May 6, 2008


You can’t revive a corpse: Forget the talk of Labour ‘renewal’ - its humiliation in the elections should mark the funeral rites for a party that died 25 years ago. (Mick Hume, 5/06/08, spiked)

The scale of New Labour’s defeat in last week’s elections came as a shock to many loyalists. The party polled just 24 per cent of the vote - its worst national result for more than 40 years. On an average turnout estimated at around 35 per cent, this means that fewer than 10 per cent of eligible voters in England and Wales felt moved to vote for the party of government. Not only was New Labour trounced by the Conservatives (with 44 per cent of the vote), it even trailed in an embarrassing third behind the faltering Liberal Democrats (25 per cent). Labour lost seats and councils in its heartlands of the north of England and Wales, often haemorrhaging support most badly in traditional working-class areas across the country. Meanwhile, in the starry election for London mayor, Ken Livingstone - the Great Multicultural Hope of the Labour left - contrived to lose to daft old Boris Johnson.

However, the new shock of these defeats had hardly registered before Labour and left-wing observers were once more indulging their old habits of self-delusion, looking for the easy excuse, and promising that if we just hold on it can still come out all right tomorrow. Some tried to blame, er, Tony Blair for ruining the party and leaving it too late to hand over to Gordon the saviour. Many others said it was all down to Brown’s botched abolition of the 10p rate of income tax - now dubbed ‘Brown’s poll tax’. And many warned about the rise of David Cameron’s dangerous but popular brand of Conservatism.

But whatever excuse they favoured for explaining away their defeat, most of them appeared to agree that what is needed now to reverse the setbacks is a fundamental ‘renewal’ of the Labour Party. For a minority of MPs and party officials, that might mean refocusing on the Blairite New Labour project. For most, however, it apparently has to mean reviving and updating the Labour Party’s ‘basic beliefs’, focusing on Labour’s ‘real purpose’ and its ‘public service values’ as the way to revitalise the party’s ‘core voters’ and win wider support.

It is far too late for any of that to work. And it is far to easy to blame Blair’s disastrous war in Iraq or Brown’s 10-penny tax debacle for Labour’s problems. The truth is that these latest election results have openly demonstrated what should have been clear for years: that the Labour Party, as a political movement, is dead. What we are witnessing now is not a temporary setback, but the public funeral rites for a long-deceased body.

The Labour Party that many want to ‘renew’ died at the latest in 1983. That was the party which emerged from the Second World War as the champion of a new national consensus around the welfare state, the National Health Service, nationalisation and state socialism.

Perhaps it was inevitable that the Democrats and Labour both try winning elections once more as Second Way parties--after Clinton and Blair had made them Third Way--but what explains the Democrats trying for a third time this go round?

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 6, 2008 10:07 AM

They want to go back to what they were doing at the end of the Second World War? Talk about reactionaries.

Posted by: Mikey at May 6, 2008 4:56 PM

... but what explains the Democrats trying for a third time this go round?

Remind me, who's the 'Stupid Party' again?

Posted by: Steve White at May 6, 2008 8:40 PM