Two substantial pieces on the Labour party and its leader.
The first is from Spencer Livermore in the New Statesman.
One of Ed Miliband’s closest advisers and people behind the 2015 general election campaign, Livermore is honest about the mistakes make in the underlying assumptions of Labour’s campaign. He then outlines four assumptions the current Labour party (and Corbyn) are making which he thinks are wrong, including:
First, [Corbyn supporters] claim Labour lost the last election because we were insufficiently left wing, or “austerity lite”. But where is the logic in a position that says voters, frustrated that Labour was insufficiently left wing, chose instead to back an increasingly right wing Conservative party?
Second, Corbyn’s team believe that by mobilising non-voters behind Labour they will reduce the need to attract support from those who previously voted Conservative. But again, this ignores clear evidence that those who didn’t vote in 2015 were even more concerned that Labour might overspend than those who supported the Conservatives. These non-voters are unlikely to be attracted back to the polling station by a hardline anti-austerity position.
(I’m not including Livermore’s proposed third and fourth assumptions, because I personally feel they’re secondary and less relevant than the first two.)
The second article is from James Stafford, writing in Dissent Magazine. The piece – analysing (a) the particular moment of summer 2015 in which Corbyn became leader and (b) Corbyn’s true position relative to the historical Labour party – is worth reading in full. Here, though, are two passages that stand out:
Participation in the British Labour party may have grown in intensity, but it is further than ever from broader developments in society and the economy.
and the summary:
the danger for Labour does not really lie in his being too left wing. Rather, the problem is his inability to offer reassurance to the unaligned, or to respond convincingly to unfolding events… Corbyn’s confused response to the security concerns raised by the Paris attacks, alongside his apparent disinterest in defusing a party row over Syrian military intervention, pushed Labour’s polling numbers to near all-time lows.
It would be nice to think that out of crisis will come a turn to the radical left, but that hasn’t really happened so far. Instead, Britain feels ever more shrunken, mean, cold, and peripheral. The Conservatives are generally far better than Labour at speaking to—and perpetuating—this perception. Overcoming it will be a phenomenal labor of political skill, flexibility, and dedication, which will likely require the party to completely reimagine itself.
There appear to me to be two consistent points in both of these essays.
The first is that Labour currently exists in a “voter vacuum”. It isn’t allaying the concerns of or promoting a vision to the “unaligned” or to those who don’t vote. Nor does current Labour think it matters to spend time thinking about people who voted Conservative in 2015 or 2010 and why they did so.
The second is that – irrespective of who leads the party – Labour needs to reinvent itself for the world as it is now and in the future, and not for the world as it was. This, though, doesn’t seem to square with the idea of supporting a leader who many explicitly state (or wish) harks back (supposedly) to Labour’s authentic social democratic roots.
(For those who wonder where I am on this: I personally feel short-term gains (or at least not-as-bad-as-we-thought performances) in small by-elections and local elections, caused by a general interest and intrigue with Corbyn and exacerbated by continued trivial mainstream media coverage, will mask a philosophical, strategic and tactical decline in the Labour party over the next 3-4 years that will result in a substantial beating at the 2020 general election.)
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