The Thick of It


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Move to the left?

I don't often agree with right wing columnists from the Evening Standard but was struck by the potency of Anne McElvoy's column yesterday on the way home from work. She spoke of the dangers for Labour of turning left just at the time when the country has elected, if only just, a right wing government.

In the 1980s Labour made the mistake of reinforcing its left wing credentials at a time when the country wasn't interested. One of the problems of holding a leadership election is that it is all too easy for the candidates to woo the party to win that contest only to face the prospect of having to offer a very different proposition to the country.

The Labour leadership candidates need to be honest with party members about this. It is only right that the offer to the party and the country is the same thing. It is only right and honest that the offer to the party takes into account what the country will accept even if it is what the party might not want to hear. It would be incredibly brave of the contenders to do so, but right.

As the front-runner I'm looking to David Milliband to do this though I'm also interested to see how Andy Burnham behaves in the lead up to the vote. He is unlikely to win the contest but looks to be positioning himself for a high profile position once a new leader is elected. He has warned the party not to be self indulgent in defeat.

At the moment I'm erring on the side of David, though I'm still to be convinced that he can offer a decisive and distinctly Labour alternative to the Con-Dem government and most importantly, one that is attractive to voters. A self satisfied but unelected Labour Party is the worst of all worlds because it delivers nothing.


Colm said...

Being pro-union, anti-poverty and being against privatising education counts as a lurch to the left now? Jesus.

Tim McLoughlin said...

Not at all. I think Labour needs to make the case that income and other fairer taxes rather than regressive tax rises such as VAT can help deal with the country's problems. IT is also about ensuring that Labour doesn't end up naval gazing and preaching to the converted and ignoring the wider public opinion. That worries me.

Colm said...

Well I think we're in a agreement on that point.

It is received wisdom that we lurched to the left in 1979 and the Tories to the right in 1997. I think as well as this both parties were guilty of living in the past and plugging away at strategies that used to work for them. Labour didn't realise the post war consensus was over and the Tories didn't realise the electorate weren't buying unbridled Thatcherism any more.

As much as not lurching to the left, the Labour party also needs to avoid thinking what worked so well in 1997 will work in a general election nearly 20 years later.

At the moment I think Ed Miliband has been better at talking about making the core values of social democracy relevant in a modern setting than his brother who tends to fall into using buzzwords.