A new report out this week has indicated that Labour’s woes are attributable to it not being Tory enough. It was carried out by Giles Radice, a lord, and Patrick Diamond, an former aide to Tony Blair (I kid you not).
According to the report, “Labour was not just narrowly defeated in 2015, it was overwhelmingly rejected by an electorate who no longer trust or respect the party. Underlying all of this is a sense that Labour is a party that does not understand the modern world". It's hard not to laugh at this. Is this really the line that Labour should now be following? That the modern world is all about cheering the Tory's savage cuts to public spending, and supporting austerity? The report was right about one thing though. The party was rejected by an electorate who no longer trust or respect the party – although the reasons go much further back than the muddled Ed Miliband.
Three weeks before the election, a guy in his twenties sat opposite me on the train. I was reading Tony Benn’s Diaries, he was reading Margaret Thatcher’s biography. Turns out he was an intern for a prominent Labour MP and known Blairite. He sang Thatcher’s praises. As someone who, despite being ideologically aligned with Labour, was forced into a political abyss as a result of the party’s lunge to the right, this rankled.
I asked if he’d read Tony Benn’s diaries. “He was a bit too left”, he said. I asked what constituted “too left”. He couldn’t say because he hadn’t read his book, but had been reliably informed that at Labour HQ being “too left” was not good. I knew that already. I once met a Labour party insider when I visited the Occupy London camp who told me the party was monitoring developments. It concluded that the movement didn’t generate enough numbers to justify a realignment to the left. It’s that fickle, corporatisation of politics that is so demoralising.
My conversation with the Labour intern drew to an abrupt close when I told him Labour’s support for the failed austerity experiment ruled out my vote. “Voting on principle is wasting your vote”, he lectured, “that’ll just let the Tories in!” He expressed this as a statement of fact. So that was Labour’s election strategy in a nutshell. It came down to tactics and a business strategy involving scaremongering people into voting strategically. Principle, or policies, didn’t come into it.
Suffragettes died so that I could vote, and I wasn’t going to be lectured by a man on how to cast it. “If the Tories get back in, it’s down to you guys for pushing supporters like me away," I said. "And if Labour can’t stand on its own principles and be prepared to defend them, why the hell should the people whose principles you abandoned vote for you?”
It’s ironic that traditional Labour voters, like myself, were forced to vote elsewhere in the last election because New Labour reinvented the party on Thatcher’s principles. Yet, when a true Labour contender for the leadership contest woos us back with an anti-austerity narrative, for which we yearned at the election, we’re rejected on the grounds that we don’t share Labour’s values. What are Labour's values if they’re not about fighting savage welfare cuts and defending the NHS against privatisation?
Abandoning Labour’s founding principles has left new Labour with no meaning, no soul and therefore, no relevance. Jeremy Corbyn is the party’s only hope of survival.