people who – on paper at least – are in the Labour Party? Obviously not. Loathsome Lord Mandelsnake has emerged from the woodwork to denounce the plan and accuse Miliband of going “backwards” – by which the Snake presumably means being slightly less craven towards big business than he and his boss Mr Blair were when they were in government.
Actually, Miliband’s proposals are pretty weak: what he aught to be promising (especially now in the face of the blackout and investment strike blackmail) is simply to renationalise all power generation and distribution.
And Miliband needs to understand that there is a group of unreconstructed Blairites like Mandelsnake, organised by the ‘Progress‘ outfit, who are absolutely determined to thwart even the slightest suggestion of a leftward shift in Labour policy and don’t give a damn if the Party loses the next election.
The best-informed comment so far on Falkirk. Re-blogged from Left Futures
By Jon Lansman
The contents of the secret report into what happened in Falkirk have now been revealed. Seumas Milne in the Guardian comments that “given the thin gruel offered up by way of evidence” it’s not hard to see why it hasn’t been published. Nevertheless, the report does find that Unite is not directly responsible for what took place, which makes the direct attack by Ed Miliband on Len McCluskey even harder to understand (“Len McCluskey should be facing up to his responsibilities. He should not be defending the machine politics involving bad practice and malpractice that went on there, he should be facing up to it“). And the paucity of evidence of “serious wrongdoing” makes it even harder to understand now why the matter was reported to the Police than when we previously commented, unless it was a deliberate attempt to escalate the conflict still further to justify a fundamental reform of the party-union relationship.
According to Seumas Milne:
The most significant allegations are that a handful of members were signed up without their knowledge (by family members), and that “there are discrepancies in the signatures” of four others (suggesting some may have been forged).
It isn’t right to sign up family members to a political party without their knowledge but it undoubtedly happens in every winnable constituency in the country in every party. It clearly isn’t what Unite intended, and you can’t expect Unite’s leaders to have been aware that it happened.
Nor is it right to “forge” signatures but, if the person concerned wanted and intended to join the party, it isn’t “serious wrongdoing” . This is the action of one or two individuals rather than Unite and it certainly isn’t something to waste police time over.
So we can now see why Unite centrally had no idea what they had done wrong. And what was done wrong certainly doesn’t justify the biggest-ever shake up of the party-union relationship by a Labour leader. And yet some people on the right of the party are still claiming:
For all the talk of democracy and the new politics, this was only ever about dealing with the fall-out from Falkirk.
That is nonsense. I was at the Progress annual conference at Congress House in London on 11 May. An afternoon workshop entitled “How do we get a parliament that looks more like Britain?” had a constructive debate about the lack of working class MPs whose participants had included our own Michael Meacher and Steve Hart, then Unite’s political director, but, by the day’s end, that all fell apart. Read the rest of this entry »
At last some sense about Falkirk in the mainstream press:
Falkirk Labour selection: Party must calm down not melt down or Tories will be only winners
Cops should be catching muggers, burglars, rapists and murderers – not deciding who may or may not be a member of a political party
Ed Miliband and low rent Tory MP Henry “who?” Smith deserve a rocket for wasting police time.
Dragging the boys and girls in blue into Labour’s Falkirk selection row is a ludicrous abuse of the police.
Cops should be catching muggers, burglars, rapists and murderers – not deciding who may or may not be a member of a political party.
Internal rules should be investigated internally, preferably with the report published.
Instead Labour is a party suddenly suffering a nervous breakdown, dis-United when it should Unite.
The battle over Falkirk is a war extending way beyond who will stand for Labour in that seat.
“Red Ed” is unwisely seeking to use it as a moment to prove he isn’t in the pocket of unions who helped crown him Labour leader.
Blairites in the Shadow Cabinet, particularly Jim Murphy and Douglas Alexander who backed Ed’s brother David, want to change Labour’s direction.
So too does Len McCluskey, Unite’s general secretary, although “Red Len” thinks it should swerve left not right.
McCluskey, a quietly spoken Scouser, accused Miliband of twisting Falkirk into a Tony Blair Clause IV moment to impose his authority as leader.
There is something in that, as there is in McCluskey’s jibe that Miliband is allowing the Tories to call the shots.
The Conservatives are loving it and Grant Shapps’ smugness reminds me I must chase up the investigation into his get-rich-quick internet scheme under the alias “Michael Green”.
Labour needs to calm down, not meltdown in the summer heat.
The only winners are the Tories. David Cameron will be laughing into his Pimm’s.
Just so we know what we’re up against…
Below is what the Blairite scum are thinking, including their plan to help the Tories’ campaign to make Labour unelectable unless the union link is broken:
Above: Blair and acolyte Tessa Jowell
By Philip Collins (The Times, July 5):
Who is the next person in the following sequence and why does it matter? Thomas Johnston, Alfred Balfour, William Baxter, Dennis Canavan, Eric Joyce. It matters because the identity of the nest Labour MP for what is now the constituency of Falkirk has become a grave test of Ed Miliband’s leadership.
Labour’s lead has drifted down in recent weeks. The public is resilient on the reality of austerity. The economy is slumbering back to growth and George Osborne, the Michael Fish of economic forecasting, remains ahead of Ed Balls as a credible chancellor. Then, at PMQ’s [last] week, David Cameron battered Mr Miliband about the Unite union’s attempt to fix the selection [for] the new MP for Falkirk.
There are two huge obstacles in the way of Mr Miliband becoming Prime Minister and they are dramatized together in the obscure shenanigans in Falkirk. The first is that he has not persuaded the electorate that he cuts it as a leader. The second is that he is not trusted with the public finances or thought to understand the need for fiscal discipline. If the evil ghosts of Tory central office were themselves drafting the script to show Labour at its worst they could do no better than to portray Mr Miliband [as] losing control of his party to a public sector union that demands there be no more cuts.
It is all very well for Mr Miliband to say, as he often has, that he is not the sort of leader who wishes to pick a fight with his party. He seems, though, not to have realised that his party, or at least that section of it that gave him his victory over his brother, is picking a fight with him. This is not an arcane internal dispute. It is a toxic story for Labour and Mr Miliband has to stamp on it at once. Focus groups now talk about the Labour Party as if new Labour were a mirage. The image they offer is the pre-Blair default setting of an assembly of losers.
The resignation … of Tom Watson MP, from the Shadow Cabinet was a small gift to the good people.. It was dispiriting that, according to Mr Watson, Mr Miliband at first refused to accept his resignation. Mr Watson should never have been close to the Shadow Cabinet in the first place. he is too divisive a figure, too closely associated with Len McCluskey, the general secretary of Unite, with whom he once shared a flat. Whenever a dog barked in the night of Labour politics, one thought always occurred: Mr Watson, I presume.
The fake jocularity of Mr Watson’s resignation letter (the written equivalent of a Mickey Mouse tie) was an attempt to pretend he wants to spend more time at music festivals but the reference to Falkirk suggests that Mr Watson finally sensed that the walls were coming in on activities known about but [that] few have been prepared to voice. However, the control that Unite exercises over parliamentary selections will not cease just because Mr Watson no longer has to spend his Tuesday morning in Shadow Cabinet listening to Stephen Twigg not quite being in favour of free schools.
The leak of the Unite stategy document from January 2012 has given the game away. Unite’s plan is to counter-attack its own party, to make it more class-bound, more expressly left-wing. It is a strategy of the most monumental electoral stupidity, as if the only thing that forced 37 per cent of the nation to vote Tory in 2010 was the absence of a wildly left-wing alternative. The plan will proceed, as in Falkirk, by fixing the selections for Unite candidates.
The specious Unite defence of its conduct is that it wishes to see more working-class people in Parliament. In truth, Unite operates an ideological test as well as a class identity test. I doubt today’s equivalent of Ernest Bevin would pass the ideological examination. There would be no place for Alun Milburn or Alan Johnson, working class men who don’tthink in the straight line required.
The truth is that those who would wield power without intelligence do not want free-thinking original working-class people, of whom I am sure there are plenty who do need to be brought through the system. They want people who will understand that trade union sponsorship comes at the price of complete loyalty. Above even the desire to defend every perk and privilege of the public sector or to install an aimless form of class politics, what they most want is to be in charge. Like most control freaks, what they do with the power is by no means the whole point. It’s not enough for them to tell labour what to do. They want to be there, in control.
Mr Miliband will not stop this just by his belated action in ordering an investigation into Falkirk and preventing unions from paying in bulk for members. he needs to escalate the row and he needs to win. Ever since the Osborne Judgement of 1909, there has been an argument about the political levy that trade unions charge their members to fund the Labour Party. It is safe to say that Unite does not exactly rush to advertise the political levy. Labour has always wanted the political levy to be paid until people make a conscious choice to opt out. Successive Tory governments have said that members really ought to be forced to opt in.
A Labour leader confident of ruling his own party — and a Labour leader who does not have that confidence will never command the country — should make trade unionists who tick the box full individual members of the party, each with a vote in [the] leadership elections. That would break the power of the big barons, because affiliation fees would then come from individual Labour party members, not the union. The threat to withdraw the fees would no longer be meaningful.
The consequence of not acting is dismal. Labour cannot win an election projecting this sense of itself. And the Unite control of candidates is filling up the green benches with clones of Alfred Balfour, Labour MP in what is now Falkirk from 1945 to 1959. During his first eight years as an MP, Balfour did not utter a word. When he finally broke his silence he said simply: “People get up here from time to time and keep us here for hours on end, and I have said what’s the use of inflicting another torture upon the House? In the further six years he served, he never spoke again. A similar period of silence on Unite’s part would be appreciated. It’s time for Ed Miliband to speak.
Another media Blairite boasts of “My part in [Tom Watson’s] downfall
Like many readers of this blog, I was there on 15 February 2003, and I’ve never had cause to regret it. But I don’t share the self-righteous preening of tyrant-lovers like Andrew Murray, nor the slightly more forgivable solipsism of Laurie Penny (who at least has -or had- the excuse of youth). Even at the time, I was sickened by the refusal of the SWP, Galloway, Murray, etc to address the human rights issues and their systematic, deliberate, whitewashing of Saddam (Galloway, of course, being the most grovelling and egregious Saddam fan). A little later, their support for the fascistic gangs who were murdering Iraqi trade unionists alienated me once and for all. The subsequent degeneration of the Stop The War Coalition into a shrivelled Westphalian excuse-machine for vicious dictators and tyrants everywhere has only served to confirm my worst expectations.
Ian Taylor, an unrepentant marcher and anti-war campaigner, puts his finger (in the present issue of the New Statesman – no link presently available) on the central weakness of the ‘line’ of the SWP/Galloway leadership at the time, though he naively puts it down to a lack of political imagination rather than a lack of political will:
“In my opinion, what we needed more than anything else was an answer to the dilemma of what should have been done about Saddam Hussein and the appalling human rights abuses that were undoubtably that were undoubtably going on inside Iraq. Questions about this came up a great deal at public meetings, when leafletting the high street and in letters to local and national newspapers from supporters of the war. When asked about Iraq now, Blair always plays this card because he knows that opponents of the war don’t have an answer to it. If being on the left means anything, it ought to mean standing up for the oppressed. It shouldn’t have been beyond the wits of those speaking for the movement to have woven an answer to the problems of human rights abuses by non-western regimes into the fabric of their anti-imperialist principles. My view is that, just as we had weapons inspectors in Iraq, we should also have had human rights inspectors there. That would have done a lot to wrong-foot Blair et al.”
I can remember stumbling across the following searingly honest ‘Letter to an unknown Iraqi’ that pretty much summed up my own feelings at the time. I circulated it on the local Stop The War email list, where it didn’t go down terribly well as I recall:
The Urge to Help; The Obligation Not To
By Ariel Dorfman (February 28, 2003)
I do not know your name, and that is already significant. Are you one of the thousands upon thousands who survived Saddam Hussein’s chambers of torture, did you see the genitals of one of your sons crushed to punish you, to make you cooperate? Are you a member of a family that has to live with the father who returned, silent and broken, from that inferno, the mother who must remember each morning the daughter taken one night by security forces, and who may or may not still be alive? Are you one of the Kurds gassed in the north of Iraq, an Arab from the south displaced from his home, a Shiite clergyman ruthlessly persecuted by the Baath Party, a communist who has been fighting the dictatorship for long decades?
Whoever you are, faceless and suffering, you have been waiting many years for the reign of terror to end. And now, at last, you can see fast approaching the moment you have been praying for, even if you oppose and fear the American invasion that will inevitably kill so many Iraqis and devastate your land: the moment when the dictator who has built himself lavish palaces, the man who praises Hitler and Stalin and promises to emulate them, may well be forced out of power.
What right does anyone have to deny you and your fellow Iraqis that liberation from tyranny? What right do we have to oppose the war the United States is preparing to wage on your country, if it could indeed result in the ouster of Saddam Hussein? Can those countless human rights activists who, a few years ago, celebrated the trial in London of Chilean Gen. Augusto Pinochet as a victory for all the victims on this Earth, now deny the world the joy of seeing the strongman of Iraq indicted and tried for crimes against humanity?
It is not fortuitous that I have brought the redoubtable Pinochet into the picture.
As a Chilean who fought against the general’s pervasive terror for 17 years, I can understand the needs, the anguish, the urgency, of those Iraqis inside and outside their homeland who cannot wait, cannot accept any further delay, silently howl for deliverance. I have seen how Chile still suffers from Pinochet’s legacy, 13 years after he left power, and can therefore comprehend how every week that passes with the despot in power poisons your collective fate.
Such sympathy for your cause does not exempt me, however, from asking a crucial question: Is that suffering sufficient to justify intervention from an outside power, a suffering that has been cited as a secondary but compelling reason for an invasion?
Despite having spent most of my life as a firm anti-interventionist, protesting American aggression in Latin America and Asia, and Soviet invasions of Eastern Europe and Afghanistan, during the 1990s I gradually came to believe that there might be occasions when incursions by a foreign power could indeed be warranted. I reluctantly agreed with the 1994 American expedition to Haiti to return to power the legally elected president of that republic; I was appalled at the lack of response from the international community to the genocide in Bosnia and Rwanda; I applauded the Australian intervention to stop the massacres in East Timor; and, regarding Kosovo, though I would have preferred the military action to have taken place under the auspices of the United Nations, I eventually came to the agonizing conclusion that ethnic cleansing on such a massive scale could not be tolerated.
I am afraid that none of these cases applies to Iraq. For starters, there is no guarantee that this military adventure will, in fact, lead to a “regime change,” or peace and stability for your region.
Unfortunately, also, the present affliction of your men and women and children must be horribly, perversely, weighed against the impending casualties and enormous losses that the American campaign will surely cause. In the balance are not only the dead and mutilated of Iraq (and who knows how many from the invading force), but the very real possibility that such an act of preemptive, world-destabilizing aggression could spin out of control and lead to other despots preemptively arming themselves with all manner of apocalyptic weapons and, perhaps, to Armageddon. Not to mention how such an action seems destined to recruit even more fanatics for the terrorist groups who are salivating at the prospect of an American invasion. And if we add to this that I am unconvinced that your dictator has sufficient weapons of mass destruction to truly pose a threat to other countries (or ties to criminal groups who could use them for terror), I have to say no to war.
It is not easy for me to write these words.
I write, after all, from the comfort and safety of my own life. I write to you in the knowledge that I never did very much for the Iraqi resistance, hardly registered you and your needs, sent a couple of free books to libraries and academics in Baghdad who asked for them, answered one, maybe two, letters from Iraqi women who had been tortured and had found some solace in my plays. I write to you harboring the suspicion that if I had cared more, if we all had, there might not be a tyrant today in Iraq. I write to you knowing that there is no chance that the American government might redirect to a flood of people like you the $200 billion, $300 billion this war would initially cost, no real interest from those who would supposedly liberate you to instead spend that enormous amount of money helping to build a democratic alternative inside your country.
But I also write to you knowing this: If I had been approached, say in the year 1975, when Pinochet was at the height of his murderous spree in Chile, by an emissary of the American government proposing that the United States, the very country which had put our strongman in power, use military force to overthrow the dictatorship, I believe that my answer would have been, I hope it would have been: No, thank you. We must deal with this monster by ourselves.
I was never given that chance, of course: The Americans would never have wanted to rid themselves, in the midst of the Cold War, of such an obsequious client, just as they did not try to eject Saddam Hussein 20 years ago, when he was even more repressive. Rather, they supported him as a bulwark against militant Iran.
But this exercise in political science fiction (invade Chile to depose Pinochet?) at least allows me to share in the agony created by my own opposition to this war, forces me to recognize the pain that is being endured at this very moment in some house in Basra, some basement in Baghdad, some school in Tarmiyah. Even if I can do nothing to stop those government thugs in Iraq coming to arrest you again today, coming for you tomorrow and the next day and the day after that, knocking once more at your door.
Heaven help me, I am saying that if I had been given a chance years ago to spare the lives of so many of my dearest friends, given the chance to end my exile and alleviate the grief of millions of my fellow citizens, I would have rejected it if the price we would have had to pay was clusters of bombs killing the innocent, if the price was years of foreign occupation, if the price was the loss of control over our own destiny.
Heaven help me, I am saying that I care more about the future of this sad world than about the future of your unprotected children.
Dave Quayle, Chair of Unite’s National Political Comittee, was recently interviewed by Solidarity, paper of the AWL, on the subject of Unite’s strategy for the Labour Party.
You can read the article here.
Now The Sun has picked up on it:
Union’s vow to go left
HARDLINE union bosses have vowed to drag Labour further to the left before the next General Election — sparking civil war in the party.
Dave Quayle, a leading figure in Labour’s biggest financial backers Unite, issued the chilling warning in an interview. He said: “We want a firmly class-based and left-wing general election campaign in 2015.
“We’ve got to say that Labour is the party of and for workers, not for neo-liberals, bankers and the free market. That might alienate some people — but that’s tough.”
Mr Quayle, who is chairman of Unite’s national political committee, added: “We want to shift the balance in the party away from middle class academics.”
His comments are further evidence of the union’s plot to take over the party — as revealed by The Sun in March. General Secretary Len McCluskey has said he wants Labour to have more “working class” candidates.
But figures on the right of the party fear more left-wingers will be elected — and drag Labour back to the 1980s, when they lost two general elections.
Labour leader Ed Miliband, who visited Corby, Northants, yesterday, was urged to act.
A source said: “This is a test of the party leadership to see if they’re serious about being a modern party capable of winning.”
…something that cannot be said of the Blairite Labour Uncut website, which really is a classic. It also seems likely that Labour Uncut tipped off the Tory press about Quale’s interview.
Dave Quayle has since been leant on by “senior figures” from the Party about the article, but is standing firm. Here is what he posted on the United Left email list:
“First of all apologies to comrades for having to read this in the Scum/Sun […] I’m a former hot metal newspaper printer who did his time on picket [duty] outside Wapping so won’t buy or even read under normal circumstances any of Murdoch’s publications.
“I attach a copy of the publication in question so you can read it all. I was asked to do the interview by ‘Solidarity’ the newspaper of the AWL. I have no problem doing this but it has become an issue in itself. Now I think the article is a balanced view of our Political Strategy which was overwhelmingly endorsed at the recent Policy Conference and I stand by every word of it.
“The article was picked up by the uber Blairite blog site ‘Labour Uncut’ who went hysterical in denouncing me and UNITE, check it out it’s a good laugh! For example the piece under the denunciation of me/us is about the need to come clean and tell people about how much we ‘need’ to cut the NHS by. I kid you not.
“Then the mainstream right wing press picked up on the the blog, which was also [reported] in the Daily Telegraph.
“Now at least a good many of our activists and members know about our strategy!
“I have been contacted by, shall we say, senior figures in thge Labour party, very off the record saying they have no major problems with the article but please don’t do any more interviews for Trot papers (their words not mine). So ever onwards!”
Gordon Brown is a tragic figure in many ways. I always regarded him as a flawed character, but much more principled than Tony Blair. Unlike Blair, he was of the labour movement, and seemed to want an end to the Thatcherism that Blair perpetuated.
Today, at Leveson, Brown was asked straight, whether (as his erstwhile friend Rebekah Brooks, claimed) he gave permission to the Murdoch press to publish details of his young son’s illness. He denied that he had, effectively calling Brooks a liar. Similarly, he flatly denied Rupert Murdoch’s claim that, in the course of a phone call in late September or early October 2009, he’d (in Murdoch’s words) “declared war” on Murdoch’s business empire when the Sun changed sides and came out in support of Cameron before the last election.
I certainly believe Brown on the matter of his son. I’m not sure (who can be?) about the phone conversation with Murdoch. But even if he did say what Murdoch claims, who could reasonably blame him?
But, I’m afraid, Brown has proven himself to be a liar, plain and simple, on a further matter: in his evidence to the Inquiry, Brown denied asking his Treasury adviser Charlie Whelan to brief against Tony Blair while he (Brown) was Chancellor.
Blair’s former spin doctor Alastair Campbell had, previously, told the Inquiry that there was a “real problem” with Whelan.
Asked by Robert Jay, Leveson’s “forensic” inquirer, if Whelan or any other advisers briefed behind Blair’s back in order to force him from office, Brown replied: “I would hope not, I have no evidence for that.”
There was “tittle-tattle”, he said, but all special advisers’ media dealings went through civil servants under tough guidelines.
Now, we all know that’s a lie. Sadly, it taints everything else that this tragic figure had to say at Leveson today, including the stuff about his son that was almost certainly true.
Lest we forget:
Tony Blair is godfather to Rupert Murdoch’s daughter
Tony Blair is godfather to one of Rupert Murdoch’s young children, it has emerged in an interview with the media tycoon’s wife Wendi.
Blair and [Alastair] Campbell took to heart the advice of the Australian prime minister, Paul Keating, on how to deal with Murdoch: “He’s a big bad bastard, and the only way you can deal with him is to make sure he thinks you can be a big bad bastard too. You can do deals with him, without ever saying a deal is done. But the only thing he cares about is his business and the only language he respects is strength.”
Blair and his team believed they had achieved exactly that. A deal had been done, although with nothing in writing. If Murdoch were left to pursue his business interests in peace he would give Labour a fair wind.
In the footnotes to his book, Price, who worked at No 10 as Campbell’s deputy, attributes that final sentence to “private information”.