Who does Labour represent now?

With Jeremy Corbyn’s latest decisive victory in the Labour Leadership election, I am led to ask the question, who does Labour represent now? It certainly doesn’t represent the centre left, nor does it seem to be in a position to form an effective opposition at a time when one is badly needed.

Having been a Labour supporter for 40+ years and a member from 1997-2013, I am used to differences of opinion in the party. I used to console myself with the thought that ‘Labour is a broad church’. But eventually the ‘church’ began to narrow and some members, like myself, found ourselves heading for the exit.

What is different about Jeremy Corbyn’s position is that he has been elected by overwhelming support from members who have a very idealistic position, but little practical understanding or appreciation of the kind of politics that is needed to make a party capable of forming an electable government that can deal with the many issues the UK now faces. It doesn’t help that Jeremy himself seems to be stuck in the 1970s, still talking about renationalisation, and advocating the reduction of austerity by throwing money at the problem without any consideration of where it might come from.

It remains to be seen what moderate Labour MPs will do, who don’t identify with Jeremy’s agenda. I know from my days as a member how loyal Labour supporters are, but if the situation becomes intolerable for them, and the party splits, there is an opportunity for an amalgamation of ideas and possible cross-party links with social democratically minded LibDems like myself.

Just over a year ago I joined the LibDems, partly in anticipation of what was likely to happen in Labour, but also because I saw them as a party where my centre left views might be better represented. Through LibDemVoice I got in touch with George Kendall, and together we have set up the Social Democrat Group, whose aim is to reach out to moderate Labour members so links can potentially be built. So far we have held successful fringe events at the Spring and Autumn LibDem conferences, and attended the Fabian and Progress summer conferences, with future meetings planned.

Going back to the title of this post, it is clear that Labour as it is doesn’t now represent many of the people who need it most. The formation of a new centre left grouping, formed by a social democrat consensus between moderate Labour and LibDems, might fill that gap, and in the coming weeks, months and years we hope it might become a reality.

You can find out more about the Social Democrat Group by visiting our Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/SocialDemocratGroup/, or following us on Twitter at @socdemgroup.

8 thoughts on “Who does Labour represent now?”

  1. The likes of Brexit and the rise of Trump have made me think a lot more about politics, a subject I don’t understand much about. No particular party really matches my outlook and so the question “who does xxxx party represent” is really an alien one to me. However, on the topic of Corbyn, for all of his perceived failings, he seems me to be unique amongst MPs in a way that should be far more common. That is: He appears to be doing what he believes is right, not what will personally earn him the most money or glory. I admit that I could be proved wrong, but I definitely respect that aspect of his position. There are other aspects that I respect less, but currently his principles win out. I also respect my local Labour MP, who has opposed Corbyn, have voted for him, and also for other candidates in the past, but likely will vote Labour if he stands again because he also seems to be a principled, courageous fighter for issues he believes in and that matter in our area. These are the factors that are important to me – not who a party “represents”. I hope that my MP and Corbyn can sort out their difference – this would be best for the country’s politics overall, I feel.

  2. Far from being an alien question, the question of who a party represents is a fundamental one. The Tories, for example, have traditionally been the party of self-interest, while Labour have represented working people, particularly those with little representation from anywhere else. It’s all very well having idealistic principles, as Corbyn and his many supporters do, but these are not principles that will appeal to the electorate in sufficient numbers to ever win an election. The reason Blair won three elections was that the Labour Party then had a wide appeal, beyond its traditional support base. Then there’s the question of effective opposition. At the moment it is needed desparately, and Labour are too busy with internal disagreements and arguments to provide it in any form. Unfortunately the LibDems simply don’t have enough MPs to make much difference, although I hope that will change in the future. I tend to take a long term view, and I’m less concerned about local issues when it comes to MPs. Instead one needs to look at the situation in parliament. Labour, as a party, are neither representing their voters or opposing the Tories, and that is very worrying, especially with Brexit and the constituency boundary changes that are going to come up soon.

    1. I keep on hearing this ‘these are not principles that will appeal to the electorate in sufficient numbers to ever win an election’ argument, but have yet to see any evidence that it’s actually true. Do you have any?

      1. The only voters who will vote Labour are its core supporters, and that’s not enough to win an election. New Labour did well because they had appeal beyond the traditional support. With Corbyn in charge, they have no chance. Centre left people like myself are joining the LibDems because Labour no longer represents us, and can never progress beyond being a kind of political cult until they wake up, ditch Corbyn and Momentum, and offer something electable.

  3. But my opinion is based on 40+ years in politics, most of which I was a Labour Party member! I saw it happen in the 1980s with Michael Foot (I wrote a previous blog post on that), and now it’s happening again. It’s the same mantra – Labour forgetting about the reality of forming a government and indulging in petty infighting and navel gazing.

    Politics is not a science, and hard facts/evidence are difficult to get, but the latest opinion polls put Labour at about 26% with the Tories on 43%. In the Witney by-election, if that’s a barometer at all, Labour came 3rd after the LibDems. This is the only ‘evidence’ that’s out there, and Labour really need to be doing better if they are going to challenge the Tories in 2020.

    1. If politics is not a science, how can you be sure that the situation that played in the 1980s will play out the same way now? I’ll give you that infighting isn’t a good look, and those polls are bad for Labour. Whether or not it means they’re unelectable under Corbyn will become clear in due course, I guess.

      1. Experience! History has a habit of repeating itself. In the 1980s I was very much aligned to the left of the Labour party, and was pleased when Michael Foot won the leadership. But then I saw the consequences of that play out, with the formation of the SDP and a disastrous GE result. Slowly over the years I’ve come to the conclusion that the electorate will support a centre left agenda (such as that of New Labour), but only a relative minority (which I was once one of) support the kind of far left agenda peddled by Corbyn and McDonnell. Personally I think waiting until 2020 to find out is too long, but the much predicted Labour split shows no signs of happening. Boundary changes may have an effect though. We’ll see.

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