Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Labour's love-hate relationship with history

There was a time when Labour couldn't open its mouth without reference to something historical. Before 2008, no Labour statement was complete without a mention of a record breaking number of quarters in which there was continuous growth under the miracle-performing Gordon Brown. Post 2010 and history is no longer loved by Labour. Indeed it is a bit of a raw nerve for them. How many times do you hear Labour praising the work of the Blair/Brown governments? How often do you hear Labour members even utter the names of their two former leaders? Since 2010, I have listened to Labour councillors in Gateshead talk as if either history began when the Coalition came to office or, if history did begin before 2010, somehow the years 1997 to 2010 have been deleted from the Comrades’ collective memory. “The History of the World According to the Labour Party" is a book that is not yet written, so don't rush to buy it. And were it actually to be written at some point, look for it on the fiction shelves, rather than in the history section of your local bookshop.

As for which Labour "historian" who could be tasked with writing such an amusing fantasy, can I suggest Cllr Martin Gannon, deputy leader of Gateshead Council, rejected candidate for Blaydon and now office assistant for Ian Mearns MP? In Martin's New Labour days (an era that immediately followed his militantly socialist days with apparently nothing in between), he was always ready with the New Labour briefing, having a go at any Lib Dem spending plan and constantly sharpening his sword to lead the New Labour middle classes against those terribly leftwing Lib Dems.

Now, far from spending his energy on referring to his beloved New Labour government, he spends considerable amounts of time attacking us in council meetings for referring to the Blair/Brown years. Martin, like so many in Labour, wants everyone to believe that none of the current problems are anything to do with them. For Labour, all our economic woes are the fault of the Coalition. We should not be blaming Labour, so the likes of Martin claim. Indeed, at the last Council meeting earlier this month, we had a long rant from Martin in which he moaned about previous governments being blamed for too long by their successors for the problems they have to deal with.

Given that the deficit started under Labour and is one of the key issues being tackled by the Coalition, (indeed we are tackling it “too far and too fast”, according to Labour) it seems that historical facts are getting in the way of Labour’s absurd claim that no current problem is anything to do with them.

As for Martin himself, he is one of the Labour councillors for whom I have quite a bit of time. I enjoy the conversations we have together, even when he is likely to have a different opinion sometime in the near future on the subject about which we happen to be talking. He has however a great deal of historical baggage. Cheerleader for the militantly left in the 1980s and early 90s, then cheerleader of New Labour from 1994 to 2010. Pack that lot into a suitcase and he’d be well over the baggage limit to get his political career airborne. Given the swing to the left in Labour, a New Labour history is not something an aspiring "socialist" like Martin really wants highlighting. This may say something about Martin's views on the use of recent history in council debates.

So, for Martin's sake, I will avoid too many mentions of his days as the Champion of New Labour in Gateshead. I'd hardly want to wreck his standing with his group by doing so! And I will avoid any further praise for him as well. Positive mentions from me will hardly endear him to the tribal ranks of Labour. Indeed, any compliments by me about any Labour councillors in Gateshead are likely to be seen as the kiss of death by the Comrades of the Definitely-Not-New Labour Party.

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