Tuesday 18 April 2017

The Malaise of Labour

The date is set, the knives will be out shortly. Well, at least amongst Labour politicians. And those knives are of course not sharpened for Labour's attack on the Conservatives, but for a good fratricidal battle as only Labour can do it.

Barring a miracle of triple Trump proportions, May will be Prime Minister with a sizable majority in the House of Commons and will emerge strengthened from the June snap election with a decent mandate to negotiate a hard Brexit. The Lib Dems will make some minor amends for their previous nigh annihilation in 2015, and the Greens will tread water as they have ever since they were founded.

So, what about Labour? Isn't this the big test Corbyn's proponents and enemies talked about? Maybe this is the moment when he will have to resign following what in all likelyhood will be a defeat of 1983 magnitude?

Nothing could be further from the truth. When was the last time anybody heard Corbyn or anybody from his team speak of 'electoral tests'? The fact is that Corbyn does not think of politics as a battle of ideas to be decided by general elections. He does not attach any significance to elections at all. His is the 'long game' of the socialist revolution (no joke!) where elections are not the litmus test of governability for Labour.

The stuff of dreams - Corbyn and the socialist consciousness

In fact, if you listen carefully to McDonnell and others, what matters to the Corbyn team is not the victory at the ballot box but the development of a historical consciousness of the proletariat that will emerge as things go worse. In their (contorted) Marxist logic, the more successful the Conservatives will be, the more the country will sink into a 'deep crisis' that will help develop the 'revolutionary situation' which is necessary to establish socialism in Britain. (I recognise that there is an element of caricature in this picture, but only just!).

The sad dynamics of these illogical theoretical gymnastics of Corbyn are that they leave the UK without a strong reformist opposition with policy ideas that are grounded in real life and speak to people who are at the sharp end of Brexit and Conservative policies in education, health and the economy. Such a viable effective opposition will only emerge once Labour (and the moderate British centre left) will be able to re-appraise the enormous policy achievements of the Blair and Brown governments for a moderate Labour government and stop seeing the last time Labour was in power through the prism of Iraq. The answers of such a re-constructed moderate left will be different to those given by the two last giants of Labour policy but the thrust will be similar: engaging with real life issues, formulating reformist policies in education, health and a rebalancing of the economy.

Until now, all we have from Labour is 'school meals for all'.

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