TRUE CRIME STORIES: SOME NEW LABOUR MEMOIRS


This is a review of the autobiographies of New Labour supremos, Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson and John Prescott, written by my UCU colleague and eminent radical historian, John Newsinger. It is an excoriating analysis of the self-serving texts that exposes the Thatcherite principles underlying New Labour.

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With David Cameron in power and a full-scale Thatcherite assault underway on the welfare state, working class living standards and the public sector unions, it is easy to forget just how rightwing New Labour was. Well, fortunately, two of the architects of New Labour, Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson, together with the man who served as their ‘Judas goat’, John Prescott, have rushed into print to remind us. The three memoirs are very different in tone. Prescott is pathetic, someone who has abandoned every principle he ever believed in. This was a small price to pay to become Deputy Prime Minister. And his career has culminated with this proudly working class man joining the ermine vermin and becoming a Baron. Prescott is not sure whether to be pleased with or ashamed of himself. Mandelson, another Baron, leaves the reader knowing as little about who he is, what be believes in and what he has been up to than he or she did before they opened the book. And then with Blair, one confronts full-blown megalomania. No House of Lords for him, he is one of the Masters of the Universe, an honorary member of the American ruling class.

Nevertheless, these memoirs are useful for providing some insight into the state of the Labour Party and the politics of the New Labour governments, into the way in which they developed their own brand of Thatcherism, thereby preparing the way for the Coalition. What is also clear from the Blair and Mandelson memoirs is that they are attempting to construct a Blairite narrative whereby Labour lost the 2010 general election because it was not right wing enough, or as they both put it, was no longer really New Labour. This is, of course, a travesty, but one that can potentially weaken the fight against the Coalition. It has to be challenged. One last point: there is a delightful irony in the fact that it was almost certainly the publication of the Blair and Mandelson memoirs and the bad memories they revived that cost their anointed heir, David Miliband, the leadership of the Labour Party.

One At A Time With Me First

There is an old joke, nearly as old as the Labour Party, about a working class Labour politician who had abandoned all of his principles except his belief in the emancipation of the working class but only one at a time and with him first. Whoever first coined this gem could have had John Prescott in mind, although to be fair it does not refer to an individual, but to a particular Old Labour type, to the Old Labour traitor. Is this unfair to Prescott? On the one hand, he can declare ‘an affinity with the underdog, people who had failed or were being put down’ ( pp 27-28), but he can also write with every expectation of sympathy about the shock of briefly rejoining the common herd once he had left office. He had to move out of Admiralty House, give up his country retreat at Dorneywood and even use the Tube: ‘I had to pay cash and was amazed it cost four pounds’. It was ‘quite a shock to the system all round’. (p 3) And, of course there’s the money. Prescott has had to join the lecture circuit ‘to earn some money for my retirement’. ( p354) Before rushing to hold a collection for him, it is worth remembering that he has a pension of over £60,000 a year!

Prescott famously failed the 11 plus and to his credit became a staunch defender of comprehensive education, although this was not to stop him from serving as Deputy Prime Minister in the government that began dismantling the comprehensive system. He went out to work at fifteen, working as a steward in the Merchant Navy. In the early 1960s he became involved in a rank and file revolt against the cosy relationship that existed between the National Union of Seamen (NUS) and the employers. He was one of the leaders of the National Seamen’s Reform Movement that wrote an important page in trade union history. Prescott came from a respectable Labour background with his father having been a Labour Party councillor, a JP and a full-time official in the Transport and Salaried Staffs Association. It does seem that by his early twenties, he was already thinking of a career as a union official himself. Consequently his attitude towards the NUS was that it should be reformed with men like himself taking over, whereas the rank and file revolt was driven by rage. In his memoirs, he spends more time trying to distance himself from the militants than he does exploring the injustices and oppressions they were revolting against. He is clearly rewriting the past from the respectable position he occupies today. He was, he tells us, against wild cat strikes, and, ‘I have to admit that some of the more militant were trying to bring down the Government, hold the country to ransom’. (p 56) Indeed sometimes, he gives the impression that the militants were the real problem. On one occasion he actually had to arm himself with ‘a big piece of timber’ to see off a group of militant thugs. (P 60) Certainly, his potential as a union official was shown when he secured a return to work in Liverpool after putting the resolution to the vote five times before he won it!

In 1963, he went to Ruskin College and from there to Hull University, where he did a degree. Prescott, who in many ways defines himself as an 11 plus failure, altogether spent five years in full-time higher education on a full grant and without paying fees. While he was a student he continued his involvement with the seamen and with the local Labour Party. Prescott played a part in the great 1966 seamen’s strike and put together Not Wanted On Voyage-The Seamen’s Reply, a devastating response to the Pearson Inquiry into the strike. This was his finest moment. He was still thinking in terms of a career as a full-time official, but in November 1968 he was adopted as Labour candidate for Hull East. At this time, he occasionally bought Socialist Worker.

Becoming an MP was to change everything. He bought a new house that was ‘once owned by some rich merchant…It was huge with eight bedrooms and lots of turrets’. (p 117) Even his over sympathetic biographer, Colin Brown, describes it as ‘every inch a house for the upper middle classes. Buying it showed he had arrived, but it was not without a conflict of conscience’.[1] From this point on, Prescott’s working class persona was to increasingly become a means of advancing himself within the Labour Party rather than reflecting any real commitment to the actual working class. And, of course, he had to cope with how attractive he was to women. Prescott writes of Thatcher flirting with him in the Commons: she ‘would half smile at me…even wink on one occasion’. (p137-138) She was not alone: ‘towards the end of 1995, I woke up one day to find I’d become a sex symbol’. (p 205)

What of New Labour? Prescott had a vital role to play in convincing the Labour Party membership and the trade unions that the changes Blair, Brown and co were proposing were merely cosmetic, rather than shifting the party decisively to the right. If getting rid of Clause 4 was acceptable to someone as working class as John Prescott, then there was no way it could possibly signal an embrace of Thatcherism. He was the Judas goat that led the party membership unsuspectingly along the road to New Labour. What is clear from his memoirs is the extent to which he personally had moved to the right. Prescott proudly claims to have invented public-private partnerships, a policy that he complains the Conservatives stole.(p 171-172) And once in power in 1997, he was very much in favour of the part privatisation of the Royal Mail and played a vital role in the privatisation of Air Traffic Control, something Labour had condemned in opposition (’I didn’t see it as an ideological sell-out, I saw it as the best financial deal for the taxpayer’ (p221) ). As for the Iraq War, ‘our relationship with the US has always been fundamental’. For Prescott, it was all about being loyal to Tony and he shows not the slightest concern with the issues raised by the conflict. Even with all that we know today about the horrendous loss of Iraqi lives, he can still proudly announce that ‘I would still do the same again’. (p287)

He was still the old John though. Indeed, his happiest times in office were when he had his old mates from his seafaring days down to Dorneywood for Christmas. ‘I was most relaxed in the company of people I felt completely at ease with’, he writes. (p242) There were difficulties, however. During the 2002 firemen’s strike, ‘Tony left it totally to me’. Prescott orchestrated their eventual defeat but only after a bitter dispute. Some people can be so unfair though:

 I got attacked personally by someone I considered one of my oldest  friends, a Britannic steward I’d been at sea with. His son was a  fireman out on strike. His dad told me I was a ‘fucking sell-out’,  letting down the workers when I was supposed to be a union man. I’d been all for the workers, he said, when I’d been at sea with him…He hasn’t spoken to me since. (p258-259)

This says it all really.

One interesting point worth noticing is the extent to which the changes in the Labour Party that Prescott helped make possible, mean that no one like him will ever become an MP again, let alone a minister. The idea that a trade union militant could win adoption for a safe Labour seat is inconceivable today. Indeed, in Gordon Brown’s government, there were more millionaires (10 worth who were £35 million between them) than there were former manual workers. And Prescott recognises this change himself: ‘we won’t have many politicians…who have come from my sort of background’. This he moans ‘will be a loss’, but ‘we can’t go back’. (p363) So much for the working class!

What do the authors of the other two memoirs make of Prescott? For Mandelson, Prescott was Blair’s ‘political foil’. (p 177) He ‘loved his job and the status that went with it, and was generally careful to avoid doing anything to put it at risk’. (p 197) And despite their mutual dislike, Mandelson does express his gratitude to Prescott for supporting his proposals to privatise the Royal Mail when he returned to the Cabinet in 2008: ‘I had a particularly gratifying ally’. (p479) What of Blair? Prescott ‘brought an authenticity, an appeal to the party’s traditional wing, especially within the trade union movement’. (p326) But the highest praise Blair can think of is that if Prescott were a young man today, he would ‘probably never have gone near a trade union’, but instead would have ‘most likely have taken a job in industry or the public sector as a manager’. (p326). Praise indeed!

Lord Mandelson’s Watch

When Mandelson joined Brown’s Cabinet at the end of 2008, increasingly desperate Labour MPs welcomed him back as a saviour. At the Party Conference in September 2009, the man, who in many ways embodied everything most contemptible about New Labour and its embrace of the rich, received a standing ovation. In his memoirs, he writes that the party ‘had at long last learned to love peter Mandelson’. (p486) What makes the moment particularly symbolic is that when Mandelson waved to the applauding delegates, he had on his wrist a Patek watch that cost over £21,000. Nothing better signifies the extent to which New Labour had devoted itself to the service of the rich than Lord Mandelson’s watch.

Mandelson had, like Prescott, come from a Labour background. After a brief flirtation with the Left, he decided that ‘I wanted a future in the Labour Party’ and that the best way to achieve this ‘was through the trade union movement’. (p 60) He went to work at the TUC economic department where he seems to have been transformed into an enemy of trade unionism, at least once the movement had served his purposes. Much later he was to have no sympathy whatever for the miners strike and observes that one of Kinnock’s great regrets was that he had not opposed the strike from the outset, but then Kinnock was always ‘too much of a socialist’. (p104) As far as Mandelson was concerned, the Labour Party ‘was…on the wrong side’ in the 1986 News International Lockout. He was the Party’s Director of Communication’s at the time and was ordered to have nothing to do with the Murdoch press. Mandelson had the mentality of a scab, however, and ‘I made it a point privately to continue briefing and talking to the Murdoch journalists’. (p190) The enormity of this is lost today, because we have become so used to Labour Prime Ministers and ministers courting Murdoch, but at the time it would have been unthinkable for a Labour Leader to have consorted with a reactionary union-buster like Murdoch.

What Mandelson, together with Blair and Brown, set out to do was to transform the Labour Party, to have it embrace Thatcherism. Mandelson supported Thatcher’s anti-trade union legislation and looked forward to the creation of ‘a US style entrepreneurial culture’ in Britain. (p265) This was what the New Labour government was all about. And life was so good. ‘I had a lively and, when I chose a decidedly A-list social life’. New Labour was chic ‘and people wanted a bit of that chic at their parties and receptions’. Such were the days: ‘Mick (Jagger) was singing, Kate (Moss) was dancing, and I felt an urge to join in’.(pp224-225) Of course, it all ended in tears with not one but two resignations. One would, as Oscar Wilde put it, need a heart of stone not to laugh. Mandelson claims to have had serious reservations about the Iraq War and there is no reason to doubt him. On one occasion, he writes of an impatient Blair accusing him of spending too much time talking to George Galloway! (p353)He provides some further material on ‘the Blair-Brown civil war’. (p14) He testifies to the ‘good relationship’ that Brown established with Rupert Murdoch, although he never got on with Rebekah Wade, because she was always too close to Blair. (p488)

At one point, Mandelson insists that ‘my real job was to serve my constituents’. Representing the people of Hartlepool was ‘my real job’. (p334) One is entitled to be sceptical about this because there were no billionaires resident in Hartlepool. Indeed, a good case can be made that Mandelson’s ‘real job’ barely figures in the pages of his memoirs. He was the man who acted as the go-between for New Labour and the ruling class. The circles Mandelson moved in are absent from his pages, except for one occasion when it is impossible not to mention them. He does feel compelled to explain how he came to be staying on the Russian multi-billionaire, Oleg Deripaska’s, £80 million luxury yacht in 2008. We would never have known about this if George Osborne, also present, had not tried to make political capital out of it. The episode has, of course, since been immortalised in John le Carre’s novel, Our Kind of Traitor. Mandelson gives the impression that he barely knew Deripaska, but, in fact he had been introduced to him by Nat Rothschild, as early as October 2004. Mandelson, as one account observes, ‘had always been open to the blandishments of the wealthy and he struck up a rapport with Russia’s richest man’. Nat Rothschild, Old Etonian and former member of the Bullingdon Club, a ‘near billionaire himself’, was a good friend of Mandelson’s. Indeed, Mandelson had been a family friend going back to the 1990s, and ‘frequented’ Nat’s Corfu chateau, one of his many homes. According to one friend, Mandelson ‘likes to use other people’s planes and yachts…Peter likes the comfort of flying on a private jet, staying on a nice yacht’. In August 2008, he was in Corfu to celebrate the fortieth birthday of Elizabeth Murdoch (Rupert was there, of course) and because of a shortage of accommodation, he stayed on Deripaska’s yacht. This was all perfectly innocent: ‘I barely saw him, except for an amusing episode in which…I stumbled across a yoga session he and his wife were taking, and I happily joined in’. (p27) One can rest assured, however, that while Mandelson was rubbing shoulders with the super rich, he was thinking of the people of Hartlepool. To be fair, it was not just Mandelson, but New Labour that embraced the new Russian super rich, welcoming them to Britain. In 2006, a fifth of all the houses in London sold for over £8 million were sold to Russians and the higher the price you went, the higher the proportion bought by Russians. Even Ken Livingstone ‘went out of his way to applaud the Russian influx’.[2] There are even stories that Russian influence was crucial in getting ‘their London’ the Olympic Games.

Mandelson obliquely acknowledges how little he is going to reveal in the title of his memoirs, The Third Man. There are a whole number of Graham Greene titles he could have chosen (The Last Word, The End of the Affair, A Burnt-Out Case, The Confidential Agent, even The Comedians), but instead he chose a reference to the mysterious Harry Lime, a man about whom rumours abound, of whom little is revealed, but who is an absolutely unscrupulous criminal. As it is no one better exemplifies New Labour than Peter Mandelson, a man eager to be of service to his friends, the super rich.

Confessions of a War Criminal

Which brings us to Blair himself. His is very much a memoir intended to establish his place in history as a great man. In fact what he has produced is an exercise in amoral megalomania, characterised by often execrable prose, sometimes revealing more than he intended.

First, the megalomania. A few quotations will be enough to demonstrate this particular pathology:

 I had a strategy for guiding us from Opposition into government; I adhered to it, and I knew that if I did so, I wouldn’t fail…I was the eternal warrior against complacency. (pp1-2)

I had led the Labour Party to victory. I had reshaped it. I had given it a chance to be a true party of government. All this took a degree of political skill and courage. (p27)

I was trying to wear what was effectively a kind of psychological armour which the arrows simply bounced off, and to achieve a kind of weightlessness that allowed me, somehow to float above the daemonic rabble tearing at my limbs. There was courage in it and I look back now at it with pride. (p573)

It is unusual to praise oneself for one’s courage, but Blair obviously doesn’t want to leave anything to chance.

Contrary to what some reviewers have said, he does actually reveal why he joined the Labour Party rather than what seems to be his more natural home in the Conservative Party. Given that he was hostile to the trade unions, was always out of sympathy with the politics of Labourism, both Old Left and Old Right, this has always been a bit of a puzzle. While he wholeheartedly endorsed much of Thatcherism , in particular their ‘new laissez-faire approach to industry, battles with the unions’, nevertheless they ‘were also conservative with a small “c”’. What he couldn’t stomach was ‘their stuffiness, their pomp, their worship of tradition’. They were still ‘stamped with the hallmark of a bygone age’. He objected to their ‘baggage, airs and graces’. (p98, 132) His objection to the Conservative Party was not political, but cultural. Instead, he joined the Labour Party, portraying himself on a number of occasions as a sort of Thatcherite entrist, pretending to be Labour (he even joined CND), but really intent on changing Labour into something else. From the very beginning, he recognised that the Labour Party was ‘in the wrong place’ and that it would have to be transformed. As he admits, there were occasions ‘I couldn’t stop the mask slipping’. (p43)

The result was that the Labour Party ended up with a leader who was every bit as hostile to trade unionism as any Tory. He makes absolutely clear that Thatcher’s attack on the unions was the right thing to do: she was ‘correct about the excesses of trade union power’. Harold Wilson and Ted Heath had tried ‘an evolutionary attack on trade union privilege’ and had both failed. Of course the idea that Heath’s Industrial Relations Act, his imprisoning of trade unionists and his fighting two great class battle with the miners was ‘evolutionary’ is complete rubbish.[3] Blair goes on to argue that after the failure of their evolutionary approach, it was clear that ‘only a revolutionary one would succeed. And she had the character, leadership and intelligence to make it happen’. (p42) John Prescott, it is worth remembering, considers this man to be the Labour Party’s greatest leader! (p326) Thatcher’s anti-trade union legislation was left in place by New Labour as part of their commitment to big business that they would not to interfere with the balance of class forces that Thatcher’s victories had established. This really gets to the heart of New Labour politics: their commitment to a society where big business is dominant, culturally, politically and economically and the unions have been successfully curbed.

Blair goes on to inevitably embrace the most successful union-buster in modern British history, Rupert Murdoch. He came to have ‘a grudging respect and even liking’ for Murdoch who ‘had balls’. (p98) Once again, it is worth making the point that for senior Labour politicians to openly associate with, indeed positively court the support of and do favours for a reactionary union-buster like Murdoch, is unprecedented. It would not have been possible before the 1990s and shows how far to the right New Labour had moved. While he had no time for trade unionists, Blair is quite happy to acknowledge that when ‘I was with a group of entrepreneurs, I felt at home’. (p116)

Blair famously regrets only two policies in his memoirs: the banning of fox hunting and the Freedom of Information Act. On Iraq, he is absolutely unrepentant. Despite the continuing revelations about the horrors that the invasion have inflicted on that country, Blair not only justifies the attack, but regrets that it was not continued as originally planned with Syria and Iran next. He goes out of his way to praise Vice President Dick Cheney. Cheney, he writes admiringly, ‘would have worked through the whole lot, Iraq, Syria, Iran, dealing with all their surrogates in the course of it-Hezbollah, Hamas, etc.’ Cheney recognised that ‘the world had to be made anew’ and despite disagreements, Blair believes ‘there was much to be said for this insight’. (p409) As for the difficulties in Iraq, these were not the responsibility of Britain and the US, but were the fault of Iran. Indeed, Iran, he claims, ‘was both funding and training al-Qaeda operatives’. (p469) This is a neo-con fantasy that almost defies belief. It is intended to justify a future attack on Iran. And this from the supposed Middle East Peace Envoy. More generally, Blair insists that ‘our alliance with the US gave Britain a huge position’, and that, as far as he personally was concerned, he thought people ‘admired the fact I counted, was a big player, was a world and not just a national leader’. (p410)

Blair bought into the War on Terror without reservation. For him it defined the modern world. There is a great battle underway for the soul of Islam, a battle that might last generations and that would have to be fought on many fronts. Winning is not just a matter of ‘a military strategy’, but requires ‘a whole new geopolitical framework’.  He goes on:

It requires a myriad interventions deep into the affairs of other nations. It requires above all a willingness to see the battle as existential and see it through, to take the time, to spend the treasure, to shed the blood, believing that not to do so is only to postpone the day of reckoning…

Well, we already know that he has no problem with military intervention and the shedding of blood, but what we are confronted with here is a Manichaean view of the world that owes more to the Chronicles of Narnia (Tony Through The Wardrobe, so to speak) than to any realistic geopolitical appreciation. The War on Terror was always an ideological construct, a way that the US neocons thought they could justify the increasing use of armed force to sustain the position of US Imperialism. Blair actually believes it. For him, the war is still being fought out, but fewer and fewer people are taking it seriously as the defining conflict of the age. He is increasingly confined to an embittered neocon ghetto. American Imperialism under Obama is finding new ideological clothes to wear.

One of New Labour’s great successes was that having involved the country, despite massive opposition, in one catastrophic American War, they nevertheless were able to go on and successfully involve us in another one. The way the renewed Afghan War was served up is one of the great triumphs of modern information management, a triumph all the greater because it was accomplished without anyone even being aware that it was going on. In March 2006, John Reid, the secretary for defence, committed British troops to a three year operation in Afghanistan with the remark that he would be happy if at the end of it they ‘had not fired a shot’.[4] At the same time as he was misleading the British people, Reid was telling Blair something very different:

As John made very clear, it would be a tough and dangerous mission. The Taliban would fight hard to keep hold of the territory that we had never been able to satisfactorily wrest from them. There would be suicide attacks on our forces.

If this prognosis had been made public at the time, especially in the aftermath of Iraq, there would have been massive opposition to the commitment. Instead, the war was kept hidden for as long as possible, and then once the intensity of the fighting made continued secrecy impossible, the government very successfully played the ‘support our boys’ card. The result is a war that cannot be won, that has cost the lives of hundreds of British troops, and is killing an increasing number of Afghan civilians. We must not forget New Labour’s second American War.

Since his resignation as Prime Minister, Blair has devoted much of his time to enriching himself. Today he is believed to be worth anywhere between £40million and £60 million The lecture circuit has proven immensely profitable for him with a speech at a banquet held by a Chinese property company in November 2007 earning him £237,000 and a speech to a conference of entrepreneurs in Barcelona the following year earning him £240,000. According to one account, by 2009, ‘he was being described as the world’s best-paid speaker, able to pull in more than half a million pounds a month, and earning £400,000 for two half-hour speeches in the Phillipines in March of that year’. His topic was ‘The leader as a Nation Builder in a Time of Globalisation’. And, he has taken a number of lucrative jobs in the financial sector: ‘in January 2008, he joined one of Wall Street’s best-known banks, JP Morgan…reportedly earning around £2 million a year for a part-time role’. That same month, he took another part-time job with the Swiss insurance firm, Zurich, ‘for at least £500,000 a year’.[5] One has to pinch oneself to remember that this man was once leader of the Labour Party!

New Labour Lives!

Both Blair and Mandelson are determined to construct a mythic explanation for the 2010 defeat. According to Mandelson, Brown lost because ‘voters had come to feel that we had moved away from the key New Labour instincts’. (p561) Blair goes much further, arguing that Brown had, in fact, abandoned New Labour. He seriously argues that in 2010, he could have defeated Cameron: ‘Labour won when it was New Labour. It lost because it stopped being New Labour’. (p679) This is a nonsense. Indeed, a good case can be made that the extent to which Brown warned against Tory cuts actually prevented a Labour rout. What lost Labour the election was the extent to which it was still New Labour. It was New Labour that had seen a collapse in party membership. It was New Labour that had seen inequality increase to levels not seen since before the War. It was New Labour that had turned Britain into a paradise for the rich and super rich. It was New Labour that left the British economy so vulnerable to financial crisis. And, moreover, Blair goes on to endorse the Cameron-Clegg response to that crisis. (p682-683) He is not alone in this. Privately, a majority of Labour MPs support the Con Dem regime of cuts. The fact that 111 MPs voted for David Miliband in the first round of the Labour leadership elections and only 7 for Diane Abbot shows this. By the fourth ballot, David Miliband had the support of 140 MPs. These people might have reservations about the timing of the cuts or the manner in which they are being implemented, they might object to some of the detail, but for most Labour MPs the real objection is that they are not the ones in office carrying them out. New Labour Britain, for example, was already a world leader in the ‘outsourcing’, a polite word for the privatisation of public services, and indeed, boasted of this in business circles. It was a New Labour minister, John Hutton, who in 2008 appointed the former CIA analyst and current head of Chatham House, DeAnne Julius, to report on the success of New Labour’s outsourcing of public services or ‘the public sector industries’ as they are now known. Her report for the Department of Business Enterprise was entitled: Understanding The Public Services Industry: How big, how good, where next?[6] She was, at the time, on the board of the Serco Group, a major player in the ‘outsourcing’ business and has since identified the fire brigade and the ambulance service as possible candidates for privatisation. The Brown government was sitting on her report until after the general election. Can anyone seriously doubt that if Brown had won the 2010 general election we would not be facing a regime of draconian cuts and privatisation.

Labour MPs, with some commendable exceptions, are not spoiling for a fight with the Coalition. They have no intention of taking to the streets or standing on picket lines. This reflects the balance of class forces, the balance of class forces that made New Labour possible in the first place. What we are moving into now, however, is a different era. A weak Coalition government of inexperienced but remarkably overconfident public school class warriors (the first rule of class warfare for any serious ruling class militant is do not alienate the police and these people have broken it already) is launching an unprecedented attack on the poor, students, public sector workers and, it has to be insisted on the living standards of millions of white collar workers. Defeating their assault will change the balance of class forces decisively. Once the cuts begin to bite, Labour MPs will find it increasingly difficult to remain apart from the struggle. Only the hardcore Blairites will continue to stand aside, and without any doubt some of these will actually defect to the Tories. This will provide us with an opportunity to destroy New Labour once and for all.

Professor, John Newsinger

John Prescott with Hunter Davies, Prezza: Pulling No Punches (Headline 2008) £18.99

Peter Mandelson, The Third Man: Life At The Heart Of New Labour (Harper Press 2010) £25

Tony Blair, A Journey (Hutchinson 2010) £25


[1] Colin Brown, Fighting Talk, Simon and Schuster 1997, p 73

[2] Mark Hollingsworth and Stewart Lansley, Londongrad (Fourth Estate 2010) pp330,332,347

[3] Heath was one of those 1970s politicians who found themselves rapidly outflanked on the right, not just by Thatcher but also by Blair. In 2002 Heath was complaining to Tony Benn that Blair ‘is a Thatcherite’. In the same conversation Heath complained that American Presidents were not assassinated ‘frequently enough as far as the present one is concerned’. By February 2003, in the run up to the Iraq War, Heath was demanding to know: ‘How can we get rid of Blair?’ See Tony Benn, More Time For Politics: Diaries 2001-2007 (Arrow Books 2008) p 51, 97

[4] See my America Right or Wrong: New labour and Uncle Sam’s Wars (Bookmarks 2009) p 30

[5] Kevin Theakston, After No 10: Former Prime Ministers In British Politics (Palgrave Macmillan 2010) pp220-221, 222.

[6] Among the other places this report is available on the web is the Serco website

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9 responses to “TRUE CRIME STORIES: SOME NEW LABOUR MEMOIRS

  1. Excellent article and most illuminating! I know we have discussed some of these wider issues before in this forum, but I despair of ever being able to bring about change when we have such a wholly corrupt and self-serving political class in the UK. My local MP, who doesn’t even see the need to live in the constituency, came top of the poll in terms of having to pay back fraudulently claimed expenses. Right I thought, here is something that will really have an impact during the run-up to the 2010 General Election. Not a bit of it…how wrong I was! The complacent apathy and mind-numbing ignorance of the average tory voter has to be directly witnessed to be believed. What can we do in the face of such lack of understanding, which I’m sure is equally present in safe labour constituencies as well. Anyway, just wanted to get that off my chest and one good thing to report, I’ve just been granted Life Membership of my brave Trade Union, the GMB!

    • Congratulations, Comrade. You weren’t at Tolpuddle by any chance? I was stewarding.

      I’m not sure ‘yer average Tory voter is apathetic or ignorant in the sense I think they know exactly what they are doing – voting to protect their own interests, which they justify to themselves in a patriotic way as voting to protect the interests of the country against the Lefties and scroungers.

      The fact that they are failing to understand that the interests of global capital are not in fact their interests is the mystery. But a lifetime of reading the Daily Mail or one of Murdoch’s rags is going to do that to you.

      Frankly, the miracle is that their are any people left, like the 10,000 at this years Tolpuddle, who have not bought into the unrelenting barrage of pro-business, pro- freemarket soft propaganda. I was listening to the BBC World Service the other day and their business programme could have been written by Milton Friedman. Even when alternatives are put they are of the Democrat versus Republican, Labour versus Tory kind. i.e. just different ways of articulating essentially the same policies.

      But this a great time to be a fan of ‘people power’. Students rioting in the UK, the Arab spring and citizens in the US, Greece, Spain and Portugal refusing to roll over and take their medicine. This is not a time to be down-hearted, recent events have shown that the mind-boggling stupid idea that ‘history had ended’ is just nonsense. The future is unwritten and people all over the world are fighting to write a better future for us all.

  2. Excuse me for interrupting your communist party, comrades, but I’d like to add my 2 bits.
    First of all a couple of side questions:
    Isn’t Xanavi 23 the hull number of a Nissan racing car?
    Isn’t it true that union stewards are issued truncheons and brass knuckles for use in keeping the rank and file “in line?”

    Your lengthy article exemplifies the biased attitudes of the politically strident. Your people wear haloes and the opposition breathes fire. The opposition can do no right and your people can do no wrong. Here in the US that situation does actually exist with the sleazebag democrats screwing everything up. But surely the UK is more sophisticated and refined.

    I found the last paragraph of your post a bit disturbing with your talk of rioting and social upheaval. Whatever happened to the teachings of Gandhi and Martin Luther King? What’s wrong with peaceful protest? Wouldn’t a Sit-In be much more productive than a riot? Nobody would get hurt, property wouldn’t be damaged, you would acquire just as much publicity for your cause with the added benefit that the publicity would be positive instead of negative. Your standing with the public would be elevated instead of tarnished and your cause would earn public support instead of public backlash. Besides, sit-ins are more fun. In addition to your placards you can bring your lawn furniture, your music, your snacks, and refreshments for the police (i.e. – coffee and doughnuts). Everybody has a good time, you get your TV coverage, you put out your message, and you win goodwill from the public. i.e. – your cause is advanced

    • Hey man, not so much ‘side’ comments as ‘snide’ comments. No need to start attacking people personally.

      As to the “sleazebag democrats screwing everything up”, has it never occurred to you that for most of the last decade your President was the most right wing for 50 years? Don’t you think Bush and the Christian Right and the free-market Neocons have some part to play in all this? It was they who took you lot into 2 illegal wars that have cost the US economy $3 trillion dollars; it is they who have overseen a massive rise in inequality in your country and the emergence of a class of obscenely super-rich who have taken control of your democracy via the funding of political parties; it is they who have allowed men like Rupert Murdoch to control and corrupt the US media to such an extent that Fox News can sell itself as ‘Fair And Balanced’ and you guys believe it; it is they who allowed the US financial sector to become so bloated that when it’s guts finally exploded they covered us all in shit.

      So instead of sitting on your ridiculously comic moral high-horse it is time Republicans in the US took some responsibility for the way they have screwed everything up.

  3. Gee, I feel like I’ve been ambushed by a pit bull. Give me a chance to recuperate and I’ll try to respond.

    • You see this is the problem with this internet chat – it can escalate into abuse so easily. My comments were a reaction to yours but, as always, made with the greatest respect.

      You do however put your finger on a very good point which is that the Right often portray people like me as dangerous subversives and the Left portray the Right as greedy, uncaring and self-interested.

      The truth is that often we claim to want the same things – freedom and justice for all. BUT we do differ greatly about how we think these aims can be achieved – or even, and this is what really interests me, what freedom and justice actually are.

      For example, if you only describe freedom as being freedom from restraint, then maybe, just maybe the free-market ideology of the American Right can be justified. But as soon as you acknowledge that freedom also entails the freedom to do things (like reading and writing, earning a living, drinking fresh water and having equal access to these things), then the equation becomes much, much more complicated.

      I would argue that a universally available, high-quality education, regardless of the ethnicity or wealth of parents is a prerequisite for any meaningful concept of freedom that includes the idea of justice.

      A conception of freedom that simply removes restraint from everyone equally is simply a recipe for the law of the jungle where the strong exploit the weak simply by virtue of their strength. How can such a world entail a meaningful concept of justice?

      Especially as almost all the ‘wealth’ of the West ultimately rests on the free labour of slaves and the colonised of the Third World during the 18th & 19th Centuries. And that ultimately rests on violent kidnapping and wholesale invasion.

  4. Hey, don’t get me wrong. I don’t feel abused. I’m having fun. I hope that doesn’t mean I’m a sicko or something. I’m still working on my reply. Stand by.

  5. Your bit about a universally available, high quality education – I agree with 100% and I would like to add that it should be free as well. However, your last paragraph about the West profiting from colonialization and slave labor – that’s true but is it still benefiting from that even today?
    By the way, when you get a chance why don’t you tell us the history of “Tolpuddle.”
    Now I have a message for the silent, unseen visitors to this site who read these posts but who have not felt compelled to post their own comments. How about helping us out with some additional points of view? You’re invited, let us hear from you. Don’t be a yellah belly.

  6. I cannot thank you enough for the post.Thanks Again. Great.

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