By Stephen MacAvoy
Following the Liberal Democrats’ rise in the polls, the Blairites have launched an offensive to secure their long held goal of a Lib-Lab coalition. The BBC’s Nick Robinson has reported that senior Labour figures see the prospect of a Lib-Lab post election deal as the “the ultimate fulfilment of the New Labour mission.”
It is now less than two weeks till election day and postal voting is commencing, so one would expect Labour’s campaign to be focussed on maximising its vote. But this is not happening. Instead in the official campaign, run by Peter Mandelson, the formation of a coalition is being promoted. Mandelson’s memo to Labour Party members on 18 April, in which he said he was “not against coalition government in principle”, was flagged up by The Independent as “the first time a senior Labour figure has spoken about a Lib-Lab coalition” in this election. To help secure this outcome the Lib Dems are being defended, with Mandelson criticising media attacks on them. Simultaneously, Labour and its Leader’s prospects have been deliberately run down, with the FT titling an article “Mandelson admits voters tired of Labour”.
The Brownites are publicly criticising this orientation with Ed Balls attacking Alan Johnson’s “willingness to countenance coalitions”.
All three main parties are committed to an agenda of cutting public spending and reject the case for increasing public investment. Within Labour the Blairites have been fighting the Brownites to drive the economic policy further right, as outlined in an article on this website previously. In addition to insisting economic policy focusses on cuts, the former has also attacked raising the highest rate of income tax to 50% and have opposed ruling out any rise in VAT. Then the promise that Labour’s spending cuts will be “tougher than Thatcher” helped halt Labour’s advance.
The disloyalty to Labour is rooted in the Blairite project, which aims to secure a re-alignment of British politics in which the Labour Party (as it is today) is eliminated. They argue that the founding of the Labour party was a mistake. Phillip Gould in The Unfinished Revolution (pg 405) bemoaned that Labour had “split so fatally from the Liberals almost one hundred years ago.” He claimed it “is time to heal the rift between the Liberal and Labourist traditions.” Hence the current priority being given to promoting coalition and the Liberals.
In the struggle to defend Labour and prevent its support being subordinated to the Lib Dems, the Brownites should be supported. At the same time the three-party consensus on cutting state spending must be opposed as it will reduce economic growth and attack living standards.