What next for Labour’s moderates

As Labour continues to struggle in the polls, Uncut writers look at what the party moderates need to do. First up, Jonathan Todd.

Labour moderates need a new name (not Blairite or anything redolent of), philosophy (vintage in tapping into the same revisionist traditions as the Third Way, while also being thoroughly contemporary), and (having been comprehensively out organised by the left during the leadership election) structures. Apart from that, everything is fine.

Acknowledgement of these profound challenges is not original. David Butler stressed philosophy here. Spencer Livermore elsewhere. Liam Byrne even wants to emphasise it through a new Clause 4. And renewed organisational vitality comes from Labour First and Progress.

This fusion of names and groupings associated with Blair (Byrne/Progress) and Brown (Livermore/Labour First) and a new generation (Butler) shows that the old war is over. Imagine what combatants might have achieved if their generals – Blair/Brown – had remained as united as those now ruling the roost – Cameron/Osborne.

The dilemma now is whether to train all artillery on these national rulers or reserve some strategic strikes for our new party leaders.

Cut moderates and we bleed Labour red. In this red, we must draw lines of differentiation with both national and party leaders. Lines that are coherent in deriving from relevant intellectual traditions – the philosophies imbibed by Livermore, Butler and Byrne, a new firm of provincial solicitors with big ambitions. Yet accessible in being painted in everyday language and concerns, not lofty principles.

Name. Philosophy. Structures. All hard enough. The red lines may be harder still. Yet perhaps the most vital part of a package, which depends upon both the deep reflection that sustains high principle and the quick fire action of low cunning.

The moderates have underperformed for years, which is why Labour is where it is. We should go home or get better.

Jonathan Todd is Deputy Editor of Labour Uncut  

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16 Responses to “What next for Labour’s moderates”

  1. anosrep says:

    When you say “moderates”, do you really mean moderates? Or do you, like many people on this site and elsewhere who use that word of their Labour faction (and as your mention of Byrne and Progress suggests), actually mean “right-wingers”?

  2. TC says:

    A good article that deals honestly with the position the Labour right finds itself in. Hopefully, we’ll see some more flesh on those bones (I saw an article on here a little while ago about ‘Republicanism’ that I thought, despite being rather woolly and needing a name change, had a couple of potentially interesting ideas) in the coming weeks and months.

  3. Chris says:

    I was thinking that its about time somebody at uncut wrote about the blairites failings rather than just those of the leadership and other wings of the party. How about 10 hard truths for the Labour right? I don’t think this is a good attempt – 282 words of confusing nothing. Is the only concrete idea a name change? How about a new logo as well?

    As you say Labour could have achieved more if it weren’t for the TBGBs. But couldn’t Labour achieve more now if the 4.5% united with the rest of us – aren’t we all on the same side?

  4. historyintime says:

    Start with a better term than ‘moderates’ which is too milqetoasty. In fact ‘moderate’ is a real part of the reason why Corbyn won; Labour people want fighters now, not fudgers or triangulators.

  5. Anne says:

    Good start. We need a name which reflects a modern party which addresses the issues of the 21st century – not those of the last – take the good bits from the past but confine terms like Blairism to the history books. There are a growing number of self employed people, those working from home – many will not be members of a union but working hard to make ends meet – these people we should embrace. The name should reflect the modern age and the policies should address those challenges.

  6. Mike Stallard says:

    Me, I am a right winger. OK so my breath smells and I am swivel eyed.

    Looked at from my point of view, I can see that there is not the famous cigarette paper between the current Conservative government and Blue Labour. Tell me, what is the difference?
    Europe – schools’n’ospitals – minor differences on welfare – defence shrunk to nothing – deficit talked about and used as a political weapon (and kept). Alliance with the meeja.

    OK Labour is more “caring ‘n’sharing” than the Toooories. I give you that.
    And, of course, one has a pretty little rose that is sometimes grey and sometimes bright red; the other has a pretty little tree that is sometimes a union jack all scrunched up.
    Please would you list any other differences though?

    Why don’t you join up into one big party? It is actually a very serious question. And, once the idiots have gone home, a rather sensible one too.

    Mr Corbyn is unelectable. We all know that.

  7. Dave Roberts. says:

    I think you have summed it all up in your first paragraph. It’s bad! The tactic that I would advise is group and have meetings but not to do anything yet because it’s necessary to see the lie of the land next May.

    If Labour have a bad election [articularly in the London Mayorals then the knives will be out for Corbyn. It’s not that the support isn’t there for Labour it’s that they have had a bad candidate the last two elections in Livingstone and one almost as in Khan.

    Khan is trying to distance himself from Corbyn and rightly so, brand toxic, but he has skeletons in his cupboards similar to Corbyn. He has shared platforms with terrorists and has defended one who, when eventually extradited, plead guilty to the very charges that Khan had claimed he was innocent of.

    He is also on record as making a speech where he called for positive discrimination for ethnic minorities to remove racial inequality. He was very vague in the speech, he couldn’t have done anything else, but as history has shown what positive discrimination means in reality is discrimination against white people. The Tories will tear him to shreds.

  8. paul barker says:

    The final line hits the nail on the head : “We should go home…” Labour is no longer Home for moderates/centrists/social democrats; they should come Home to The Liberal Democrats. Those who stay to fight for “The Party they love” will find that their love is not returned.

  9. histiryintime says:

    Look there is no need to change the basic product. We had a pretty good Labour government (apart from Iraq) for 13 years, which did OK in 2010 despite bad circumstances. Buf then the PLP dank the austerity Kool Aid. And Ed proved an unconvincing leader.

    We now need some good.moderate (or whatever you want to call it) leadership, getting back more forthrightly and rationally on the side of anti austerity policies and renewed grassroots organisation.

    In 1981-5 the Left were both mad and very dangerous. The current mob is nowhere near as strong either in ideology or in basic organisational support, except unfortunately in the unions. They are easily removable by a united Labour right over the next two years or so. And then Labour can certainly win the next election. Look at what just happened in Canada where the supposedly decaying Liberal Party has just won a smashing victory.

  10. “Labour moderates need a new name”

    How about Liberal Democrats?

  11. John A Bateson says:

    When I was growing up in the Labour Party there were two main journals, representing the different traditions- Tribune, which is still with us, from the left and Rita Hinden’s Socialist Commentary from the centre-right. SC was a ideological journal, strongly egalitarian in the Tawney image yet libertarian too. Revitalising SC, or something similar, may be one way to redress the ideas imbalance.

  12. ad says:

    Isn’t a moderate just a watered-down extremist? Perhaps some people ought to call themselves liberals, or something similar.

  13. Jonathan, you need to find out why New Labour is mistrusted both outside with the general paublic and inside with the membership. Is it all about the ‘managerial’ attitude? Is it policy differentiation with the Tories? Is it an ideological problem? Jeremy Corbyn had an overwhelming win because he wasn’t one of the three New Labour candidates. It didn’t matter if they were Blairite or Brownite, they received the treatment from the Labour electorate. Find the answer to why people just don’t like you and it may help you plan for the future rather than act like spoiled brats as you are doing now.

  14. Call the sociologist says:

    Well we need something as that Independent on Sunday Comres poll of 2000 voters puts Labour on some of its worst polling figures for 5 years. The Corbynite Left can articulate all they want about Labour needing a fresh appeal. At 29% and 13 points behind Cameron that’s worse since 1980s and its not the kind of Labour party our voters want. Progress need to be the force for revival as they reflect our voters not our £3 supporters who have returned us to Thacherite voting figures.

  15. historyintime says:

    “Progress ….reflects our voters”

    Labour First is the group that is currently most reflective of our voters. However it needs to be complemented by the ideas and vigour of Progress as by itself the “old right’ becomes too transactional and prone to fixer solutions.

  16. John Woods says:

    We cannot go home so the only alternative is to do better. That is the problem. We have had 25 years of moderate politics and now that the teeth of George Osborne are finally showing “Red” we have no alternative but to respond. Where are the leaders of the moderates. Well, backing Liz Kendall did not show them off in a good light so perhaps they should start again. Perhaps they are still in their bunkers, waiting for a stray shell to dispatch Corbyn.

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