The 1980s were a tragedy for Labour, but this decade is turning into a farce

by Alex White

Two things happened in the Labour party recently which managed to make me sympathetic to things said by both Karl Marx and Neil Kinnock, which is no mean feat.

First, a group of left Labour MPs did what groups of left Labour MPs are reduced to now: they wrote a letter calling for the cancellation of Greek debt, which is one step up on the ladder of Parliamentary left-wing activism from signing an Early Day Motion.

Letters do not generally cause me distress, but letters telling the country that a group of Labour MPs want to let another country abdicate its fiscal responsibility, when our own party has lost two elections weighed down by perceptions of our own fiscal irresponsibility, are definitely a bad thing.

Second, at the Unions Together hustings for the Labour leadership earlier this week, Jeremy Corbyn rallied passionately on the topics of Hugo Chavez, Greece, Colombian trade unionists, Greece again, TTIP, how the bad outweighed the good done by the last Labour government, and occasionally the Conservative Party.

Marx was wrong about a lot of things but he had a good turn of phrase, particularly when he said of a dying regime that it ‘only imagines that it still believes in itself and asks the world to share in its fantasy’.

The same is true of the Labour left who are rallying not just around Corbyn but against any attempt to make Labour electable. They would have you believe that the more you wrap their language around you – anti-austerity, public ownership, industrial action, alternative economic strategies – the more you are on the side of working people.

For them, it is enough to tell people they are really passionate and that everyone else should share in their own delusions and damned is anyone who tells them they might not be doing what working people want.

In fact, the only coherent strategy for empowering workers has come from Liz Kendall, whose calls for putting workers on boards, moving to a living wage society, and investing in long-term skills would do a lot to build better relationships between employee and employer.

This will be ignored by the left because they know – remember, they are true Labour so they know what is best – that Kendall is a closet Tory. For them, it does not matter that if Corbyn had said what she did about empowering workers, they would love it. They could put it on banners or badly made social media memes.

This appropriation of Labour values, where one element of the party holds court to pass judgment who is ‘real Labour’, is absurd but it is more absurd that it happens time and again.

It leads to what Neil Kinnock called a Labour party ‘irrelevant to the real needs’ of the people. The idea that the world pivots around the Labour party and our values has been proven wrong more than it has ever come close to being true. Once you start checking off people for not being the right sort for the party, you check off millions of voters too.

The 1980s were tragedy, but the mistakes of letting others decide who belongs in the party is repeating itself as farce. If only they were as passionate about the electorate rejecting Labour values as they are when they think their fellow members are doing it.

Alex White is a Labour campaigner

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13 Responses to “The 1980s were a tragedy for Labour, but this decade is turning into a farce”

  1. swatantra says:

    I do detect a certain amount of impatience in Uncut, that the rate of progress and modernisation of the Party is actually going into reverse gear! And its all the fault of the Left and there will always be those who take advantage of any situation when the chips are down. I’m hoping that the new Leader will quickly establish their authority and have a purge on all the malcontents and lay down the Law: Lump it or Leave.
    I also detect a sig of desperation if nothing changes then Labour is headed for the graveyard. Maybe its too late already. Maybe we should be talking about developing a new Social Democratic Party to carry on the torch of Labour, which frankly has had its day and is not fit for the C21.
    We should not be supporting S American dictators just because they are anti USA.
    We should be expelling the Saudi Ambassador because its the Saudis who are the real terrorists, and we should be wiping out Islamist wherever they raise their heads as part of a UN Force.
    And if good ideas come along like worker reps on Boards we should be embracing them.

  2. John P Reid says:

    I’d cringed at the latter they wrote, and seeing Corbyn praising Chavez was as bad, but we keep getting accused of harping on about the 80’s .when anyone wants to take us too the left,as away of saying the left of the party have progressed to the 21st century,while we’re stuck in 1997

  3. swatantra says:

    I do remember Brian Rix in the Whitehall Farces,
    Maybe Paddy (Pantsdown) Ashdown should feature in them.

  4. Robert says:

    The invasion of Iraq was both a tragedy and a farce.

  5. Robin Holden says:

    Good article.

    The current band of left leaning Labour MP’s are living in the dim and distant past.

    The nation has ‘moved on’.

    The majority arn’t interested in fighting class war driven battles against the Tory ‘elite’ any more.
    Marches , carrying Socialist Worker banners arguing against ‘savage’ cuts to benefits don’t resonate with most working people.
    Public Sector Trades Union leaders ( very highly paid ) arn’t listened to any more.

    The Labour ‘left’ risks becoming a tiny minority in the Labour political wilderness.
    Their chance of ever electing a ‘left ‘ Labour government ever again is zero.

    Labour couldn’t do it in the 80’s ! Michael Foot , Neil Kinnock and now Ed Miliband.

    The nation arn’t daft. Nationalisation , taxing the rich ( and not so rich ) , the resentful Mansion Tax , the expropriation of building land and too generous Benefit ‘bribes’.

    The Labour Party under ( the now loathed) Blair was considered ‘modern’ , progressive and appealing to many voters.
    Brown wrecked all that , and Miliband sealed Labour’s fate.

    Whoever Labour choose as leader won’t make a scrap of difference. They’re sunk.

  6. The same is true of the Labour left who are rallying not just around Corbyn but against any attempt to make Labour electable.

    Funny enough Alex it seems to me that it’s New Labour that has lost the last two elections. You can hardly blame the left for that. It’s also true that for the second and third Blair elections Labour lost votes. I have to add that Scottish Labour had a Blairite ultra as leader when it when down in flames in May.

    So what can we gather from our good colleagues at Progress. Are they saying let us have one more go? We had a soft New Labour guy last time and that didn’t work. Let’s try an ultra this time, after all Scotland is a different country. Ah, if only we could run Blair again?
    Still if it helps you, go ahead and attack the left again.

  7. Kaine says:

    “the mistakes of letting others decide who belongs in the party”

    Wait, are you opposing the expulsion of Militant? Because that’s exactly what the party did to them.

  8. Mr Akira Origami says:

    Charity begins at home! ……have the group of left Labour MPs written a letter calling for the cancellation of British debt?

  9. Mr Akira Origami says:

    Charity begins at home……. have the group of left Labour MPs written a letter calling for the cancellation of British debt?

  10. Landless Peasant says:

    British people should learn from the Greeks, stand up and say NO to Austerity, let the Banks fail.

  11. John P Reid says:

    Maine militant. Broke the rules,it was. The party that. Got rid of. Them

  12. John P Reid says:

    Danny Speight, Ed miliband was new labour!, no, and he lost labour the last election, he spent his entire 5 years, swinging totheelft denouncing new labour

  13. David says:

    This constant fawning over Liz Kendall is becoming an embarrassment. As someone not going out of their way to follow the leadership debate I can tell you she is having zero cut through to the public. By 1992 Blair and Brown had both shown their abilities.

    Not I hasten to add that any of the other candidates are showing any sign of leadership either. So far for me and one or two others I know it will either be a spoiled ballot paper or a vote for whichever candidate looks least appalling. That won’t though be Corbyn, the candidate for those that think Labour won the 1983 election.

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