Outside the marginals

a commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010 & 2015 elections

Yet another faction

A letter in today’s Guardian says:

On Thursday we launch Open Labour, a forum bringing together activists to build a Labour left which is committed to a better quality of debate and political culture within Labour, while focusing on the question of how to win power. … Now is the time for those who believe in equality, democracy, solidarity and the emancipating power of the left to come together. Open Labour believes that there must be a place within Labour to debate and shape these values in a respectful way, free from the divisive and intolerant voices that have come to dominate Labour debate, especially on social media. …
The Guardian, 10 December 2015 : Time to unite Labour’s democratic left

This isn’t a broad church it’s a smorgasbord of churches! What do we have?

The new group (1) joins a crowded Labour factional field including Progress (2), the former Blairite group, Labour First (3), the traditional organisation of the party’s right, and Momentum (4), as well as other further left groups such as the Labour Representation Committee (5). …

Compass (6), once the home of soft-left thinking inside the party decided to operate outside exclusively Labour politics, …
The Guardian, 10 December 2015 : Labour activists launch new group on party’s left

Then there are the Fabians (7) and it looks as if the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs (8) still exists (chaired by John McDonnell) but is the Tribune Group of Labour MPs defunct – although the magazine continues as an independent organ? John McDonnell also seems to be associated with Left Briefing (9) and Left Platform (10).

If Labour was at peace it might be possible to see all this as a sign of vibrancy, but in the current atmosphere it appears less healthy. I ponder how long it is before there is an inevitable division into two coherent parties?

The Open Labour website “About Us” page contains an interesting closing comment that may point the way forward:

But it is right to say that politics is more than elected office. Labour must be about changing the terms and structures of power enough to end years of ‘me first’ politics. To secure a better society, the country needs a new rulebook. Open Labour would love you to help write it.

Reform of the voting system (see earlier post) could address the problems that would arise from division.

We need the electorate to genuinely elect MPs (i.e. have a genuine choice from a range of candidates reflecting the diversity of views in that constituency) we need voting reform:

  1. Transferable voting to remove the fear of split votes and allow parties to permit contrasting candidates to stand – or for “sister parties” to stand against each other. (Additional benefit: MPs will look to their electorate and not their selection committees for support.)
  2. Multi-member constituencies (combined with transferable voting) meaning that a constituency will elect MPs who will represent the diversity of views in that constituency. (Additional benefit: perhaps the majority of us will identify politically with at least one of our representatives.)

The Left could be vibrant if only they structured themselves so that they were not constantly fighting amongst themselves. Two Parties – Say Democratic Socialists and the Centre-Left might be a structure that would permit more peaceful and constructive policy discussions and a focus on a common opponent rather than each other.

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