not a member? click here to sign up
Tony The Tory
New Labour s Project is an empty and cynical enterprise, says EAMONN McCANN
Eamonn McCann, 03 Feb 1999
Politicians returning to Westminster have found the carpets in the corridors of power squelchy from fresh blood. The knives have been out and, although the bodies of the politically slain have been unquietly removed from the scene of their crimes, the air still throbs thickly with intrigue.
It s only 20 months since that glad confident morning when we awoke to New Labour s arc of triumph inscribed across the sky. The phenomenon was, at the time, the awe of all Europe. Readers will recall fierce disputation among Irish politicians and media pundits as to which party here had the most plausible claim on the franchise for Blairism in Ireland.
Now, perhaps, the jig s up, the bubble s burst, the end is nigh. Or at least nigher than anybody had imagined.
New Labour ministers chew the dust as tales of financial jiggery-pokery by fellows with spin-doctorates in deviousness are recounted in 72-point front-page print. Thrill-a-minute yarns about the sexual shenanigans of unlikely Lotharios are propped up against the cornflake packets of Middle England s Sunday morning. Scorned women with unfinished brilliant careers give New Labour love rats furious hell, and move on.
It begs the question: how does this differ from the drear, dead days of the ancien regime? John Major, thou shouldst be living at this hour, as indeed you may well be. How could we tell?
And what is, or was, Blairism, anyway? And whatever happened to the Stakeholder Society? And what s this Third Way which the man with the super-glued grin didn t demur to urge on Nelson Mandela as a prescription for the ills of South Africa, too?
Wading through the ocean of pol-corr. omniscience which followed the downfall of messers Mandelson, Robinson and Whelan and the subsequent tumult of ruckus and bile, we stumbled on only one solid, generally accepted fact: that at the heart of the matter lay an irresolvable contradiction between Blair on the one hand and Gordon Brown on the other.
But what is it that Britain s Premier and Chancellor of the Exchequer differ so deeply about? What are the political correlates of the vicious , poisonous , razor-edged , hate-fuelled and irreconcilable disagreement which has come close to derailing the New Labour Project?
What difference would it make to which areas of life if Brownite priorities replaced Blair s as the template for British government activity? What, in turn, would the implications be for those Irish politicians and commentators who have been so entranced by New Labour as to promote the Third Way as the ideological wonder-drug of the epoch?
In fact, there s no point in puzzlement. Not here. Since Tony Blair s accession to the British Labour leadership four and a half years ago, it has regularly been proclaimed in this modest space that the man is a question mark in search of a query, a lacuna in need of a context, an
empty vessel into which might be poured any ideological concoction whatever.
The reason the current New Labour factionalism is conducted in the personalised terms which we have seen and shuddered at, the reason it s characterised not by explanations of policy difference but by expressions of resentment and spite, is that The Project, as Blair preposterously puts it, isn t a political undertaking at all, but a means of securing advancement for one band rather than another of power-drunk vainglorious louts.
Robin Cook s feisty ex-wife Margaret put it right: They ve sold their souls for jelly rolls and sides of hairy bacon.
Those who d hoped that Blair and New Labour had found a way of resolving the problems of the free market without having to confront capitalism itself might now think again. They might start by thinking on the fact that we still live in a class-riven world and that the key question on which the unlocking of all others turn is, still, the one raised in the rhythms of Woody Guthrie: Which side are you on, man, which side are you on?
People who eschew to take sides in class conflict can sometimes find wide, deep support a mile wide, an inch deep.
To be all things to all people is to be for nothing very much.
New Labour? Two lies. Nothing but the same old Tory. n