Paul Mason on the Sound of Blairite Silence

The sound of Blairite silence

Owen Smith has become the willing dupe of the Labour right

No matter how hard you listen it’s impossible to hear the Blairite wing of Labour. They have shut up shop. The Progress website looks like it’s being maintained by interns, while there are no official Progress events being held until the day after the leadership election (Angela Eagle and a venture capitalist, since you ask).
During their attempt to stop Corbyn getting on the ballot paper, the right launched Saving Labour  — there’s no information about where it gets its money, who its officers are, what it’s statues are. It organised a day of street stalls, issued three press releases and went quiet on 28 July.

It’s been superseded by “Labour Tomorrow” — a private company with a reported £250,000 war chest to fight Jeremy Corbyn once he wins. This money will be distributed only to “moderate centre left organisations”. No other other information provided on its website apart from a single blog post by David Blunkett and Cold War union rightwinger Brenda Dean. No explanation of what “centre left” means, again no indication of where the money’s coming from.

The purpose of this Blairite* dumb-show is to foist the entire job of keeping Labour under the control of the neoliberal elite onto the soft left around Owen Smith.

The aim, clearly, is to reduce the ballot to: which face would you like to see at PMQs? Perky, untested, bland, technocratic Owen, or gnarled, unpredictable Jeremy? The massive differences in policy, strategy and class orientation signalled by the emergence of Labour Tomorrow are not to be allowed to surface in the actual election itself.

Thus, Smith’s campaign has been designed as Jeremy Lite. Nearly as left wing as Corbyn, only competent at playing the parliamentary game. Close to Corbyn, but a bit “more patriotic” and less “metropolitan”.
To facilitate the illusion that this is about two left wingers with marginal disagreements, something else had to go quiet: the tabloid media. There has been almost no right-wing criticism of Smith’s faux-left programme in the papers.

Normally, if a Labour figure stood up and, from thin air, plucked a £200bn spending pledge based on a wealth tax, the Sun, the Mail and the Telegraph would have reporters going through his bin-bags.
It’s the same 0ver Smith’s call for a second referendum. The pr0-Brexit tabloids would normally be eviscerating any Labour figure who called, effectively, for people to be made to “vote until they vote the right way”. But they’re silent over this.

Revealingly, the second referendum call is the kind of gestural trick that you can only pull off if you’ve no chance of winning. What if people vote for Brexit again? — Smith has no answer and is never asked. But coping with the actual Brexit process, as actual Leader of the Opposition, is the practical question Corbyn has to deal with now. It involves consultation, juggling the various Labour interest groups: Scotland, the unions, northern MPs etc.

Smith has named no putative shadow cabinet. He has made no attempt to define his future relationship with the Blairites, or the Brown-era veterans such as Yvette Cooper who stood down last Summer. There’s no plan because the Owen campaign does not believe Owen himself would ever be allowed to call the shots. If Corbyn is defeated it will be Peter Mandelson, Brenda Dean and David Blunkett calling the shots. And behind them millionaires like Michael Foster who called Corbyn’s supporters “sturm abteilung”.
This summer of Labour right omertà reached its nadir yesterday when Smith inadvertently blurted out that he wanted Britain to negotiate “round the table” with ISIS.

Corbyn immediately and clearly rejected the idea. If Corbyn had said it though, the right would have screamed blue murder. It was quietly put to bed by Fleet Street, with a retraction. Instead the headlines were about Corbyn failing to recognise a picture of B-list celebrities Ant and Dec, with the New Statesman rushing out an immediate condemnation of Corbyn’s alleged “disrespect for popular culture”.

Smith is part of a whole generation of Labour MPs who sounded left wing, but you could never quite place what was left about them. They have willingly shouldered the task of keeping Labour under the influence of big pharma, big finance and big war. And they are losing.......

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