Britain's Labour Party may offer a cautionary tale for today's Blairified New Democrats. Layton and Mulcair have been Harper's handmaidens in His quest to shift Canada's political centre far to the Right. In fairness, the Libs have done their share of the heavy lifting too, transforming the party of Laurier, St. Laurent, Pearson and Trudeau (the real one) into the Conservative-Lites.
It's probably less seismic for the Libs than the New Dems, the former "principled" party, the "conscience of Parliament." However, like their Labour colleagues before them, the abandonment of the Left has been accepted as the price of power. And how has that worked out for the Brits?
Blair, with his lap dog support of America, his lies and his illegal war, was Labour's wrecking ball. The party found no salvation in Blair's successor, Brown, leaving the way clear for the Conservatives to come to power. Labour's Ed Milliband tried to revive his party's fortunes but, in a surprise election outcome, David Cameron scored a solid majority win.
Milliband stepped down and Labour licked its wounds, hoping a new leader somewhat to the Right of Milliband would restore the party to its former glory. Instead, the Cameron victory laid the groundwork for a civil war in the Labour ranks led by dark horse, Jeremy Corbyn.
His lead in constituency nominations, the flow of endorsements from union executives, the jumpy responses of rival campaigns, the rising panic among many Labour MPs and the enthusiasm he is generating at the leadership hustings increasingly suggest that Jeremy Corbyn has become the candidate to beat. A man whose previous highest public office was chairman of the Haringey council planning committee three decades ago might, in six weeks’ time, be leader of the opposition and Labour’s putative candidate for prime minister. With hindsight, the surprise is that we have been surprised. We should have seen this coming. The stresses induced by austerity and a revolt against political elites have been splitting the left all over Europe. From Greece to Spain to Germany, the traditional governing parties of the centre-left are being challenged by insurgent populist movements from the redder end of the spectrum. In the case of Greece, the old order has been supplanted by the new, though not with positive results for that unhappy country.
...Since its birth, British Labour has been a rainbow coalition of socialists, social democrats and social liberals. It has been a church broad enough to encompass those on the most leftwing side of the aisle who think there is a lot to admire about the thinking of Karl Marx to people on the far side of the other aisle who might call themselves liberal centrists or even Christian democrats if they were in a different country. The Labour church has a history of doing the splits. It did so in the 1930s. Again in the 1950s. And again in the 1980s. You could almost say we were due for one.
...Those with a vote in the contest who are still unsure which Labour party they should be backing have been provided with a clarifying test by Dave Ward, the general secretary of the Communication Workers Union. Announcing the CWU’s endorsement of the MP for Islington North, Mr Ward declared that the union’s executive had acted on medical advice: “There is a virus within the Labour party and Jeremy Corbyn is the antidote.” “The virus” being the Blairites.
...The big truth that is being exposed by this battle is that Labour is really two parties and they can no longer stand each other’s company. The social democrats despair that those to the left always pull Labour into suicidally unelectable positions from which it takes years to recover before the party sees power again. The socialists rage that the pragmatists make so many compromises in the pursuit of power that it ends up not being worth it. Really, they’d be happier if they could go their separate ways. Then the electorate could choose between an offer from the centre-left and one from further left.