Tuesday, May 15, 2007

John McDonnell

It's great news that it now looks very much like Brown will be facing a challenge for the Labour Party leadership from John McDonnell. As most of those not involved in puffing up the McDonnell campaign will tell you, McDonnell doesn't stand any chance of winning. Nevertheless, I think that this does present the Left with a wonderful opportunity to get many of its ideas across to a larger audience than it can usually reach. It appears to me that there are several things that McDonnell and his supporters might try to get across:

1. Focus on the huge income and wealth inequalities that have continued to grow under New Labour. Britain is now more unequal than at any time since WW2. McDonnell needs to point out that inequalities matter. He might even widen this issue out a little and talk about global inequalities - how these have increased enormously under the neo-liberal world regime.

2. McDonnell will certainly, and rightly, concentrate on the Iraq war and occupation - but there might be some advantage in trying to shift the terms of the debate on this matter a little. I have never (or seldom) seen any mainstream news or current affairs programme talk seriously about long-term geo-strategic and 'great power' manoeuvring in relation to Iraq (or Iran). The debate seems stuck in this rather bland Lib Dem type 'did Blair lie?', 'has Blair sacrificed British foreign policy independence?' rut - but both of which seem to me a bit of a side issue.

3. Point out that tackling global warming will necessitate much more than tinkering with the rate of carbon emissions. It seems to me that capitalism and ecological sustainability are, at the very least, in tension with one another. It's very difficult to see how our planet is compatible over the long-term with an economic system based on the logic of perpetual growth.

4. Brown seems to be pitching his campaign in terms of 'a new seriousness in politics' - a rejection of spin, PR manipulation and much of the nauseating stuff that characterised the Blair years. McDonnell can outflank him quite easily on all of this.

5. It might be a good idea to puncture this whole ridiculous idea which the media appear to have taken to heart about Brown somehow being 'responsible' for economic boom. He isn't. Perhaps McDonnell might point out that the boom has been based mainly on consumer credit - fictitious money - what sensible people might actually refer to as a bubble.

6. Privatisation - McDonnell will be good on this anyway.

It seems to me that there is no point in attempting to 'moderate' the McDonnell campaign - the media and the Brown campaign will, inevitably, characterise him as 'hard-left' and continually refer back to 'the bad old days' of the 1970s and the 1983 election defeat and so on. The best thing to do, I think, would be to try to put Brown onto the back foot with a bold campaign focusing perhaps on the above issues and others such as pensions rather than getting stuck on the defensive, attempting to field questions pitched on terms favourable to Brown.

I certainly hope that the far-left can refrain from sniping and sectarian attacks. I have a lot of sympathy with the argument made by David Miliband's dad amongst others that periodic revivals of the Labour Left function in the end to prevent the emergence of an effective left-wing challenge unencumbered by all those things which doom the Labour Left to ineffectiveness -working within a party which has always been dominated by the right-wing and which was never a socialist party (despite the mythology of the Labour Left) but an alliance between radical liberals, trade unionists and a tiny smattering of socialists. However, this isn't the 1980's -this isn't really a serious fight for the soul of the Labour Party as it was in the days of Benn and Heffer. In today's context, a strong McDonnell campaign is in the interests of all the Left whether inside the Labour Party or not - it just might help to re-energise the Left and disseminate our ideas a little more widely than they have been for the past 25 years.

PS. For some reason Blogger won't let me create any weblinks at the moment - there's normally a toolbar thing at the top of the editing page which now seems to have buggered off. Anyone know anything about this?

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