Alan Milburn, Alex Salmond, Blairites, Britain, Charles Clarke, general elections, gordon brown, IRA, Iraq, John McDonnell, labour leadership, Labour Leadership Contest, Labour Party, Michael Meacher, New Labour, Politics, Scotland, SNP, socialism, the left, Tony Blair

…running out…

When Meacher pulled out on Monday, I thought that the leadership contest was on. I was wrong. It is now Wednesday evening, and it is looking increasingly likely that John McDonnell will not get the required 45 nominations. At 6pm, he is still 16 short, and there are only 16 MPs that have still to declare (among those, Charles Clarke and Frank Field): Brown has 307 against McDonnell’s 29.

UPDATE: it’s over. Brown’s got 308 and McDonnell has conceded defeat. This is a sad day for British democracy.

Some considerations on this development: I was expecting Brown not only to let McDonnell run, but possibly to encourage a challenge. Apparently he hasn’t done so. Two possibilities: Brown is indifferent on whether there will be a contest or not because, we can only guess, he has polls telling him that the public won’t mind either way. Labour’s support might be falling, but the fall won’t be accelerated – or so the polls might predict – by a ‘coronation’. If such polls existed, and were accurate, I would be surprised. It definitely wouldn’t be good news for British democracy.

Alternatively, Brown might be actively looking to avoid a contest. Maybe he thinks that McDonnell’s support among unions and party members would be high enough to put him in an uncomfortable situation. The next government might then be forced into acknowledging so much support for Old Labour in its policies, if not in its composition. If this latter scenario is anywhere near the truth, then all the more reason for wanting a contest; because if Brown’s fears are justified, then the Chancellor is effectively silencing his own electorate by stopping McDonnell. And that can’t be good for politics; it can’t be good for Britain; it can’t be good for Labour’s chances at the next elections; and therefore, in the end, it can’t be good for Brown (caveat: it might be that Brown has convinced himself that he will lose at the next general elections, and that therefore he wants to make the most of his time in government. In that case, stopping McDonnell might make sense. But I don’t believe that Labour doesn’t have chances coming 2009, nor do I believe that Brown believes that).

Another interesting thing is that Milburn is supporting Brown, while Clarke hasn’t announced yet. It might be that the former Home Secretary is waiting to see McDonnell’s numbers, and that he is only willing to nominate him if that will turn out to be necessary for a contest. Indeed, McDonnell is miles away from Clarke, but my enemy’s enemy… On the other hand, it might be that Blairites want Brown to lose at the next general elections, and so are promoting a ‘coronation’ – see Milburn’s and Byers’ support. Lots of people would like to think that the Blairites are willing to do anything to screw Brown, but I would be very surprised if that included putting their own political careers and salaries at risk – as inevitably they would do by promoting Labour’s defeat next time around.

One final remark: if we take the way in which MPs are nominating seriously, from a political point of view that is, then we might have to conclude that the kind of leftism represented by John McDonnell is really no longer at home within the Labour Party. And this would have to be added to Blair’s legacy: “I left a Party where socialists couldn’t even get enough nominations to stand for leader”. In this respect, it is indeed a shame that to represent the left is someone which such ideological foreign policy ideas such as McDonnell (see IRA+Iraq).

Oh, and Alex Salmond is the new First Minister of Scotland.

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2008 presidential elections, Blairites, Britain, David Miliband, general elections, gordon brown, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Iraq, John McDonnell, John Reid, labour leadership, Labour Leadership Contest, Labour Party, New Labour, Politics, Scotland, SNP, Tony Blair

Brown vs McDonnell

Brown got what he wanted (or, anyway, what he should have wanted): a contender who cannot win, John McDonnell. This is a much better outcome than no contender at all, which would have looked bad and it would have reduced Brown’s and Labour’s chances at the next general elections even further. It is also better than a Blairite contender with a chance, namely Miliband. Even if Brown would have defeated Miliband, which is probable, that kind of contest might have weakened New Labour; and, in the attempt to distance himself from Miliband, Brown would have probably lost a lot of the votes that will decide the next election. The only outcome which would have probably been better for Brown than McDonnell would have been an unelectable Blairite like Reid – who was wise enough to desist from his heroic journey of self-sacrifice.

McDonnell’s good for Brown: he will provide the Chancellor with a platform to discuss Iraq, and, if Brown cares to, that will be a chance to distance himself from Blair’s foreign policy. But Brown might discover that the only meaningful way to counter McDonnell’s anti-war rhetoric is to stick with Blair’s legacy of liberal interventionism: that would, indeed, be an interesting development. Otherwise Brown might end up in the kind of middle-ground trouble that Hillary’s in across the pond for not apologising over voting for the war.

Also, while the parliamentary vote is quite obvious, and the unions’ vote can be expected, it’ll be important to see how the popular vote goes: if McDonnell doesn’t do better there than in the parliamentary vote, then a lot of the anti-NewLabour rhetoric will have to go. There has been a lot of talk of New Labour losing votes on the left (the SNP in Scotland could be an example): this is a good time to verify that theory.

It might be objected that the kind of votes that New Labour has lost on the left aren’t votes of Labour Party activists and members. But that’s not how it is often put: people tend to say that, in the pursuit of Middle England, Labour has alienated some of its core vote. If none of that goes to McDonnell, then either New Labour has actually interpreted its core vote better than most commentators, or it has alienated it so much that people have left the party altogether.

UPDATE: it looks as though we should have waited before commenting on McDonnell’s challenge to Brown. The left-winger is still 18 (some say 16) nominations short of the required 45. He’s got until tomorrow noon.

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Bobby Sands, Britain, gordon brown, IRA, John McDonnell, labour leadership, Labour Leadership Contest, Labour Party, Michael Meacher, Politics, pop-leftism, socialism, Terrorism, the left

Who is John McDonnell MP?

John McDonnell is one of two left-wing Labour MPs who have declared their intention to stand against Brown for the Labour Party Leadership. On Monday, it will be announced if it is going to be McDonnell or Michael Meacher to challenge Brown.

I’m no fan of Gordon Brown. Also, I think that a contest, since they are not going to give us a general election – which they should – is better than a coronation. So I’m glad that someone is standing against Brown – even though they haven’t got a chance.

But now I discover that this McDonnell, who used to work with Ken Livingstone, is a shameless fan of the IRA. In 2003, McDonnell said the following while celebrating Bobby Sands:

It’s about time we started honouring those people involved in the armed struggle. It was the bombs and bullets and sacrifice made by the likes of Bobby Sands that brought Britain to the negotiating table. The peace we have now is due to the action of the IRA.

Contacted later by the Sun, McDonnell stood by his words:

The deaths of innocent civilians in IRA attacks is a real tragedy, but it was as a result of British occupation in Ireland,” he told the tabloid. Because of the bravery of the IRA and people like Bobby Sands we now have a peace process.

The usual story with these bloody so-called socialists. One discovers how stupid and rotten they are even before having the chance to look into their social policies. So now, if McDonnell is indeed the left-wing candidate, we’ll have to support Brown. Who would have ever thought!

UPDATE: here‘s the Sun’s piece that I refer to in the post (hat tip: korova)

UPDATE 2: here McDonnell explained his remarks, saying, among other things:

Irish republicans have to face the fact that the use of violence has resulted in unforgivable atrocities. No cause is worth the loss of a child’s life. No amount of political theory will justify what has been perpetrated on the victims of the bombing campaigns.

It appears that McDonnell didn’t mean to justify the armed struggle, but that he only meant to emphasise the supposed positive contribution of the armed struggle towards the improvement of the situation in Northern Ireland. As it happens, the former claim is often hidden behind the latter. That’s because no one thinks (or at least ever says) that killing innocent people is a good thing: the question is rather whether one thinks that the IRA should have done that to achieve its aims. We think not. What does McDonnell think?

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