The replacement of Tony Blair by Gordon Brown illustrates New Labour’s hegemony within the party, as well as Labour’s internal democratic deficit. Around ninety percent of the Parliamentary Labour Party have nominated Brown in the leadership ‘election,’ and it would seem that not to do so is an act of treachery to Gordon Brown, to the party, and to any future careers Labour MPs imagined for themselves. John McDonnell, who has been making the case for the left, has achieved only twenty-nine nominations, sixteen less than he needs to enter the race.
The transfer of power from Brown to Blair is one of style not substance. Gordon Brown is joint author of the New Labour Project: supporter of the Iraq War, Trident, religious city academies, PFI, etc. With around ninety percent of the PLP prepared to freely back him, there is no serious opposition to New Labour among Labour MPs. Outside Parliament the trade unions and constituencies are confirmed in their irrelevance: they won’t even have a say.
There is however one sop to democracy: a meaningless five - or perhaps six - way contest for the symbolic post of deputy leadership. All the candidates are Brown supporters, and all but one were or are ministers in Blair’s cabinet. The outcome hardly matters.
What should Labour Party socialists do? First, they should abstain in the deputy leadership election and not dignify the farce. Second, they should urge the twenty-nine McDonnell supporters to coalesce and act directly as a party within a party. Believing that the monolith of New Labourism can be modified rather than challenged is now a myth.