Last week there were reshuffles in all three main parties, but only one of them signified anything of importance – and that was Labour’s reshuffle.
In the New Statesman, Rafael Behr had this to say about it:
“At some point the redundancy of classifying Labour MPs into ‘Blairites’ and ‘Brownites’ will be complete. That point is not now, judging by much of the reaction to Ed Miliband’s shadow cabinet reshuffle. The demotions of Liam Byrne, Jim Murphy and Stephen Twigg – all usually characterised as devotees of the Tonyist creed – has been seized by Conservatives as yet more proof that the opposition has taken leave of its centrist senses.”
Ed Miliband is understandably keen not to have his party defined by his predecessors:
“One principal motive behind the reshuffle is to accelerate the process of re-branding Labour as neither old nor new; neither Blair nor Brown – but wholly Milibandist.”
Unfortunately for Ed, there’s no such thing as ‘Milibandism’ and never will be. Instead, what we saw last week was the final collapse of New Labour. Like a dying star it’s already gone supernova, ejecting its brightest and best into the void. After that, the rest was inevitable – the dwindling away of the stellar remnant.
If the classification of Labour MPs into Blairites and Brownites is becoming redundant it is because Labour is an exclusively Brownite party now – which is what “wholly Milibandist” actually means.
This is a state of affairs that the Labour leadership would be wise to conceal. In Britain, ideological uniformity is extremely unusual in a mainstream political party. In fact, it’s completely unprecedented and borderline sinister. Hence last week’s effort at Blairite window dressing (not to mention the fake u-turns on Free Schools and welfare reform):
“The counter-argument from Miliband’s allies is that Blair acolytes have been promoted too. Charlie Falconer has been drafted in as a senior advisor. Tristram Hunt is the new shadow education secretary (‘not exactly Len McCluskey’s idea of the best person for that job’ as one very senior party figure said to me last night). Douglas Alexander has the role of chairing Labour’s election campaign – and he ran David Miliband’s leadership campaign.”
This will fool no one: Douglas Alexander is emphatically not a Blairite (indeed he was a core member of Gordon Brown’s inner circle); bringing in old hands like Charlie Falconer for a cup of tea and a biscuit is also devoid of significance; and, as for the new faces like Tristram Hunt, they will have seen what happened to the likes of Stephen Twigg and Liam Byrne when they tried to resist the Brownite orthodoxy.
As a historian, Mr Hunt will be familiar with the old East German concept of the ‘bloc party’. Officially, the GDR was not a one-party state – because as well as the ruling Communists, a number of smaller, powerless parties were allowed to exist to give a semblance of pluralism. There was even an outfit called the National Democratic Party, specifically set up for ex-Nazis. Needless to say, these were all puppet organisations that never stepped out of line.
If they want to keep their jobs, the last remaining Blairites must remember that their purpose in life now is to serve as ‘bloc Blairites’. After all, no one must ever suspect that Labour is a one-faction party. Because that would be weird.