Has Labour’s expiry date arrived?
In the late 19th century the proto-Labour Party was formed to politically represent the interests of a rapidly expanding, urban working class section of society. A century went by, in which the main Western struggle was between left and right. But those conditions don’t exist any more, and we live in an era of globalisation, free market domination and the internet.
Given that the conditions which gave rise to Labour have utterly changed, is this perhaps the reason for Labour’s decline in recent years, even decades? In order for Blair to be elected he had to turn into a Tory. So to me, the current crisis of hard left versus soft left is more a symptom of the change in fundamental conditions – social mostly, but also economic – in which Labour exists than anything else. Manufacturing is gone or going in most regions, accrued wealth in our nation and an expanding middle class means the nature of the working class has changed beyond recognition, and it is an oft-repeated cliché that there are no more black-and-white certainties any more.
The other political aspect of our society that has changed, which I think has considerable bearing on all this, is the rise of the individual taking over from the collective. In my opinion Thatcherism was a symptom of this change rather than its origin. The inexorable move from trades union block voting to one man one vote was also a symptom of this social change.
There will always need to be an opposition and an alternative to the Tories, who I think still basically represent the landed gentry and associated slackers – they may have taken on the commercial and industrial interests of the original Liberal Party, but essentially they’re still a club for toffs. But I wonder now if the expiry date has arrived for Labour. No more collective responsibility (or hardly any), one man one vote, New Labour, by implication an Old Labour… and above all this the dilemma I mentioned yesterday, that of Labour politicians having to turn into Tories in order to get elected. Definitely no more socialism…
I think the end might be nigh for Labour in decades to come. It tried to turn from a democratic socialist party into a social democratic one, but I see little evidence of that working now. Besides – the brand is the same. The brand is old. That colour remains unchanged. What do we even mean by “labour” in 2016? Yet with a ruined Liberal party, few Greens, and an electoral system, first-past-the-post, which disenfranchises the majority of British voters, what lies in the future? With Scotland going or gone, I see no alternative to save what remains of Britain from a vista of endless blue.
What a shame.