It’s like a scene from a film — those who rose to important positions when Blair had ultimate power in the Labour Party are on their way out, but until they’re gone they’re determined to wreak as much havoc as possible.
In Haringey, North London, the local council is pushing through a privatisation that Margaret Thatcher would have been proud of. They’e selling £2bn worth of public property to a corporation called Lendlease. The property being sold off include streets of houses, school buildings, a library and a civic centre.
But Haringey council is not run by Conservatives, rather, it is a Labour council with a huge Labour majority. When I say a Labour council, I should really say a ‘New Labour’ council, as those at the top are Blairites.
They managed to climb the ladder during the Blair years when being loyal to Tony Blair was rewarded with positions of power. Yet now, in 2018, they have few remaining supporters and their numbers are dwindling.
The leader of the council is Claire Kober and, like many others on the council, she is a neoliberal. There are however a bunch of Labour councillors who are fiercely opposed to her policies and fighting hard against the privatisation and look set to take control of the council.
Some of the Pro-privatsation councillors have been deselected and, with local elections this year, more leftist Labour councillors are likely to take their place, meaning Blairites should lose control over the council.
Yet, despite their demise looking imminent, the Blairites are not willing to give up without wreaking as much havoc as possible, pursuing privitasation until the bitter end. The term “Zombie Blairite” seems apt.
My local council, Brent, is also a Labour-led council run by Zombie Blairites. While the Labour membership is pretty left-wing, the councilliors are mostly on the right of the party and pushing through policies that you would expect from Conservative-led council.
For example, they are currently acquiescing in a Tory plot to create Multi-Academy Trusts in a step towards further privatising in education. There is great opposition to this from many residents of Brent and from within the Labour party. Nonetheless, the council support the policy.
Unlike in Haringey, the Left will not be able to replace the Zombie Blairites in 2018. Thanks to the undemocratic fashion in which councillors are selected, Labour members were not given a genuine democratic vote to decide who should represent them in the forthcoming local elections and the Zombie Blairites will be able to cling on for another four years.
However, with the Left now in control of the NEC and set to have more influence over the party nationally, rule changes could make councillor selections more democratic. This would mean that in 2022, when the next round of councillor selections occur, the Blairites on Brent council may well be replaced.
Another Labour council with Zombie Blairites wreaking havoc is that of Newport City in South Wales, where they are trying to criminalise the homeless by making begging illegal. The leader of the council is supporting plans to make begging within the city centre punishable with a fine or even arrest.
I could give more examples from other parts of the country but I think you get the point — Blairites still hold important positions of power and are refusing to step down or change their ways, despite the fact that everything around them has changed.
The media reports the downfall of the Blairism without providing these vital details. They usually describe a “Momentum plot”, using words with violent connotations like “purge” or “seizing power” to describe how Labour members are democratically replacing the Blairites with more Left-Wing councillors.
The process in which the council selections work involves no violence whatsoever and is a process by which people use the power of their vote to decide who they want to represent them. Furthermore, many non-Momentum Labour members support the removal of Blairites. In Haringey, many of the most vociferous opponents of privatsation supported Owen Smith in 2016.
All in all it is like a scene from a film. People rose to important positions when Tony Blair had ultimate power in the party yet now with Blair’s power finished they are just trying to hang on until the last minute and wreaking as much damage until the very end.