Outside the marginals

A commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010, 2015 & 2017 elections (and THAT referendum)

The Uncomfortable Coalition

Asked if she [Yvette Cooper] was worried if the party could split if he [Jeremy Corbyn] wins, she said: “I am, because I’m worried what’s happening at the moment, that the party does seem to be polarising between the different extremes and I don’t think that is the right thing to do.

“Partly, we want to hold our party together in order to win. Divided parties don’t win, but it’s actually much more than that. I just don’t think the extremes of the party are the right place to be and are true to our values and are true to the things we need to do to change the country for the future.”
BBC News Website 20 August 2015 : Labour Party could split under Jeremy Corbyn, Yvette Cooper says

It is (or was) of course open to someone to put themselves forward as a candidate not at the extremes. The fact that the centre appears vacant possibly says something about “Labour” in the 21st century.

Liz Kendall (and to a slightly lesser degree) Yvette Cooper seem to be on the “right” extreme of the Labour party and exhibiting a visceral dislike of Jeremy Corbyn – who is certainly on the “left” extreme of the party.

Andy Burnham seems to want to straddle the gap, appealing to Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters but not wanting to frighten the horses by straying too much from the embrace of the Labour establishment – which appears to be on the “right” of Labour’s part of the political spectrum. But I do not perceive him promoting a coherent centralist agenda – I feel unsure as to what a centralist agenda would even look like. Wilsonian?

The lack of a clear “centre” highlights how Blairism / New Labour / Modern Labour / Blue Labour (call it what you will) seems to have a coherent philosophy and appeal – just as Socialism has a (re)growing appeal.

we want to hold our party together in order to win.

Without winning (at least occasionally) it is arguable that you are a bit pointless. But if the “holding together” of two incompatible philosophies makes you look divided and incompetent, you won’t win. Ultimately “just winning” cannot be as important as having an agenda and united team that appeals to the electorate.

Corbyn is on the left extreme of current Labour, but probably in the very centre of Socialism. As long as it keeps its extreme left “loonies” in check, Socialism can hold together.

Kendall and Cooper are on the right extreme of current Labour, but probably quite near the centre of “Modern Labour”. I am sure that a party of Kendall and Cooper can hold together. It may even be able to accommodate Burnham.

Is “United it fails, divided they thrive” the new mantra?

Conventional wisdom says that under First Past the Post (as still used in our General Elections), you only really want two candidates in each election, because the more candidates the more elections look like lotteries. A Socialist and a “slightly left of centre” party would seem to challenge this conventional wisdom.

But how electable is:

  1. a Labour Party lead by a “right-wing leader” with a fractious left-wing and possible desertions (due to disillusionment as well as defections) in the constituencies? or,
  2. a Labour Party lead by a left-wing leader with a fractious “right-wing” and a rebellious parliamentary party?

when compared to a relatively united Conservative Party?

This conundrum can be broken in two ways:

  1. Labour waking up to the benefits of electoral reform with systems that allow the electorate to express preferences (broadly AV or better still STV)
  2. The electorate becoming much better at tactical voting – as the Scots might have at the May 2015 General Election.

In terms of tactical voting in Conservative safe seats the question is academic. And in many current Labour safe seats it would be quite possible for an election to be a battle between a Socialist Party candidate and a Modern Labour candidate without the Conservatives getting a look in. In more marginal seats there may have to be an “understanding” so that the left of centre vote does not get split.

I would rather put my money on electoral reform which empowers the electorate. Tactical voting is a fudge and dis-empowers the electorate – but so is what is going on within the current Labour Leadership election process.


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