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Editorial The lacklustre launch of the Dead Centre

THE miserable seven who have left the Labour Party were each elected on a progressive manifesto that combined socialist policies with a pledge to respect the result of the referendum.

It is this high-octane political mix that presents Labour with its best chance to form a government.

In moving from a generalised internal opposition to the party’s policies and leadership to an outright bid to prevent the election of such a Labour government, this splinter group has made hypocrisy its defining characteristic.

Strip away the cant and we see a threadbare coalition of the narcissistic, with some facing local rebellions for reasons connected as much to their mediocrity and unsatisfactory performance as to any wider political issues.

Under the new leadership and with the transformation of Labour into a genuine mass movement, local party members are becoming accustomed to holding their MPs to account. The self-serving charge of bullying barely disguises that for the seven — and for some in the Parliamentary Labour Party as well — this is an affront to their sense of entitlement.

This is barely a split, more a splinter off the Blairite bloc which still maintains a subterranean existence. The people most annoyed by the breakaway are those, like David Blunkett, who still entertain the hope that Labour’s renaissance can be reversed.

Such is the incompetence of the breakaway — its website was replaced by a blank page within minutes of its launch — that its eventual metamorphis into a real political party is still in doubt.

Even so, such policies that can be divined from the press conference this morning hardly amount to a new kind of politics.

Reversing Brexit drives them but each brings something special to the mix. No coherent political thinker exists among them.

Chuka Umunna has no admirer greater than himself. Angela Smith is devoted to the privatisation of water. Chris Leslie is a Blairite policy wonk condemned by his local party for his “disloyalty and deceit.” 

Ann Coffey was among the first to call for Corbyn’s resignation. Gavin Shuker’s constituency party voted that they had no confidence in him. Mike Gapes is so devoted to Nato that one half expects him to see him astride a medium-range missile en route to Moscow. Luciana Berger thinks the Labour Party is institutionally anti-semitic.

This miserable clique is no Gang of Four. The founders of the Social Democratic Party breakaway from Labour in the 1980s were more substantial figures and more united ideologically than is this motley crew. But more importantly there was more of a material basis for their policies of class collaboration, piecemeal reforms and social partnership.

Today, financialised state monopoly capitalism has lost much of its capacity to head off systemic crises. The Great Crash collapsed more than banks — it brought down what was left of the idea that capitalism has an infinite capacity to overcome its contradictions.

Millions more workers have been forced into poverty and insecurity. Austerity policies have stripped away the consent that protected political authority.

Where their limp rhetoric does contain a whisper of truthfulness lies in the idea that the present party political system is broken — it cannot be otherwise with our ruling class divided over its strategic future and the Labour Party, for the first time in generations, aligned by its composition, leadership and policies to the real needs of our people.

The ever-amusing and politically perceptive Michael Rosen named today’s breakaway the Dead Centre. It is true. There can be no winning sources of support, either among working people or in the organised labour movement, for a political party of class compromise.


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