MILLIONS of working people voted last week to give Tony Blair and his “New Labour” platform of class collaboration and war a slap in the face that hopefully he will never recover from.
The Blairites may crow that this is the first time Labour has won an election three times in a row. But it is also true that Labour was returned with just 36 per cent of the vote – the lowest share of the popular vote won by any prime minister in history. It’s even lower than the 37 per cent won by Ramsay MacDonald in 1929, whose minority Labour Government was propped up by the Liberals. Not since 1929 has a party with fewer than ten million votes formed a government.
Labour MPs who had taken the principled stand on Iraq fared better in the poll that cost Labour 47 seats and reduced their overall majority to 66. The Tories made the biggest gains by drumming up their faithful on a racist platform that focused on gypsies and immigrants. Though the turn-out was slightly higher than last time many Labour supporters stayed at home. Others opted for the Liberal Democrats or protest candidates like maverick former Labour MP George Galloway who spectacularly defeated the pro-war Blairite in Bethnal Green on his new Respect ticket in a campaign that revolved almost entirely around the Iraq war.
Tony Blair told us immediately after the results were known that “we have got to listen to the people and respond wisely and sensibly” to the will of the British people. Well the best response he can give is to pack his bags and leave Downing Street at once before he does even more damage to the labour movement that he has done his best to wreck over the past nine years.
The first signs are not promising. After his momentary act of contrition Blair is trying to carry on as if nothing has happened. His new Government contains all the old, useless faces. Discredited David Blunkett has been brought back into the Cabinet and Andrew Adonis, one of his back-room cronies who only joined the Labour Party in 1995, has been made a peer to take up a job in the education department.
The most venal, reactionary, and aggressive elements of the ruling class – those dark forces who believe their best interests are served in alliance with American imperialism – have no alternative but to continue backing Blair. Blair’s departure would leave George W Bush totally isolated in the world and jeopardise American imperialism’s insane bid for world domination.
But the pro-European wing of Britain’s ruling circles will be heartened at the swing to the Liberal Democrats and the strengthening of that section of the Parliamentary Labour Party in favour of greater European integration.
Many more in the Labour Party now realise that Blair is an albatross around their necks that must be dumped if Labour is to remain the party of government in five years time. Some of them want Blair out at any price and believe that Gordon Brown could serve their interests. But the Chancellor is no alternative nor is his succession a foregone conclusion.
Brown has been Blair’s partner in all his treachery to the labour movement. A cosmetic change at the top will not lead to the return to traditional Labour values that millions of working people want nor will it fool the electorate next time round.
The question of who leads the Labour Party can only be answered by the labour movement itself. Demands for Blair’s resignation are spreading far beyond the ranks of the left of the Labour Party.
One Labour MP has already volunteered to act as a “stalking horse” against Blair if he gets enough support from Labour’s parliamentary bloc to trigger a leadership election. Not a moment must be lost in the drive to kick Blair out now.
new worker editorial