10 July 2011 — Comment – Morning Star
It is difficult to imagine either of Ed Miliband’s predecessors as Labour leader deciding to force a parliamentary vote to delay consideration of Rupert Murdoch’s swallowing up of BSkyB until criminal investigations into the News of the World are complete.
Both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were happy to fawn on the News International titles and their owner, believing that their political fortunes depended on doing so.
Politicians and press baron united to acknowledge the supposed ability of the Murdoch media to swing elections, epitomised by the ‘It’s the Sun wot won it’ headline after John Major was re-elected in 1992.
The reality is that Murdoch likes to back a winner. That’s why his titles switched to Labour in 1997.
The Tories were seen as rotten, corrupt, divided and staring defeat in the face. Had Labour leader John Smith not died in 1994, he would almost certainly have led his party to victory in 1997.
But it was in the interests of both Murdoch and Blair to claim that Labour could only win elections with News International support and with a leader whose policies owed little to Labour traditions and values.
That myth persisted throughout Labour’s term in office, along with the related fable of Blair as election winner in chief, even though the party’s vote declined steadily from 1997 onwards.
Blair, who has spent the time since his resignation filling his boots as he plies his trade among the corporate interests he served while in office, is still at it now.
He insists that Brown lost new Labour’s ‘driving rhythm’ when he took over in 2007, crashing to defeat in a potentially winnable election.
Blair is incapable of accepting his own culpability in alienating much of Labour’s working-class base together with other strata sickened by the agenda of overseas wars and pandering to big business at home.
Miliband would be well advised to disregard all advice from this quarter and those within his shadow cabinet who still hanker for the days of Blair and Peter Mandelson.
Such people still have too much of his ear, which is why he declined his invitation to the Big Meeting in Durham at the weekend, where he could have addressed 120,000 people at the old racecourse.
Voters in north-east England have been among the Labour Party’s most loyal, which is why new Labour took them for granted and treated them contemptuously.
Had Miliband taken his turn in Durham’s driving rain, he could have told them that those days are gone and that Labour will be proud once more to stand alongside the trade union movement.
It’s not just that trade unionists contribute 87 per cent of Labour Party income, which is collected through each union’s voluntary and democratically accountable political fund.
It is, as Unite leader Len McCluskey told the Durham rally, that ‘the trade union movement is now the main force standing for a better Britain pushing for real resistance to this government’s onslaught on our services and our rights.’
Miliband has a strategic choice to make and he doesn’t have a lot of time to do so.
He can either continue to do Dalek impressions repeating: ‘This strike is wrong’ or he can put aside the defeatism of the Blairite undead and work to unite the labour movement and its allies to derail this Tory-led government’s nefarious programme.