Conservatives block reform of the Labour Party

Trade unionists and socialists set up the original Labour Representation Committee (LRC) on 27 February 1900. From that event the Labour Party was born. The launch of a new LRC at the TUC's central London headquarters Congress House on 3 July 2004 was billed as "the most significant initiative on the Labour left for a generation". But is it a case of "the Labour left", or "what is left of Labour"?

August 1, 2004
2 min read

For what remains of the Labour Party? The Rail, Maritime and Transport Union has been expelled. The Fire Brigades Union has disaffiliated. The Communication Workers Union has threatened to withhold funds. The general workers” union the GMB is withholding funds except for a select group of MPs. Thousands of individuals have torn up New Labour membership cards. In the recent elections millions of traditionally Labour voters, including myself for the first time ever, chose to support other parties. They will not return to New Labour. But where are they to go for their voices to be heard?

A seismic shift is happening, which the existing “Labour left”, clinging to its longstanding niche, seems unable to register. The LRC’s July conference simply had nothing to say about the resignations, the expulsions, June’s election results, and the gains of Respect and other parties.

I had hoped the LRC launch might signal that long-awaited new start: an occasion to really build the kind of open, non-sectarian, labour- and union-based organisation hundreds of thousands are looking for, which would welcome all sympathetic groups from that vast spectrum of our society that self-organised so brilliantly to say “no” to the government and its Iraq war on 15 February 2003. Were these groups and individuals – were we – represented at the LRC meeting? No, it was for Labour (New Labour) Party members and affiliates only. “Associates” – ie, everyone not signed up to New Labour – will have no voting rights.

But the LRC doesn’t have to be the stillbirth it already looks like. A real Labour Representation Committee for a real Labour Party is exactly what we need. So please, comrades – courage! Our forebears went to prison and died for their belief in our future. We owe them and ourselves something more than a nervous, bureaucratic fudge.

Speakers from the platform at July’s conference expressed their fear of being expelled from New Labour if they stepped out of line and opened the gates to all. What is there to fear? Challenge Blair and his clique. At last we have the power to do so. We are many. They are few. The “Labour left” alone can’t do it, nor can the unions alone, nor Respect, nor the Greens. Unity starts here. Let’s all declare ourselves the Labour Party, and expel the hijackers now.

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