Support for the next leader should not mean blind devotion….
I have seen alot of suggestion on the Twitterverse and in pieces like this on LabourList that upon election of a new leader, in Mark Ferguson’s words, all we have to do is;
train our fire on those who are most deserving, this coalition government. Let’s take the fight to them, starting today. And let’s do it together – united.
This in my eyes fundamentally mistakes what Saturday is about and where it will place us; at the beginning, not the end, of a process of change. Plenty of things still need to be decided and are ‘contested space’ within the Party like, for example, our attitude to the governments cuts and what alternative we present to them. Some want us to present a program of slightly less swift and better managed cuts however, others want us, rightly in my eyes, to use the opportunity to argue for fundamental changes in how we approach economic policy. The debate on an issue like this has therefore only just begun and it certainly will not end at 16.30 on Saturday regardless of who takes the main prize.
Unity pleas always make me cringe a little because they can mean a call for an end to factionalism but the big blanket of a call for unity can also mean the total suspension of critical thinking. This, the Labour Party does not need; no doubt the victor on Saturday will want it to be the case but that does not mean it is the best thing for the Party. The reason the Party lost touch was in a large degree to the deterioration of the internal culture and the failure recognition that a certain level of dissent and the space too dissent is part of a healthy culture. If our next leader demands blind and unquestioning loyalty then it shows they have not learnt from electoral defeat and all the talk about changing the Party were empty words.
People mutter darkly about the 80’s and say ‘never again’ with no sense that these issues are a question of *balance*. The factionalism of the 80s would be bad but so would the atrophy Tony Blair brought to the Party (which left a void which was filled with the ‘Blairite/Brownite’ scraps) that has more in common with a religious sect than a political Party. Voters dont like divided parties people say but that is not entirely true (it depends on the degree and nature of the division) and besides they like out of touch and remote parties even less and lacking a healthy internal culture leads to losing touch. Never again should that be the case either…