Every Movement needs something to fight for. Not just a goal, but a story, a message, and a philosophy that dictates why it is worth getting there. As a Young Labour member who is decidedly more Labour First than I am Momentum, I feel that not rolling over at this stage is more important than it has ever been, but I am not sure why. That uncomfortable truth said, Young Labour moderates need to be given a cause to fight for, as the triumphalist and ascendant Momentum increasingly disregard the inverse of Tony Benn’s infamous quote, that a bird can’t fly on only its left wing.
Now we respect the fact that Jeremy has earned the right to lead. We are proud that the tireless campaigning we have done across the country, in spite of people telling us we were no longer welcome in our own Party, has finally paid off. We also welcome that many MPs, although few have been invited back into the fold, have expressed their desire to serve under Jeremy’s premiership, and get Labour over the line in the next election. In short, we don’t want to cause trouble. But I, and many others, feel that just because we’re not having a leadership contest, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be having a contest of ideas within our Party. And with the relative security that June’s election result has afforded us, Young Labour Moderates are looking for direction from our MPs and organisers as to what it is we’re now fighting for. We need more than marching orders and the dream of recreating our legacy in the supposed Halcyon days of 1997. We want a coherent and tangible vision of what a pragmatic, modern, and radical left-of-centre government would look like. We need an ethos to fight for.
This problem hasn’t simply been caused by post-election shell-shock, this is a conversation we’ve needed to have for a long time. It first became apparent in the 2015 leadership election that none of the candidates standing against Corbyn could offer a compelling enough vision of what the Party’s future direction should be. Since then, we’ve decried the Labour leadership for spending too much time saying what they’re against, whilst simultaneously never explaining what it is that we would be fighting for if we took up the reigns of power. The result of which being that if we were granted the opportunity to write an alternative manifesto, I find it very hard to imagine what it might look like. We have an immense legacy to inherit, but we have simply spent our time repeating what elements of the party’s direction we are opposed to, without ever once saying what it is we’re fighting for.
We as young members form the lifeblood of this Party, both in our immense efforts in securing Labour victories, and in our duty of carrying forward Labour’s principles in the future. Corbyn and Momentum give the young people who prescribe to their programme inspiration, they are empowered because they see in Jeremy someone who has a vision and a plan, however disjointed it may be. We have neither of these things, and it is only when we begin to have this intellectual discussion that we can begin to emerge as a real antidote to the woes that plague Labour – namely, that we haven’t won an election since Tony Blair was in office, our Brexit plan is dangerously close to that of the Tories, and we are consistently failing to attract working class people back into our Party.
As Moderates, we could begin fighting for a stronger opposition to the worst of Brexit – and a strategy that doesn’t pander to the sensibilities of the Tory Right. We can move away from vast promises and populism, creating a Party of statespeople whom the British public will know from our actions are competent enough to govern. We can seize the increasingly necessary discussion on the automation of jobs, painting a picture of what a strong and caring social democratic government can achieve in a modern age. This is the sort of programme that me and other young people will be fighting elections for Labour with in the future, but unless Moderates seize this radical agenda now, we will continue being battered within our own Party with nothing meaningful with which to fight back.
For now, me and other young members must keep waiting. Waiting for the story, the message, and the philosophy, with which we can fight, fight, and fight again for the Party that we love. Until then, we have no effective defence, and no compelling rebuttal to what the future of Labour is if it isn’t Corbynism. We simply cannot afford to be marginalised, and every MP, councillor, and activist should be able to make it clear what we stand for, before it is too late.