I wasn’t born into Labour. I chose it. Because I am committed to its ideals and ultimate ends.
For my time in the party I have self-defined as being on the left. I grew up under a Blair government, the furthest right any Labour government has ever been. War. Privatisation. Having a pop at the single mums. Fighting the unions. All that stuff.
Things that characterised Labour’s right-wing in the 1980s seem to be issues of common sense to me. Apart from a chunk of stuff related to party democracy, I would have pretty much agreed with Blair when he was running for leader. Even now, I find that I primarily identify with the mainstream values of many of our international sister parties, hence the design of this blog.
The point I’m making is that I’m increasingly convinced that Labour’s established form is to the right of me and in a phase of particular intolerance, and that as a result I have been shaped into being more bolshy than I otherwise necessarily would have been at my age. That can annoy people I know, but on a certain level… well, discontent gets stuff changed, doesn’t it?
A Blairite friend of mine assures me that in any other age I would have been on the party right. Perhaps, a bit. I tend to agree with Kinnock and Hattersley.
So I suppose I ended up on the left party for the usual reasons, but mostly because the party is to the right of mainstream international social democratic politics. A sort of attempt at a kind of ‘third way’ thing, if you get what I mean. None of that wet nonsense here.
So here is what I don’t get: according to certain folks, Ed Miliband is a dangerous Trotskyist. Now, immediately, that gets me thinking that David Miliband’s campaign is probably too narrow. I certainly don’t see where he has reached out to us on the left, although admittedly he hasn’t really committed to anything right wing either. He’s mostly just uncommitted. Vague. This seems to be the new was forward for Blair protegés, because Oona King is at it too.
The bit that really concerns me is this:
I support Ed Miliband as my first preference, and that has taken me weeks and weeks to decide. Even now I feel fraudulent as my super-hero alter-ego, Captain Enthusiasm.
Basically, despite the possibility that in other ages I would be on the right or at least the centre of the party, he still feels a fair way to the right of me, while Abbott feels a good bit to the left.
He has served for a long time in a New Labour government, and has always been an adherent of that creed, albeit a ‘left-Brownite’ one. I simply don’t accept that he is some kind of ‘appeaser of the left’. But he is the only one who has made a pitch to a part of the party that isn’t actually where he has most closely identified with. I still don’t believe that backing Ed will get a lot of things done that I would like to see. But I think he could begin to rehabilitate our brand and our culture, all of which is too statist and authoritarian.
For me, that all basically makes him of Labour’s soft right, whilst accepting, and pluralist. It also makes him a revisionist – there is everything right with being able to acknowledge your mistakes, change your tack, and move on. This was true of Kinnock, early Blair, early Brown (to an extent), and can equally be true of Ed.
The real thing that David’s lot are concerned about is not whether they have a candidate with an open mind. I can’t speak for the candidate, but his very narrowly drawn backers are mostly interested in selecting someone with closed one.
Ed Miliband has tremendous ability to unite the party across the whole spectrum, Blairite to some parts of the hard left. He has the ability to do it with policies and approaches that are new. this in turn has the potential to create a really dynamic campaigning and media force, as well as one that broadly does the right thing.
This doesn’t make him a rabid Communist liability, unless you’re viewing the whole thing from the position of John Hutton. It makes him someone with a rational head and a bit of presentability who can take us from New Labour as it was to the next stage, Labour as it can be. The squeal goes up that he has union backing – a lot of those unions are solid, right-wing unions, the anchor of the Labour Party throughout its history. The other candidates have failed to adequately pitch to democratically elected union leaderships, and that really isn’t Ed Miliband’s problem to deal with.
You all read the manifesto. It was hardly Chomsky, was it? If anything, I agree with Ed Balls in that I thought it was a bit far to the right on public spending. But I would say that, eh?
All in all, despite their bizarre levels of factionalism, this makes me wish we were more like the Australian Labor Party. I have often departed from this, given the conditions, but we could really all do more to get on, and as a result, even more to ‘get on with it’.