Blairites have no right to demand a broad church, they locked the left out for 30 years
If Blairites love a broad church, why did they evict the left from it for 30 years
Selective memories and hypocrisy: how Chris Leslie’s Blairite defenders ignore 30 years gerrymandering
There was a brief break in factional hostilities after the Labour party conference. Predictably, however, the cease-fire was short lived.
The most persecuted minority in British politics, the Blairite centrists, are outraged that Chris Leslie was the subject of a vote of no confidence from his Nottingham East CLP, accused of ‘disloyalty and deceit’.
The vote in itself is unsurprising: Leslie, after all, had his unedited words slating his own party directly transferred into a Conservative party attack ad.
Chris Leslie’s terrible record is formidable. As Alex Nunns explored in this “Peak Leslie” thread.
Defenders of the faith/broad church
However, if the vote itself was unsurprising, the reaction by Blairites is a masterclass in hypocrisy. Their insistence upon maintaining ‘pluralism’ a ‘broad church’ and ‘tolerance’ flies in the face of their own historical record to the contrary.
The usual suspects have ridden to Leslie’s defence…
But people did not hesitate to call out the hypocrisy
Further, those who defended Leslie by arguing that dissenting MP’s like Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell were allowed to dissent under Blair ignored documented instances to the contrary.
The weak foundations of the ‘Broad Church’ defence
The favoured ‘broad church’ defence raises several interesting points:
Firstly, is the democratic will of members of a democratic party inferior to artificially maintaining a ratio of neoliberals in the party?
Secondly, centrist’s show a selective support of grassroots democracy depending on what suits them. When lobbying for a second Brexit referendum they love member activism, but not when it’s used to hold them personally accountable as MP’s. Or when they introduced affiliate membership and one-member-one-vote for the leadership elections believing it would benefit them, then jacked up the price and disenfranchised new members when it subsequently harmed them.
Blairite amnesia about their 30 year destruction of the broad church
Centrists seem to have conveniently forgotten that New Labour years involved ruthlessly marginalising the left.
Academic Eric Shaw describes how Blairite party managers,
“…wielded the heavy artillery of ‘control freakery’ – including manipulating the machinery of internal elections – in an attempt to crush opposition”
Lewis Minkin described the Blair approach as “procedural flexibility” and a
“willingness to fudge or circumvent any rules and conventions that might inhibit ‘getting the right results’.
Alex Nunns for examples cites in The Candidate, how Tony Blair allegedly “went ballistic” upon hearing that left candidate, Liz Davies of Leeds North East had been chosen as Prospective Parliamentary Candidate by her CLP. To remedy this she was ‘smeared’ and ‘deselected’, despite clearing her name in court by which time it was too late.
Contrast this treatment to that of preferred centrist candidates. The late Michael Meacher MP wrote in 2009 how
“The Blairites have used every underhand trick in the book to parachute into a safe Labour seat the 22-year old daughter of Lord Gould, Blair’s pollster whom he rewarded with a peerage”
Adding that the sum of this was that,
“by machinations of this kind relentlessly pursued at most parliamentary vacancies over the last 15 years that the Blairite machine spectacularly succeeded in transforming the balance of power within the PLP in favour of the Blairite caucus”
At the local level, John Lansman describes how Blair introduced,
“strong council chiefs who, with the co-operation of the party’s regional offices, were able to ensure troublesome critics could be barred from selection, leaving leaders free to run their towns and cities as they chose.
“In return, they would provide their overlord with a loyal ground force, who could be relied upon to operate the local party machine and deliver the outcomes No 10 desired.”
Lansman claims that a beneficiary of this system was the infamous former head of Haringey Council, Claire Kober. Making her subsequent claims of ‘bullying’ when held to account by local members all the more ironic.
Corbyn: an inheritor of a legacy of gerrymandering
Yet today, MP’s like Leslie, the beneficiaries of decades of party patronage and right-wing institutional bias going back decades, have the tenacity to cry they are being forced out and bullied by the tyranny of grassroots democracy and accountability.
Those who claim Labour party members have succumbed to a Corbyn personality cult would do well to remember the centralised cult of Tony documented above.
They would also do well to remember that New Labours grip on the party was achieved through gerrymandering and exclusion vs. Corbyn’s power being secured democratically and transparently through the will of members he represents.
Get involved with the Open Selection campaign and make sure your local CLP supports the open selection of your constituencies’ parliamentary candidates.