Gordon Brown could have stayed true to his principles in an Independent Scotland
A lot of Labour supporters I have spoken to who intend to vote No, don’t see the value of a yes vote because they have been let down so many times by politicians. They can’t see them acting any differently just because they reside in Holyrood. Most Politicians are the same, I have no doubt about that. They are human beings just like the rest of us with all our resultant weaknesses. Like all human beings they can be deceptive and often do the exact opposite of what they say that they stand for. This duplicity has been really evident to Labour supporters as for some time now labour has only paid lip service to its working class socialist routes. Take Gordon Brown for instance.
In his younger days he was a left wing radical, an admirer and biographer of the Red Clydesider and Home Rule exponent James Maxton.
In his 1989 paper, Where There Is Greed, Brown wrote that it is:
“difficult to argue that there remains even a common interest between the top 1 percent to whom Mrs Thatcher has given so much, and the rest of the nation”.
According to John Newsinger in his essay Browns Journey from Reformism to Neoliberalism, the idealistic Brown promoted:
“a planned economy” and for “workers’ power”, identifying himself with “Scotland’s socialist pioneers, Hardie, Smillie, Maxton, Maclean, Gallacher, Wheatley and others”—a pantheon that included both revolutionary and reformist socialists. What was needed was “a positive commitment to creating a socialist society”.
In the real divide co-authored by Robin Cook Brown once wrote:
“Taxation should rise progressively with income. Programmes that merely redistribute poverty from families to single persons, from the old to the young, from the sick to the healthy, are not a solution. What is needed is a programme of reform that ends the current situation where the top 10 percent of the population own 80 percent of the wealth and 30 percent of the income, even after tax”.
The history books will show that the young socialist would betray his principles to become the architect and driving force of New Labour. A party that would neuter the Tories by being more Thatcherite than they even dared to be. He became a figurehead of a government that presided over increased inequality, decreased social mobility, the introduction of tuition fees and the erosion of hard fought for civil liberties including habeas corpus and detention without charge. In a short space of time the former Lefty became a Neo-liberal, an advocate of light touch regulation, of bending over backwards to enact policies that would please the markets, actions that would facilitate the greed that would lead to the Global Financial crisis. Through the creation of PFI’S and subcontracting he privatised much of the state via the backdoor. He initiated an illegal war through deception. All the time cloaked in a slither of spun socialism. New Labour were masters of deception.
In being judgemental I would be a hypocrite. For Browns failure is very human. He betrayed his ideals by remoulding them to fit the system that he found himself operating in instead of trying to change the system to fit his ideals. We can all relate to this, few of us get anywhere in life without some level of conformity and compliance. During ten years of working for a major global corporation I went from being a young rebel full of ideas for change, to someone willing to do things I didn’t agree with for pragmatism sake but still holding onto my own beliefs, to someone whose views and deeds were indistinguishable from the companies. Eventually, I had to quit but it was easier for me as I was not a senior player and had less invested in the project. Brown probably retained his sense of equality, but whereas before he believed in freedom of opportunity to create a more prosperous society he latterly believed in freedom of and access to The Market. Maybe he convinced himself they were the same thing? I don’t blame him for he only had two choices, either conform to the system and be a powerful leader or remain true to his beliefs, like his more principled colleague Robin Cook, who was cast aside to languish on the backbenches. It’s a very human choice and Gordon Brown is not the first or last MP to go the way of the establishment.
However, as with all human beings Brown could have been true to his beliefs if he was acting within a different system. The UK has an antiquated legislature that is now failing us. We have no constitution. The two party First Past The Post arrangement forces policy to the centre right to win over marginal seats. The second chamber is partially unelected and fails to separate church and state. It is sectarian. Business has a disproportionate level of influence. Top Civil Service, Politicians and Business Leaders jobs are interchangeable. Private schools dominate positions of power. Woman, ethnic minorities and the poor are under-represented. We have no right to recall our politicians even when they are shown to be corrupt. The media is limp and in the pocket of the state.
We need to create a system that addresses these problems. Every once in a while it is healthy to shake up an established order. It is best to do this before it implodes. On Thursday we have a chance to do this peacefully and at the ballot box when in most historical instances great positive change like this is bloody and violent. We are voting for a system that is relatively new and which has not had time to stagnate. One that hasn’t yet been sullied by the grubby hands of vested interest groups. One which is representative and as with all proportional systems allows a wider array of voices. One backed up by a written constitution that we will be able to contribute to. One with no unelected representatives that doesn’t discriminate based on religion. One where we will have the right to recall those who have failed in their duty. One which will be watched over by an energised and politically astute electorate. In this type of system the Labour party can once again be a socialist party representing the rights of workers. Had Brown matured politically in such a set-up, given his ideals and talent, I believe his reputation would not now be in tatters.
Post written by BH