The defection of Luke Bozier from Labour to the Conservatives a week ago, and the recent poll-wobble Labour have suffered seemed to have turned us, as a party, back onto the introspective track. Seemingly endless “coloured” ideological factions are rising up, each with their own ideas of where the party should be going.
Blue Labour think we should embrace a community-led ideology. Purple Labour think we should return to the Blairite New Labour which won three elections on the trot (pun not intended). Red Labour think we should go back to before New Labour, and shift starkly leftwards. In-the-black Labour think we should embrace fiscal conservatism (basically, our economic policies should mirror the Tories’).
I’m not in any of these camps, though I listen with interest to what each of them have to say, and I believe that all of them have a part to play in the ongoing debate about which direction Labour should take. Prior to the leadership election, I wrote about the importance of a Labour party that was “comprehensive, inclusive and effective“, and I still believe this is what we need.
The problem, in many quarters, seems to be an expectation that Labour getting back on top would happen pretty much instantaneous. There’s a very interesting article in the New Statesman that pretty much says that Ed Miliband has to address Cameron as he is, not as he wishes the PM would be. This really is true of Labour with the Conservatives on the whole. It’s almost like we’ve expected the coalition not even to try and hide the nastiness of some of the things they’re doing.
When I joined the Labour Party, between the General Election and the Lib Dem/Tory Faustian pact, it was for a number of reasons. Partly it was the dignity of Gordon Brown’s resignation speech. Partly it was fear at the prospect of a Conservative government. Mostly it was guilt at the fact that although I had always been a Labour supporter, I’d never taken the step of joining; and thus feared that I had contributed to the dreadful outcome.
You see, Labour to me is as an ideal as much as a party. There is a fundamental grounding reason behind it, that the privileged should not be allowed to benefit themselves to the detriment of the underprivileged. The Labour Party has lost its way before, and doubtless will do so again, but always it comes back to that idea of helping society, through helping the worst off.
Contrastingly, the underpinning Conservative line of thought is (since Thatcher, certainly) “Every man (and woman) for themselves”. I’ve never been able to stomach the inherent selfishness contained in this, and for me it underlines everything that this government is doing wrong. From letting the bankers off the hook, to punishing the disabled.
Luke Bozier doesn’t hold to the same principles as I do. Both the fact of and nature of his resignation from the party were timed to help himself gain maximum publicity, built on false claims of who he is. Luke Bozier is not Labour, and deserves no more thought from Labour.
The polls are a little more worrying, but not by much. This was always going to be a long term project, and the expectation that Labour’s reinvention is done (or, indeed, will ever be done) is folly. Take the polls as exactly what they are at this stage in a parliament; near-meaningless. Rather than obsessing about them, we should be doing two things:
- Helping the vulnerable now, through solid, effective and principled opposition.
- Deciding how we’re going to help the vulnerable in the future, through a comprehensive and progressive plan for government.
This is why I am a Labour Party member, and why if anyone else wants to pump out any more ideas, in any shade of any colour, I’ll be happy to read and discuss them.