There is a lot of talk at the moment about whether or not the Labour Party is in crisis.
and, if so, whether it is being caused by their current leader, Jeremy Corbyn.
I think that the (Parliamentary) Labour Party is looking at it the wrong way. There is a crisis or, at least, and identity crisis. I don’t think that Mr Corbyn is the trigger for it, though. If anything, his rise to leadership and the tensions it has brought are just symptoms of an issue that was already there.
The PLP appears to worry about being seen as too “left wing” and have concerns about being electable. As I mentioned in a previous blog, this isn’t all there is to being the major non-government party. They are the official Opposition Party. This has responsibilities that cover the current period following the previous election. Looking solely towards what kind of a government they would be in an election that isn’t even scheduled until 2020 is very little use in 2016.
If another General Election was called then this would be a different matter. But until such a time, they have to at least put some priority into being the Current Opposition rather than a Future Potential Government.
This is where, I think, the focus on being seen as moderate as opposed to left-wing starts to go a little off target.
Basically, it’s a lot harder to balance from the middle. And if you’re trying to seek a compromise, giving ground from the start isn’t useful. It feels too much like what Labour wants to be is the party that stands from the compromise position. But when you give ground form that position, you don’t get compromise. You become compromised.
Where the New/Blairite/Moderate Labour wants to be isn’t necessarily a bad place. It’s just that it’s more like the end position after a reasonable discussion and compromise. It’s not a good position to counter from.
The term “Red Tories” gets thrown about towards the main Labour Party. Although I think that’s going a bit far, I see where it comes from. The current political parties feel like “Variations on a Theme”.
Take McDonalds and Burger King. Both have their own style but both are fast-food burger joints. Then you get higher-end places like the Gourmet Burger Kitchen. Even then, though, it’s still just three different takes on “Burger, Fries and a Milkshake”. When sometimes, as a customer, what you really want is pizza and a coke. Or roast dinner and a beer.
Jeremy Corbyn’s take on Labour leadership is something different. It’s not the same old same old. He appeals to people otherwise disenfranchised with Politics. This is a problem with politics/politicians in general, not with Mr Corbyn. If a split is occurring, it started ahead of this. Jeremy Corbyn’s rise to power, despite the direction of the PLP, is a symptom of the cracks, not their cause. I don’t even believe in everything he stands for but I find him a very refreshing change to politics. And where I disagree with him, I still think he helps give a more rounded overall view to a discussion.
Parliamentary Labour want to chase people already catered for by politicians. Jeremy Corbyn represent a segment of the public who are used to (and sick of) being overlooked by Big Politics.
And this is where I think the PLP is risking a misstep. There’s a large section of their newer membership who, otherwise, probably wouldn’t give a damn about politics. Because, all too often, they feel like politics doesn’t give a damn about them. Finally it seems like someone actually wants to stand for them… and the Party just wants to ignore them as if their voice and opinions don’t matter.
And this is a Party that, still, claims to be “For the People”.
The “right kind of people” only, it seems.