Outside the marginals

A commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010, 2015 & 2017 elections

How long can Labour live divided?

This is the novelty of the current politics … the sheer fact of Labour’s divisions. It has become routine to castigate this as somehow irresponsible – disagreeing about ideas when you should be attacking the Tory government. It is not irresponsible. It is right for Labour to search for an identity it can coalesce around.
The Guardian, 7 December 2015 : Zoe Williams, The new politics is a myth – battles are good for Labour’s soul

But at some stage it has to be asked can these divisions be “healed” or are we talking about two parties? Say Democratic Socialists and some form of Centre-Left Party.

We have of course been here before. The untidy split 30 odd years ago was along approximately the same fault-line, but the split was not clean; the new party was weak and the remaining party was still split and went through agonies before expulsions and a papering over of differences in the name of electoral success.

Ah, electoral success! That is no doubt why so many are resolving “never [split] again”. If this means that the same old division remains an issue the agonies could be even longer.

But we don’t have an electoral system that supports more than two parties! Can we afford to have permanent rule by a party supported by 24% of the electorate? Of course not – and I hope that some conservatives would realise that a perpetuation of the current situation is unsustainable. Not only would it lead to social unrest by those who feel politically dispossessed by the current regime – with no hope of their side getting in again in their lifetime, but it could long term break down the “consent to be governed” – to pay taxes, to keep to the law etc. True Conservatives should not want that and should acknowledge that reform rather than oppression is the way to avoid that situation.

Short-term we are stuffed – the majority of us “in ‘it’ together” for some time whatever happens. If long-term we got an electoral system that reflects the diversity within the country – and within political parties and movements – we could have a true multi-party system. Which has to be healthy. Imagine – votes that matter; a genuine choice between candidates with varying points of view and not a fake choice from what the selection committees of the current political duopoly offer.

Or will Labour just paste over the cracks again and hope that the tribal vote puts them back in office? I’m not convinced that will work again (think what happened in Scotland). What proportion of the Labour party could contemplate another government lead by “a Blair”? Or what proportion of the Labour party could contemplate a government lead by “a Corbyn”?


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2 thoughts on “How long can Labour live divided?

  1. Pingback: Yet another faction | Outside the marginals

  2. Blair’s former speechwriter and chief strategist Peter Hyman suggests its plight is now so desperate that it may even be necessary to form a new party with others, including the Lib Dems, to fill the “gaping hole in the centre and centre-left of British politics.”

    Writing in the Observer, Hyman argues that Labour is now made up of “two strands, two parties”. One, he says, is composed of Corbyn and his supporters on the left, who he says will never win an election, while the other comprises more “mainstream” elements on the centre and centre-left. The two will never be able to co-exist as a coherent force, let alone form a government, he believes. …

    Hyman argues that the need for a new project, based on centre-left values and a new sense of “moral purpose”, cannot wait until Corbyn’s leadership implodes or a coup is mounted to replace him. “Those who think it is enough to bide their time, find a more palatable candidate and stage a coup are deluding themselves. The issue is not just the leader but the passion, the ideas, the policies, the organisation that will produce a dynamic enough force to win.”
    The Guardian, Sunday 20 December 2015 : Labour party may need to split to survive, says key ex-Blair adviser

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