When Alastair Campbell has to beg Labour to oppose the Tories, there’s a real problem

By Mohan Sen

In case anyone doesn’t know, Alastair Campbell is a hardened Blairite who actually worked for Tony Blair, is virulently hostile to the Labour left and was expelled from the party for supporting the Lib Dems (over Labour’s crap stance on Brexit, to give him his due). But even he is starting to think there is a bit of an issue with Keir Starmer’s semi-support for the government in this crisis:

“When so many are dying, so many targets are unmet, so many NHS and care workers are going to work unprotected, and so many mistakes have been made, Labour should frankly show no mercy on issues such as PPE and testing… In interviews with some of Starmer’s team, there has been too much ‘now is not the time for criticism, those questions can wait’ for a crisis of this scale…”

When Labour was in office, continues Campbell, “the Tories were never backward in coming forward to attack, so Labour should not fall for the current line from the right that their role is to support the government.”

Much of the rest of his Guardian article is typical nonsense, ritual praise for Blair and repetition of the mantra that Labour was unelectable under Corbyn but is back on the right track now. He hedges round his criticism of Starmer with a fair bit of fawning too. But it is clear that he is extremely frustrated.

(In passing, it should be said that Campbell’s stance is far better than that of the now much more right-wing Blair, who has pushed a pretty radical version of the “Don’t criticise the government” line.)

Starmer et al’s reticence is not just a matter of lacking killer instinct, but of their whole policy in this crisis, their lack of a fundamentally different explanation and fundamentally different demands from the Tories to address the emergency and to reshape society coming out of it. Campbell goes nowhere near that criticism of course, since he share Starmer’s basic politics.

Still, the fact that someone like Alastair Campbell is begging the Labour leadership to step up tells you a lot about where we are. We must do everything we can for the labour movement to increase the pressure in and on the Labour Party for clear alternative, pro-working class strategy and policies.

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