Labour: Embrace the chaos and be ready for what comes next

By Nora Mulready

People seem to be leaving Labour in droves at the moment, and who in their moderate-progressive-Labour-hearts can really blame them? Not I. There are lots of posts out there from people saying they can take it no more, the red line has been crossed, they can’t go on being a member of a party whose membership has been so seized by the English Hard Left’s particularly rabid brand of ‘utopianism’. The words, “stay and fight” trigger in many a hollow feeling of, “oh, life’s too short for this nonsense.” Absolutely fair enough. Some are walking away from party politics altogether, some, like Jake Wilde writing on the Gerasites blog, are arguing that the time has come to start a new political party – Labour has been utterly captured and it’s time for moderates and progressives to admit organisational defeat and move on. I have huge sympathy for both impulses, but for me, for now, I’m staying in Labour. It comes down to this: the Hard Left are not the Labour Party, their politics are not Labour politics, the meaning of your Labour membership and mine will not be defined by them but by the history of Labour and the history of Labour governments. In my view, the task for Labour’s moderates and progressives is not to leave and start something new, but to embrace this period of chaos and do the uninhibited intellectual, political and organisational work that means we are ready for whatever comes next.

I can’t deny that when I look at what has become of Labour, particularly the hateful discourse and the glutinous ripping apart the legacy of Labour in government, I feel sad, sometimes angry, sometimes wilfully ambivalent. But what I don’t feel is complicit, because these are not my politics and this is not my Labour Party. Jake is absolutely right when he says, “build a wall” between our politics and theirs. It’s just that I believe this can be done while continuing to be a member of the Labour Party. Draw a giant, flashing, red line between our politics and those of the Hard Left, and keep doing what needs to be done to further the cause of progressive politics in Britain. Think, write, organise, meet, discuss, and develop the Labour policy programme fit for our age. There is almost nothing that needs doing that can’t be done while a Labour member – just don’t compromise your beliefs. Don’t stress about pointless arguments with people whose twain isn’t even on the same planet, don’t try to find common ground – at best it’s not necessary, at worst it undermines the political integrity at the heart of progressive Labour politics.

In a context of what is basically a political farce, Labour people are completely free to approach political ideas free from dogma, free from guilt and with a lot more honesty than in recent years. Let’s ask the questions that need asking. What would an education policy look like in a context where you don’t have to appease the destructive politics of the teacher unions? What does a liberal, left-wing foreign policy look like when you don’t have to indulge the views of those who despise the West? What does an NHS policy look like if your start, middle and end objective is getting the best care, not making an anti-capitalist statement? What does our economy look like? What does welfare look like? What does the future of the centre left look like if you don’t have to worry about offending the champions of perpetual grievance? Right now, there’s no ‘party line’, there’s no discernible policy programme, there’s not even an agreed policy making structure any more. This could be a very liberating time for centre-left politics. The moderate and progressive appeasement of the Hard Left in Labour should be over, let’s make the most of that.


11 thoughts on “Labour: Embrace the chaos and be ready for what comes next

  1. It’s so wonderfully refreshing to hear a pro-democracy supporter talk of the Labour leadership in such a way. After all the Tories and others are saying that such a “populist” leader would be a disaster and Labour have won back so many ordinary working class supporters.

    I have my own opinions and feel Jeremy is wrong on a number of things but in the main he is a peoples man and I must cede to the majority being pro democracy.

    It is lovely to see the old Blairite dogma still at work, self interest and treachery and knowing you have stayed within the party will bring Tories much joy – somewhat like Miliband, Prescott and co.

    BTW I hardly think of Jeremy as Hard left more too soft left on appeasing some third parties but that will change as the Blairites apply pressure and Labour turns yet again into Red Tories – a name they have acquired over recent years.

    If the barricades ever should go up in years to come please find another suitable, not mine – I find knives in the back a little uncomfortable.


  2. I am normal and average and i have whole hearted respect for the Labour leadership. I hope we can come together and resist this extreme government.


    • “I am normal and average”

      So is everyone else – to themselves. So are the far left, and the far right, to themselves. To an authoritarian theocrat there is nothing more chaotic and nihilistic and destructive to their way of life than a secular liberal. To many people you are already far left, or far right, depending on their perspective.


  3. Pingback: Labour: Embrace the chaos and be ready for what comes next | Red Sky At Night

  4. I found this quite a strange combination of the anodyne, let’s all work together, peppered with vituperative detail, the destructive politics of the Teachers’ Unions. Overall I came away with the impression that the writer thinks that the Labour Party might be better if built in her image


  5. I think it’s entirely right that Labour people who don’t support the current leadership should stay in the party and argue for the policies, and politics, they believe in. But if you do this in isolation from the majority in the party who do support the leadership then you won’t achieve anything, you’ll just be another faction with no influence.
    You have to recognize that many (most?) of Corbyn’s supporters within the party are not hardcore far left enytryists , they are ordinary members whose views are probably to the left of you but are buy no means extremists. That’s the problem with a lot of articles I read by people in the right of the party, they don’t really get why Corbyn was elected or who voted for him. You really are going to have to engage with and persuade, or at least find common ground with, people who voted for Jeremy Corbyn.
    Also, when you talk about issues like education, the NHS etc, you seem to be displaying certain assumptions as lazy as the dogmatists on the left. Of course we don’t know what policies a Corbyn led Labour would put forward at an election but I have no problem with anything that Lucy Powell says on education, or Heidi Alexander on health. And John McDonnell’s fiscal policies are pretty indistinguishable from those of Ed Balls.
    That’s not to say I’m optimistic about the party’s prospects under Corbyn’s leadership. I’m not. But for the party to get itself out of its current hole it needs people on the left and right of the party to get a dose of realism and examine their own assumptions.


  6. It would help if progressives and moderates understood why so many people voted for Corbyn as leader in the first place – a major reason was that previous leadership utterly failed to oppose the Tory’s austerity agenda. For instance there are several million disabled people in the UK, but Labour resolutely clung to the principles of the Work Capability Assessment, which was dangerously flawed from the moment it was introduced (by Labour; Tories then made it worse). McDonnell fought with and for disabled people from the beginning, as did Corbyn. If you want us to join together in support of another candidate, there needs to be a candidate who doesn’t simply throw disabled people under the bus again.


    • Yes, people should remember that what really galvanised Corbyn’s leadership campaign was Harriet Harman’s decision not to oppose the Tories’ welfare bill.

      p.s. I don’t need lectures from anyone on the political reasoning behind that decision. I understand that reasoning, it was bollocks.


  7. There has already been a split (more than one). The split was away from class politics of ‘Labour’ and towards liberal democracy.

    Small ‘c’ conservativism and small ‘s’ socialism are just two perspectives, the freedom of the individual, freedom of the collective, that are essentially liberal, democratic, secular.

    Freedom with no common controls, zero regulation, is freedom of the individual to acquire wealth and power at the expense of the masses. Centralised control of every apsect of life is party dictatorship at the expense of the mass of individuals.

    Other parties already exist. The Liberal Democrats are weak for want of numbers, and numbers of strong political intellects that aren’t ideologues. Any party can be wrong on specific policies, but in principle, in a secular liberal democracy that doesn’t favour anyone above anyone else, that isn’t dedicated to the social and economic elites, or to ‘Labour’, isn’t demonising everyone on the other side, is about as middle of the road as you can get.

    The Labour Party is and has been for a long time excessively Socialist – or in the Blair years still had a Socialist collectivist contingent. The Conservative Party still is excessively elitist and capitalist.

    We need the small ‘s’ socialism – a concern for the many. We still need the small ‘c’ conservativism – a concern for order and freedom of the individual. Many people have both these sides to their philosophy and their politics.

    The balance is a difficult one when we get down to specifics on economics – which is where the crunch comes.

    Some parts of the economy benefit from centralised management, consistent and fair distribution; but we have to guard against beurocracy and political cliques. Some parts benefit from entrepreneurial freedom with little control; but we have to guard against exploitation and dangers to public safety.

    It’s difficult to balance the distribution of opportunity and wealth. The politics of envy works both ways: those without want what others have; and those with want to hang on to what they have. Not all wealth is fairly earned; and not all social hand outs are deserved or needed. It’s easy to demand your rights to your wealth, when many low paid people have earned it for you. It’s easy to demand your rights when others are paying you for not taking on responsibility for your employment.

    The left blame capitalism for every ill – but capitalism is personal economic freedom. And yet it needs regulation to prevent exploitation. The right blame socialism for every ill – but socialism is fairness through education and economic distribution. And yet it needs regulation to prevent the destruction of individual freedom.

    There’s a centre that spreads both left and right, politically, philosophically. And it holds the whole together. But the far left and far right want that divide and try to draw as many as they can to their more extreme politics.

    Both Labour and Conservative parties contain too much extremism of their own. And it seems many in the middle cling on to their respective party for fear that the other will win if they split their own side’s vote. Too afraid to jump.

    To Andrew Adams ( “You have to recognize that many (most?) of Corbyn’s supporters within the party are not hardcore far left enytryists , they are ordinary members whose views are probably to the left of you but are buy no means extremists.” – yes. And many people that vote Conservative are not rich elites protecting some privieldge power base.

    Like Alison Wood ( I’m average …

    I’m middle of the road, a conservatively liberal democratic secularist, or something like that. I’m not Labour, though I have voted Labour. I’m not Conservative, though I have voted Conservative. On each occasion I’ve never been satisfied that they were right for the nation; it’s usually been that on each occasion one or the other has been less wrong.

    For many years now I’ve voted for what I see as the most inclusive party we have that is politically and philosophically closer to me – the Liberal Democrats. It’s a wasted vote only in as much other would be middle of the road people are afraid to jump from forever aligning with Labour or Conservative, or forever switching votes between Labour and Conservative.

    I’m not a member of the Liberal Democrat party. But I am a member of the British Humanist Association. When I look at the political philosophy of each, they seem most aligned and least divisive.


  8. Pingback: A Conservatively Liberal Democratic Secularist | Ramblings

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