As Tory conference kicks off while I still feel hungover from the Labour shindig, I thought it might be worth some time to consider the top five folks who ruined the party of the British left; those most responsible for reducing it to where it is at present – a weird cult – than anyone else. While I still say that any talk of Labour being dead for good is premature, it is not looking great. Here are the five folk who deserve most of the blame.
5. Jeremy Corbyn
I know you probably thought he’d be higher up the list, but when you stop and think about it Corbyn is much more of a passenger than a leader in this regard (as in most other respects, come to think of it). In other words, had it not been for the actions of those higher up the list, his ascent would not have been possible. Still, once in the top seat he has done nothing but try and reduce Labour to its present state, so he can’t escape all blame here.
4. Gordon Brown
I feel almost dirty putting him on this list, but the truth is the truth. Not for the way he handled the financial crisis (which was easily the highlight of his premiership, something for which he has never got the credit he deserves) but rather for the grumpy and alienating way he conducted himself with Clegg from 2007 until 2010 (leading directly to the disastrous Lib-Lab post-2010 coalition talks), the terrible 2010 election campaign he had which led to any chance of Labour remaining in government afterwards being impossible, and finally to the way he could not keep the New Labour show on the road in general (although the financial crisis and the fact that Labour had been in power for a decade when he took over needs to be considered here).
3. Tony Blair
Not for all of the reasons the hard left think, but rather for not changing Labour more fundamentally and for putting so little thought into what the party would be like once he stepped down. He seemed to understand precisely how poor a prime minister Gordon Brown would be, yet allowed him to become so without a fight. He groomed no successors, really (not in the way Brown did, paving the way for Balls and Ed M to both run in 2010), and thus allowed his time as leader to be characterised as a blip in an otherwise socialist direction.
2. Len McCluskey
A key Corbyn ally in that he has done much more than anyone within the trade unions to support the current Labour leader, allowing him more rope than would have been conceivable otherwise. Had the unions turned on Corbyn en masse following the Trident debacle at conference last year in Brighton, things might have been different. But Len held the dogs off, leading to where we are now.
It could only be dear old Ed in the top spot. From running against David, to pulling the party to the left once he won, to changing the way Labour leaders are elected, directly paving the way for Corbyn, to bowing out with zero grace after losing the 2015 election brutally, it’s hard to start counting the ways in which Ed destroyed his own party, at least for the foreseeable future. If I was doing a documentary about the fall of the Labour Party, I’d dry start it with a clip of his resignation speech (“My Milifans!”).