Labour needs left policies

by Daphne Liddle

LABOUR lost the election and is now embroiled in sorting out a new leader. The Party is polarising between those who want a return to “New Labour” and Blairism and the left wing who want Labour to return to its working class roots.

John McDonald MP, who heads the Labour Representation Committee, has ruled himself out of the contest but proposed that the party sort out its policies before rushing to choose a new leader.

“There’s been a lot of self-serving nonsense talked about why Labour lost the election and what it has to do to win in the future. We’ve just witnessed a well-planned media blitz of failed New Labour ex-ministers and their new-wave protégés blaming Ed Miliband with all the old Blairite mantras that Labour has failed to be a party of aspiration, to occupy the middle ground and appeal to middle England.

“This drivel from Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson and others is to shirk New Labour’s responsibility for what happened last week. No party has won an election when trailing in economic-competence polls. When the Tories shamelessly accused the last Labour government of crashing the economy, they were right, but for the wrong reasons.

“The crash was not down to over-spending and over-borrowing, but down to the policy of lifting virtually all lending controls off the banks and finance sector; a policy promoted by both New Labour and even more virulently by the Conservative party.

“No deficit at all would have existed if New Labour had tackled the widespread and alarmingly high levels of tax evasion and avoidance by corporations and the filthy rich....”

“It also failed to build the homes people needed or develop an industrial strategy that delivered secure, wellpaid jobs, and allowed the share of the country’s income going to wages compared with shareholders’ profits to fall.”

The candidates for the leadership who have emerged so far are Chuka Umunna, Liz Kennedy, Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper. Umunna and Kennedy are both right wing, blaming the election failure on Labour’s lack of appeal to “aspirational” middle Englanders — in other words yuppies. Burnham and Cooper are not much better but Burnham is tipped to get more union support.

Left wingers Tom Watson and Stella Creasy have ruled themselves out of challenging for the leadership but have said they will stand for the deputy leadership.

Veteran left-wing Dennis Skinner has proposed Ian Lavery for the leadership but so far Lavery has not put himself forward.

Tessa Jowell, David Lammy and Diane Abbott have put themselves forward to stand as Labour’s candidate as Mayor of London. Lammy and Jowell are right wingers.

Diane Abbott has come out strongly against those who think Miliband was too left wing and accused them of “not paying attention”.

In a statement released in the Guardian on Wednesday she said “It is alarming how quickly the myth has taken hold that Ed Miliband lost the general election because he was too ‘left-wing’...

“But in reality, anyone who says that Labour’s policy positions under him represented a lurch to the left simply was not paying attention. Certainly we had some signature policies that might be characterised as left-wing: notably the promise to ban some zero-hours contracts (but not all, as over-enthusiastic campaigners sometimes implied); the pledge to scrap the bedroom tax; and the proposal to introduce a mansion tax.

“Calling these policies left-wing is partly an attempt to trash them. But the truth is that these were policies that polled well; and, as someone who knocked on thousands of doors in the course of the campaign, I can testify that they were popular on the doorstep....

“But it is difficult to call a campaign left-wing when its keynote labour market policies were framed as anti-immigrant, and it proudly produced a souvenir mug about immigration controls.

“And, predictably, trying to out-Ukip Ukip proved to be a doomed endeavour. It did not stop Ukip piling up votes in Labour areas, or taking enough votes off Ed Balls to gift his seat to the Tories.

“Scrapping the bedroom tax was eye-catching, but the Labour Party was always too frightened to contest the main Tory narrative about welfare. We should have spent five years reminding people endlessly that 50 per cent of the welfare budget goes on the elderly, another 20 per cent goes on in-work benefits, and a relatively small proportion goes on the archetypal ‘workshy scrounger’.”

The New Communist Party does not believe that we will gain socialism through parliamentary politics. Nevertheless the Labour Party and trade unions have a role to play in defending working class living standards and giving a political lead that will give confidence to the working class to stand up and fight for itself.