Labour must stand against the rising tide of prejudice…
I listened, somewhat agog, to the daily phone-in show that the BBC’s Radio 5 Live hosts of a weekday morning. The subject that was up for debate was the odious remarks made by Cardinal Keith O’ Brien, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland in which he attacked plans for the legalisation of same-sex marriages as in danger of leading society further into “immorality”. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone, the Catholic Church is an archaic institution mired in hypocrisy, immorality and scandal. O’Brien’s comments are the best advert for the secularisation of state politics and policy – the Church has no business imposing its values through fiat and state legislation on secular society.
Having said all that his comments were backed by a goodly amount of callers. Furthermore, British Social Attitudes surveys are starting to register a hardening of attitudes to welfare claimants, immigrants, etc, etc. This growth in irrational prejudice has a rational cause; the worsening of many peoples lot due to the economic crash. People need somebody to blame and the press and politicians are more than willing to provide them with scapegoats. People then start to see those in an even worse position or just simply different as just a little less human, a little less deserving. In an increasingly bitter struggle to survive; social cohesion starts to collapse along the lines chronicled in Lord of the Flies. In this scenario though the state and the vested interests that led to the crash in the first place can maintain hegemony through a simple policy of divide and rule.
It will be tempting for Labour to give into this purely to acquire short-term electoral advantage, tempting but ultimately wrong. If this Party is led by witless sheep who are prepared to follow people up every blind-alley just to grub a few votes then it is a Party that has totally lost touch with its core founding values. Instead, we should respond by being on the front-line against a rising tide of social prejudice. Not only do you need a positive vision for the future to do this but you need to be prepared to sharply challenge irrationality with hard-facts. The welfare debate springs to mind here – I have yet to see any Labour frontbencher contribute anything of actual value or substance to this debate.
Labour will not, in-fact, win any elections by pandering to prejudice because the opposition will always fare better naturally on their home turf. No real gain is actually to be made from a desertion of our core values. We can be the glue that holds society together in opposition to those that would divide it; if we take a different route we will simply get lost and ultimately end up nowhere near Number 10 but somewhere entirely different, a worse place for Labour and a worse place for the country.