Thursday, July 13, 2006

McDonnell: declaration tomorrow?

John McDonnell is set to make 'an important announcement on the future of the Labour Party' tomorrow morning. It will almost certainly be the formal declaration of his leadership candidacy. Good.

UPDATE: Newsnight’s Paul Mason has some excellent observations on all this:

‘Here is the lay of the land as I understand it:

‘The big four unions do not and will not support McDonnell's candidacy. They are not wedded to Gordon Brown though and are at present concentrating on policy demands for the post-Blair era. They are focusing their efforts through the official conduit, the Trade Union and Labour Party Liaison Organisation.

‘The left of the Parliamentary Labour Party was divided over whether Michael Meacher would stand or McDonnell. Meacher was seen as a way of dragging in some tacit support from the big unions but it became clear that he was not exactly seen as Mr Dynamite in the corridors of the big four.

‘A key moment in the coalescence of the forces that will publicly or tacitly get behind McDonnell was the rally to defend public services, held in Westminster Central Hall 27 June, with several hundred grass roots activists, and covered in depth by, er, nobody.

‘However: McDonnell's candidacy is not seen (by the Socialist Campaign Group or the Labour Representation Committee) as some kind of "stalking horse" to force Brown to stand. It is serious.

‘They believe they have the best part of 12 months to go on the stump within what is left of the labour party at Constituency Labour Party level and make a serious effort to win the leadership.’

If Paul is right, that implies a prospect of a protracted campaign that will raise leftwing ideas inside the structures of the Labour Party in a way not seen for two decades.

There is a dilemma here for those in Respect who are not totally wedded to the SWP conception of the project, as well as those (like me) that have signed the Campaign for a New Workers’ Party declaration. If something serious kicks off inside the Labour Party, there is at least an argument that it deserves full support. That implies carding up.

The thing is, have the Labour left in its current weakened state got either the numbers – or the balls, for that matter – to make such a strategy effective?

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