Labour’s problems didn’t start with Corbyn but New Labour’s arrogance in power

by Trevor Fisher

The failure of the New Labour project, measured in its ability to blow the victory of 1997 by 2010 at the latest, has an eerie similarity to the failure of Trump to know that pride goes before a fall. Not the current President of the USA, but Judd Trump, the snooker player. As someone who plays the game but very badly, I am in awe of Trump who was the youngest player ever to make a maximum 147 break an will one day win the world championship. But not this year.

He was knocked out by an unknown 46 year old qualifier last week, Rory McLeod, in the first round on April 19th. He came into the Championships as world ranked Number 2 and joint champion, and made the fatal error of saying the rating did not worry him. He should have been worried. Like many super talented people, he underestimated his opponent and suffers from the pride of arrogance. Like some politicians I can think of. David Cameron thought the Brexiteers were ‘swivel eyed loons’ and lost the 2016 referendum. The 1945 general election result led to some Labour people saying “We are the masters now”. But while Judd Trump was so upset he could not make his post-match TV interview, he should look at the current Labour Party and think he got away lightly.

While the Labour Party recovered after losing in 1951, and Cameron’s party looks like it is doing well, whether the arrogance of New Labour will see a recovery will be in the lap of the gods. And no one should blame Corbyn for the current crisis, which he makes worse but did not create. Blair destroyed his own credibility with the working class core voter even before the Iraq war. While the 2001 seats tally was much the same as the 1997 landslide, in key areas like Stoke the working class voter had already started to slip away. By 2005 Blair could only muster 37% of the vote, enough to win, but also to give Michael Howard’s Tories the scent of a failing project. It is a matter of history that Brown and Miliband could get nowhere near even the 2005 election result.

This does not justify Corbyn, but the real story of the last two years is that New Labour underestimated the hard left and key MPs made it their business to put him on the ballot paper when he had not enough left MPs to get on from the left. Since it has been said that they “felt sorry for Corbyn,” lets put the myth to bed. The thought he was a dead duck but he could be used as a pawn in the 2015 leadership election. When this went wrong, so incredulous were the MPs that the previously controlled party membership had voted the wrong way that they staged another contest in 2016. And lost again.

Like Judd Trump, they underestimated their opponent and overestimated their own strength. They kept on with the New Labour project when it was losing from Scotland to southern England, failed to understand the anger amongst the soft left, and still keep on with factional politics based on their belief that there is only one way to operate, by making concessions to the political right. Strangely, Corbyn now believes this too as the policy shift over Brexit indicates. But that is another story. I did not vote for Corbyn when I rejoined the Labour Party in either leadership election: I don’t believe in gesture politics. I doubt that Rory McLeod will win the world snooker championship. But what he did on 19th April is to prove that no one can be underestimated, and if you are so convinced in your own ability you don’t think you can lose, prepare for a hard landing.

As New Labour is now learning with enormous cost to the Party and to the country as a whole, there is no easy way back for Labour. There will be none whatsoever till the New Labour leaders admit openly they lost popular support after 1997 by their own Trump-like arrogance. Judd, not Donald.

Trevor Fisher was a member of the Labour Coordinating Committee executive 1987-90 and secretary of the Labour Reform Group 1995- 2007. He was a member of the Compass Executive 2007-2009

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11 Responses to “Labour’s problems didn’t start with Corbyn but New Labour’s arrogance in power”

  1. John P Reid says:

    Ok, Blair wasn’t the first labour leader to win a third election with 37% of the vote, Wilson did in feb 74′ the liberals were prepared to go into coalition with the Tories of 1974′ but Charles Kennedy wasn’t prepared to go into coalition with either labour or Tory in 2005
    The liberals later backed up the Labour government of 1974′ as apart from strongly disagreeing over scrapping Heath industrial relations act,were also against the closed shop
    Same as the libdems who didn’t like the Tories ‘are you thinking what we’re thinking, asylum seekers are bogus’ but disagreed on 42 days detention, DNA database,

    Yes Corbyn is the symptom rather than the cause, yes labour thinking blue collar working class ‘had no where else to go, so labour could win 3 times with reduced majorities by aiming for skilled C2 working clsss or white collar public sector middle class, yes the EU does come into it, and Gordon browns mrs Duffy is a bigot, while saying British jobs for British workers,with no power to stop EU immigration
    Yes Peter mandleson admitted later, that labour went to the world said come her, change the demographic to get extra votes

    Ed Miliband understood how unpopular labour was in 20-0 David didn’t, asked annoyed people with snouts in the troff , the liberal elite bubble

    Every time labour falls from power we swing to the left, convince ourselves we lost as it wasn’t left wing enough, 51′ then gaitskell after the 55, defeat, became leader, did things such as talked of working with the liberals, fought, and fought again to save the party, by keeping multilateralism, so the day of his death we were 25% ahead in the polls, the pen Wilson came in swung us a bit to the left on Nationaliing steel,and just won in 64′ then when we lost in 74′ we swung to the left, with the incomes policy ,not allowing the state to build anymore homes to sell, won by default in 74′ when Ted Heath misjudged the public mood, then when we fell from power in 1979′ atony Benn convinced the party we’d lost as it wasn’t left wing,enough, then probably convinced the party we lost in 1983 as it was t left wing enough

    It’s interesting to note in Shirley Williams autobiography, that the 1987 election where the Tories ran a campaign,saying Jeremy Corbyn said ,it do ent matter if we lose the election, we’ll have the revolution, Sheffield labours chair said the Brighton bombing was a justified act of self defence, and Ken livingstone saying he’d scrap the Army and the police, that the public thought we were more left wing in 87

    Ed Miliband said a lot of right things, but due to the bank crisis, he convinced himself the public had swung to the left,so labour should swing to the left
    The 2010-2015 Labour Party was interesting as it was the first time in our history after falling from power, we hadn’t had a civil war, but in 2015′ like 1983’ as the party assumed in 79 and 2010 we’d lost as it wasn’t left wing enough, after a second defeat to a party to the right of us, we again have convinced ourselves that we’ve lost,on a left to the time we were in power manifesto, by not being left wing enough

    There were Blairites who when Ed Miliband lost wee hoping to say ‘Ed Miliband he said I’m not new lsbour’ he was right he lost ,so if we want to win again we’ve got to be new labour,and backed, Ben Bradshaw for deputy,
    Of course this was wrong as we don’t need new labour now, but there’s more to labour than talking about those nasty Tories, and Corbynista won’t acceotmthat while Jeremy is agrntlrman, he surrounded by some nasty people who at best are incomplete the, and they’ve lead us to out collapse in the polls,and they will,argue after the elections it’s everyone elses thought, yet they haven’t the skill, previous acLP members have,to repair the party,

  2. Paul Rogers says:

    Another Corbyn put down disguised as an insightful and comprehensive over view of the current situation. So many “Labour” supporters have to really ask themselves if they really want to rid society of the Tories, so many would have to think before answering.

  3. David Walker says:

    The first time the party membership were given the chance to vote, they voted in a way that guarantees that no progressive party in Europe will ever give members that sort of power in future. So the damage that has been done is not limited to the UK, as far as empowering ordinary people on the left goes.

    It’s a bit like the 16 year old kid who is given the responsibility of looking after the house for the first time, while the parents enjoy a weekend away and invites everybody on Facebook to a party and causes 50 grand’s worth of damage.

    Corbyn could probably win though, with a smart enough bribe to the electorate. How about promising a 1000 pounds cash payment to everybody on the electoral role, aged between 18 and 40, paid by cheque within 30 days of Labour coming to power? This could be justified on the basis that it is the young who have been hardest hit by the cuts.

    I guess that would cost about 30 billion, which Labour could borrow easily enough. Most of the money would be spent within a month, giving a boost to the economy.

    It would be madness, of course, but also a game-changer in an election that currently looks a foregone conclusion.

  4. Ian says:

    Most notably Labour’s broken promise to replace our corrupt voting system with fair voting. How history would be different is Labour had realised that, just like boom and bust, the Party hadn’t somehow and forever defeated political gravity?

  5. paul barker says:

    It wasnt just arrogance though, it was New Labours lack of any strong beleifs. Corbyn won so easily because most of his opponents didnt sound as if they really beleived in anything. New Labour was the triumph of managerialism. Hence, also the “Centrists” failure to fight Brexit.

  6. Tafia says:

    You gov’s latest shows that hard BREXIT is the most popular option.

    For example:-

    A Brexit deal where Britain leaves the EU but retains a close relationship, meaning we retain membership of the single market and tariff and custom free trade with the EU, but still have to follow some EU rules, make a contribution to the EU budget, and allow EU citizens to live and work in.……………………37%

    A Brexit deal where Britain leaves the EU completely, meaning we have control over immigration from the EU, don’t have to follow EU rules or pay into the EU budget, but have only limited access to the EU single market and face tariffs or limits on some British imports and exports………………. 44%

    And I note a clique of Lib Dem higher officials and candidates for this GE are defying Time Ferret and pubilcly stating that there should be no second referendum and we need to get on with BREXIT.

  7. Ex Labour says:

    Whilst I agree that New Labours arrogance is one of the reasons Labour is where it is, there are other significant reasons. The party has had a few chances to recover…but what happens ? It has put in place a series of poor leaders in Brown, Miliband and now Corbyn. The party talks to itself within “echo chamber” politics and nobody asks what the public really want from a party in terms of policies. Labour dream up policies around “fairness or equality” but don’t understand that social surveys have shown the general population to have individualistic traits as opposed to collectivist. Of course they like to virtue signal to friends, relatives and pollsters but in the ballot box its about “what’s good for me and my family”. When the penny finally drops and the party get a leader of some note, then things might change.

    At the last GE some of Labour friends followed me reluctantly into the Tory tick box, but now many of them can’t wait to vote Tory as they see its the only way to get Corbyn out.

    @ Paul Rogers

    Corbyn…..longest suicide note in history. If you thing the UK public will ever vote him in ….think Michael Foot.

  8. madasafish says:

    Most politicians tend to place their own country and their own nationals at top of their priorities. Naturally as they elect them.

    But Labour appear to have a number of senior politicians who appear to scorn UK nationals and concentrate on others.. See Thornberry’s comments on “white van man”..and J C’s STop the War who think anything the West does is automatically wrong.. Let alone McDonnell who supported teh IRA.

    These people should have no place in any national party which is representing UK voters.

    The fact that they are in positions of authority shows how much Labour has lost its way..To recover Labour needs to evict such people not only from positions of authority but party membership.

    As the debate on antisemitism shows, Labour is not serious about representing UK citizens.

  9. Bert Smith says:

    Ah yes the longest suicide note -what was at the top of the list ?.

    Oh yes -leaving the EEC -duh.

  10. ad says:

    I’d say that Labours primary problem is the same as the primary problem of most political parties – a tendency to appeal to the average member of their own party, rather than the average voter in their country.

    Blair is unpopular on the Left precisely because he did not make this mistake.

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