I seem to have managed to wind up Michael Meacher MP, veteran lieutenant of Tony Benn.
Earlier this week I used my LabourList column to critique his sectarian response to Ed Miliband’s solid and sensible shadow cabinet reshuffle.
He (or perhaps his staffer, another veteran of the Bennite insurgency, Jon Lansman) has responded by going off the deep end.
His response tells you a lot about the demoralised state of mind of the Labour left.
He says I have ignored ‘what Labour is really all about – it’s not about getting on or climbing the greasy pole, it’s about ideology, vision and a sense of purpose on behalf of a majority of the population who depend uniquely on Labour to protect their interests against a repressive and often ruthless elite.’ He doesn’t seem to understand that Labour’s moderates are just as ideological and just as visionary about changing society as he is – it’s just we have a set of policies that can win elections, whilst the Hard Left has ideas based on the rhetoric of 1917 that were massive vote losers even in 1983, and would be even more so in 2015.
He accuses Labour in government (remember he was actually a minister serving in the Blair government he now attacks, from 1997 to 2003) of ‘accommodating to neoliberal capitalist policies throughout the Blair years – deregulation of finance, privatisation, shrinking the State in favour of unfettered markets, weakened trade union rights, and ballooning inequality’. I don’t recognise this portrayal of a government which introduced the minimum wage, reduced poverty, reduced unemployment and inflation, boosted transfer payments aimed at lower-income pensioners and families with children, restored union rights at GCHQ, boosted spending on public services to levels not seen since the 1970s, and presided over what the Office of National Statistics described as a one-third improvement in the quantity and quality of public services between 1997 and 2007. This wasn’t neoliberalism, it was modern, progressive social democracy and it’s tragic given the contrast with the current government that Meacher isn’t defending our record.
He says the new shadow cabinet members are ‘more people who were complicit in all those years’. Good. We need people at the top who share the values that are the only ones that have won Labour elections in recent British political history.
He complains of a ‘a very imbalanced PLP’. Good. I’m glad it’s unbalanced against flat-earthers and extremists and in favour of people who are serious about getting Labour back into power. I want a PLP that is representative of Labour voters and able to appeal to the voters we need to win back, not the Hard Left fringe.
For Progress supporters, my message is this: if Meacher and his ilk are so down-hearted, we need to be cheerful. The reshuffle showed the Labour left remain in a historically incredibly weak position. Labour’s moderates and modernisers remain in the driving seat in terms of people, policies and ideas. It’s modernisers like Liam Byrne who are leading Ed Miliband’s policy review, modernisers like Andy Burnham and Stephen Twigg who are developing our attack on the Tories in the key areas of health and education. Ed Miliband chose to put those people there. Whatever Meacher’s fantasies about moving the party to the left, it is Labour’s moderates and modernisers who can get Ed Miliband elected as prime minister.
Photo: Louisa Thomson
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