Left needs to stop moralising, and get practical

Well I think what we need to do as a society is…”

Beware anyone who starts a sentence like that. It will inevitably be practically meaningless. Who precisely needs to do what?

Typically, the speaker will be a politician of the left. What they are doing is moralising, not delivering in practice. It is at best woolly, and at worst arrogant.

This is what is happening across Europe. The populist rise is at the expense of the left, not the right, because in an economic emergency people simply do not need moralising. They need practical ideas and clear routes to deliver them.

The current implosion of the British Labour Party is perhaps best seen in that context. It is, of course, a particularly incredible example – the party has elected a Leader (mind, polls have been wrong before) whose entire campaign has consisted of trashing the last Labour Prime Minister and the legacy of his and his successor’s entire 13-year term in office. Through their moralising (and broader, crazed, blame game), they are actually telling people they were no good in government. It defies belief.

What is lacking is a serious analysis of what the country’s (and the world’s) general problems are and what can practically be done to address them. The Conservatives had that analysis, whether one accepts it or not – that society was broken, that one big reason was government debt, that another was the benefits system, and that what was needed was to free up schools, bring spending back under control, and reform welfare. What is Labour’s analysis, beyond that they don’t like “Tories” very much at a moral level (and “Tories” include Tony Blair and probably Andy Burnham)?

Ultimately the only purpose served by this moralising is to make the moraliser feel good about themselves. It does not help anyone in any practical way. It has no real purpose.

It is time to stop moralising, stop talking about what others should or should not do, and to stop accusing anyone outside a narrow social circle of being the enemy. The centre left must come up with its own analysis, and its own practical route to tackle the problems identified in that analysis. Otherwise, it will find no one is listening.

9 thoughts on “Left needs to stop moralising, and get practical

  1. 416 says:

    Saying ‘we should’ has benefit. ‘Why should I use mortar for brickwork? Why should I get my car MOT’d? Why shouldn’t I be the school bully? There are both moral and practical aspects to these answers. Either way, they require some explaining – some hot air.

    If we know WHY we should take a certain action, we’re more likely to do it rather than looking for excuses not to do it. And that’s what morals centre around – why.

    A bit of moral explanation can go a long way to solving issues.

    • There are two problems there.

      First, moralising has its place, but not if unaccompanied by hard, practical policy. (Corbynomics is not practical, for reasons explained even by economists of the Left.)

      Second, there is an assumption that Corbyn is moral and everyone else isn’t. Is it moral to take away someone’s hard-earned standard of living to equalise it with someone who has not worked as hard? Because that’s what he advocates. But it’s surely immoral.

      • 416 says:

        Do bankers work harder than everyone else?

      • 416 says:

        “Is it moral to take away someone’s hard-earned standard of living to equalise it with someone who has not worked as hard?”

        Now I could be getting this wrong, so please correct me if necessary.
        As far as I’m aware, and as far as my opinions are concerned:

        Back just before the big crunch, the banks were doing immoral things with people’s money. They lost big.
        They got bailed out with public money.

        Now – I don’t know the conditions of that bailout. I assume it was a loan. (Completely immoral if not.) To my understanding, the banks either hadn’t started paying back that loan, or at least they hadn’t completed paying it back when they awarded certain bonuses. So in my head, they were rewarded with public money.

        I hope we can agree that a ‘high standard of living’ is roughly equivalent to having access to money. Then it would be safe to say some bankers have a high standard of living. Now I ask – who sustained that standard in the rough times? Did they ‘work’ hard, or did public money sustain them?
        My point is, ‘hard work’ is subjective: just because you have money doesn’t automatically mean you worked hard for it.

      • I didn’t (and don’t) say that all those with money worked hard for it.

        But let’s say you did, and someone else didn’t. Which happens.

        Is it moral to take money from the hard worker and give it to the less hard worker?


        Yet that is what Corbyn advocates. He is immoral.

        So are plenty of politicians, but let us not pretend Corbyn is any more moral than the rest of them. And when you then move into his support for terrorists…

  2. Derek Bell says:

    You could argue that the Centre Left has come up with a plan for dealing with the economic problems caused by the economic crisis. Richard Murphy the brains behind Corbynomics in his book ‘ The Courageous State’ has proposed ‘People’s QE’ . This is a policy of using money created by the Bank of England to invest in public infrastructure projects which boosts employment and economic growth.

  3. Firstly, the populist far right is making gains in Europe … in France, in Greece and in Sweden.

    Secondly, we shouldn’t assume that centralist means practical and ultra means impractical … a working class teacher with staunch socialist views in politics might be better at sorting out legislation on hospital waiting times, than a single middle class political journalist with Fabian Society tendencies.

    Working class people do have advantages of being at the coal face of people doing stuff, political idealists are perhaps handicapped by that.

  4. 416 says:

    Sorry, couldn’t add this to previous thread.

    “Is it moral to take money from the hard worker and give it to the less hard worker?”

    In theory – no.

    Genuine question though: in a Corbyn-policy situation, and as far as you’re aware – who is who in this scenario? I admit I’m behind on a few things.

    To me, a ‘less hard worker’ could be a victim of the Troubles, people seeking employment, severely disabled, etc. Always murky, this sort of stuff.

    As for previous Labour governments – WMDs. The Iraq War. Immoral. David Kelly, the scientist thought to have committed suicide. Documents surrounding his death classified for 70 years.

    Blair’s government definitely deserves a bit of trashing.


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