Old is the new new

August 25, 2016

It would be hard to tell from Martin McQuillan’s article that New Labour had lost two elections, had overseen a steady decline in membership, and had lost Scotland to the Scottish National Party (“Corbyn’s Labour: lions led by donkey jackets”, Opinion, 6 August).

New Labour gambled that the party could be moved to the Right (to become neoliberal Pepsi to the Tory’s neoliberal Coke) because the core support would have nowhere else to go, but this was no longer viable once the SNP became an anti-austerity party.

McQuillan is right that there is no “credible alternative to Corbyn as leader”: it is unimaginable, for example, that the brief Parliamentary Labour Party favourite, Chuka Umunna, with his public support for bankers and public refusal of support for junior doctors, could unite the party and bring back lost Labour voters. However, it is hard to share McQuillan’s sense of pain at people who have campaigned for the party being told that they are not “real Labour”. He seems to have forgotten New Labour’s vicious campaign against “Old Labour”, and the leadership’s delight in attacking the party membership that has left its legacy in the dysfunctional behaviour of the current PLP.

In his word to the wise for young members, McQuillan presents himself as talking from the perspective of those who have “campaigned for the party for 40 years”. However, many of the “new” members in my Constituency Labour Party are returning members who first campaigned for the party 40 or even 50 years ago but left during the period of New Labour domination.

Robert Hampson
Royal Holloway, University of London

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