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A Letter to (liberal) Labour

So you feel disenfranchised? Alienated? Like your party has been stolen from you? That you have no voice? That you are not welcome? Not valued? Feel that nobody is willing to listen, let alone talk about your concerns? That your political home has been taken over by those hostile to you? That your contribution to the history and indeed DNA of the party has been re-written? Ignored? Mocked? Despised? That without your help, and your support, the party would never have had the success it has? And yet your party now scorn people like you? Call you appalling names? Render your views outside the mainstream?

Sh*t, isn’t it?

But you did that too. Whilst you were in charge, you did the very same. And here’s the thing: given half the chance, you still would. Indeed, you still do. You’ve learned nothing. If the response to the referendum has shown us anything, it showed us that. You might wail now, but you are simply on the end of the same treatment you dished out to others for so long. You remain as convinced of your own superiority as are those that now displace you; if you hadn’t been, they would never have had chance to replace you. And every time you seek to grab the party back, to regain the levers of power, you do it whilst re-asserting the same. For those you disenfranchised, you are no better option. The worm has turned – you need those whom you made feel so unwelcome for so long; but they no longer need you. So many of them have somewhere else to go now. And the guilt and blame for that lies at your door as much as anyone.

The new politics isn’t left and right. The new politics, and a lot of the old politics, is defined by this:

 

 

But here’s the thing – if your politics is solely about clubbing together with those in the right-hand column against those in the left, then you’ve already lost. And this is what you’ve done. This is how you’ve defined yourself, measured yourself. Any appeals to common ground that cannot bridge this divide is no appeal to common ground at all. You wouldn’t even be willing to unpick the threads, to see what’s going on. Your only explanation is moral degeneracy or intellectual retardation or both. Bigots or blaggards, all of them. You smugly proclaim, eyebrows raised, that the Hard Left would sooner die in a ditch that compromise on their ideals. But so would you. Every bit as much. Indeed, this is exactly what you have done. Exactly what you are doing.

And yet, for all that, you are right. The country needs a Labour government. An actual Labour government. Which means we need you. Those who put themselves on the left need to come together. Which means you need those you despise. To find common ground, as the cliché goes. Though to be honest, for all you proclaim it, I’m not convinced you really believe those words. Or could deliver on it. Or would deliver it, even if you could.

And so we have a mess. Labour is dead. Long live Labour.

 

 

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9 Comments

  1. […] it’s not as if this hasn’t been going on in the Labour Party for the last couple of decades. Indeed, some of you actively cheered it. The price of ‘modernisation’, […]

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  2. […] on the cultural gulf between the voters that Labour needs to get back and where it stands now (here) so there’s no need to repeat it and besides, the Labour Party has proven itself incapable of […]

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  3. Deptford Dave says:

    The author criticises but doesn’t seem to offer anything positive. We can agree things are a mess.

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  4. Chris says:

    Fascinated by your idea that left/right is no longer the right terminology (or at least, brings with it so much baggage that it outweighs the important distinctions now). Could you share your different ideas for how the new left/right might be renamed that reflect the different positions you think matter most?

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  5. […] the membership and the parliamentary party is bad enough; but do have a read of this, and then this. Can these two positions be reconciled in one political […]

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  6. Brett Gray says:

    My frustration with this post is that, with a healthy side serving of ‘I told you so’, it calls down damnation on both houses (Corbynistas and Centrists), but doesn’t go far in offering a positive vision that transcends the banal and commonplace. Ok, let’s come together, but to what end? Where are the points of agreement? On what can we build? Give me a positive vision, something I can get behind. There’s a lot of bewildered left of centre types out there, and this offers the same level of smugness it accuses ‘liberal’ Labour of.

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  7. Jonny101 says:

    Do you believe there will ever be a Jeremy Corbyn government? If not then what is his purpose? How can we end Tory rule with the situation as it currently is? I am happy to sacrifice some principals and a little compromise to get a progressive government. That is not going to happen whilst the party membership is dominated by a tiny demographic ( afew hundred thousand) which is not representative of the millions of working class the party is supposed to represent? Are we going to sacrifice them to endless Tory rule on the altar of ideological principles (many of which i support) or are we going to try and win an election and help these people?

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  8. In spite of the differing viewpoints of those that voted leave and remain neither were homogenous groups. Although, there was a high degree of correlation for leave voters with social conservatism e.g the death penalty. The overriding factor that motivated a high turnout and a rejection of the status quo was a fundamental rejection of centrist politics. In other words a rejection of the professional politics that developed policy through polling and focus group. The centrist vote has collapsed in general elections across Europe and the same popular anti establishment view can be used to explain the rise of Donald Trump in the US. For decades political parties have been developing an approach in which they gain power by trying to create popular policy. In doing so they have failed to implement policy that fundamentally addressed the economy, inequality and immigration, for example. The Iraq War, the 2008 Banking Crisis and then the outcome of the EU ref are all symptoms of increasingly dysfunctional government. A significant number of economists are also arguing that capitalism (neoliberalism) is in decline, it is not possible to sustain profits without developing a monopoly, like Apple or Google. New approaches to managing the economy are needed, especially in countering growing inequality. Indeed conditions of inequality foster social conservatism and are rich pickings for the far right.

    What is happening in the Labour Party is also symptomatic of the changes going on. It is reconfiguring itself to respond. Setting out policies that provide the framework for solutions that address inequality, falling wages, immigration, investment in public services and an ethical foreign policy, for example. It is not intended to be exclusive, but inclusive. Given the context (ie the mistrust of centrist politics), it is going to be impossible to win an election by just appealing to focus groups. Policies must have substance, meaning and efficacy. An effective political party is going to have to be a partnership between a strong grassroots social movement campaigning and working in local communities with a parliamentary party. It cannot rely just on an appealing set of policies, people have to have a sense that the policies will give them a chance to improve their lives and improve their communities. They policies cannot just be for the electorate, people have to be part of policy. Democracy has to be more effective.

    Clearly this transition is making many in the Labour Party feel left out and that the changes are causing a great deal of anxiety. But this reconfiguration is after all a response to what is happening in the world around us. This is not a factional debate, it is about the rebalancing of power and finding a way of distributing power and wealth more effectively. The latter is a challenge that needs everyone in the party to pull together and address.

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