Without a right-leaning New Labour leader, there is now an opportunity for the Labour Party to represent the people it was originally created to serve, writes MO STEWART.
There is an entire generation in Great Britain who have no knowledge of the original Labour Party, who confuse Tony Blair as its former leader and who have no comprehension of the damage the New Labour Party created.
Three consecutive general election wins for Tony Blair when leader of the New Labour Party was, by anyone’s standard, a significant achievement. Blair was the Prime Minister from 1997 to 2007, was the youngest British Prime Minister since 1812 and was to became the longest serving (New) Labour Prime Minister which is an achievement not easily surpassed.
However, there was a reason why the party was called ‘New Labour’ as it broke away from its traditional roots, and engaged with right-leaning policies not dissimilar to those of the previous Conservative government. Efforts to impress the middle class voters were at the expense of the Labour heartlands and the workers the original Labour Party was created to protect.
Blair claimed to want to move the Party to what he called the ‘centre ground’ which, in reality, created right-leaning policies, which were in opposition to traditional Labour Party values. Under his leadership New Labour reduced what had been historic links with trade unions, abandoned what had been the Labour Party’s commitment to nationalisation and supported Britain’s entry into the European Union.
His landslide victory over the Conservatives in the 1997 general election was impressive following eighteen years of Tory rule and, for a while, all was well. However, the longer Blair served as Prime Minister the more right-leaning policies were produced. He made every effort to attract the middle class vote, whilst distancing the party from the working class and the trade unions, whose members stopped voting at general elections in their hundreds of thousands as no political party represented them.
Blair’s embarrassing devotion to all things American meant that the regularly claimed “special relationship” between America and Great Britain was reflected in foreign policy, as Blair took this nation into a war in Afghanistan in 2001 we had no business fighting, which was used to give the Republican President Bush the moral justification for American hostilities.
On the domestic front, it was the Blair government who commissioned David Freud to investigate welfare funding. As a consequence of a totally discredited 2008 report by Freud, Blair’s successor Gordon Brown was the New Labour Prime Minister who introduced welfare reforms. The reforms permitted an unaccountable foreign corporate giant to reassess welfare claimants using the entirely bogus American influenced Work Capability Assessment (WCA), and was no longer in charge by the time it became obvious that the use of the WCA would kill people.
Time has moved on and Jeremy Corbyn was elected as the leader of the Labour Party, for the second time, in September 2016. Never in the history of the party has there been such relentless personal abuse by Labour MPs still loyal to Blair , but opposition to Corbyn from some Blairite Labour MPs couldn’t muster the support he attracted from the grassroots membership of the Labour Party, who elected him to office.
Corbyn has rejected the austerity measures employed by the Tories, which were always guaranteed to cause preventable harm to the most vulnerable people in society. He has also rejected the neoliberal politics employed by the Conservative, the Coalition and the New Labour governments, which created a free-for-all in the world markets, which eventually led to a world banking crisis in 2008.
Whilst grotesque salaries were offered to the few, Cameron used the banking crisis to justify the introduction of austerity measures in 2010. The sick, the disabled and the poor have all suffered the most as a direct consequence of the austerity measures, as tax breaks were given to the wealthiest people in the country and corporate giants were permitted to fail to fund corporate taxes.
Devotion to neoliberal politics, together with austerity measures and a vast reduction in funding for essential public services by the Conservative government has created preventable harm and vast inequalities. There has been a return of Rickets to Britain for the first time since the Second World War, together with increases in Tuberculosis, which are linked to the savage Conservative/Coalition government austerity measures which meant that the poorest and the most vulnerable would be often left without food.
The answer to that is the desperate need for food banks generously supported by the British public, school breakfasts begrudgingly introduced by the Tories to reduce adverse commentary, to be replaced by nourishing hot school lunches if Labour are returned to power in the 2017 general election.
As leader of the Labour Party Corbyn would never agree to commit British military forces to another war zone at the behest of the Americans. He will return rights to British workers, stop the university students being plunged into debt when attending university and has promised to stop the dangerous WCA which has been linked to the deaths of almost 100,000 people since 2011. This, together with a guaranteed increase in funding for vital public services, including the NHS, the Police Service and the Fire Service would secure a much better and safer future for the British people.
It’s now twenty years ago since Blaire enjoyed a landslide victory against the Tories in 1997 and introduced New Labour to the unsuspecting British people. Twenty years later, it is possible that Corbyn could enjoy another significant victory over the Tories, and this time he would introduce a traditional Labour government to the British public.
All that is need is for a majority of adults to vote Labour in the general election on June 8th.
Mo Stewart is an independent researcher and retired healthcare professional. Her acclaimed book ‘Cash Not Care: the planned demolition of the UK welfare state’ was published in September 2016 by New Generation Publishing.