Keep Left to Win

Political, Feminist & Literary Gifts~2

As a Labour Party member I want us to win all Elections. Seems an obvious thing to say surely we all do. You would think so anyway but some on the other side of the party to me sometimes seem to say that our ideas are unelectable and we must be round the bend to think that we could ever win with them. If there’s one thing guaranteed to wind me up it’s when another member says something like “For all its great ideals, socialism is a minority interest. When Labour offered it red in tooth & claw, it enthused the few but scared the many. Corbynism failed.” The underlying tone is we can never win with Socialism.

I disagree and if I thought we couldn’t I might as well give up. Some speak as though it’s an impossibility but you only have to look through history to see that’s not the case. In the past the Labour Party has had what I would call 3 different sorts of Election Manifestos. Firstly the explicitly Socialist,  Secondly the ones with bits of Socialism in it and Thirdly the ones with none or hardly any. Well we won in 1945, 1950 and 1974 with explicitly Socialist programmes. Now yes they were different times but to deny that happened is completely wrong.

1945-labour-manifesto

What is happening now is like what happened in the 1950’s and again in the 1980’s the right wing is fighting back. So they can retake control of the party. This is politics let’s be honest about it. I’m old enough to remember the 80’s and after the defeats in 83 and 87 being told we can’t win with Socialism. So the policy reviews begin the focus groups start and we get told we didn’t listen to what the people wanted they didn’t believe us etc. It’s all been said before.

Hammer the left

The right wing in the party will tell us they were proved right because of our win in 97 and after and that we have to appeal to middle England to win. For me there are some big flaws in these arguments. I truly believe that John Smith would have easily won in 97 had he lived or indeed any leader who was a bit left of Blair because by then the majority of the people after 18 years of Tory rule wanted a change. Yes maybe the charisma of Blair won us a few more seats at first but I believe we would have gotten a majority.

One of the things that always annoyed me about Blairism was that in our drive to appeal to middle England and the home counties we forgot about our core traditional voters. Over time this has bitten us on the backside. I have always believed in our desperation to get elected after losing 2 then 3 then 4 Elections that we compromised our vision of a better fairer more equal society far far too much.

In the 97-10 period we did some good things but also bad things and we didn’t take the chance of the opportunity that was before us. Worst of all we let people down and we didn’t take any notice because we were complacent thinking that our  traditional voters would stay with us because they had nowhere else to go. We were arrogant and completely out of touch hence by 2010 we lost and in 2015 we not only lost but we were annihilated in Scotland. Red Scotland of all places the most left wing place in Britain. We failed them and they punished us and I think some seem to be forgetting this to suit their narrative. Anyway back for power for us must include Scotland it’s that simple and turning back rightwards will never cut it in a million years there.

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This wasn’t Corbyn’s fault he wasn’t even leader then but he hasn’t been able to win the Scottish people back. Let’s be completely honest whoever wins the Labour Leadership has got a massive task on. With where we are now electorally it will be a gigantic uphill battle. But nothing is impossible. However if we are to do it there’s certain things we have to admit and not brush aside. There’s an inconvenient truth that some are refusing to see because their views are clouding this simple truth. I mentioned earlier that in the 80’s we were told we didn’t listen to what the people wanted. Well the biggest lesson we need to learn now is at the last Election we didn’t listen to what the people wanted. Yes I’m talking about Brexit.

I find this quite ironic that the people who say we need to listen to the people didn’t and still won’t on this. I knew we were going to lose in December and that frustrates the hell out of me. Others knew too. As soon as we changed our Brexit position we were doomed and what we came up was a fudge that didn’t go down well in vast areas of the country. Until we realise this and own up that we got it very wrong we aren’t going to do better electorally because people think we betrayed them from saying in 2017 we would honour the referendum result to our fudge 2 years later. They won’t forget in a hurry. I haven’t got a crystal ball and I’m certainly not especially clever so why couldn’t the architects of our Brexit U turn see what was going to happen? I didn’t expect us to lose so badly but deep down I knew it would happen. So how can we trust these people with Starmer being the key figure in this.

The right wing will keep blaming Corbyn for our defeat and I’m not going to deny it wasn’t an issue on the doorstep but quite often it was related to our Brexit position. What I’m saying is we need to recognise what is happening here. Corbyn has always been the fall guy and now groups like Labour First are using our devastating defeat as the excuse they needed to change the direction of the party back to being some sort of Blairite version. This is inevitable and part of the normal cycle of politics but the importance of this next period shouldn’t be downplayed. We are heading into the most important time in human history.

I think there are many differences between the left and the right of the party of which one of the key ones is the right’s lack of boldness. Winning is everything and the only way to win is to play safe. The right say we have to listen to the people but they don’t seem to have faith in them and as we have seen it’s only when it suits their narrative. Corbyn failed because we were too left wing too ambitious they didn’t believe us but what is their vision? They simply don’t have a coherent vision of a better society or how it can work rather they want to tinker with the system to improve people’s lives. The trouble with that is after 40 years of Neo-liberalism’s inbuilt inequalities and now Climate Change hanging over us all like a black cloud of doom it doesn’t provide the solutions to the crisis that’s happening.

australia-global-warming

We can’t take another 5-10 years of Tory rule making us even more unequal and with their inadequate response to Climate Change. That is exactly why bold policies and a bold vision are needed. Any backtracking on policy isn’t going to help us the people in the long run. The Blairites say the voters rejected our bold Socialist vision but that is only telling part of the story. As I have said they aren’t taking our Brexit position into account and completely ignoring how close were to winning in 2017 completely against the odds. Politics is so often about the short term but we are entering uncharted waters now and we need to do so much more than that. What we need is radical Socialists solutions not tinkering around the edges.

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I believe we not only have to listen to the people we have to take the lead and show a positive alternative vision. As Socialists one of our crucial jobs is to educate and that is a key thing for us to do now more than ever. Lots of people feel hopeless that there’s nothing that be done. That’s why so many were attracted to Corbyn because his message was one of hope. With the environmental and economic crisis that is enveloping us any return to some sort of 3rd way isn’t going to be enough not only to inspire the majority of people but to actually provide what’s needed to help the people and the planet. These are uncertain dangerous times and the Labour Party has to start wining but not by trying to go back to some 1997 timezone. We have to regain people’s trust by listening, helping in our local communities and putting our case forward for the type of Society we not only want but actually need. The times are a changing and we have to be on the right side of history for the good of everyone. Democratic Socialism offers the solutions to the problems facing us more than ever as unregulated Capitalism runs amok with the environment and ruins people’s lives not only here but all around the world. We have to say what we mean and mean what we say as Tony Benn use to say. This really isn’t the time to backtrack it’s a time to keep the courage of our convictions. The future is still to fight for and it’s the future that we have to think of because future generations won’t thank us for any centrist fudge. Now more than ever we need to be bold and stand up for our Socialist beliefs. That’s what the Labour Party is for and to make the changes we need by winning the battle of ideas and then enacting them. The fight carries on.

 

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