Brian Sedgemore: 'I urge everyone to give Blair a bloody nose at the election'

26 April 2005


Latest poll
Labour: 40%
Con: 30%
Lib/Dem: 21%
Others: 9%
Source: NOP

The idea and practice of Britain as a liberal country has always been under threat but it has taken a Labour prime minister to secure its demise. For Tony Blair, principles and ideas have become impediments to the continuance of his lust for power.

His scorn for liberal Britain is surprising for one who had an expensive liberal education and who entered politics as an aspirant liberal lawyer, an ardent member of CND and a standard-bearer for the left.

People such as myself should have realised the writing was on the wall when a Labour government twice tried to abolish trial by jury. From there, it was a short step for Blair (but a huge step for the rest of us) to get suppliant backbench Labour MPs to vote for an unlawful war, the setting up of a gulag at Belmarsh for foreigners and deprivation of liberty through "control orders" and "pass laws" for British citizens.

I voted against the war on Iraq and it becomes clearer every day that Blair decided to go to war after meeting [President George] Bush on his Texas ranch in 2002. After that he lied to persuade the country to support him.

The stomach-turning lies on Iraq were followed by the attempt to use the politics of fear to drive through Parliament a deeply authoritarian set of law and order measures that reminded me of the Star Chamber. The Star Chamber used torture but at least they allowed a proper trial before throwing someone into prison.

That is when I decided enough was enough. I've been a Labour MP for more than a quarter of a century. In my last speech in Parliament, I described New Labour's descent into Hell and added that Hell was not a place where I wanted to be.

Some MPs thought it was just rhetoric. It wasn't. I meant it.

I am going to leave the Labour Party and join the Liberal Democrats so I can help them in this election campaign. To my former comrades, I say, 'Sorry but all nightmares have to end'.

I'm renouncing Tony Blair, the Devil, New Labour and all their works. I don't do this lightly. I know that some of my friends will be angry, and I will be rubbished by the New Labour spin machine. Mad Dog [John] Reid will be set on me. John Prescott will say, "Brian? Brian who?"

But I can let them into a secret. I am not alone. A small group of us - all MPs who are standing down - decided we would leave the Labour Party immediately after the election. Among the MPs, there are 150 who loathe Mr Blair, 50 more who have grave doubts about him and a further 200 who love him. They are sometimes called the Clones or the Stepford Wives.

For some of us, it's not just about the war, it's about top-up fees and privatising the health service. We were going to issue a joint statement. That would have been the easiest thing for me to do but I believe I owe it to the voters to speak out now.

Tony Blair's lies over the war on Iraq, and his careless destruction of liberty have left me disgusted with the party I joined in 1968.

The public are clearly nauseated by what they see at Westminster and the number of abstentions will be colossal in the election, but nobody should blame the electorate for that.

The public are surely right to hold modern politics and politicians in ill-repute. They've realised that Jonathan Swift was close to the truth when he said that "all politicians ultimately die of swallowing their own lies".

Those who listen to the Today programme know that most modern politicians would rather plead the fifth amendment than directly answer even the simplest of questions.

And why should people vote when they see increasing evidence of fraud in the postal ballot system created by the government which, said a judge, was a "disgrace to a banana republic".

The problem with Tony Blair is that he tells big porkies as easily as he tells little porkies, whether it is watching Jackie Milburn play football, or being certain of the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

He drags in the hapless Attorney General to back him up on the legality of the war. Lord Goldsmith says he was not leant on. The Attorney General can protest his innocence until the end of time, and people won't believe him, and neither do I.

But Blair is shameless. He used to act at school and he uses that talent now; every time he speaks, for example, at the death of Diana, Princess of Wales you can hear someone saying, "Cue broken voice, quivering lips, dropped shoulder, tear in left eye".

Blair used to be a constituent of mine and used to run around saying, "We have got to get Tony Benn elected". He stood for secretary for the local party. He got old ladies in the cars to vote for him, and he lost. It was only later when he used [Peter] Mandelson that he began to learn the organisational skills he used to take over the party and surrounded himself with second-raters or cronies.

Blair showed his contempt for the law by appointing an unholy trinity of home secretaries who have been deeply flawed:

Jack Straw was simply not up to the job. David Blunkett saw himself as some sort of deified demi-god, issuing new commandments on a daily basis for the six o'clock news.

And then there's poor Charlie Clarke, a bit of a chump preaching the politics of fear who was dealt a cruel hand by Blunkett over the Terrorism Act.

He is keeping very quiet during this election campaign for some reason. Charles was the housing chairman in Hackney when I was the MP and to describe him as bloody useless would be to heap high praise on him.

Some say I should have stayed for things to change under Gordon Brown. The "Iron Chancellor" has a massive intellect but no backbone. He stayed carefully away from the difficult issues:- the nature of parliamentary democracy; the illegal war; the denial of trial by jury; Belmarsh, the control orders and pass laws.

And John Prescott - the defender of the left - has done a Faustian deal with the Devil for the price of a cup of tea and a pat on the back from Tony.

It is against this background that I finally decided I could no longer support the Labour Government and would join the Liberal Democrats to work for a nobler vision of Britain.

Look at Blair standing in the shadow of Gordon Brown and you can see the power ebbing away from him. He is now an empty husk who should be thrown on the scrapheap of history.

Norman Lamont delivered the coup de grâce to John Major with the words, "He is in office, but not in power". Tony Blair is in power but is pursuing it without a shred of principle.

Is it any wonder I urge everyone from the centre and left in British politics to give Blair a bloody nose at the election and to vote Liberal Democrat to ensure the tawdry New Labour project is dead?