Destruction of Labour bad news for UK democracy

As recently as May 2010, it seemed just about conceivable, even post-election, that Labour would stay in power. Having presided over the biggest economic crash since 1929, Gordon Brown remained in office, and it was in fact the Conservatives who were having the inquest as to how they could not secure an overall majority in such favourable circumstances.

It seems astonishing, just over five years on, that the Labour Party may now be on the verge, literally, of falling apart. With a bloodied Liberal Democrat faction and no evidence despite the hype of any Green surge, this will leave the left in smithereens.

What Labour needs to do over the coming weeks is select a Leader to unify the left-and-centre. What it seems intent on doing – partly because of the crazy decision to let keyboard warriors who registered vague support last month have the same say as committed canvassers of 30 years’ standing – is dividing itself even more.

With Scotland gone for at least a decade and boundaries due to change in 2018, Labour’s task to regain power and influence is to outpoll the Conservatives in England. Even this would not guarantee an absolute majority, but it would offer likely largest party status. It is, however, something which has only been achieved twice in the last nine elections since 1974.

The real battleground is southern England. Here, depressed coastal towns such as Hastings, run-down areas of Southampton, funky social liberal parts of Brighton, struggling dormitory towns like Folkestone, the whole of suburban far-from-posh Essex, poor peripheral towns like Harlow, flooded parts of the West Country and the whole of England’s least affluent county of Cornwall are represented in their entirety by Conservative MPs. In other words, in the entire south of England outside London, the party of the working class is blue. How could Labour let this happen?

Working people know the welfare system does not work, they expect work to be rewarded, and they see the value of financial responsibility. After all, they exercise all these things themselves. Therefore, they vote for parties which see this too. These are not my words, they are the basic summary of a report by John Cruddas into why Labour lost, commissioned by the party itself.

That the party is turning in on itself, degenerating into factions and on the verge of an outright split is the result of ignoring even the right questions, never mind the right answers. And that is before we even reach the farce of its Leadership election, which will inevitably result in a weakened opposition, less effective challenge to the government, and a decline in the standard of British democratic debate.

Regardless of our own political stances, the populist dash to the extremes should cause all democrats to worry. It is not good for any of us.

 

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4 thoughts on “Destruction of Labour bad news for UK democracy

  1. Kevin Breslin says:

    The working class party of the South of England are the Tories … Hmm next time English commentators lecture Northern Ireland on tribal politics maybe they should put a mirror up to itself.

  2. Two points:
    1. It’s “suicide” not “destruction”
    2. It’s clear to voters in the south of England (and I’ve canvassed many of them myself), that they realise the Conservatives are the only party offering credible opportunities and policies for those who work and those who want to work.

    • I had considered “self-destruction”, yet much of it is being done by other Leftists (and even non-Leftists) who just happened to have three quid to spare, so I left it!

      I hope I was clear in the article that I agree with you entirely about the Southern voter. The obsession with relatively small parts of the electorate (Scots, people who like Russell Brand, etc) is fundamental to the media’s misreading of the whole situation and to Labour’s woes.

  3. Scots Anorak says:

    With regard to Scotland, I think that Labour is probably right from its own perspective to play hardball. If the recent general election result were repeated there, something of the order of 56 SNP MPs would be available to lend their support to a Labour Government, as opposed to 41 Labour MPs in 2010. It’s true that Labour will not enjoy any large-scale revival in Scotland until it concedes Home Rule, but Home Rule will surely result in EVEL at one stage or another, so it’s better for the party to introduce it if and when it needs to and then let the Tories follow with EVEL when they have a sufficient majority in England to form a Government. But of course you are right in saying that winning Scotland does not a Labour Government make.

    However, it’s also true that Labour need not actually win any more seats in order to form a Government next time around. All that need happen is for the Liberal-Democrats to stage a revival in south-west England and for the resulting overwhelmingly English coalition to show a little realism in dealing with the SNP.

    I do wonder about how good Corbyn is presentationally, but decrying him as an off-the-scale left-winger really depends on where one’s political centre of gravity lies. In American terms, the description is correct. In European terms, he’s moderate centre-left. Having an industrial policy (which might well have stopped the UK fracturing socially and politically in the way it has done since 1979), maintaining reasonable benefit levels, and declining to pay billions for a nuclear deterrent are pretty much orthodoxy in Germany. As far as I know, bringing rail franchises and energy utilities back into public hands enjoys the majority support of the British public too (they are, after all, natural monopolies or at least cartels, and many of them are in any case run by nationalised companies from mainland Europe). The same is true of the Post Office (which is public even in the United States).

    But, yes, a split and chaos in the Labour ranks are more likely. Sad, really, since most English people are a lot less ideologically right-wing than they are made out to be. They are, however, far too receptive to glib sloganising on the part of the foreign-owned right-wing press about people being “dangerously” left-wing.

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