Division of Labour

This won’t be an easy blog to write. The reason is it will reflect my pessimism, a personal characteristic I recognise and do what I can to resist. But however hard I try, I find it difficult to envisage a positive end to the continuing disfunction engulfing The Labour Party.

During the Blairite years, as much as Labour failed to attract my vote for tactical reasons, I felt the Blair government instituted much that was good. Neglected education and health infrastructure was prioritised and overhauled. Inequalities in employment and society as a whole were recognised and at least partially addressed. Despite it’s own prophecies of mass lay-offs and rampant insolvency the business community was finally obligated to accept a universal minimum wage. The Tax Credit system, introduced under Labour, eased many a benefit dependant back into employment. We saw a rise in the number of women MP’s, the insultingly labelled Blair Babes, with a consequent reduction in, if not a total resolution of, sexual discrimination in public life. The first openly gay man was appointed to the Cabinet, a liberalising milestone so easily forgotten. Green issues rose in prominence aided by a general acceptance and adherence to the EU environmental consensus.

Of course there were downsides, serious ones. Feather-bedding the financial sector with a laissez faire approach to regulation was a major factor in the banking collapse. Hastily negotiated Private Finance Initiatives, extensively employed to pay for school and hospital building, have proved a subsequent disaster for the tax payer. And then there was the Iraq War.

It can be argued that Labour was only moving with the political tide. Electoral success relied on occupying the middle ground with three successive Blair governments moulding themselves around this apparent political imperative.

But it was never going to last. The Brown accession, coinciding as it did with the banking crisis and a modernising Tory Party, saw to that. The Tory/Lid-Dem coalition was only a way station on the road to the old school, business as usual Conservatism which has now befallen us.

So where to Labour? Democratic Socialists, surely how we should describe most Labour MP’s, have been thoroughly tarred by the Blairite brush of ineffective mediocracy. With UKIP barking at one door and an undeniably socio-progressive new membership at the other, Middle Labour has felt the need to flex its weakening parliamentary muscle. Whatever their ultimate political destinies, Corbynite and Blairite Labour seem unlikely to be able to co-exist for much longer. The papered cracks which have widened into real fractures over bombing Syria will not be healed by issues pending. Most imminent is the renewal of Trident.

Surely there will be a split. Not just the present unhappy marriage but a full blown divorce. Whether we see an SDP type breakaway or a mass defection of Blairites to the Lib-Dems remains to be seen. Either way we should steal ourselves for a period of uncoordinated opposition in the Commons and a consequent electoral drift to the right.

My advice, for what it’s worth and which may amount for very little, is for those who feel they’ve been deserted by supposedly progressive parliamentary politics to accept that political change is not all the change that matters. It’s people who will bring about a better future with or without a party political mast they feel they can lash themselves to. We need to help each other become those people.

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