It is time to stand for centre left values

by Jonathan Todd

The responsibilities of moderate Labour are so much bigger than mere party tribalism. They are to our country, our consciences and – in the face of ISIS, Putin and Trump – our civilisation.

My conscience would happily rest with the end of Labour if it helped save our country and civilisation. “Histrionic” is a word that has been thrown about lately. And maybe I’m being so.

Perhaps not, though. I believe the UK is going through its biggest crisis of my lifetime. We are a country fracturing on every axis. Our incoming prime minister has proved herself only to be less of a shambles than Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom. An unexacting bar.

Theresa May, regrettably, is not up to the challenges of her office. Which include acting to preserve the institution that has helped bring Europe its longest period of peace and prosperity, while also exiting it in a way that does least harm to our economy and society. And I focus on harm minimisation because, kids and grandparents (for it is the baby boomers who must eat their young), we’ve been sold a pup by unaccountable, fly-by-night charlatans.

People are angry now but they’ll be more so when they find no economic nirvana awaiting. Some take out their frustrations on immigrants – who the prime minister, pawns to her as gunboats were to Palmerston, struggles to reassure.

Brexit means Brexit, she says. But no one has any mandate for the many flavours Brexit. None of them capable of offering better trading terms with our most important economic partners than those which we voted to relinquish.

EEA status would do least economic damage but – unlike EU status – would apply single market rules to the UK with us having no say over them, while also doing nothing about the free movement that has so agitated some. Go harder on free movement and we’ll end up with WTO status, which risks deeper economic harm.

The EU is much more democratic than the Brexiters insisted; what is un-democratic is for a prime minister to take the UK out of the EU with no mandate for the terms of this exit, which can only come from a general election or a second referendum.

Neither of which Labour are ready for. We are failing in our day-to-day responsibilities; never mind those bigger responsibilities that typically come around every four years or so. No matter how inadequate May is, anyone who thinks that a snap general election – assuming Jeremy Corbyn remains Labour leader – wouldn’t significantly increase the Tory majority is watching a different game from me.

But, it appears, most Labour members are watching a different game from me. They don’t see the mortal threat that Corbyn poses to our party. They are likely to re-elect him as leader.

If, or perhaps when, Corbyn is re-elected, the positions of the 172 MPs who have indicated no confidence in him seem untenable. They are obliged to tell the country that their leader is the best person to be prime minister but cannot do so with any credibility. It is a struggle to see how they can remain in the same party as Corbyn and his supporters. If they attempt to remain, they’ll be subject to hostile deselection attempts.

If Angela Eagle or Owen Smith, their forces stupidly divided, defy expectations and defeat Corbyn, many Corbyn supporters will exit the party. Thus, some kind of split feels unavoidable: either the 172 MPs split after Corbyn wins or the Corbynistas exit after their Messiah – who appears a very naughty boy to everyone else – is defeated.

On either scenario, the centre-left need to be clear about what is now required and why this cannot be provided by Corbyn: continued enthusiasm for the EU and a capacity to dance the popular and diplomatic steps necessary to row us back from the calamitous cul-de-sac that Corbyn helped back us into; internationalism that extends beyond Brussels to robust support for our NATO responsibilities and solidarity not with Putin but with Clinton and our American allies; fiscal coherence that moves us beyond the infantile nonsense of being “anti-austerity” and – as per John McDonnell – in favour of balancing current spending; welfare policy that doesn’t indulgence a failing status quo but which is wholly remodelled to always reward contribution; and an unabashed commitment to backing those who deserve backing but are not always backed on the left – entrepreneurs (we must be pro-business), Londoners (we must have no truck with chippy provincialism), immigrants (we must stand with them).

All that ought to mean that it is not just Corbyn’s inability to lead that the 172 object to, as they tell us, but also his policy positions, which they less frequently highlight. The time has come for the centre left to reassert what we believe in. That isn’t just leadership. That isn’t just winning elections. It is values that we rightly cherish, and which we want to implement in government, but which Corbyn – indifferent to Brussels, warm to Moscow – has cast aside.

This feels like the last, fierce stand of all that we are. But we are more than we now seem. There is a country, beyond May, beyond Corbyn, under our noses, that longs for centre left leadership. Through whatever vehicle is most expedient, we must now provide this.

Jonathan Todd is Deputy Editor of Labour Uncut    


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17 Responses to “It is time to stand for centre left values”

  1. Centre left values should include a commitment to fairness and honesty.

    BUT, up until yesterday it the official Labour website clearly said that anyone joining the party would be entitled to vote in leadership elections. That sentence has now been altered. So shouldn’t the new rules apply only to those joining the party after that alteration on the 13th July?

    What sort of party denies its own members a vote but sells votes at £25 a pop to non members?

    What have we come to?

  2. madasafish says:

    Hmm..
    Where to start?

    How about: “Our incoming prime minister has proved herself only to be less of a shambles than Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom.

    Well she has managed to change the entire Cabinet in 3 days..
    The Labour Party has no Cabinet.

    There is a country, beyond May, beyond Corbyn, under our noses, that longs for centre left leadership.”

    Well if you add UKIP to the Tories at the last GE, the right had over 50% of votes cast. And Labour’s advice to its voters to Remain was soundly ignored in many of its constituencies.

    Oh and unlimited immigration – Labour’s current policy – is hardly backed by the country.

    May I suggest you look at reality rather than what you want to be reality..Otherwise you are going to be in Opposition for a long time..

  3. John P Reid says:

    I hardly think that many members who’ve been members for more than a year who voted Corbyn will leave, some of the ones who I would cal broenites who just voted for Jeremy for a change, or councillors who liked Ed miliband, wouldn’t want to leave the party,if it means losing their council seats, some people who voted Jeremy, because the three other candidates weren’t any good (for totally different reasons) may feel Jeremy needs another year, maybe they’ll lose their council seats in the next 20 months and realize how popular Jeremy is, maybe the just don’t rate Angela or Owen, (again for different reasons) and then there’s the ones who want a more left wing party and won’t let the ,set back of Jeremy going, stop them, there’s still the hope of the far left 6 controlling the NEC,or unite Union getting in More left wing people in parliament, then there’s taking hold of councils, politics is a much quicker game now, MPs and councillors, have to either travel back and forth, weekly or out in more hours ,in the council office, to the point if they’ve got a safe council seat, they appear they’re ignoring their local party, and constituents

    The momentum lot may burn themselves out, as Jon cruddas said a year ago, party members are burnt out,that’s why the last election was such a disaster,why we have to regroup, and why my Question at the deputy leadership hustimgs via the Fabians at pat,I ament was directed towards Tom Watson, if members are burnt out,hoe can we motivate them to do stuff,without bullying them.

    Not wanting a trident renewal is nothing to do with supporting NATO, and as for the fact ,we have a PM come in ,not voted for, it’s more like if Foot had replaced Wilson in 76′ rather than Callaghan, as foot would represented different things to Wilson, and people who voted labour in 1974′ wouldn’t have all voted labour in 1983′ so I take your point on Theresa Mays, lack of right to rule, but that’s nothing to do with, the EU,to imply that U.S. A brexiters thought the EU less democratic than we believed,so we’re wrong to be Brexiters and want soverignity,is silly

    I won’t comment on whether the right of the party will leave,if Jeremy wins, I think they’ll just walk away from front line politics, like Gaitskellites did, and come back, to branch meetings when the party is more electable(assuming that either the Tories collapse, or they live that long, it may take some time)

    As for the 172′ well if they’ve a safe seat that isn’t like Chris Bryant, or Jon cruddas thatll go to Ukip,or the split vote ,where labour go Ukip, up North, so the seat goes Tory, they wouldn’t leave they want yo keep their seats,unles auntie bring back deselection so, via mandatory re selections to get their preferred ones in place
    Ironic that Wil Straws lot want to get rid of Kate hoey,and despite moderates like Flo Eshoami, in vauxhall, I could see a momentum person ousting Hoey, is that what Wil straws lot,want.?

  4. Tafia says:

    Your article is drivel from start to finish.

    Putibn and Trump are niot the end of civilisation – stop being a hysteric and a drama-queen.

    The EU has not kept peace in Europe – NATO has. The EU has no Armed Forces. Only individual nations do and their obligations are to NATO and the UN – not the EU. You also seemingly forget that Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Ukraine, Crimea and others happen to be in Europe.

    “what is un-democratic is for a prime minister to take the UK out of the EU with no mandate for the terms of this exit, which can only come from a general election or a second referendum.” That is tiootla bollocks. The Lisbon Treaties are sovereign Treaties. The Head of State or the Head of States nominated representative (The PM in our case) has the right to invoke Article 50- they are under no obligation to even tell their Cabinet or Parliament until after the event. You also have not been listening (there’s a surprise). Twice yesterday it was made olain we will invoke Article 50 within 12 months and – as a result of the 24 month maximum time, be out of the EU before GE2020.

    “Go harder on free movement and we’ll end up with WTO status, which risks deeper economic harm.” – Joke. WTO 16% Tariffs are two way things. Do you seriously think the French would allow thier wine and cheese exports to the UK to be priced out of the UK market overnight? Or the Germans their car industry? You do know the City can destroy the euro in a matter of hours don’t you? Dio you think the EU would risk that?

    The Labour Party is in the mess it is in because the PLP are behaving like 2-year-olds, not because of Corbyn.

    May could take on and devour any three Labour heavyweights you care to mention all, at the same time.

    After that I gave up reading what is demonstrably drivel.

    Now a simple task for you. You bang on about ‘centre left’. Define what that is in hard real terms – not dreams and aspirations and ideal, but in real solid day-to-day terms..

  5. Leslie48 says:

    Absolutely agree with article. Corbyn’s ratings are now horrendous as polling earlier in week showed with circa 70% of union members dissatisfied with him , lowest leader voter support ever recorded in political history, more Labour voters dissatisfied with him than satisfied, in the marginals massively behind Conservatives.

    Corbyn is politically over as no leader in the western world has won when he has lost his MPs and shadow cabinet. Millions of remain voters are crying out for a party that will be European friendly, will be progressive, will be proudly centre left with all that means . May will try to steal that centre ground with Blue Collar Conservatism. One thing is for sure the enthusiasm, the people, the donars the need for the centre force are there and waiting.

  6. Tafia says:

    What sort of party denies its own members a vote but sells votes at £25 a pop to non members?

    At a guess I would say a corrupt, nepotist, vapid and immoral one.

    May I suggest you look at reality rather than what you want to be reality..Otherwise you are going to be in Opposition for a long time..

    Once Corbyn wins again, if the PLP decide to throw another tantrum, the SNP will become HM Opposition unless it forms it’s own party. Then all the crying about May having no mandate will be shown for the bollocks it is – because they’ll have no mandate either.

    Meanwhile Owen Smith inhabits some sort of weird dreamland where he denies reality and somehow has it’s own time pattern.. Yet again he is offering a second referendum in 2020. Owen, we won’t be in the EU by the next General Election. We will be gone by no later than July 2019. May told you twice yesterday – Article 50 will be invoked within 12 months (David Davies is pushing for by the end of this year), we will then go through no morte than 24 months negotiations after whichwe are out whether there is agreement or not. Those are the EU rules. They can’t be changed without full agreement of the council AND triggering referenda in Ireland, Denmark and France. Now get a grip and start dealing with reality if you expect people to take you seriously. And yet again both ourt legal system AND the EU’s legal system say this is a sovereign issue, not a Parliament one – meaning the decision to trigger Article 50 is May’s and May’s alone.

  7. Saul Till says:

    Excellent article. Unfortunately the kind of people who’ll agree with you don’t tend to post in places like this. You’re more likely to get furious, borderline unintelligible rants from posters like Tafia.

    I would say that this really does feel like the end of Labour, and barring the creation of a new, entirely bespoke, pro-EU centre-left party(and a migration of Labour big-hitters to said party) I see no chink in the Tory armour whatsoever.
    Unlike you I think Theresa May is a formidable opponent and her opening speech from a couple of days ago was impressive: it was a blatant grab for the centre ground and it was just the kind of speech that a pro-Remain, pro-the-48%, centre-left, opposition leader should have been making in the aftermath of the EU vote. The Tories also have a knack of pulling together when it really matters – ie. when their electoral chances are threatened, and there’s a telling contrast between, OTOH the wholesale restructuring of the entire Conservative party, which took place in about a week-and-a-half, and OTOH Labour’s convulsions, which have been a consistent part of the political furniture for nine months now and show no signs of stopping.

  8. John P Reid says:

    Saul Till, I always think of Tafia as my measuring stick, to how to win an election, if we can appeal to ex labour members who’ve voted Plaid, SNP or libdem, in the last 3 elections, then we’re half Way there ,to being a national party again

  9. Anne says:

    If a little dramatic I do agree with the main thrust of this article, but where to start.
    Yes Teresa May did make a powerful speech appealing to unite the country and her party but there are chinks in her actions and her appointments. She did keep a low profile in the BREXIT and it is noticable that one of her first appointments was with Nicola Stergeon. I do feel there should be transparency regarding the negotiations for BREXIT and a second referendum to make absolutely sure this is in the best interests of the country and secondly I am not entirely confident with the people who have been tasked with this role.
    Now for the Labour Party. I agree it is a pity the Owen Smith and Angela have both decided to challenge for the leadership, but regardless of this I feel that a spite is now inevitable and maybe sooner rather than later – yes this has been tried before but only by 4 MPs but the numbers this time are much greater. I am also if the view that everything had its time and change is always with us. The Labour Party was created to be a political voice for the working class – mainly in the heavy industries – coal mining, ship building when the workplace was very labour intensive. Those days are in the past. The structure of the work place has changed – there is much more self employed people – hairdressers, plumbers, cafe owners and even in large organisation cleaning contracts going to small businesses. These workers do not identify with the Labour Party. Yes Unions have a place, especially protecting workers rights but many people are not union members.
    I believe that Teresa May will take her party more to the right while Jeremy Corbyn taking what is left of the Labour Party more to the left. There is now a massive void in the centre left – partly taken by the lib dems but they are not a stronge enough force on their own. The time is now right for a new party. Even the name Labour Party belongs to the past – let the lawyers fight over the assists. I have heard the name Democrates been talked about – taking in those in the Conservatives Party who are dissatisfied, lib dems and those of us in the Labour Party who are dissatisfied with Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and the direction he is driving the party too – a big black hole.

  10. leslie48 says:

    The term Progressive or even Progress alone would suit me or maybe Progressive Labour but maybe that does not suit our post-modern economy. Anne is so right the idea of a ‘working class’ as a tribal industrial union belonging class has more or less gone. Services and technology now dominate our post modern age.

    People in our media saturated time do not identify by class and especially so with younger people. Ed was rejected not for any dislike of Labour so much as his shortcomings as a compelling candidate. Voters choose their ‘leaders’ on communication, style manner and being personable – hence why Cameron, Johnson and Sturgeon are popular. Meritocracy is everything something both the far left and traditional Eton part of the Tories forget.
    This is not of course to say ‘the objective’ or economic position of people does not matter; Brexit showed that and how we deal with widening economic inequality post crisis, post globalisation and post Brexit will define politics for some time to come.

  11. Tafia says:

    I do feel there should be transparency regarding the negotiations for BREXIT and a second referendum to make absolutely sure this is in the best interests of the country
    Yet another that refuses to listen. The EU will not negotiate until Article 50 is invoked. Not even pre-negotiations to establish a framework. Nothing. Nada.
    At that stage a second vote is irrelevant – Article 50 cannot be dis-invoked. it is a purely one way system and you are oput no later than 24 months, whether the negotiations are succesful, or agreed, or not. A second referendum is drivel and the yearnings of a fool. It will serve no purpose whatsoever as it cannot change anything at all.

    I agree it is a pity the Owen Smith and Angela have both decided to challenge for the leadership
    As of this evening, half the Labour MPs are happy for both to go forward, half want only one. Shambles. If you want to run a coup, get the Turks in.

    There is now a massive void in the centre left And the centre (the LibDems are a shambles), and the centre right if your belief on the tories is true – which I seriously doubt.

  12. Peter Kenny says:

    “Through whatever vehicle is most expedient”

    Some of these people are planning a new party a la SDP and doing as much damage to us as they can on their way out.

    Wake up!

  13. paul barker says:

    All fair enough but you dont mention that The Centre-Left also embraces The Libdems & elements of The Greens. Labour Centrists can prepare for Co-operation by abandoning silly attacks on people you largely agree with & by recognising that a slow Libdem recovery is happening.
    Also you could add two items to your list of Centre-Left values, Electoral Reform & defence of The Enviroment.
    For individuals frustrated by Labours lengthy & pointless Leadership contest can I simply reccomend joining The Libdems ?

  14. Anne says:

    Further thoughts after reading Sunday papers and watching the Andrew Marr show where Angela Eagle and Owen Smith were interviewed. I feel it would be more constructive for only one candidate to go forward against Jeremy Corbyn. Although Angela has been brave to put her head above the parapet I feel that Owen Smith will stand a better chance of succeeding- he presented a vision for the future and stated what he would do. Jeremy Corbyn has never presented any coherent policy except stating he is anti austerity. Angela has only said that she is better than Jeremy. I also think his youth and a fresh face into front line politics is in Owen’s favour – even against Teresa May who many might say is an old hand and may be steeped in the past.

  15. Bob says:

    «enthusiasm for the EU [ …. ] to row us back from the calamitous cul-de-sac that Corbyn helped back us into;»

    For tory New Labourists it is Corbyn alone, not the the fellow tories in the other party, who responsible for Brexit.

    «internationalism that extends beyond Brussels to robust support for our NATO responsibilities and solidarity not with Putin but with Clinton and our American allies;»

    Another Iraq invasion? 🙂

    «fiscal coherence that moves us beyond the infantile nonsense of being “anti-austerity” and – as per John McDonnell – in favour of balancing current spending;»

    That’s to the right of G Osborne. Also it is impossible. All government spending will come back as tax if there is no saving in the spending chain. It is that saving that is the deficit. The constraint to spending is real resources. Look up “Modern Monetary Theory.”

    «welfare policy that doesn’t indulgence a failing status quo but which is wholly remodelled to always reward contribution;»

    “Three generations of benefit scroungers” :-).

    Look up “NAIRU.”

    «and an unabashed commitment to backing those who deserve backing but are not always backed on the left – entrepreneurs (we must be pro-business), Londoners (we must have no truck with chippy provincialism), immigrants (we must stand with them).»

    That sounds just like B Johnson.

    Now now. Rather than a neutered, much scaled down FO ministership, couldn’t B Johnson have much more fun of he walked across the aisle like his hero W Churchill did and join the Liberals, I mean New Labour? He would be easily elected leader if he toned down his occasional centre-left pandering :-).

  16. paul barker says:

    Polling suggests Corbyn will win easily. Whats the Plan B for Labour Centrists ?

  17. paul barker says:

    Is this site still alive ? No new articles for a week now, things out in the real world are moving fast.

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