Sunday, March 14, 2010

End of The Party For Snake-Oil Salesmen

Finally free of the shackles and spin of the New Labour brand, a retiring MP has dared to speak out against the Gang of Four who hijacked a political Party for self-serving power. After 25 years as an MP and 46 years in the Party, Peter Kilfoyle hits out at the hypocrisy of New Labour.

Bruce Willis without the dirty vest, 'pushing sixty with a dicky heart', a man after the Orange Party's own heart. Kilfoyle is one of the few MPs who are quitting the commons come election time when the well-worn excuse of "health grounds" rings true.

In an extract from his new book published in the unlikely organ of the Mail on Sunday, the headline: "The snake oil salesmen who hijacked my party", could have been written by the Orange Party, breaking free from the shackles to show up the sham a decade of failed policies in May 2008, now all thumbs a-twiddlin' waiting for the election.

Snake-oil salesmen and a slick marketing machine. A slick snake-oil salesman from the Windy City? Dave the darling of the Tory fightback? Not Obama nor Cameron. But the daddy of them all - all heirs to Blair.

A decade of lies, deceit and spin, kept going by the superb showmanship of Blair, shifty skulduggery of Mandelson, sinister spin of Campbell and political strategy of Gould.

All propped up with a smattering of crafty accounting by Brown allowed to play with the big boys to cook the books.

There's no doubt New Labour was a marketing success, observes Kilfoyle. The Gang of Four set out to rebuild Labour in their own image and likeness and, by and large, succeeded. But New Labour’s day of reckoning is nigh. As Kilfoyle says "snake oil salesmen are always found out eventually."

The 1997 last-ditch bid for power worked for while before the public saw through the sham. The price was to emasculate Labour ideologically. New Labour became a brand. All style and no substance, sold successfully as a soap powder dream to a bedazzled electorate tired of the Tories and its painful memories and remedies.

Watching "political reality give way to political correctness" and rising above the political claptrap, Kilfoyle offers food for political thought but few crumbs of comfort for the dying days of the fag-end government. 

The old guard will go. There will be no Brown, Darling or Straw at the top for long. Johnson will be consigned to the ‘too old’ scrapheap. But Hattie, a "monomaniac obsessed with 'all women' shortlists" will linger on.

Mandy will try to foist a "product" on the Party and the country, trying it on with Bananaboy Miliband. But in the eyes of the electorate, the New Labour brand is forever tarnished with his spin.

Bunkered Brown has packed his cabinet and government with inexperienced cronies kowtowing to his wishes, leaving few serious politicians in his wake. But it is from those ranks that a new leader is expected to emerge. Lightweights Jowell, Bradshaw and Ainsworth are ships that will be passed over in the night. Alexander, Murphy and Byrne have risen to sink without trace.

With little or no experience outside politics, researchers, special advisers, marketing and advertising people like the Miliband brothers, Burnham and Balls are unable to relate to the real world. A new breed of New Labour London hopefuls are being parachuted in to safe seats in the sticks.

Back in 1994, when Mandelson and Gould were arguing that Labour’s traditional voters had nowhere else to go, they were wrong, argues Kilfoyle.

That arrogance has encouraged voting for fringe parties such as the BNP, or simply staying at home. "To our national shame," says Kilfoyle, "it has given the BNP seats in the European Parliament and a worrying BNP presence in places such as Burnley and Stoke."

The choice for the Labour Party, says Kilfoyle, is between the New Labour social democrats, "complete with deregulation, devotion to markets and privatisation" and democratic socialists with calls for "regulation, appropriate intervention and a thriving public sector."

That contradiction between New Labour zealots and traditional true Labour principles and values cannot be reconciled. The failure of recent Brown plots was certainly not out of love or even respect for the struggling Supreme Leader but to do what it takes to fight the Tory threat.

A root-and-branch clear-out of those in leading positions is needed after election defeat says Kilfoyle, with outsiders such as Cruddas offer a fresh hope for the Party. The Orange Party would add McDonnell to that list of two.

However the push polls are spun, New Labour isn't winning, it's losing. The fear of 1994 has returned to haunt the Party. A shattering defeat in the election might lead to the splintering of the Party and the Labour movement.

But lurking behind the ballot box is the reality of recession, with dire times ahead. Whoever holds the reins of government will have tough decisions to make, involving cuts, tax increases and job losses.

It may well be in the Party’s longer-term interest to be in opposition when the economic storm hits the fan, leaving Labour in opposition to collect the electoral benefit.

Kilfoyle, MP for Liverpool Walton, spent years fighting the Militant Tendency 'menace' and quit as a Blair defence minister, claiming the government was failing to pay enough attention to Labour's heartlands.

A vocal backbench critic of the government against plans to replace Trident and a leading critic of the Iraq war, Kilfoyle threw his weight behind the 2008 Labour Party leadership challenge.

In the country at large, the New Labour project has done even more damage, he claims. The country has paid a high price for the shift to the right, with less compassion for those at the bottom of the heap, and a much diminished electoral base for progressive and redistributive policies.

Weighing up "the fulfilment of the personal ambitions of Brown and Blair against the longer-term interests of the majority of the nation and of the Labour Party", Kilfoyle is clear which side he would fall.

"It will take more than a ready smile and an advertising slogan," says Kilfoyle "to convince people a second time around."

Labour Pains by Peter Kilfoyle is published by Biteback Publishing.
Mid Cover: The Broons DC Thompson 1950.

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