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LABOUR’S new turn has strengthened despite many months of systematic assaults, including various leadership challenges and parliamentary coups, a media demonisation of Labour’s leadership of extraordinary proportions, a bitter battle through the structures of the party and a constant threat of schism.
The transformation of Labour — not yet complete — rests on the extraordinary impact of the party’s election manifesto which unlocked a long-buried sense that with a new leadership and mass membership it really was possible to elect a government that would fulfil its promises.
This was a qualitatively different kind of sensation to that which propelled Tony Blair into office.
The months, even years, that preceded the collapse of the Thatcher and Major administrations, was marked by a bruising series of internal battles in which every expectation of policy change which the unions and campaign groups hoped might come about were blocked by the Blair/Brown axis which insisted on the continuation of the Tory spending plans and the supremacy of the City.
We still suffer from the consequences of this bipartisanship which gave us the austerity economics of the Maastricht Treaty and the dodgy device of PFI which this spawned.
It is striking that the various factions, mainly led from within Parliament, that oppose the party’s progressive reorientation dare not oppose the domestic policies which proved so popular.
They may be relaxed about the rich becoming richer, quietly favour privatised utilities, be unenthusiastic about repealing Thatcher’s anti-union laws and reluctant to tackle tax avoidance by big business but they keep quiet on these.
But challenge the foundations of Britain’s imperial alliances, dare to suggest that the route to energy security may not lie through an alliance with the Saudi head-chopper-in-chief or on a constant state of war in the Middle East and the bipartisan basis of the Labour right’s covert compact with the Establishment is exposed.
We owe to media watchdog Medialens the information that prior to Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader there were just 18 references in which his name and references to anti-semitism jointly occurred and none of them suggested he was anti-semitic.
But after May 1 2015 10,943 articles have appeared which make this connection explicit.
If we exclude the unlikely possibility that this lifelong anti-racist campaigner suddenly lost his reason and moral compass, tapped into a subterranean level of his being to discover lurking there the dark contours of prejudice, then we must consider the possibility that this avalanche of this tendentious coverage has its origins elsewhere.
Where other smear campaigns, equally baseless and manufactured, have failed to gain traction, this one has endured through the extraordinary resources devoted to it and, it has to be admitted, by a certain reluctance to take the fight to its proponents or challenge them.
Labour is learning the lesson that if you apologise for something for which you are not responsible, people will believe you are. The price of submission to this offensive is a substantial reduction in the level of polling support for Labour.
The threat comes not from Chuka Umunna’s breakaway faction, now fused with a mixed bag of Tory defectors. In as far as it has discernible policies, it is extremely unpopular but closer to home.
The “barbecue banquet” that reportedly saw Peter Mandelson and Tom Watson — chewing on what we might suspect is chlorinated chicken of US origin — may presage an emerging alliance between Labour’s old right wing, long located in Parliament and some union circles, and committed to the Atlantic alliance and the no less reactionary clique of Blairite hold-outs.
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