I think I am finally reconciled to Ms Toynbee, all criticism forgotten, because her article is one of such despair, all the more potent for being resisted for so long. For month after month, she has returned to the fray, ever optimistic that the situation might turn around, that things would get better, desperate to believe that someone – Blair, Brown, Milband, Johnson – would allow her party will rediscover its soul.
Now she seems to have accepted the simple truth: it wont happen. Its too late. The Labour party – her Labour party – has gone, probably for ever, consumed by the egotism and lust for power of those people who took it over when John Smith died. There are no differences between Blairites and Brownites; they are merely power factions battling it out. There are no ideas for making Britain a better, fairer place; they are irrelevant. If talk about light regulation is needed, it will be spoken. If talk about equality is necessary, then that too will be uttered. But the words have no meaning, beyond their usefulness in gulling the foolish.
The old party – always confused, never really socialist, but on the side of the angels and invariably pointing in more or less the right direction – signed a pact with the devil and gave up its soul to win elections. From then on Blair and Brown gutted it of principles and purpose, and turned it into a machine whose sole purpose was to keep them in place. It has done its job, but we have little of substance to show for it, beyond a surveillance state, a wrecked economy, a political system held in contempt, and an immoral war which has dragged our good name in the mud.
Some in the Labour party – Ms Toynbee amongst them, perhaps, but also those in the Parliamentary party who remain decent, idealistic public servants -- now see how they have been tricked out of their dreams, had their best intentions exploited for cynical ends. They should have everyone's sympathy, even of their opponents, because they hoped, and had those hopes trampled in the mud by crueller, lesser people.
But it is over, and what Blair and Brown between them have done should never be forgiven. They have not only betrayed the ideals of good people who followed them, they have destabilised the entire political system. They have taken a magnificent political tradition which stretched back a century, which embodied the noblest sentiments of fairness and equality, and corrupted it for their own gain. What is left is a name, and a memory. Nothing else.
The magnitude of the tragedy cannot be easily summed up. Even the Conservatives will suffer. There will almost certainly now be a Conservative government with a large majority, and that will doom Cameron as well. For 30 years we have lurched from one huge majority to another, and every time such excessive power has corrupted those who held it, and weakened Parliament and the democratic system. The Conservative party needs a strong Labour party or it will make the same mistakes, every bit as much as Labour was ultimately tempted into arrogance by the implosion of the Conservatives. Cameron will not be strong enough to resist the temptation to use the power Brown will allow him to take. For Browns final gift will be to ensure that Labour has no chance of providing any serious opposition to what comes next.
I hope s/he is wrong.
But it's a depressing day.