The only surprise at yesterday’s specially-convened conference in Manchester to coronate Gordon Brown as leader of the Labour Party was the shock election of Harriet Harman as his deputy, beating the favourite, Alan Johnson.
She beat Johnson by less than one per cent, and immediately back tracked on her support for a government apology for the Iraq war. She truly is Harriet Harmless. Now she is insisting that her victory was not down to pretending to have regrets about backing the invasion of Iraq, but her family policies. I doubt it; Harman’s backed one of the first “reforms” introduced by New Labour a decade ago: a cut in benefits to one parent families. So much for championing the rights of women! With feminists like this, who needs bigots?
Brown, meanwhile, is reported to be planning to diminish the union influence over party policy. One wonders whether the union presence in the Labour Party will remain over the next twelve months. Demands for disaffiliation within the labour movement have been countered by the promise that when Brown replaced Blair as both Labour leader and PM, things would be different.
On the contrary, Brown’s campaign has focused on the continuity of neo-liberal reform. His intervention in the EU summit negotiations, supposedly phoning Blair to urge resolve over the French demands to drop a commitment to the free market, is indicative of what is to come.
Brown has instructed Douglas Alexander, the Transport secretary, to ready the party for a possible snap election in the spring. Alexander is the man responsible for the fiasco in May’s Scottish elections, in which some of the poorest people in Scotland were disenfranchised by a needlessly complex voting system: a hundred thousand ballots were discounted.
But there is little chance of a general election in the spring. Labour is broke, Brown’s bounce in the polls is due to Blair’s departure and will not last until autumn, when co-ordinated public sector strikes against wage restraint and job cuts are set to take place.
The threat of a snap election is a ruse to throw the Tories into disarray. Cameron has suppressed the party’s true self, the beliefs of its members, in an effort to mimic Blair’s rise to power. Labour’s strategy will be to tease out the old “Nasty Party” and exploit divisions between the smiley-happy Cameron and the party’s base.
Brown though, is not about to break into the Red Flag and start quoting Gramsci: he is due to be crowned as Prime Minister by the Queen on Wednesday. The day has been a long time coming – he was promised the job by Blair during their legendary meeting in a restaurant called Granita back in 1994.
He and Blair are two cheeks of the same arse, so we can expect more of the same old shit from Gordon when he becomes Prime Minister.