Sunday, 13 September 2015

Onwards and upwards, backwards and sideways

Thought I'd try and blog a few of my own thoughts about the Labour leadership etc, since no-one else seems to be voicing an opinion...

Something like this has been on the cards for a long time. A lot has been written about the fraying of party loyalties and the rise of populist politicians, but that doesn't really explain enough about the developments specifically in Labour in the UK. So a few things from my own experience are worth chucking out.

It has been noticeable in recent years that a number of left-leaning friends, neighbours etc have felt unable to vote Labour. Some went Lib Dem (!) in 2010 then Green in 2015. These are people whose instincts are absolutely left-of-centre but something has made them unhappy to vote Labour for some time. But a number of them have come back into the fold as a result of Jezmania (whether they stay or not is another question...).

Even as someone who has only ever voted Labour, I too have felt the repulsion from my own tribe in various ways. For instance, I think some Labour people underestimate just how bad it looks when ex-ministers take up corporate advocacy gigs after leaving office. I don't care how much of their earnings they subsequently feed back into the party, or into charity. I don't think Labour politicians should use the influential voice that the movement has given them in support of JP Morgan, Bridgepoint Capital etc. For one, these fcukers can always find someone willing to say anything for money. Far more importantly when our people do it then it makes us look unprincipled, hypocritical and on the make. We look like the other lot.

On a related point, when I've done policy work I've been surprised by how small c conservative some Labour types are. I've sat in meetings and would have been genuinely unable to tell who the Labour person was if they didn't have their badge on. I know some will see this as A Good Thing, as Labour needs to be mainstream, to understand the industry etc, but I know my turf quite well, and I know lobbying bullshit when I smell it. Too often we have been willing to repeat it without challenge for fear of being see as too radical / anti-business.

Finally I personally have found the dominance and intolerance of Blairite voices in the media very irritating. I don't think it is good for Labour in general that they have been over-represented for so long, and nor has it been good for their own favoured candidates in the last two elections. Blairism in political terms has become a conservative force mainly concerned with telling the party what it can't do, whilst putting forward policies that sound like business change management programmes. Needless to say this has not proved popular, yet Blairites have belted out the same old tunes, even louder, whilst insulting those who don't sing along. In this election in particular they have deployed exactly the same "no compromise with the electorate" approach they (rightly) criticise the party haven taken in the past. And 95% of the electorate gave them two fingers.

We would be much better served by a broader array of Labour commentators, who have different ideas. Particular low points for me have been the claim that the mansion tax is "anti aspiration" which simply comes across as acquiescing to the interests of the very rich in London, and the incessant drumbeat for military action. I quite like David Aaronovitch et al, but I feel I could tune out for years and when I tune back in they would still be bellowing for us to commit troops, and that we would be failing our moral duty to do so, and it would be only the target that had changed. Syria is a case in point. The same people who screamed for us to bomb Assad two years later want us to bomb Daesh now without any acknowledgment of the obvious contradiction.

For all these reasons I can totally understand why many people wanted to kick back. I don't share their obvious desire to rub the Blairites' noses in it but this has been in the post for years. I thought Liz Kendall ran a decent campaign, the low vote she got is explained by much bigger factors than the personal strengths of the candidate.

But, reflecting on why we got here doesn't help much. We have now elected a genuinely left-wing leader by a large margin and we have to figure out what to do. I'll try and blog about that next.

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