David Blackburn

Blairites and the Left are on an inevitable collision course

Blairites and the Left are on an inevitable collision course
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I suspect that union leaders have always believed that they ought to drive the Labour party’s agenda. But now, after a year of economic misery and electoral disasters for the centre-left party leadership, the old left’s confidence is back and ought implies can. In a blatant assault on Blairism, rabble-rouser-in-chief Derek Simpson branded Peter Mandelson, David Miliband and James Purnell as “thick” and “Tories”. I can’t imagine Arthur Scargill, even when completely carried away, denouncing Roy Jenkins or David Owen in such terms, and it speaks volumes about the unions’ expectations of an imminent lurch to the left.

Alistair Campbell has attempted to pooh-pooh Simpson’s provocation. He wrote on his blog today:

‘There is a lot you can say about PM, DM and James (can't call him JP because as they sing on the terraces at Hull, there is only one JP...) but 'thick' and 'Tories' they most certainly aren't.

Indeed, it underlines the impotency of such calls to know that one day they might have been taken seriously, whereas today both caller and called know they are simply a way of trying to get noticed.’

But they’ve been noticed. Simpson’s petulance is worthy of a kindergarten, but the message is clear: the unions believe that a renewal of ‘core values’ alone will save Labour from the wilderness. John Cruddas’ argument that Labour’s retreat into ‘the philosophical framework of the right’ has left the party without language, empathy and direction is proof that the death-bed desire to return to the ‘good old cause’ is gaining momentum, though what this broad idea will entail remains to be seen. All this points to a struggle between two factions that will make the Tories’ EU feud look like a prolonged period of navel-gazing. And, with both sides yet unable to field a persuasive candidate, or even an alternative to Brown, it‘s hard to envisage swift resolution.