Labour – Taking ‘right’ & struggling to be progressive

Whilst I’ve always considered myself to be of the left in terms of UK politics – I’m a Social Liberal and a retired trade union officer – I’ve never been tempted to support the Labour Party.

Under Corbyn Labour was in some ways of the left but in others – support for Brexit comes to mind – they were backing a right-wing policy. Now under Starmer (Corbyn’s former Brexit Shadow Minister) they’ve tracked even further right and are now in ERG policy territory with regard to Brexit having said a BIG NO to any involvement with the EU under any circumstances in the future! I’m sure there are still some Tories out there who are more open to being influenced on this matter!

But as I’ve said on numerous occasions Labour’s only real aim is to try to recapture the white, right-wing, working-class voters who left them and delivered us both Brexit and Johnson in 2019. That’s why Starmer always tries to put forward a right of centre agenda; no radicalism, certainly no socialism and don’t mention that dreaded word ‘progressive’ as none of that brings them back to Labour.

So where does that leave the socialists, radicals and progressives who are still within Labour’s tent? It probably means they have to cover their ears for fear of their Leader offending them!

The advantage that Starmer has as he tries to negotiate his way along a road talking ‘right’ but with some pulling him ‘left’ is that many Labour supporters will back his party no matter what it stands for; it’s a tribal, working-class, family thing. Having said that some who had never voted Tory before did so to give Johnson his 2019 majority so the crack that appeared back then is one that Labour has been desperately trying to paper over. The fear being that if the party does not look and sound ‘of the right’ not only will it not get back those who went over to the Tories in 2019 but more could follow!

So all this is why Labour looks to be an unattractive offer to progressives, radicals and left of centre moderates who are more likely to settle in the Lib Dems or Greens, with the socialists moving to more fringe parties of the left.

I’m not sure where Starmer hitches his wagon politically, maybe in the general direction of what I would define as that area of politics which the Owenite faction of the now-defunct ‘Continuing SDP’ once positioned itself – centrist-right? I’m not suggesting that Starmer’s personality is the same as Owen’s I might add.

That we are even having a conversation of this kind should indicate to us all that our politics is in a right old mess with the obvious point being that politically incompatible people are in Labour’s broad church pulling in totally different directions. This is of course a product of our warped electoral system which breads two major parties who both cover far too much political ground. In turn, when these two parties become unstable, particularly when they both go off the rails in the same/similar time period, we get them offering extreme policies and/or bizarre/incapable leaders to the nation.

To close I’ll say this, Corbyn was rejected mostly because of his perceived tax and spend agenda (personally I saw him as a 2nd Division Leader) but in Johnson, who well beat Corbyn via Labour’s right-wingers voting Tory, we have a tax and spend leader with bells on. You could not make it up!

Please Sir, why are the leaders of the 3 largest UK-wide political parties all white middle aged grey suited men?

With the result, announced today, that members of the Liberal Democrat Party have selected Sir Ed Davey to be their new Leader it means the leaders of the 3 largest UK-wide political parties are back to being middle aged, white men in grey suits. Hardly an endorsement of multi-culturalism or a boost for women in politics.

What’s more the new leaders of the 2 supposedly progressive parties, Lib Dems & Labour, are both ‘Sirs’, a title that hardly makes either of them look like politicians of the people and probably more akin to establishment figures. Both are seemingly widely regarded as ‘a safe pair of hands’ following both parties going through periods of political trauma, but they’re also spoken of as ‘boring’. These sober but uninspiring traits will hardly inspire voters to move towards more progressive politics I fear.

As a radical progressive of the left and a member of the old Liberal Party and Lib Dems since 1980 I’ve seen uninspiring leaders (both of my own party and indeed other parties) before and it usually ends in tears. You may not have liked Blair, particularly after Iraq, but he was an inspiring figure that the electorate really took to in his early years, like they did Charles Kennedy, John Smith and Paddy Ashdown. What worries me is how Starmer and Davey can gain the hearts and minds of voters when neither seem to have the ability to do that. I very much hope I’m wrong about this I might add.

Yes, of course, I was backing Layla Moran MP to be the new Lib Dem Leader as she seems to me to have all the qualities that are seemingly missing in Starmer and Davey. It was always going to be an uphill battle for her though as the Lib Dem establishment were not keen on her radical progressive politics which I guess they thought could well frighten the horses. The big money went to Sir Ed and his campaign which clearly gave him a huge advantage – I think I had 4 mailshots from his campaign which generous donors clearly paid for. However, that around 50% of the 100,000 Lib Dem members did not vote at all tells its own story.

It will be interesting to see if Sir Ed can actually step up to become an inspiring vote winner, as it will of Starmer but let’s put if this way, my feeling is that the uphill struggle for progressive politics in England and Wales has sadly got a little steeper via the election of Starmer and Davey. Again though I would be very pleased to be proved wrong.