by Kevin Meagher
Andrew Rawnsley’s guide to modern divisions in the Labour party in yesterday’s Observer makes a great political parlour game, identifying, as he does, five new fissures in the party in how it approaches strategy, policy and winning next year’s election.
Yet, it’s much simpler than that: Labour’s sedimentary rock cracks neatly into two main groups.
The first, is the ‘Would If We Could’ camp. They want to make as much difference as possible while never losing sight of the fact that the British people are instinctively cautious and even suspicious of political grandiosity. “We would back X policy if we could get it past the public, but we don’t think we can” goes the theory.
For the Would-ers, winning power is their main preoccupation. There are no silver medals in politics and no point remaining ideologically chaste but losing in the process. So splitting the difference becomes second nature, or “shrinking the offer” in current parlance.
Then there’s the ‘Could If We Would’ group. They argue that Ed Miliband needs to be bold and present a big offer to voters. If he does, Labour will swing millions of people who are disenfranchised with politics and want something to believe in behind the party. “We could win, if only we would back X policy.” This isn’t a view confined to the old Left; it strikes a chord with many people on the party’s centre-left too who yearn to have their idealism validated.