A leaked Labour report this morning has been sparking debate online and elsewhere. This report, commissioned by Harriet Harman during her interim leadership, asked ex-Labour voters (that’s important, remember that: ex-), who are now voting Tory in England and SNP in Scotland, why they thought the Labour party lost the election in 2015. The usual stuff about Ed Miliband being a weak leader is included, as standard. But there are more shocking reasons thrown around.
The report states that many (of ex-Labour voters, remember. Ex-) think the Labour party is “not the party for me”. It claims that, if Labour was more concentrated on “me” than on “down and outs” then it would have done better. Ex-Labour voters who now vote Tory, when asked what Labour could do to win back votes, stated that the party should start agreeing with Conservative policies and promise to continue them if they get into power. Now, it’s interesting to see that the phrase “down and outs” is used unrestrained by inverted commas. It’s not a direct quote from someone, it’s the term the report is choosing to use for the people who Labour were promising to help, much to the dismay of these ex-Labour voters: people on benefits (so, the poorest) and immigrants.
If you ask me the whole report has the legitimacy and importance of a crowd-sourced BuzzFeed article entitled “Twitter Seems To Think It Knows Where Labour Went Wrong!”. Indeed, this unpublished report is called “Emerging from the Darkness” which is fucking ridiculous. I wonder if the reason the report has gone unpublished is because it’s a load of shit that uses Tory rhetoric and pre-formed conclusion to tell us something the Sun has already been telling us since last May. This ITV News article is worth reading in full, as is the report. And it’s all got me thinking about the way parties operate in politics these days…
When I was undergoing my “political awakening” a handful of years ago I remember sitting at a computer in the Library and reading the websites of the main political parties. I didn’t take politics at school and there’s very little taught about it at schools if you didn’t. I knew what I believed, I knew what I thought. I knew what my “manifesto” was, if you like, but knew little of what the parties were offering or how my views measured up to theirs. So I did some research. I concluded that the Labour party came from somewhere I thought important and seemed to represent the people I most cared about in society – the poorest, the most unfortunate. So I looked deeper and aligned myself with Labour. I promised there and then that I would always keep myself fluid in terms of who I backed. If a party veered too far from my own views then I’d re-evaluate my allegiance.
I came very close to abandoning Labour for compromising on its own views several times, but I didn’t give up completely. The other parties were a good distance from me in terms of “policy” so I gave Labour the benefit of the doubt. By 2015 I was back on-board, albeit driven more by an anti-Tory stance than a pro-Labour one, Labour being – I thought – the only real alternative to the crooked and spiteful coalition that was tearing Britain apart piece by piece, community by community. Then Ed came along and, you may laugh at this but, I liked him! I trusted him! I connected with him. He seemed alright to me. When we lost in 2015 I was distraught. I don’t believe it was Ed’s fault. I believe it was the media spinning the narrative that it was Ed was weird and useless that was to blame. Never underestimate a pact with Murdoch! Now we have Corbyn and I’ve never felt more in tune with my party’s leader!
But there’s this odd thing happening, a sense of reversal in the way people relate to political parties recently. It seems that, far from finding a party that best represents your own views and voting for them, now it’s the party’s responsibility to find the voters and adjust the party’s views to “win them over”. The floating voter is long gone, instead we have floating parties! Entire political parties that are expected to change their politics based on the results of the latest public opinion poll (because we all know how reliable they are!). The people spoken to for this report – ex-Labour voters, remember, now Tories – believe that the party should stop concentrating on those on benefits, on refugees and immigrants, on the poor and sick and start concentrating on them!
“Why is Labour helping people on benefits when I work 40 hours a week and can’t even afford to run a second car?! What about me?!” Isn’t that just the Tory way? And say what you like about the SNP, they’re still a nationalist party and nationalism breeds selfishness. That Labour might be concerned about ALL poor people, not just Scottish ones is a crime in their eyes. They believe Labour should pander to their views! Isn’t that the SNP’s job? I mean, if your views mean you are now voting Tory or SNP doesn’t that mean that you’ve now found “your party”? Why should Labour bend over backwards, change its policies and it’s views to mop up the Tory vote? Would it not make more sense to push harder a decent and compassionate view rather than bend and adopt a selfish and neglectful one? I mean, I know we’re out to win votes but who wants to vote for a party that is willing to compromise its own beliefs in that way? Not I! That’s the political equivalent of football’s Glory Supporters; Manchester Utd this week because they’re doing well, Liverpool the next because everyone else around the table supports Liverpool, etc. It’s ugly.
LABOUR CAN WIN
Give me a party that is true to itself, to its foundation, to the people it has spent decades promising to assist over one that bends to the breeze of public opinion any day. Especially when the breeze of public opinion is so often blown through the arse of Right Wing media monopolies these days anyway! There’s no honour in simply giving the braying crowd what they want. There’s no integrity in bending this way and that, depending on what Joe Public have been told to think this week. There’s no dignity in being elected on a manifesto so direly at odds to the founding tenets of the party you represent. Nobody wants that, no matter how much we’re told we do.
Under Jeremy Corbyn Labour are offering change: a change from the “I’m alright Jack” attitudes of today, from the inward-looking isolationism of Little England thinking. It’s offering hope to millions who have had none for so, so long. It’s offering refuge to so many who are destined to die if they remain in their own war-torn countries, countries we’ve helped destroy. Today’s Labour party promises a new, kinder way of doing things. It may be idealism, but that’s not to say it’s unachievable! If Jeremy Corbyn steers the Labour party in the direction this report seems to want him to go then that will be the moment he loses me. Compromise is one thing, debate and disagreement are healthy steps to reaching a common ground on all issues. But bending over to Tory and SNP voters just because they say that’s what you must do to win them back is nonsense.
Do you honestly believe that the reason these people stopped voting Labour was Labour’s fault alone? Do you honestly think a Tory voter saying that the Labour party must agree more with the Tories and act more like the Tories in order for them to vote Labour again is an abandoned Labour voter?! That, my friends, is a Tory! And there’s one thing I can promise you: now that that person has reassessed their party political allegiance it’ll take more than a few “Blue Labour” sound-bites to win them back. It’ll take Labour becoming more comparable than ever to the Conservatives, something that will leave far more voters feeling “abandoned” than Ed Miliband’s Labour party ever did! Labour needn’t worry about these ex-Labour voters who are now Tory voters. Let them go! Concentrate instead on the millions and millions who didn’t vote at all because they thought the parties were already all too similar, or because there was no sign of hope for a better future. Seek the votes of the people who are tired of politics because it’s not about helping people anymore, but about power. Offer them change, offer them a fresh alternative. Offer them a Labour party that isn’t anywhere close to being comparable to the Conservatives. And watch as Labour win in 2020.
I don’t know if Jeremy Corbyn will ever be Prime Minister. I hope he will. I will do all I can to help him. But I do know this. If he doesn’t it won’t be because he was too left-wing or because he wasn’t seen as credible. It’ll be because he’ll have received 100 times the abuse, the slander, the smearing that Ed Miliband ever did. And the reason? The Right are having too much of a good time as things are to sit back and let anyone spoil it by suggesting we spend a little less time concentrating on “me” and a little more time concentrating on “us”.