Posts Tagged ‘The Future of the Left’
Let Us face the Future: Labour, Jeremy Corbyn and the Power of the Past
Open Democracy, August 21st 2015
This is the most exciting and cataclysmic Labour leadership contest in a generation.
The nearest comparison must be the Benn insurgency for the Deputy Leadership of the party in 1981, where he narrowly lost to Denis Healey. This marked the peak of the left’s influence in Labour – until now.
What is occurring in the Labour contest, with the rise of Jeremy Corbyn and the diminishing of Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall, is little more than the passing of a political generation, and the main reference points and ways in which the party has understood itself and done its politics.
The Blairite project is over, with the Blairites now reduced to a tiny rump and a few desperate, intemperate followers (Progress, John McTernan). Labour’s traditional right has been hollowed, out with the trade union leadership and activist base who once gave the party such ballast (and brought it back from the Bennite induced abyss in 1981-82) now firmly on the left.
To illustrate the scale of change in Labour, the previous centre of gravity of the party in the Kinnock years, and even in the early years of New Labour (‘the soft left’) has all but disappeared. Its leading proponents have been tarnished by office (John Prescott), died (Robin Cook), or gone to foreign shores (Bryan Gould) and have not been replaced by a younger group. Read the rest of this entry »
The Summer of the Living Undead: A Labour Party for What?
Open Democracy, July 15th 2015
The Labour leadership contest is noteworthy for a number of factors, none positive or helpful for the party.
Labour have just suffered their second consecutive defeat. They finished 113 seats behind the Tories in England. It has now become a cliché to say they face an existential crisis; as Matthew Norman pointed out in ‘The Independent’ this week, it is in fact a ‘post-existential crisis’ (1). The party is in collective denial, retreating into its comfort zones, and almost numb at the position it finds itself in.
Previously when Labour lost (and it has lost many times), the party did attempt to wake up and regroup. Post-1979 the party in opposition had five leadership contests. Excluding the Benn kamikaze run in 1988, when he won a mere 11% of the vote, the other contests – 1980, 1983, 1992 and 1994 – all provided rich evidence of a party with debate, energy and ideas. No longer.
This is a defining moment about whether Labour has a future, what it is for, as well as for centre-left British (and in particular English) politics. Here are ten observations about the state of Labour and the current contest: Read the rest of this entry »
Message to the Messengers: What do we do after Yes?
Scottish Left Project, December 5th 2014
It is a frenetic, dynamic time to be living in Scotland – politically, culturally and in many other aspects of public life.
Nearly three months since the momentous indyref Scotland is still gripped by a sense of movement, possibilities and new openings – up to and beyond the 2015 and 2016 elections.
Yet at the same time in parts of the independence movement there are unrealistic expectations of political change, of belief that the union is finished, and that Scotland can embark on its destiny in the next couple of years.
Any radical politics has to have a sense of what is possible, to push it as far as it can, to understand timescales and how these dovetail with strategy. And critically it has to understand the political culture beyond its own boundaries – in the Scotland which voted No.
The independence referendum was a historic moment, an epic time in Scotland’s political evolution, and an awakening of the democratic impulse. Yet, it produced a comfortable victory for No and a defeat for Yes. For all the commentary that Yes won the campaign and that the idea of independence has been normalised, defeat has an upside: an opportunity and release which shouldn’t just be squandered. Read the rest of this entry »
A Journey into the World of George Galloway
Scottish Review, August 27th 2014
Many ridiculous things have been said in the independence referendum.
There was Alex Salmond’s questioning of Alistair Darling in the first debate on the possibilities of ‘aliens’; Jenny Hjul in the ‘Daily Telegraph’ on ‘the enemy’ next door and then trying to pass it off as humour; and only last week Polly Toynbee in ‘The Guardian’ referenced Alex Salmond and Robert Bruce, then wrote, ‘That’s what fighters the world over say’, listing a host of warzones from Gaza to Syria, Iraq and Ukraine, and then publically denied making any connection.
Yet the prize for the most consistent performer in saying outlandish things in the independence referendum has been, like the Scottish Premiership, no real contest. In an analogy he would undoubtedly approve of, the Celtic FC in this context is the (thankfully) one and only: George Galloway, erstwhile MP for Bradford West.
Last week Galloway took his ‘Just Say Naw’ tour to Portobello Town Hall on a sunlit Wednesday night. In an Edinburgh of many attractions, Galloway attracted an audience of just under 200, nearly all of whom, if the applause and tuts were any guide were convinced No voters, with a couple of undecided, and a sprinkling of half a dozen Yes voters out for an evening’s entertainment. Read the rest of this entry »
The Strange Death of Liberal England Continued
Scottish Review, July 30th 2014
Liberal England is in a state of confusion. There is the challenge of the Scottish independence referendum, the continued right wing drift of UK politics, and the slow detachment of the UK from the European Union.
All of the above cause apoplexy and dismay to the thinking elements of the English left. One response to this from people such as Labour MP John Cruddas and Billy Bragg is to try to re-ignite the English radical imagination and challenge the increasingly English nationalist overtones of Nigel Farage’s UKIP. A second response from the likes of Ken Loach and Owen Jones believe in the ‘Spirit of 45’ being invoked shaped by romanticism and simplistic, wishful thinking.
However, the largest group by far on the English left in intellectual circles is in denial about the state of Britain. This is not a happy or confident time to be a progressive in England, and despite the actions of thirty years of post-war Labour Governments (thirteen of them under the recent auspices of New Labour), it cannot be claimed seriously that Britain is becoming a better, fairer place. Progressive politics has given up believing that it can create the future, instead pessimistically sensing that the right have the best tunes to fit our times and laid claim to tomorrow. Read the rest of this entry »