Merseyside Labour – They didn’t learn Kinnock’s lesson so Starmer’s sent more learning pills

I’ve seen a number of social media postings from journalists, political commentators and politicians in the last couple of days regarding there being no Merseyside MP’s in Starmer’s new Shadow Cabinet.

Here’s my take on it. Merseyside Labour Party decided to indulge itself in another round of Militantism, only this time it was called Momentum/Corbynism. And just like the previous time (1980’s) they got slapped down; last time by Kinnock now by Starmer. It really is as simple as that.

Yes of course there will have been MP’s and indeed councillors who pretended to be Corbynistas to either avoid deselection or to garner favour from the former leader’s sect. But whilst that gave them cover during Corbyn’s time as top dog it created the very opposite at the end of his reign. So what do you do as a Social Democrat, centrist or moderate within Labour who decided to take Corbyn’s shilling? A sudden about face (not very credible) or more likely keep your head down for a while whilst slowly emerging with differing beliefs.

But of course that also works in reverse. If you were an ardent Corbynista, where do you go now? Walk away from a party which now seems to be all but embarrassed by by what it believed in until the electorate said not on your Nellie in December 2019. Alternatively, do you change your spots and start to cheer-lead for the new more moderate and very much establishment man at the helm?

So is it really any surprise that Starmer has calmly put Merseyside Labour on notice? No of course not. But will they learn. No of course not!

Little Twittering for Europe morphs into ‘let’s save Labour’

I don’t know about other progressives and Remain Alliance (Lib Dem, Green & PC) supporters but I’ve noticed that many of the Facebook Groups I subscribed to before the General Election who were backing Remain and also encouraging progressives to vote tactically are now little more than recruiting sergeants for trying to turn the Labour back into a Social Democrat Party.

My thoughts on this are:-

* Why did the centrists, moderates & social democrats leave Labour in the first place?
* Isn’t Labour now a Socialist Party which has thrown off its Blair era past to be a narrower church of the far left?
* Why do moderates, centrists and social democrats think they can return Labour to Blairism?
* Isn’t it better that Labour is a socialist party rather than a generation by generation see-saw party sometimes of the middle ground and sometimes of the far left?
* Haven’t we been here before when Kinnock ‘rescued’ Labour from the far left only for it to return there under Momentum/Corbynism?
* Why do moderates think they can get the left to relinquish power within Labour so it can become akin to Blairite again?
* If Labour is ‘rescued’ again how long will it stay moderate?
* How long will it take to ‘rescue’ Labour again?
* Is it even realistic to try to save Labour?

Being of the left and as someone who thinks of himself as a bit of a leftie I’ve often found that many Labour voters, supporters and indeed members are to the right of me as a Liberal and that’s both when Labour is moderate and when it’s left! My view has always been that Labour is too broad a church, ranging in support from working class ‘Tories’ to posh privately educated socialists and everything in between. I use the word ‘Tories’ quite deliberately but not in a derogatory way as many Labour factions talk about each other. What I mean is at heart they are actually quite right wing but they ally themselves to Labour because it’s their tribe; they’re no more progressive than I’m a Dutchman so to speak. Of course it was this section of the Labour family that the Labour leadership was pandering to prior to GE 2019. It led them to be all things and no things to most women and men on Brexit the biggest issue of the day; indeed their leader was neutral! That was never going to inspire anyone and of course it didn’t.

So Labour whilst being very much of the left under Momentum and Corbyn was actually singing the tune (well mumbling it quietly really) of its right wing supporters many of whom then promptly deserted Labour to vote for a far right alternative! You could not make this up but that’s what happened in GE 2019.

My point here is why are moderates, centrists and social democrats trying to save Labour? Is it because it’s a tribe they were born into and they feel they have to try to save it? If the motivation is tribalism then no good will come of it as tribalism is the fault-line in UK politics not its saviour. Labour’s ‘our way or no way’ approach to politics has bedeviled it and progressive politics over generations except for a brief period when Blair & Ashdown tried to promote inclusive center left politics. If Labour does swing back (and that presently is a very big if) towards social democracy it needs to want to work with other progressives in other political parties. If it pursues the mantra of everyone else on the left is a Tory then nothing will be achieved.

If you want to save Labour for it to become moderate, centrist and social democrat again then good luck to you but I fear you’ll have to keep doing it every 15 years or so, even if you do succeed, because fundamentally Labour is probably more comfortable as a socialist party. Remember in the Blair years when Labour activists often chimed in with the chorus of ‘we are old Labour’? Well they were and they’ve gained control of the party machine this time far more firmly than Michael Foot’s supporters or Militant ever did.

My advice is don’t waste your time if you think you can return Labour to centrist politics, that ship sailed a long time ago.

When the Right is controlling British politics – That’s most of the time!

It really is the majority of the time whether we on the left are willing to admit it or not.

There have only been 4 General Elections since the 2nd World war when the the left has had a significant majority in the House of Commons. Then again it could well be argued that whilst Tony Blair had a huge majority his was hardly a government of the left and probably it was only just left of centre. Could the same or similar be said of Harold Wilson’s Government?

What started this line of thought was that I happened upon a lecture by Vernon Bogdanor being shown on the BBC Parliament Channel recently. It was actually about the history of the Conservative Party. Now whilst I don’t care to be told about the regular electoral success of the Tories Bogdanor is always interesting, impartial and factual in his work.

One thing he mentioned has long been a matter of great interest to me and that is the working class Conservatives who have regularly helped put a Tory government in power. You could be forgiven for thinking that the working class (not a term a personally subscribe to but one that is widely quoted) will usually be voters of the left and therefore for Labour, but up to a third of them are not. What’s more many of them may be conservative (with a small c) or simply right wing whilst at the same time tribally aligned with the Labour Party.

I have regularly been fascinated by the group of Labour MP’s (and there have always been a fair number of them in each Parliament) who come over as reactionary, right wing, anti progressive politics or just Tories wearing a Labour rosette. I saw similar people in the trade union movement in my time as well. They must come from families that are loyal to Labour yet their stance on things such as equality issues, gay rights, crime and punishment, immigration etc. are firmly based on the politics of the right. Often these MP’s and trade unionists will be from the industrial midlands and the north and they will be utterly loyal to Labour, no matter what it stands for.

That loyalty will stem from the early days of the trade union movement and the need for trade unionists to stick together through thick and thin. It will have been inbred into them through families, trade unions and the Labour Party, yet often these people will be as far away from progressive politics as you can find. Sticking together is the most important thing, backing their leaders almost come what may is also big for them and I think it is what is in part driving the cult of Corbyn.

He’s either a very, very late political developer or he really is a second division politician of the left who has, almost by chance, found himself leading a political party. If you look at his history prior to being elected as Labour Leader he had pretty much no positions of responsibility in public life much at all. The Labour left will say that was because he had always been down-trodden by the right wing of the Labour Party (the Social Democrats) and held back and that he was always going to be a working class hero of the left one day. Well it’s a view but hardly a credible one I would venture to say.

Corbyn’s big problem is that he has some right wing tendencies and Brexit is the one that really stands out. Brexit has always been about internal battles within the Tory Party. UKIP was set up as those within the Tory Party who could not get the Tories to back leaving the EU felt they had to take a different route. Of course they succeeded in turning the Tories into a Brexit Party and they won over many people within Labour too. Remember the successes of UKIP electorally have often been in areas of England that are working class and where they won council seats they were often in Labour areas. Now UKIP has all but expired its supporters have drifted back to the Tory Party or indeed Labour. That Corbyn backs Brexit is bizarre to many of us on the left of British politics but he does and the Labour Party is backing him despite, we are told, the vast majority of Labour voters not backing Brexit.

But Corbyn is loyal to his right wing working class supporters who of course were the part of the Labour vote that helped the Tories/UKIP give us our Brexit. His party prides itself, or at least it used to do, on being a very broad church. At one end true socialists looking to break up the capitalist system and at the other people who would be at home in a Bluekip type Party if only it was called the Labour Party. That is indeed a very broad church, you could say so broad that internal power struggles would be almost impossible to to stop. The Social Democrats within Labour have gone very quiet these days (with a few exceptions) especially those in elected public positions as their stance is particularly unwelcome in Corbyn’s Labour Party and they need to be seen to be complying with the wishes of Momentum if they are not to be deselected.

So at face value Labour is presently seen to be a party of the hard left under McDonnell and Corbyn but, with Brexit in particular, they are peddling a Bluekip line. Also the party is having more than its share of infighting over racial issues at present and this is another indication of people of the left holding what seem to be intolerant right wing views.

Across Europe in many counties Social Democrat and Socially Liberal Parties have been a part of the mainstream. Labour has tried to be that in the UK but the drag of having illiberal and far left members in the same party has meant that it has struggled far more more than it has succeeded. Many thought that the victory of Tony Blair signaled a new (or New) Labour Party with broad center ground and moderate appeal but the medicine did not work and now Labour is in the hands of both the socially illiberal and hard left at the same time!

The point of all this? To show that the right has a huge influence on UK politics and that’s not just in the UKIP and Tory parties. Labour has it’s right wingers too and it can be quite easily argued that even the Lib Dems all but ceased to have a Socially Liberal leadership during Nick Clegg’s unfortunate time as Leader. Thankfully and even slightly surprisingly, under Cable, it seems to be regaining its radical and socially liberal edge though.

Which ever way you look at it the right usually predominates in UK politics and its because, in my view, there’s no electorally successful Social Democrat/Liberal Party at the heart of our mainstream politics and I say that as someone who looks upon some Social Democrats as being too right wing.

Is Labour just an alternative Tory Party for those who consider themselves to be ‘working class’?

Does it go without saying that the vast majority of Labour voters would never vote Tory and that they will continue to vote Labour pretty much whatever the party stands for?

I ask as having been involved in politics for some 37 years now I really don’t know what Labour stands for these days other than not being the Tory Party. Just look at this:-

They started to privatise the NHS when in government but now say they oppose NHS privatisation.

They campaigned, if rather weakly, to Remain in the EU during the recent referendum but now support Leaving the EU.

They backed and promoted the war in Iraq, along with the Tories, but now seem thoroughly embarrassed (and rightly so) by what they did.

They were pretty much a social democrat party during the Blair years but now have a socialist leader and a predominately socialist membership.

Their MP’s are mainly social democrat in outlook and belief but their party membership has no time for them, often labeling them as Red Tories.

Their ‘working class’ supporters are seemingly rather right wing and are tempted to support UKIP at times when tribal loyalty starts to wear a little thin.

Is ‘not being the Tory Party’ now Labour’s strap line and main selling point?

And I never cease to be amazed by the number of champagne socialists there seem to be around Labour. Top of the range cars are often a give away but then you discover that the drivers/owners are Corbyn backers. How does that add up because for all his faults Corbyn is an unlikely champagne socialist. Indeed, having personally felt he deserved the benefit of the doubt and that the press were out to hound him, I think it may well be fair to say that he’s a socialist from a previous era. A throw back to Michael Foot’s idea of what Labour should be all about? Certainly he does not come across as someone at ease with our diverse society, more as though modern ways leave him with a hankering for the good old socialist days.

I often use the somewhat jokey phrase these days ‘Hey I’m a Liberal, most Labour Party folk seem too right wing too me’ yet, whilst this line often brings about a wry smile when I use it, I really do think it fits many Labour politicians.

Being known as a ‘not the Tory Party party’ is one thing but supporting Teresa May’s off to the far right Government, as Labour has done over Brexit, just puts them on a charge of being Red Tories in reality rather than just by insult from their own left wing.