Thursday, 10 May 2007

Blair goes - but little to cheer about.

So he's off. Probably. Well sort of, in seven weeks.

I grew up politically in the '80s, with the chanting of Maggie, Maggie, Maggie - Out,Out, Out ringing in my ears. When she stood down in 1990 I went down to Trafalgar Square for an impromptu demonstration/street party - like many on the Left, and particularly those in the Anti-Poll Tax Movement, I felt some small personal part in her downfall.

But by the time of the New Labour landslide of 1997, I had no part of the euphoria that swept the country. I and the Labour Party had parted company by the time that Blair and his cronies completed the work begun by Kinnock in riding the party of embarrassing socialist ideas.

So I can't claim that I felt particularly betrayed by Blair - I had no expectations in the first place.

However many did, both inside and outside the Labour Party. People like my parents - Labour activists not driven by ideology but by a sense of fairness and what George Orwell called 'common decency'. Their idea of socialism draws on the experience of growing up in the war years and the 1945 Labour government. Asked for a defining philosophy they would probably reference something like the old Clause IV of the Labour constitution.

In rejecting this and adopting the Thatcher agenda of privatisation, anti-trade union laws, and authoritarianism, Blair has gone further than other previous Labour leaders such as Gaitskill, who have tried to take the party to the right. He has managed to make the process irreversible by constitutional changes that have killed off democracy and accountability.

In the not-so brave New Labour world, my parents are now branded as hard-Left dinosaurs. They will have hopes today that a Meacher or a McDonnell will emerge as a viable leadership challenger. I am sad to say that they are wrong.

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