Matthew Dancona

Livingstone carries the standard for the Labour left

Livingstone carries the standard for the Labour left
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That it should come to this: one can barely turn on the television without seeing Ken Livingstone vociferously defending Gordon Brown against what he describes, wrongly, as an “uber-Blairite plot.” Ken – of all people – says that this disunity really will not do, and that Labour has a duty to rally behind the Prime Minister and his high-spending, interventionist policies.

The two men once nursed one of the great hatreds in British politics. In 1998, for example, Livingstone wrote that "Gordon is not up to his job… The end result… is that Britain is now heading towards a recession entirely of Gordon's making."  Two years later, Brown wrote a ferocious attack in the Evening Standard on Ken’s candidacy to be London Mayor, arguing that "every Labour Party member knows the last thing London or Labour needs is a return to the barren divisive fights over economic policy of the Eighties”. The two men fought a furious battle over the future of London Underground.

Prime Minister Brown and Mayor Livingstone buried their differences last year out of necessity in a desperate bid to halt the march of Boris (they failed). But this is different. Livingstone and his wing of the party are delighted by this opportunity to be indispensable to Brown and to caricature all those engaged in the mutiny against the PM as wicked Blairites. For so long the bad guys, the Left and the unions are reasserting their grip on the movement after what they see as the long New Labour nightmare in which the party they themselves almost destroyed in the Eighties became – shock, horror - electable.

This is a taste of what is to come after Labour loses the general election. To adapt the line used by Tony Blair in 1996, Old Labour’s coming home…