Thursday 2 September 2010

Diane Abbott, Tony Blair - and a difference of opinion

“Scrapping the 10p tax rate, the introduction of tuition fees, the failure to regulate the banks properly, the attempt to introduce 90 days detention without trial, locking up children in immigration detention centres, the failure to bring the railways back into public ownership, creeping privatisation in the NHS, and, above all, the Iraq War. These are all things that contributed to our defeat at the last election.”

So says Diane Abbott, left-wing Labour leadership contender, in an interview with The Third Estate. It's a refreshing change from the familiar mantra that Labour must always steer to the right if it's to be electable.

David Miliband is, in the current contest, firmly established as the embodiment of that misguided idea. It is a sentiment articulated by Tony Blair in his memoir, claiming the party won when it was firmly New Labour - and its defeat in May was somehow due to a left turn (I must have missed that).

It is surely obvious - to everyone except Blair, Miliband senior and Peter Mandelson - that clearly opposing the government's cuts and privatisation agenda would be electorally popular, as well as the correct stance to take.

Yet it seems many MPs, Labour Party members and affiliated trade unionists might just fall for New Labour's Old Lie - and vote in David Miliband as the 'electable' figurehead reaching out to middle-class voters, centre ground blah blah blah...

The words from Diane Abbott above would - whatever the outcome of the leadership election - serve as a useful starting point for rethinking policy. If Blair popping up all over the place (reminding people of New Labour's warmongering, deceit and arrogance) isn't enough to persuade Labour members of the need to change direction, there's little hope.


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