The Labour Split: A Neo-Liberal Revolt?

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The phrase “so much for the tolerant left, ay?” has become the slogan of centrist Twitter. If one were to examine Labour’s history, however, one would chortle at the sheer hypocrisy of this statement. Prominent figures of the left, such as Dennis Skinner, have stuck by their party unconditionally. Meanwhile, it is the centrists who broke away from Labour in 1981, arguably leading to a decade of wicked Thatcherism. It was the centrists who expelled party members simply for opposing an illegal war in Iraq. It was the centrists who launched a coup against their leader who was democratically elected. The icing on the cake, however, was the announcement that seven centrist Labour MPs would once again be breaking away from the party.

The self-proclaimed ‘Independent Group’ has essentially labelled itself an anti-Corbyn and anti-Brexit party, both of which were voted upon by grassroot supporters. One could argue that these politicians have forgotten the role of an MP: to represent the interests of their constituents. To add insult to injury, the break-away group has found a loophole in our parliamentary system. By not forming an official party, the group is not subject to electoral law rules requiring them to declare financial backers. It is alleged that the rebels have registered their website in Panama, further skewing financial transparency. Their self-righteous manner of thinking has seen them place themselves above democracy, though this is not surprising when their political idols are the unelected EU bureaucrats of Brussels.

The project itself has essentially become an attempt to resurrect Blairism, an ideology well past its sell-by date. During its apogee, New Labour broke away from Thatcherism by increasing social spending on schools and hospitals. However, the public sector was rebuilt through the Private Finance Initiative which handed over control to rich corporations such as Carillion. The party managed to hold on to power despite its core vote diminishing. The New Labour winning formula died however, when the financial crisis hit and social spending was dramatically reduced whilst the surrendering of power to Corporations continued.  

The Independent Group’s ring-leader, Chuka Umunna, was himself handcrafted in Blair’s laboratory. Having seen the party take a dramatic shift to the left in order regenerate fervour amongst its supporters, Umunna became a careerist in a party which no longer offered a career. Blarneying big money donors and corporations was no longer a route to a shadow ministerial role when Labour now wanted to tax billionaires and redistribute the wealth of rich corporations.

Umunna has frequently voiced his concerns for the future of young people after Brexit as well as the rise of intolerant politics within Labour. However, these arguments for leaving the party are easily debunked: despite their supposed concerns for the future generation, many of the defected MPs were part of a government which oversaw the introduction of tuition fees and the privatisation of the NHS. Whilst a Labour shadow minister, Umunna himself received over £100,000 in assistance from tax-dodging accounting multinational, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, whom had been the main architects of PFI and keen supporters of NHS privatisation.   

Umunna’s new-born advocation for ‘progressive’ Europeanist policies is a peculiar one, owing to the fact that, just three years ago, he was full of praise for the socially conservative and pro-Brexit Blue Labour movement. Furthermore, he openly criticised EU fundamentals such as freedom of movement.

The London-born MP’s real intentions were further unearthed in his chastising of the leader of the opposition on various media outlets. Last year, Umunna startled the country by labelling the Labour Party as “institutionally racist” in an interview with Sky News. This, despite the fact that he had previously stated that there was no racism problem within the party; coincidently at a time where he held a shadow cabinet role. One must certainly not ignore the blatant issue of anti-Semitism within small pockets of the party. However, using it as a political weapon for your own convenience will only aggravate the troubles.

The “anti-racist” rhetoric of the new-found group was soon quashed when MP Angela Smith described certain ethnic minorities in this country as “funny tinge-coloured people”. It was the lack of awareness in the articulation of her casual racism which astonished so many viewers.

The Independent Group’s list of celebrity endorsements is also nothing to boast about. Lord Alan Sugar, who has been forced to apologise several times for racist slandering. Alongside actor Eddie Marsden, whose shares in Laughing Water’s properties were threatened by Corbyn’s promise to build new council houses. Both are billionaires who continually regurgitate Umunna’s “Change politics” slogan. In reality however, the British people voted to change politics in June 2016 and this movement is nothing more than a bunch of contemptuous reactionaries trying to protect the status quo.

If these Independent MPs had even a shred of integrity left, they would call for by-elections in their respective constituencies. It is clear however, that they have neither the desire or mettle to do so.

According to a recent YouGov poll, only one per cent of electorates base their vote upon their local MP. As the honourable Tony Benn once said to break-away rebel, Roy Jenkins: “your entire life depended on the working-class movement… you got into parliament as a Labour member, every office you held was because of Labour”.

To make matters worse, Angela Smith, who broke away from the party to push for a second referendum, represents a constituency that voted to Leave the EU. She thus no longer represents the interests of her constituents who elected her based on a manifesto which promised to respect the referendum result.

Whilst the Independent Group may steal some votes in middle-class metropolitan areas, this will not be enough to trouble Labour. Sixty-one per cent of Labour’s constituencies voted to Leave whilst around eighty per cent of the sixty-five swing seats in the country also voted out. An election would thus spell the end of Umunna and Co.’s careers. I, for one, would relish the opportunity to burst the liberal metropolitan bubble in which these MPs currently reside.J

Image: Wikipedia Commons.