Monday, 27 July 2015

Ten hard truths for Labour

Following Tristram Hunt’s call for “a summer of hard truths”, here are mine, as part of a short series at Labour Uncut:

1. The Labour Party has not merely just lost an election after five years of drift; it has been getting worse since. It has now fallen deep into an existential crisis of purpose, with a large portion of its membership worryingly in denial about what the British public will actually vote for.

2. The current leadership election is symptomatic of that crisis. Like in the early 80s with Healey and Benn, many in the party are no longer expecting to get the best candidate, merely looking to avoid a disastrous one.

3. For those who believe Liz Kendall was over-egging the pudding in saying that Labour has “no God-given right to exist”, and that it has earned a permanent place in the British Top Two of political parties, some reading about the Liberal Party in the 1920s is required.
4. A Corbyn win would immediately present such an existential threat to the party. In short, the situation is far worse than the leftward drift that led to the Foot years, because (a) the country has moved right since then and hence less sympathetic, (b) Foot was a principled man who did not apologise for fanatics and (c) we hadn’t just been wiped out in our Scottish heartlands just before he was elected.

5. Labour needs to wake up and realise that Unite already represents an existential threat to it and does not have the party’s best interests at heart. It will at some point destroy itself through its increasing irrelevance to both Labour and its own members, but it could well take Labour down with it. It must not be allowed to.

6. The subset of members which attend local party meetings is far too weighted towards public-sector workers and the retired. Many private-sector workers are either put off by the boring meetings or the political prejudices they encounter there, or cannot attend because they often have less sociable working hours. This skew helps make the active membership unrepresentative of the party at large, let alone society at large.

7. Whilst Miliband’s reforms of leadership elections and the party’s relationship with unions were positive and necessary, the job is not yet complete. Parliamentary selections are still largely subcontracted to unions and good candidates are unwittingly excluded.

8. While we’re on the subject, All Women Shortlists are patronising, unfair and an unacceptably blunt instrument for equal opportunities. The public does not like them, either, including most women.

9. The party’s open espousal of identity politics on race and gender is slowly killing it in the eyes of the public and making it a sitting target for UKIP. It has become perilously tolerant of entirely unacceptable views in a few of its activists and MPs, such as racism, anti-Semitism or apologia for terrorism.

10. We are now a historical inflection point. Labour now has a matter of weeks which will decide whether it faces a difficult-but-plausible recovery, stagnation, or meltdown.

This post first published at Labour Uncut


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