Danger! Shark infested waters
The sharks are swimming around the pool, unaware that theirs is the only blood which is draining away. If the Progress wing of Labour has its way the crimson blood will be diluted permanently by the deep blue sea.
Not since the release of the YouGov poll which put the ‘Yes’ vote ahead one week before the referendum has the ground below Labour HQ devoured itself as much. News that Jeremy Corbyn is ahead in polls by some distance has sent shock waves through the Labour establishment, still unsure as to why the membership do not see things their way.
This Labour leadership contest has gotten ugly, already coups are being discussed by the Parliamentary Labour Party, and Chukka Umunna has urged Labour MPs to refuse any shadow cabinet positions offered by Corbyn. Then the big guns came out. Blair threw his tuppence worth into the ring, although judging by his previous receipts, it will have cost more than that. Blair, ever the one for the pithy soundbite, sent a stark warning to all misbehaving members who are planning to vote for Corbyn: ‘People who say their heart is with Corbyn – get a transplant’.
Of course, there is no need Tony, the job of removing the Labour’s heart was done a long time ago by yourself and the rest of the New Labour hacks which decimated any standing this once proud party had, particularly in Scotland.
The venue of Blair’s appearance shouldn’t surprise either. To use Tony’s own medical analogy, Progress has been to Labour the cancer which has destroyed everything that was good within it. This reception ironically for a former Labour leader is the only place he can actually attend without being drowned out by fellow members or placed under citizens’ arrest for war crimes. Yet the most startling statement from Blair was his first. When jovially asked where he would place Corbyn, 1st or 2nd. Blair responded: ‘No that’s actually the Tory preference… erm I’m a Labour leader’ before remembering he no longer was.
This is the new directive for anti-Corbyn Blairites, implying this is a Tory coup to get an ultra-lefty to make Labour unelectable, rather than … Well. that’s where their theory breaks down. Rather than who? Another leader who refused to oppose a welfare budget which tears deeper than Thatcher into the social fabric of our society and sets in motion the next 5 years of destruction and decimation of the welfare state and NHS? I would imagine that Cameron and Osbourne would be very happy with either 3 of the red Tories, who leave the opposition to 56 MPs from ‘up north’.
The truth is the Tories would be quivering at the prospect of a united opposition of real Labour, opposed to nuclear weapons, support rail renationalising, adopting a real living wage, higher taxes on the wealthiest – all of which would be supported by the membership and the majority of the public, and working together with the SNP, Greens and others to hold this vile and wretched government to account.
The reality, however, is somewhat different. Even if Corbyn defies the odds and becomes leader, the sharks within his own party have already begun to circle. Liz Kendall has shown a remarkable contempt for the democratic process she hopes to be elected by implying she will join any coup against Corbyn. Can you imagine the reaction if this kind of talk came from the left? Rather than embrace a movement which has increased membership and activism, there is now a witch hunt to remove new members who signed up to support Corbyn. The self-destruct button seems to be permanently glued into the hands of Labour HQ.
In Scotland, the situation is no different. Unable to understand their own incompetence, Labour continues to pursue the tactic of ‘SNP bad’, whilst forgetting the very reasons why so many (including myself) once voted for this party.
The challenges we face over the next five years of Tory rule will not be remedied by a Blair driven ‘new’ Labour. Nor will any progressive opposition to the SNP come from Labour in Scotland. The only hope we have to maintain our progressive politics is for the people to hold to account those who think they know better than those who elected them. The SNP must have a credible opposition in Scotland and this must come from the left, be it a red, green or amalgamation. As long as Blair, his acolytes or Progress still have a stranglehold on Labour, it doesn’t need a transplant. It needs the last rites.
Allan Grogan was a founder of Labour for Independence and is now an SSP Executive Committee member