Sucker love; Labour and the City….
“Sucker love is heaven-sent”, so sing Placebo in their song, Every you, Every Me. I am not sure if the love that Labour’s leadership has for the City of London and the finance sector is heaven-sent (hell seems a more obvious source) but it certainly is sucker love. The first longing gazes were cast the way of the Square Mile by Tony Blair and he was the one that consummated a relationship which has profoundly damaged Labour as a Party and Britain as a country. Quickly, it became less a relationship and more a terrifying tyranny of one partner bridling the other and riding it around like it was at the winners enclosure at Ascot.
People who think this relationship was of mutual benefit to Labour should rewind to the last General Election, where the City swiftly resumed its less dangerous liaison with the Conservatives. As soon as the crash happened, a classic moral panic around the national debt took hold, encouraged by City ‘experts’, the media and of course, the Conservatives. This, as much as Gordon Brown’s obvious lack of personal magnetism as a figurehead, is what ended Labour’s tenure in government.
The City, banks etc, etc deliberately encouraged the view that it was government spending that had destroyed the economy. This is simply not true. Not only does it obscure the fact that countries cannot really ‘go broke’ in the way an individual or household would but it also obscured the excesses of the finance sector which most definitely were responsible for bringing Britain to its knees. Labour responded weakly and meekly because it was still wedded to the notion that cordial relations with the City were essential to its political survival. It relied on a shambolic narrative about global crises and extenuating circumstances which was incomprehensible to most voters, especially if delivered in Gordon’s monosyllabic Scottish dirge.
As a consequence, it is still feeling the electoral effects of this not unexpected betrayal (most people still blame the last Labour government for our sickly economy) and meanwhile, the City sits proudly astride the country like some giant belching monster with its tentacles pulling the governments strings and wrapped around, and choking the life out of, the collective throat of British society and the economy. You would think this would be enough to turn anybody against their assailant but obviously not, the Party leadership has yet to be anywhere near as forthright and blunt in its criticism of the City as it needs to be.
It is now time for Labour to terminate this relationship in the way that seems most appropriate – to dope the City up to the eyeballs then sneak into its room and deprive it of maybe not vital, but certainly essential, reproductive organs. Labour must do this not just for its own benefit (to start shifting more of the blame for the countries mess where it belongs) but also for the benefit of the country which toils fruitlessly to build a healthy economy at the same time as having to suffer the parasitic leaching that sustains the City in its fastness.
Labour continuously loses the economic ‘blame game’ because when the Conservatives say ‘it’s Labour’s fault’ nobody in our top team has a coherent and comprehensible answer to offer in reply. Attacking the City would cohere a reply that is easily understood by most people and, dare I say it, would electorally resonate more than our right-wing would ever dare to admit. It would funnel and target the popular sense of disillusionment in exactly the right direction. Ed Miliband has continuously said he wants Labour to learn from its time in government. I agree, we must learn. One of the first things we need to learn is that Labour cannot be the Party of this grotesque, wealth-consuming not creating vested interest, if it wants to prosper. It must be the anti-City and pro-people Party that it was founded to be if it ever wants to return to government again.