The left of British politics has always been factionalised with numerous socialist parties coming and going, the Labour Party often engaged in vicious internal warfare (as they are at present) and the Lib Dems, in recent years, having been pulled towards economic rather than social liberalism. Of course looking back a while the SDP also failed to ‘break the mould’ as it became split by the ‘Owen’ factor amongst other things.
The lack of unity on the left has always been a problem and our warped first past the post electoral system has also helped to put many Tory Governments in power who have nothing like majority popular support; just like the present one.
What beggars belief therefore is why when Labour have grabbed power for the odd short period they have not pursued electoral reform and a fair voting system. I suppose the last Labour government was too arrogant and thought their ‘New Labour’ guise would last and be popular for generations. Well it wasn’t so Labour went further to the right in opposition, even openly bashing the poor along the way. But as they became labeled Red Tories the electorate said stuff that we may as well have proper Tories.
The Lib Dems also discredited themselves by lying about Tuition Fees in 2010. Nick Clegg thought the electorate would forgive him. They didn’t. Indeed, because many of those who voted Lib Dem in 2010 thought he was a straight forward chap whom they could trust his backing out of a clear promise caused them to drop him and his party like a stone. They expected other parties to tell porkies but having been persuaded the Lib Dems were trustworthy they turned against them big time. Rebuilding that lack of trust in the Lib Dems is probably Tim Farron’s biggest challenge.
The Greens tried lurching to left after 2010 and were the most socialist of the mainstream parties at the last general election but of course this move set their traditional environmentalist sect against an upstart socialist sect. Socialism and environmentalism have never sat comfortably together in my experience. Socialists on Merseyside that I have come across have always seemed to be very much disinterested in environmental issues.
But within the left there is at the heart of so many of its difficulties one major factor that causes the disunity which the Tories always benefit from. Many left wing sects think they are absolutely right and all other left wing sects are utterly wrong. Such tribalism then sets these sects against each other and the Tories win again whilst the left debates, often viciously, who is right and who is wrong. In differing ways I think that the emergence of the SDP and the rise of Tony Blair were reactions to the self destructive nature of the left.
The SDP failed and despite huge initial success Blair’s New Labour failed because he wandered to far right, got involved in the appalling Iraq war and probably laid the foundations for Labour to be cat called ‘Red Tories’.
The real danger that the left faces now is that we could have a seriously right wing Tory Party in power for a generation with UKIP effectively pulling their levers. Is this not enough of a nightmare to sober up the left of British politics?