Is The Red Flag passe?
Regular readers will be unsurprised that my view is no it most defiantly is not. Indeed, I was shocked (but not entirely surprised) to see this debate taking place amoung the Labour Party Twitterati this morning. You see, if we were indulging in a rare moment of honesty both with ourselves and the electorate, we might admit that this week has not ended with the Party being totally united. Hairline cracks have appeared which may (or may not) develop into full-scale fractures. If we continue riding high in the polls then this may paper over the cracks but, then again, bear in mind that in all likelihood we will have to serve a full-term in opposition and this will impose its own strains and frustrations.
The divergence over the Red Flag is not on a simple left/right axis. Luke Akehurst, to his credit, defended the song while Sundar Katwala called it a “dirge”. However, the split is symptomatic of a wider cultural divide with the Blairite rump busy decomposing at its core. Suffering from the psychological trauma of two successive defeats (both in the General Election and recent leadership contest) Blairism is reeling like a punch-drunk boxer on the ropes. However, its ‘do anything to win attitude’ is evident in the comments of some comrades. All of which is great until you realise the above; it’s a vote-loser not a vote-winner anymore. Indeed, it lost its vote-winning power in 2005 when it failed to earn Labour anything approaching a credible mandate. What Gordon Brown might have done about this we will never know but he didn’t move quick enough and by the time he did his room for manoeuver had been drastically curtailed by the financial crisis, the event which finally destroyed Blairism.
All those who claim we need to head boldly to the centre ground seem to have failed to notice that we no longer occupy it because, true to what it is, it moved from under our feet and it has moved to the left. Still, some people cling onto this article of faith with true dogmatic tenacity and their response to attempts to change bear a disturbing similarity to those who are defending the rantings of religious sectarians – they are as detached from reality as they claim ‘Old Labour’ was. My message to these comrades is simple; its you that are passe, the electorate wants to hear again about our values not about how desperate we are to attain power. In short, they want to hear what makes us worthy of that power and that isn’t the price we put on selling our soul. They want to hear how we will change things for the better and what we will do about a system that can’t provide for them anymore; they want to hear about a better future, a future we will build with them. Ironically, David Davis seems more aware of this than our own comrades in warning about a ‘leftist backlash’. I am quite happy to fight to make Davis’s nightmares a dreamy reality for progressives.
This future will not be built be a recourse to small enterprise (which inevitably becomes big and reproduces all the problems we had before) but by extending the vistas of democracy into the economic sphere; creating a true ‘stakeholder society’. The values and courage epitomised by the words of the Red Flag are exactly what Labour needs now, far from ditching it we should be bellowing it at the top of our voices with pride.