Groans in the Labour ranks….
This piece on Labour List interested me a little; it is written by one of the Constituency Representatives for the NEC; Ann Black. She writes;
“I’ve received several requests for an extra NEC meeting to analyse the results, and to ensure that all members are involved in future policy-making and that the manifesto reflects Labour values.”
Perhaps tellingly, she continues;
“This has not proved possible. In fact the original plan was to postpone the May NEC meeting to June, but a date could not be found which fitted with union conferences and other commitments.”
Now, to me this poses the interesting question of where the Labour revolt will go next having so spectacularly disappointed amoung the Parliamentary party. The fact is that there has always been an uneasy relationship between Labour’s grassroots and it’s leadership; especially during the Blair years which has worsened as more and more people have withdrawn.
However, the reforms that Blair did institute have effectively hamstrung the membership and even if they actually jump that hurdle then they face the formidable union bloc vote. So, you have a situation where years of successive good performance by the likes of the Grassroots Alliance has made next to no tangible policy difference. Since they make negligible difference their vote eventually declines and momentum is lost; so those expecting fireworks from Labour’s rank-and-file would do well not to hold their breath.
Frustrations like this lead to the likes of Simon Jenkins calling for a ‘New Labour Party’ . It is not hard given the above to see why Jenkins feels that ‘the left’ no longer have a voice in Labour; it is a logistical nightmare for anybody other than the leadership to have a voice that counts. While a party should be captive of either ‘wing’ of it’s party to stay healthy electorally denying them a voice is the polar opposite mistake and leads to the polar opposite problem. We look at the electoral success of the BNP on the margins and it is not hard to see how the emasculation of the traditionalist wing of Labour has presented the section of the population they had hitherto represented with a crisis of identity and representation.
I have alot of sympathy for Jenkin’s when he says that;
“Dialectical politics needs left and right to represent an identifiable coalition of interests and opinions.”
However, I have less when he says of us;
“I used to assume that one day the Liberal Democrats would find a leader and a cause to seize the political ground on the left opened up by Blair’s neo-Thatcherism, as the SDP tried and failed to do on the right. After 2001 and again after 2005 that was clearly a strategic option for the Lib Dems. They emphatically rejected it in electing Nick Clegg as their leader. They were beguiled by the magnetism of the vacuous centre.”
I view the centre-ground as usually being where our hopes, aspirations and dreams in politics merge with reality in what is sometimes a shotgun wedding but still nonetheless one of those amorphous ever-changing definitionsthat is usually only used to slander a trend of thought as meaning nothing; which in fairness is sometimes an accurate characterisation. However, there are strong trends within the Liberal Democrat’s that represent a commitment to social justice and in many ways present a strong opportunity to re articulate left-wing politics in an original and anti-statist way.
How that pan’sout; how we strike the balance in our own inner-party narrative and with our actual policies will be one of the key determining factors in how successful we are in Nick Clegg’s stated ambition for us to replace Labour as the party of opposition to the incoming Conservative government.