Solving the World's problems with common sense and a flamethrower.

Monday, May 11, 2015

It's the Ideology, Stupid

There's a reshuffle under way as David Cameron constitutes his first majority Cabinet, but if you listen to Radio 4 or watch the news you wouldn't hear about it, as all the discussion is about the future of the Labour Party.

And I guess that makes sense, because they'll have 5 years to talk about the Government and the Labour leadership is going to be far more dramatic in the short term.

As all the analysis, navel-gazing and careful positioning of potential candidates so far shows, what we're seeing is a massive ideological schism within the Labour Party. Back in the 90's, the big discussion was on the Conservative side, with people talking about a 'divided party' on Europe. And it was certainly a problem - but the challenge facing the Labour Party is much greater. It's not a single issue, it's their entirely ideology and positioning.

Labour are broken between social democrat-esque 'New Labour' and old-school socialist 'Old Labour', compounded by a terror of being off message and massive pressure from the Unions, and unable to hear past the echo chamber of press and punditry they built around themselves to insulate them from public opinion.

Then you have Tony Blair, his grinning visage looming over the worried Party faithful as a reminder that electoral success doesn't sit well with a political position rejected by the Electorate since 1979.

Old Labour  detests personal aspiration, wealth and success, preferring instead nationalisation and redistribution at the behest of the Unions*. It has historically seen its opponents as "lower than vermin", and we've seen this same attitude in the 2015 campaign. It failed. Yet the call from most is to move further left, couching hard-core socialism in the vapid euphemism of 'progressive'.

New Labour, campaigning on a softer centre-Left platform without the hatred of 'the rich' etc, would clearly be more palatable to the Electorate. But not to the Unions, and not to those within the Party who believe that ideological purity is the only thing that matters.

And then there's Tony Blair. And I think it's arguable that Labour hate Tony Blair a lot more than they like winning elections.

So they're faced with an insurmountable problem - admit that Tony was right, risk abandoning the Unions and old-school Socialism - and thus the bulk of their funding - and move back to the centre? Or keep the Unions, keep the money and keep the Red Flag flying?

My money is on the latter. The Unions carry so much sway (as we saw with the election of Ed Miliband over his brother), and their money is so important, that Labour will end up with a leader who makes Ed look like Lady Thatcher. The Blairite element - what's left of it - will end up splitting off and either joining the Liberal Democrats or forming a split-off Centre Left party as happened with the SDP, which will then end up merged with the Lib Dems anyway.

So the likely outcome? An unelectable hard-left Labour Party, hankering back to the Winter of Discontent, British Leyland and wildcat strikes, stuck in the wilderness - and a deservedly resurgent Liberal Democrats, arguing from a sensible (and popular) centrist position.

And that is a consummation devoutly to be wished.

*who, of course, are bang alongside their own personal wealth. Four legs good, two legs better.

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