Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Labour's Problem?

Les May
LABOUR's present problems run much deeper than whether Labour's MPs see Jeremy Corbyn as having the qualities needed by a party leader and future prime minister.   But to understand why one has to probe a little deeper into Labour's past.

The 1945 Labour government transformed the lives of ordinary people beyond measure.  That the libertarian Left still object to it as 'statist' and the marxist Left think that it did not go far enough in imposing state control, does not detract from that achievement.  

But the Atlee Labour party enjoyed one luxury which, as Blair consistently demonstrated, has been absent in recent years.  Memories of the 1930s and the landslide in the 1945 election meant that Labour did not have to choose between power and principle.  It had both and used them to good effect.

In and after the Thatcher years 'selling' a principled Labour message to the electorate became more difficult, not least because of the concentration of the print media into a small number of hands.  Blair either wasn't up to the job of doing this or he consciously chose to abandon principle and go for power alone.

I was happy to see Corbyn elected as Labour leader.  I did not see him as a future prime minister, not least because he would be too old.  But I hoped that he would be able to hand on the mantle of a principled Labour message to a future leader.  My wish was that he would begin to inject a bit of principle into Labour's message to the electorate, that he would form a shadow cabinet from those who shared these views and above all that they would go out and make a real effort to 'sell' this message to the electorate.

The recent resignations have scuppered any hope I might have that this will happen.  Too many Labour MPs bought into the media myth that Corbyn was a part of the 'hard left' when in many respects he is about as far left as Hugh Gaitskell.  The worst of them rushed to criticise him in the Tory press and line their pockets at the same time.  Others briefed journalists anonymously.  

Whoever succeeds Corbyn will be faced with the same dilemma.  Do you go for a 'quick fix' and choose power over principle or do you get down to the difficult job of ''selling' a principled stance on politics to the electorate?  And then there's the question of disloyalty.  After years of briefing against Ed Milliband and Corbyn will these same MPs be able to resist.

Just how difficult this job is going to be can be seen from this extract from a Daily Mail article:

'If Labour goes into a general election as a divided party with an incoherent approach to immigration and a dithering hand wringing attitude to Brexit, then it could be annihilated in much of England.'

This reads like a job description designed for Nigel Farage.

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