Labour at a crossroads
I warned in the last issue of DQ that should Labour shift its policy to the left it would face another period of time in the political wilderness. Following the General Election defeat in May, there had been some fairly senior figures, notably Andy Burnham, that were beginning to adopt a more radical, left wing narrative that I believed to be dangerous for the party’s future prospects.
However, not even the hardest of hard left fantasists could have imagined that not only would there be a leftwards move in policy terms – but that maverick Jeremy Corbyn would be elected as Labour’s new leader.
It was an incredible result that came about partly due to a surge of new £3 subscription paying new members that joined a party that many of them had previously loathed in order to support Jez; but largely due to the idiocy of 35 Labour MPs deciding to put the ‘harmless’ Jeremy on the leadership ballot paper in order to ‘broaden the debate’ of the internal contest in the first place.
But Labour cannot turn back the clock and it is where it is as they say. So exactly where is that? On the positive side, they have swelled their membership numbers with a combination of Corbynistas, keyboard warriors and Trots. On the negative side, they have swelled their membership numbers with Corbynistas, keyboard warriors and Trots!
It does, however, allow the party the opportunity of having a robust and long overdue debate about what it is actually for in the future – a debate that was avoided during the Ed Miliband years in the name of party unity.
Labour has this decision to make. Does it wish to be a mass party of protest, happy to sit on the side-lines of power, comfortable in the knowledge that it can remain ‘purer than pure’ in its Socialist offer, and argue consistently against capitalism – stubbornly refusing to compromise with the electorate? Or will it return to its Social Democratic roots, arguing for a more just society, within a better managed and regulated market economy. A fresher, updated version of New Labour that will actually give it a chance of returning to government at some point in the future?