Much has been made of the factional infighting within Labour these past two years. It is difficult to avoid addressing it, and though this website aims to talk about policies and strategies, rather than personalities and internal politics, the elephant in the room cannot be ignored. Labour is divided, perhaps irredeemably so.
A year or so ago, a small and earnest group of Labour activists set up a bizarre organisation called ‘Labour Consensus.’ Backed by several MPs, its website no longer exists, which I assume means that its founders either believe that they have achieved consensus, or have given up on their misadventure. The fact that such a meaningless project was ever considered viable shows you just how far we have to go before Labour returns to the real world.
I mention this strange venture because its ridiculousness laid bare a simple truth: you cannot unite people by pretending that they are not divided. You have to find a way to overcome the division, and in Labour’s case, that will require years and years of effort. As the arch-unifier and former MP, Chris Williamson, is fond of telling his social media followers, divided parties don’t win elections. Neither do absurdly out-of-touch ones, but that’s by the by.
Indeed, there are so many areas of division within the Labour Party that it can be hard to keep track. You may hard left, soft left, old right, new right or none of these. You might think Labour should block Brexit, or that it should respect the ‘will of the British people.’ You might think ‘building the movement’ is more important than what Labour does in Parliament. And you probably have a strong opinion, one way or the other, on the leadership of one Jeremy Corbyn.
At an even deeper level, it is clear that a political realignment is going on across the West. As I and several others have argued in various articles on this website, the new politics (sorry if that phrase makes you shudder) is not so much between left and right, but between open and closed. In the UK, those currently leading the Conservative Party have decided that theirs will be the party of ‘closed.’ Whether Labour survives to become the party of ‘open’ is a matter for continual speculation.
We might save ourselves a few years of wandering in the wilderness if we take note of one other category of division – that which lies between realists and idealists. Look across the Labour Party and you will notice that, in actual fact, many people from various factions fall neatly into these two categories. There is a good deal more that unites unreconstructed Blairites and unreconstructed Bennites than either group might readily admit. Across the hollowed-out centre of the Labour Party, however, there is a broad swathe of people willing to apply their values to the world as it is, rather than fit the facts to suit their preconceived view of the world.
As politics is the art of the possible, it is ultimately only the realists who can save the Labour Party and restore it as a credible political force. The idealists currently have the Labour Party in their grip and are slowly suffocating it day by day. The only way to release the stranglehold is to overwhelm the assailants with ideas to which their whataboutery is answerless. So far this website has had a discursive focus and has invited a very wide range of ideas. We are now going to have to get more focussed. We are now going to have to get real.
It is time, therefore, for those invested in the Labour Party to pick a side. Does the way you think about Britain matter more to you than the way Britain thinks about the Labour Party? Or are you principled enough to realise that the true idealist, the true progressive has the courage to face the people and give them the answers they so badly, urgently need?