For some in the Labour Party, victory will always be a dirty word. In the wake of Emmanuel Macron’s emphatic victory over the far right yesterday, I was scarcely surprised to see my Facebook timeline taken up by an array of Labour malcontents whose self-satisfied purism prevented them from revelling in a profound defeat of fascism.
“But … but … Macron’s not one of us”, they cried, as if they could agree on a singular version of usness. Yet he had just stopped in her tracks a woman whose racism, protectionism and isolationism would have transported France back to the pre-WW2 era had her hate-filled agenda been put into practice. So, when it comes to what Labour can learn from Macron’s victory, no doubt the first lesson is a reminder: we’re in politics first and foremost to defeat our worst enemies.
As this basic lesson seems to have eluded those in the Labour ranks who seem to value their self-described “nuance” over and above the harsh reality of political graft, perhaps a blunter lesson should be doled out, too. Macron is one of us. He was a Socialist Party minister who, recognising the imperilment of his party and the people it aimed to champion, fast found a formula to defeat the enemies of France. That is not abdication of his progressive principles, but a visceral desire to see them triumph over the menace of the French right.
Those in the Labour Party who would rather endure ‘glorious defeat’ than find a way to win are not principled. They are puerile princelings. Had they been living in France, they would have fallen in with the odious Jean-Luc Mélenchon, whose pride and vanity prevented him endorsing Macron at the very moment when France and Europe were quite seriously threatened by the prospect of neo-fascistic rule.
At this moment in history, Labour should take comfort from the fact that the far right has been pushed back in France – although the fact that nearly 4 in 10 French voters opted for Le Pen should check any complacency. Clearly the march of the right across Europe is not inevitable and can be reversed, but only when progressives project unity, hope and a vision for the future. What is needed for the British left to overcome the seemingly unstoppable force of the British right is not for Labour to imitate an immovable object.
Instead, and before it is too late, Labour must become Britain’s answer to En Marche. As Tony Benn’s son said when impelling MPs to vote for action to be taken against Bashar al-Assad, “What we know about fascists is that they need to be defeated.” Of course, what we know about Labour is that it needs to re-learn the value of victory.