Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Regicide is Painless

We hear that no one at the Labour conference was talking about policy. Everyone was talking about the leadership. Well, those MPs and ministers agitating for the removal of Gordon Brown have a few questions to answer.

If Labour's policies are basically right, and the government's woes are all down to Brown, then why was it that the party haemorraged 4 million votes between 1997 and 2005 (roughly the same amount as Major lost the Tories)? In 2001 Labour won fewer popular votes than Neil Kinnock had won in the 1992 defeat. In 2005, it won fewer popular votes than the Tories had in their seminal 1997 meltdown.

If its all about Brown, why was Blair hurried out the door last year - because everything was going swimmingly? Why is it that no poll shows Labour winning even if it replaces its leader?

At what point do these MPs and ministers start to consider the possibility that the problem isn't Brown but the whole government (them included) and its policies?

The Tories were just as deluded in 97. They attributed their demise to people being bored after 18 years and just needing a change for the sake of it. That level of arrogance, lack of self awareness and failure of critical abilities was what rendered them unelectable for a decade. Voters didn't reject the Tories then, and aren't rejecting Labour now, because they're fickle teenagers who just need the same policies presented to them by a new personality, or with a new "narrative". They reject these governments because they don't like what they're doing.

The defining test of whether the government can face up to this fact, and save itself, has come with the current global economic crisis. The top of the party is dominated by "free-market" dogmatists of the Blairite and Brownite variety. Now that neo-liberalism has been comprehensively found out, these people have a simple choice. Either accept that the economic model they have maintained since 1997 is a comprenhensively busted flush, and adjust policy accordingly, or blindly insist that the fundamentals of the economy are strong, and sleepwalk into a slaughterhouse at the the next election.

Are Labour capable of facing up to the new economic realities? Or are they so wedded to the neo-liberal dogma that brought them to power that they can't acknowledge the fact that it is now destroying them? Given the record, we have every reason suspect the latter.



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