A post here from Tom Harris today who argues that ‘progressives’ are ill-at-ease in the Tory Party, and naturally belong in the Labour movement, whose raison d’etre is at one with the ‘progressive’ agenda. You’ll have to read the post yourself to witness the crudeness of the caricatures, but needless to say it basically works out Labour=progressive, Tory=dinosaurs.
Now, it is not my intention to defend the Tory Party, not least because I’m neither a member of the Tory Party nor do I think the ‘progressive’ agenda is itself loyal to any one tradition – it drifts on the wind, and will vote for whoever promises change at the quickest rate.
Rather, I’d like to suggest that, in seeking to unify the territory of the Labour Party and the goals of the ‘progressive’ agenda, Tom Harris artificially forces the Labour party into a socio-cultural agenda that is not necessarily reflected amongst swathes of voters who would traditionally see themselves as Labour. A couple of examples will suffice.
You’re a Roman Catholic in, say, Glasgow, and politically speaking your vote is a tribal issue, a generational Labour voter, and you’d rather urinate razor blades than vote Tory. However, your genuine concerns about abortion, for example, have the ‘progressives’ jumping up and down and writing you off as a regressive chauvinist, opposed to ‘equality’ and female rights, a bigoted tyrant happy to curtail the freedom of women solely because of your silly superstitious beliefs (one can hardly deny the vicious anti-religion rhetoric of the ‘progressives). Or again, let’s say that, consistent with the millennia-old teaching and tradition of your Church, you happen to think that marriage is between a man and a woman, and that even if the government seeks to give rights to homosexual couples on a range of issues, you don’t see why the teaching of your faith should be trumped by the ‘progressive’ agenda when it comes to the schooling of your children. Here, you’ll be called a bigot, a homophobe, a dogmatic dinosaur ill at ease in the modern world, an abomination in a civilised society, whose bigotry shouldn’t be tolerated, and certainly shouldn’t be pandered to. And who will lead these protests? Well, that’ll be those ‘progressives’ – you know, Labour, apparently. For entirely understandable reasons, you might think twice when standing in the polling booth and wondering whether to continue casting your vote in the way you have always done.
Or another example. Let’s say you’re an elderly gentleman, fought in the Second World War perhaps, living in the same town you have lived in all your life. You’re from a working class community and your vote is tribal, it’s been the property of Labour all your life, and you’d rather chew glass than vote Tory. Yet you look around your hometown and you see it is now swamped with various immigrant communities who, in your own view, make little effort to integrate in any meaningful sense. Everything about your town has changed, and it appears to you that the ghettoisation has clearly not been for the better. You suspect that immigration policies have become a problem, and you think multiculturalism has exacerbated the situation: being a patriotic sort of chap, you reject cultural relativism as you think British culture is something superior to some others, and is worth fighting for, in a World War perhaps, and you say so. And now, who is leading the howls of ‘racist’, ‘xenophobe’, ‘fascist’, ‘BNP’ that you are confronted with? Well, that’ll be those ‘progressives’ – you know, Labour, apparently. Again, you might see your pen wavering when it comes to casting your vote this time round, or else you might not bother to turn up at all.
These are just two quick examples, and I could offer so many more. But rather than drag out the point, it’s worth just summing it up with the observation that people like Tom Harris ought to be a little more careful is seeking to paint Labour as the embodiment of all things ‘progressive’ – a rather significant chunk of its usually loyal voters are, in fact, socially conservative (as defined by the ‘progressives’ of course, pejorative connotations intended), and these are the very people sick and tired of being in the unrelenting and often vicious firing line of the self-proclaimed ‘progressives’. As such, if New Labour want to continue to offer themselves as the true and committed champion of the ‘progressive’ agenda, then it needs to prepare itself for a loss of votes. And it should also accept that one day it will have to reap the rewards of its decision – electorally speaking, the BNP will be the very tip of the iceberg.
To my mind, there is no movement so intolerant as the ‘progressive’ movement. All narratives but its own must be crushed underfoot, and the awesome power of the state must be used to do so. The progressive movement would opt for totalitarian government if it could, because so convinced of the moral superiority of its own narrative, it is absolutely unwilling to accept anything other than its own proclamations, implemented in full, as the definition of ‘progress’. Unfortunately for Labour there are those within its own ranks who have a different vision, who follow a different narrative – abandon them at your peril.