Labour is reverting to its historical norm as the voice and vehicle of a many-rooted social democratic patriotism in all directions, inclusive of social and cultural conservatives as well as social and cultural liberals, inclusive of rural as well as urban and suburban voices, inclusive of provincial as well as metropolitan contributions, and inclusive of religious as well as secular insights. The 2010 intake is very largely “classic Labour”, the boys in their dads’ suits having decided to sit out the hard work of Opposition. As a result, Labour has long enjoyed a commanding lead both in the opinion polls and at the actual polls.
But Labour came third or below in 211 constituencies in 2010, mostly places where it always does, and in most of those pretty distantly. However, the Coalition has changed the weather. The SNP will also be finished for at least a generation after the loss of the independence referendum in 2014. Imagine a formation which, while welcoming Labour’s present return to the historical norm set out above, was for that very reason fully aware that someone needed to keep Labour on that track or else stand ready to replace it.
Properly organised and sufficiently funded, such a formation could expect to win in 2015 about one third of those seats, i.e., around 70. That would be enough to make a very significant difference indeed, even to hold the balance of power in a hung Parliament. But it could only happen if the unions, most obviously, stumped up the cash. And it could only happen if Labour, with no realistic hope of winning those seats, stood aside in that formation’s favour.
That formation could and should also fill a very British gap, the lack of a party anchoring the Left while engaging fully in the battle of ideas at every level of cultural life and of the education system, while refusing to consign or to confine demotic culture to “the enormous condescension of posterity”, and while co-ordinating broad-based and inclusive campaigns for human rights and civil liberties, for peace (including nuclear, radiological, chemical and biological disarmament, and including against the arms trade), for environmental responsibility, and for the defence and extension of jobs, services and amenities.
Let’s get on with it.