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Tony Blair and the Blairites: The neoliberal tribute band who still have the Labour Party dancing to their tune

13 63 0
29.10.2019

Question: Who is the current leader of the Labour Party? Well, if you answer ‘Jeremy Corbyn,’ you’d be technically correct, but that’s as far as it goes. The man who is really calling the shots is Tony Blair, despite stepping down as party leader, and prime minister, 12 years ago. The truth is that Corbyn is now no more than a figurehead, reduced to echoing Blair’s own utterances.

Back in 2015, Labour supporters had valid grounds for believing that things were really going to change. During his successful campaign to become Labour leader that year, the 100-1 shot Jeremy Corbyn, a veteran anti-war leftist, said he was convinced that the Iraq War was illegal and that Tony Blair, if he had committed a war crime, should be put on trial. Labour members, desperate for a clean break with Blairism and all it represented, took great heart that they were getting their party back. Corbyn was still prepared to call for an investigation into Blair as late as May 2016. But since then, it’s all gone very quiet on the anti-war front.

When, in November 2016, the SNP’s Alex Salmond tabled a motion calling for Blair to be held to account for allegedly misleading parliament over the Iraq War, it was defeated by 439 votes to 70. Jeremy Corbyn, the one-time chair of Stop the War, didn’t turn up. The reason given was that he had a ‘longstanding engagement in his constituency.’ The Guardian noted that several of Corbyn’s “key allies” including Diane Abbott and John McDonnell didn’t show up either. The message to Blair and the Blairites was clear: ‘We’re not going to pursue you on this one. It’s over.’

Instead of moving against Blair and his acolytes in the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP), Corbyn and his ‘key allies’ backed off and sought to accommodate them in the interests of ‘party unity.’ Members who voted overwhelmingly for Corbyn in two leadership elections no doubt hoped that his victories would mark an end to establishment-friendly Blairism. In fact, Blair and the Blairites have regrouped and now have Corbyn exactly where they want him. Which is in a terribly weak position. Corbyn is in a box, but as someone on Twitter said yesterday, he’s been handing his enemies the hammer and the nails.

A key turning point was Corbyn’s........

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