Is it too late to Party Now the Election is Over?

 

They Think It’s All Over

On election night in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire – a post-industrial, ex-mining town – nobody at the count looked happy. Labour one the parliamentary seat as usual but nearly lost control of the district council for the first time. The only conservative who showed up was the paper candidate who polled well but didn’t expect to win. UKIP and our “Independent Forum” did the best between them and in some ways are interchangeable, but, since UKIP only won a single seat in the country and it certainly wasn’t going to be ours they were just vaguely grumply. Us Greens and our neighbours from the TUSC were mostly just pleased to be there but couldn’t hide our disappointment at what was happening to the Labour Party that many of us once believed in.

So what happens next? 

The national papers have instantly framed the debate over Labour’s future as one about whether it move to the left or the right. But, as ever, this is simplistic.

What has happened to the Labour Party is there for all to see; it was once rooted in the unions – in organised labour – now labour is no longer organised and the party it christened is no longer interested in it. Neither of them have much power, both have ‘let themselves go a bit’ so both are talking about singing their Decree Absolut – the final legal papers in a divorce. The Dicree Nice? Well those papers were served by Tony Blair two years before he became Prime Minister in what has become known as the ‘Clause 4 moment’.

Clause 4

Clause 4 committed the Labour Party to unapologetic socialism. It reads:

To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.[1] 

 

In 1995 it was replaced with:

The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party. It believes that by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone, so as to create for each of us the means to realise our true potential and for all of us a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many, not the few, where the rights we enjoy reflect the duties we owe, and where we live together, freely, in a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect[1]

But it could easily have been replaced with:
Blah, blah, blah, democratic socialist party. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Blah.
Welcome to ‘New Labour’.
Labour’s Dilemma
The point is this: The Labour Party was strong because it was rooted in a union movement that was strong. Now it is financed by an ever weakening union movement it has tried to become The Conservative Party by moving to the right and courting the rich. The trouble with this is it only works once (1997); after that people who wanted a Conservative Party increasingly decided they would vote for one (or the Liberal Democrats whose “Clause 4″ moment is called “The Orange Book” and is lots of pages of “blah, blah, blah” that’s done them know good at all).
So if Labour move to the right they’ll achieve nothing but be a crap version of the Conservative Party and if they move to the left they’ll fall into the abyss of disorganised labour never to be seen again.
On announcing his decision (now taken back) to stand for Labour leader, Chuka Umunna, claimed that he could turn the Labour Party around in five years. But how do you build a national power-base in five years? It can’t be done. It takes a generation.
So, I reckon, that if the Labour Party is ever going to rebuild again it will take not five years but thirty years. Thirty years to re-organise Labour and build a party that secures for the workers the fruits of their industry.
If anyone’s still up for that?

 

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