Over recent weeks there has been a chorus of people in the Labour party who have decided suggest that anyone who asks difficult or uncomfortable questions is ‘a Tory’. This is not comradely. The Labour movement has always been a broad church capable of holding widely varying views within the framework of a common objective: to help others and put power, wealth and opportunity in the hands of the many, not the few.
We lost badly at the election, and I am afraid to say that the people who are having a pop at Harriet Harman and the members of the parliamentary Labour party who abstained on the welfare bill are missing a fundamental point. Not only is George Osborne laying obvious traps for us that we are walking straight into, but we also seem to forget that we would not even be in the situation we find ourselves if we had won. I mean, Katie Hopkins is still in the UK for a start!
There are too many people in the party who would love for us to enact policies from the 1980s, because it is terribly trendy to sit around discussing communist theory over a bottle of Waitrose sauvignon blanc, fighting over the academics and conundrums they couldn’t quite let go of from their student days.
The most irritating thing to come out of this leadership process is the idea that we should not seek to be in power in 2020. It is baffling that people in the second-largest party in Britain would say such a thing, which is basically the Conservative party’s dream. Even Owen Jones, who we all know can be the party’s biggest critic on the left, said that he would ‘rather argue with a Labour government than fight a Tory one’. Well, I agree with Owen, and we need that power in order to have that argument.
We don’t win by sitting still and hoping that by some stroke of luck or magic the electorate will come to us. There is no point offering fringe or outdated politics in the 21st century. It’s the equivalent of a business going under because it refused to sell the iPhone 6, opting instead to stick with BlackBerry (and, let’s be honest, nobody wants a BlackBerry for Christmas). Oh and, by the way, if you are lucky enough to get that iPhone, tweeting will not win you the election either. David Cameron is not going to be slayed or the public convinced by #CameronMustGo, no matter how many times we give it one more push – nearly there, people!
I am not saying we should sit around and shrug our shoulders either. We should be getting annoyed. So get annoyed at our failure to win twice in a row. Get annoyed about the fact that Cameron and Osborne have stolen some of our ideas. But, most of all, get annoyed about the fact that we are not in a position to help people in Britain, because there is no tangible process to create meaningful change from opposition – the truth is without their hands on the levers in a government department, all our members of parliament can do is shake their heads.
The Labour party was founded to give working people a voice in parliament and to govern in the interests of the majority of people who, coincidentally, benefited when we were last in power through the minimum wage, Sure Start, better workers’ rights and advances in equalities to name a few. Labour needs to adopt the winning and exercising of power as itself being a core principle. Throwing this away for the sake of pure, inward-looking opposition is an insult to our founders as well as to the people who need us most.
Jay Asher is a member of Progress. He tweets @JayAsher3
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