Tag Archives: Labour Party leadership

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.

Whither centre-left politics in the UK?

At a time when it seems likely that Jeremy Corbyn will be elected Labour leader, people like myself who position themselves on the centre-left of the political spectrum may find themselves asking two questions: (i) where will  their views be represented in UK politics, and (ii) given the answer to (i), how can these views be aired in the future (with the hope of any impact)?

There is, of course, the ‘wait and see’ approach. How many Labour MPs and members will feel able to remain in a Corbyn-led party is open to question, and a split akin to the SDP split in 1981 might occur. Alternatively, with their new leader, Tim Farron, the LibDems offer some hope, and this is the approach I have taken, as discussed in my previous posts.

On the general subject of Corbyn’s appeal, there was an interesting piece by Tony Blair in today’s Observer (link here). Of course, there are some who are totally prejudiced against Tony, and refuse to read anything from him, but (as always) he makes some good points. One that particularly resonated with me was a general point about politics today: ‘There is a politics of parallel reality going on, in which reason is an irritation, evidence a distraction, emotional impact is king and the only thing that counts is feeling good about it all.’  In his piece, Tony also mentions political developments in Greece and France, showing that it’s not just something that’s happening in the UK.  10 days ago I asked this question of Corbyn supporters on Twitter: ‘Are you putting political ideology before future electability of Labour?’. I only got one reply, on the lines of ‘wait and see what he does’. Fair enough, but there’s a lot at stake here!

Having good opposition is essential, especially with Tories effectively running riot. How well a Corbyn-led Labour parliamentary party can achieve that remains to be seen, but it may not be as effective if it doesn’t give house room to centre-left as well as left wing policies. And I’ve said nothing about the likely contribution of the press!

Political confusion and frustration

Two of my recent posts have documented my decision to join the Liberal Democrats, after many years of supporting Labour. It’s nearly four weeks since making this somewhat momentous decision, and is perhaps an appropriate time to reflect on it.

In terms of communications, the LibDems have not exactly excelled so far. I would have expected to have received a welcome pack by now, for example. I have joined a couple of Facebook groups, and liked some of their pages, so I see some of what is being posted on line. Similarly I’m following the relevant Twitter feeds. It’s all a bit quiet just now, but maybe things will liven up a bit next month when the conference season starts.

In terms of politics, I’ve realised that I can never be a traditional Liberal, but I am more aligned with the former Social Democrat Party (SDP) which merged with the Liberal Party to form the Liberal Democrats in 1988. Whether the combined party still has enough Social Democrat character in it for me remains to be seen!

In 1981 the SDP was formed as a result of Labour moving to the left, and, depending on the outcome of the leadership election, something similar could happen again. My decision to leave Labour (back in 2013) has been vindicated by the very fact that Jeremy Corbyn is being viewed as a realistic leadership contender. I despair when I hear it said that his campaign has somehow ‘energised’ the party, and led to people joining who would not have done so previously. Are their eyes and ears closed to reality? I am as against austerity as a doctrine as is Corbyn, but the deficit can’t just be ignored in hope that it will go away (look at what has happened in Greece!). I had hoped that Labour would have pursued more of a ‘deficit reduction by growth as an alternative to austerity’ agenda in the last parliament, but it never seemed to figure prominently in the Ed Miliband/Ed Balls plans. That was one of the many frustrations that led to my final separation from the party. It was a policy that has never had the discussion and consideration it deserves, despite the fact that it worked successfully in the USA (for example).

So, for now, I am a member of the LibDems, and I will do what I can to promote those of their policies I can closely identify with, including EU membership and human rights, and in so doing, try to help them to improve their position.  The outcome of the Labour leadership election is still nearly a month away, but what happens then will be significant. If it led to a split, and the formation of an ‘SDP mark 2’, that might be a better home for me. I’ll have to wait and see.

Labour’s leadership election process – no lessons learned?

History does seem to be repeating itself. Last night I tweeted:

‘Sorry @UKLabour but I fear the same mistakes are being made as in 2010. A new leader is needed asap. September is too long to wait!’

It all takes me back to 2010, when a similar decision was made. Then I posted my concerns here,  and these concerns equally apply now. I prefer what the LibDems are doing; at least they will have a new leader in place in July!

There’s also been a lot of hand-wringing about what direction the party should take. I return to my point made many times that Labour can’t win if it only appeals to its ‘traditional’ voters (many of whom deserted them for UKIP this time round anyway). New Labour managed to appeal to a wide cross-section of voters, and while I’m not necessarily advocating a return to New Labour, the party has to position itself carefully. Ed Miliband may have been perceived by some to be too left wing, although that’s not my view.  But whoever takes over would be well advised to learn some lessons from the way New Labour were able to win three elections. Otherwise there will be a long period of opposition.

How I see the Labour leadership situation

In the 2010 Labour leadership election I voted for David Miliband. He was the candidate who represented my views most closely, and the one who I felt was best placed to lead the party to a future election victory.

When his brother Ed was elected, I was prepared to give him a chance. Although I had a different view of what the party should be doing, I always felt that Labour represented a broad spectrum of views which could mutually coexist. It was only when I could no longer defend the actions of the shadow cabinet (the Syria vote was one example of this) that I felt that, although I still supported the party in general, I couldn’t in all sincerity remain a member.

In my previous post I mentioned the depressing political situation we face in the UK now. One consequence of this is that whatever differences I may have had with Ed Miliband and the shadow cabinet are dwarfed into insignificance by my hatred, indeed disgust, at the actions of the other parties. So I will be doing what I can to help Labour win next year. I firmly believe we should unite behind Ed, as it would be unbelievably stupid and self-defeating to attempt to force a change in leadership at this stage. Those that are orchestrating this ‘campaign’ clearly care more about their own parliamentary careers than the success of their party, and it is they, rather than Ed, that should be considering their positions now.