As Labour considers what went wrong last Thursday, and leadership contenders jockey for position, we’re re-posting a piece from December 2010 by former general secretary Peter Watt. Four and a half years on, almost word for word, it’s as relevant today as it was then – Atul Hatwal (ed)
by Peter Watt
Understanding this year’s defeat is, as we all know, central to bouncing back electorally. A lot has been written about the need to listen and the need to reconnect to voters. And the launch of the policy consultations in Gillingham last weekend was an attempt to listen and learn the lessons of defeat.
But there is an arrogance at the heart of our politics that is going to make it difficult to really understand why we lost. It is an arrogance that says that we alone own morality and that we alone want the best for people. It says that our instincts and our motives alone are pure. It’s an arrogance that belittles others’ fears and concerns as “isms” whilst raising ours as righteous. We then mistakenly define ourselves as being distinctive from our opponents because we are morally superior rather than because we have different diagnoses and solutions. It is lazy, wrong and politically dangerous.
If you think that I am being harsh, just think about what we say about our opponents. We assume that they are all in it for themselves, that they are indifferent to the suffering of others. In fact, that they are quite happy to induce more suffering if it suits their malign ends. What we don’t think is that they may want the same things as us, but just have a different approach. Instead, we cast high-minded aspersions on their morality and humanity. (more…)