UK Labour Party: Crisis or Identity Crisis

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.

A new era in Labour leadership?

I try not to get too political on here.
Case in point, you have no idea how many unwritten posts would’ve started with that very sentence.

However, as today saw the Labour Party (UK political party, currently in opposition) elect their new leader and deputy leader, I figured there were a few comments I wanted to throw into the ring.

To the delight of many, and the dismay of many others, Jeremy Corbyn was elected as the new Labour Leader. His policies seem very down-to-earth and he comes over as being a “real person” with strongly-held convictions. He also seems to resonate very strongly with those who’ve become disillusions with politics in recent years.

His critics, for weeks, have been implying that Labour under Corbyn would be “unelectable”. Right or wrong, I think this misses the point entirely as to why him being Labour leader can be a good thing.

Being the Opposition is more than just being “that bunch trying to be in power next time around”. Labour MPs are still, as the title implies, Members of Parliament. The same goes for all MPs not part of the main governmental party. Yes, looking forward to 2020 and the next election is important but that doesn’t mean that the next five years aren’t worth anything.

Having a main Opposition party is one of the checks and balances that we have in UK politics. At least, I think it’s supposed to be. When all the main political leaders look and sound largely the same, it can be hard to tell. Everyone wants to run in a similar direction and nobody is really throwing out a dissenting voice. It mostly comes over as name-calling and blame-shifting. “Why you’re wrong” instead of “Why we’re right”. A small but significant difference.
Having a strong leader with a strong purpose will help drive the Labour Party (or any party) in a definite direction. As a part of parliament, this is important. Even if Mr Corbyn’s views aren’t what some would call ideal, they’re ideas that’ll get spoken. Out loud. In parliamentary debate. As he seems to be wanting to represent some viewpoints that are often brushed aside, this is no bad thing.

To be honest, though, the main advantage is bigger than just the Labour Party. His involvement in the leadership elections inspired a lot of interest from those who are usually disinterested in politics and who think their opinions aren’t worth raising. Jeremy Corbyn looks to have the potential to at least partially shrink the perceived gap between “politicians” and “normal folk”.
He’s got people interested in politics. He’s got people realisoing that, if enough people participate, you can vote in someone different than the normal crowd. Right now, I suspect we’ve got a fair few more people paying attention to politics than they usually would. Regardless of which side they’re on, this is no bad thing. Politicians have power, so we need to make sure the people actually give a damn about politics,

I don’t agree with everything that he stands for, but I agree with a fair chunk of it. And even the bits I disagree with, it’s a breath of fresh air to have those viewpoints actually being aired by our political leaders. Hopefully, he wil inspire debate both within parliament and about politics.

As to why I think “unelectable” is missing the point…
If political debates get more “real” and more average people start to take an interest and actually bother to turn up to vote in 2020, does it really matter who gets in as long as politics begins to gain the trust of the public and people think that votes matter? Does it really matter which group is “in charge” as long as we can start to trust the whole lot of them to at least engage in serious debate about the matters that you and I actually give a damn about?

Labour under Corbyn looks like it could be interesting. And I don’t think it matters whether that party can be in government (as nice as that would be) as long as it’s in parliament. Whoever’s in charge, we need a decent Opposition to keep things balanced and to inspire debate in the next five years’ worth of parliamentary decision making.