Thursday, 17 May 2007

The Labour leadership election is a one horse race - so what?

Thought I'd chip into the debate about Labour's leadership election. Personally I sort of bought the argument that a contest would be a good thing - primarily to re-assert Brown's authority and legitimacy. However I am not at all fussed that it hasn't panned out that way.

It was very clear from the outset that a Left challenger would struggle to get nominations, and would have no chance of actually winning. Therefore I think the amnount of effort put into trying to get such a campaign off the ground was a bit of a waste of time and I'm glad the big unions didn't get involved. I don't at all accept the view that Brown is a terrible right-winger, carrying on Blair's mission to destroy Labour/socialism from within. But then I don't subscribe to the conspiracy theory view of politics.

Anyone who genuinely thinks that Labour needs a major tilt to the Left should go and have a proper look at the recent election results. Public-friendly Nu Labor got barely a quarter of the vote. The 57 varieties of non-Labour lefties got pathetic amounts of votes and were wiped out politically in Scotland. However much we might not like the reality, the public do not want a full-blooded old-style socialiast government.

Many Labour and union activists claim in response that they know lots of people who want a proper Left alterantive - but to what extent to they engage with non-political members of the public that any democratic movement needs to win over in order to win power? Look at the facts - the public does not vote for parties further to the Left of Labour.

Finally you have to wonder at the motivations as people on the Left who spend years telling union members and Labour activists that the party (and sympathetic union leaders) are selling them down the river. Come election time these same people, grudgingly, tell the punters to vote Labour and then wonder why there is apathy.



Mark said...

Quite so. There needs to be a credible left (and a credible right) in the party. Without them there is no development of ideas and no real accountability. But the left has made itself so marginal that it no longer matters. If those on the left are unable to understand that they have reached their own mini 1983 moment in terms of their influence within the party, they might as well pack up and go home. Or perhaps (1983 style) John McDonnell's campaign should be congratulated on achieving "26 votres for socialism".

John Gray said...

I think that something really interesting is happening to the Labour Party. I was astonished that JM did not get 45 nominations. I thought he would be (rightly) beaten by Brown, however, since this government has had rebellions of 100, 140 votes against, I was sure that at least 45 would support JM (or Meacher – of course, people are now saying that if he was allowed to stand he would have been nominated). I had actually hoped for a challenge from mainstream “left” or the “right”.

Putting aside “personality” issues for the moment, I think we now have a “Labour Party” that will a support a centre left Prime Minister, not because it wants to win an election, but because it genuinely believes in centre left politics rather than Marxist based socialism.