WRITING in Spiked, Brendan O’Neill casts a critical eye over Mo Mowlam’s tenure as Northern Ireland Secretary. Drawing parallels with Robin Cook, who also died recently, he argues that they were figureheads for the ‘politics of disgruntlement’, “fallen Blairites kicking against the party” after they fell out of favour. He also downplays Mowlam’s perceived crucial role in the negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement, where even Mowlam said she felt more like the tea lady than a serious player.
The obituaries treated Mowlam as if she were someone’s (perhaps everyone’s) mum rather than a politician. But, in a sense, this was entirely fitting. For all the claims that Mowlam was the anti-Blair, she, like Blair, played on the personal touch. Today, in the absence of political principles and ideology we are left with the empty politics of personality and good character.
Mowlam, Cook and others were not spearheading an independent challenge against Blairism but rather were fallen Blairites kicking against the party. The response to their tragic deaths – where various politicos and commentators have complained about the dire state of the democratic left and said ‘we now know exactly how bad things are’ – reveals the paucity of today’s critique of New Labour (12). If you want a new ‘passionate politics’ and an opposition to the Labour government, then a first step would be to look outside of the Labour camp.