Saturday, 9 February 2013
Friends and Family
There is no byline on this, so I assume that it is by no less than Tim Montgomerie, his very self, in person. It certainly makes an interesting case. But it does so in a hopeless cause.
Rather, it is Labour that has now long enjoyed a commanding poll lead, but which 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 was fully aware that someone needed to keep Labour on 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 little realistic hope of winning those seats, stood aside in that formation’s favour.
That formation could and should also fill a very British gap, for 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. And that in a country in which fewer than one in four people identified as working-class this time last year, but, after a further 12 months of the present Government, three out a five do so now. This Parliament still has a year and a half of further such growth to go.
Attendance to what were once the largely ignored and marginalised phenomena of environmentalism, feminism, Third World liberation movements, the influence of tendencies such as Black Power and Black Consciousness, and the use of homosexuality as a mark of individual and collective identity, has opened up the space for attendance to what are largely ignored and marginalised phenomena today.
For example, the indispensable role of the State in protecting against the market everything that conservatives seek to conserve is emphasised by the traditions deriving from disaffection with the events of 1688, 1776 and 1789. Those offer perennial critiques of individualism, capitalism, imperialism, militarism, bourgeois triumphalism, and the fallacy of inevitable historical progress. That was the soil in which were planted the trade union, the co-operative and mutual, the Radical Liberal, the Tory populist, the Guild Socialist, the Christian Socialist, the Social Catholic and Distributist, and the many other roots of the British, Irish and Commonwealth Labour Movements.
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. But Labour still needs a friendly critic and a critical friend.