Sunday, September 24, 2006


This week I am mostly being a New Labour spin doctor. I will endeavour to share experiences of Labour conference, but the implants that they put in as part of my training for this role may result in inadvertant self-censorship.

Regrettably, being a spin doctor doesn't seem to involve misleading the press or briefing against colleagues or any of those exciting things which I had heard about, but there are still some other interesting things happening.

I went on the anti-war march on Saturday, which was a decent size but nothing like the march at the last Labour conference I was at in February 2003. The march seemed heavily dominated by Respect, SWP and Quakers (plus some union branches), and I admired the entrepreneurial spirit of one man who was going round selling Lebanese flags.

I agree broadly with the stated aims of the march (which is why I went on it) but the issue of calling for troops out of Iraq is one I'm not sure about. I rather fear that it will be a disaster if British troops remain in Iraq, and a disaster if they leave, and that the choice is between which disaster will be greater. I'd be interested in thoughts of anyone else who was involved in anti-war campaigning in the run up to the Iraq invasion but has since got a bit uneasy about the way that the Stop the War line has developed since the fall of the Ba'ath Regime.


At 10:22 am , Anonymous Daniel said...

I’m not uneasy. That isn’t to say that the Stop the War Coalition has always acted to a model of my politics, but the sniping at the Coalition from moderate anti-war Labour Party members is really quite irritating and supercilious at times.

Yes the tone of the Coalition is often anti-Blair and at times can be appear anti-Labour, but what does anyone remaining in the Labour Party expect? The Iraq war was the biggest electoral disaster for the Labour Party since the breakaway of the SDP – arguably more so. Traditional Labour voters across the country remain furious, and whether we like it or not, there is going to be a political outlet for that anger. The anti-war movement is inherently going to reflect that. To have issue with it is to engage in the politics of irrelevance.

Despite the sneering, the Coalition is a broad and inclusive one – the tripartite of alliance of the anti-war movement: Stop the War Coalition, CND, and the Muslim Association of Britain has been enduring and has ensured historically impressive political momentum beyond the events of the spring of 2003.

You can disagree with the demand for immediate withdrawal of British troops, but it is a view that is taken across the peace movement and was reflected at conference by Tony Woodley. The demand reflects the need for an exit strategy and an awareness that the relatively small contingent of British troops validates a US occupation, which whether militarily, politically or economically, was always the basis for the invasion.

The negative attitude towards the Coalition within the Labour Party is undoubtedly in large part a proxy for contempt for the SWP. I never understand why Labour Party members waste their time devoting so much hatred towards the Socialist Workers when there are real enemies to fight: the Liberal Democrats and the Tories.

I am implacably at odds with the electoral politics of the SWP, but even there, their position has been caricatured – see Lindsay German’s call for a second preference for Labour in the last London Mayoral election:,,1235107,00.html

In the important political movements of this decade that the SWP have prioritised – the anti-war and anti-fascist movements – we have been stronger for their involvement than we would have been had the SWP behaved to caricature, and gone off and done their own thing as destructive left splitters.

At 1:41 pm , Blogger donpaskini said...

I have friends in the SWP, I used to be a member and unlike many former members I still have a lot of time for a lot of what they do.

Saying that the stop the war coalition has historically impressive political momentum is probably true by the standards of leftie campaigns of the recent past, but about 1% of the people who marched three years ago were on the demo last week - more people are opposed to the war on Iraq than three years ago, but fewer want to be involved in campaigning organised by the stop the war coalition.

I'd be interested to know what you think would happen if all British and American troops were withdrawn immediately from Iraq. If it helps the Iraqi unions, socialists and democrats, then I'm all for it. But it sounds from what I've seen that it is at least as likely to mean that they get slaughtered, the civil war intensifies, and the chances of Iraq becoming a theocracy are increased. I don't believe in campaigning for anything where I think there is a chance that if the campaign is successful, then the outcome would be disastrous. But I do have an open mind on this and would be willing to be more active again in campaigning for troops out if I'm wrong about these concerns.


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