To be honest I was a bit surprised to find that this scandal from the UK Labour Government wasn’t mentioned much by the Bermudian blogosphere. From my perspective I really doubt that the Labour Party will be able to win the next election, and to me that is quite worrying. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have much love for ‘New Labour’ but I have even less love for the UK Conservative Party – much of my problems with New Labour is because they’ve copied a lot of what the Conservatives were criticised for. And this particular scandal is perhaps representative of just that.
In case no-one knows what I’m talking about (follow the link above), in short a political advisor to the UK Labour Prime Minister had to resign after it was revealed that as part of an election strategy the Labour Party would ‘support’ an on-line mercernary blog called the ‘Red Rag’ which would be an attack blog concerned with smearing the opposition Conservative Party. Its a bit more complex than that, but the BBC link above goes into greater detail on it.
Below I’m copying the entire article written by Labour MP John McDonnell, an outspoken backbench rebel whose views I share a lot of sympathy for. The original, including comments, may be found here.
Smear Campaign: This is not the Labour Way
This is not the Labour way
Smear tactics like those suggested by Damian McBride drag the party into the gutter, which is why I have called for an inquiry.
In the light of press reports of the attempted smear campaign against the Tories I have called upon the prime minister to establish an independent inquiry into how this smear campaign was set up, who was involved and who knew what and when in the Labour hierarchy.
Smear tactics like this are not the Labour way. They drag the Labour party into the gutter. Coming on top of the revelations about some Labour MPs’ expenses they just add further to the undermining of the belief that Labour party supporters have placed in our party. Labour members and supporters have not worked and sacrificed over generations to create a party that resorts to this type of gutter politics.
The prime minister needs to act decisively to restore the standing of the Labour party by launching immediately an independent inquiry into how this smear campaign was planned. If we are to restore the reputation and standing of the party, key questions have to be answered. Who in the party was in any way aware of the campaign? Which party officials, advisers or politicians were consulted? Under whose authority were the perpetrators working? When did senior members of the party become aware of this campaign and what action did they take?
We need to root out these practices and elements within the party so that in future Labour can be seen to be above reproach.
There was a collective sigh of relief in 2007 when in his first speech after taking over the Labour leadership from Blair, Gordon Brown promised a new politics. His personal ratings collapsed when that summer of promise turned into an autumn of spin over a potential election. His return of the master of spin, Peter Mandelson, to cabinet did little to reassure the electorate that the era of spin was over.
If there isn’t a drastic rooting out from within the Labour party of the unhealthy style of politics that the smear campaign revealed in the last few days how can we seriously ask the electorate to trust us ever again.
Political rivalry is one thing but personal smear campaigns scrape the barrel of political infighting. If bitter party name-calling turns people off then smear politics just destroys all credibility in the aims of politicians, the role of political parties and the political process itself.
This smear story can only be killed off by decisive action and that action needs to come from the top, very publicly and very firmly. The Labour party needs to look at itself very closely and ask the question, how can we have allowed the party to degenerate to this.
One of the reasons is that the undermining of democracy within the Labour party by New Labour over the last 15 years has resulted in a small arrogant clique now controlling this party to such an extent that they believe that they can act with impunity.
If we can admit that, there is a chance of change and a possibility of reviving the Labour party that once was trusted.