Labour won’t win by seeming a danger to mainstream Britain

by Jonathan Todd

Labour big beast Denis Healey, borrowing a line from Leszek Kolakowski, a Polish philosopher, saw his politics as driven by, “an obstinate will to erode by inches the conditions which produce avoidable suffering, oppression, hunger, wars, racial and national hatred, insatiable greed and vindictive envy.”

Those conditions deepen under Tory government and therefore, that obstinacy compels us to do all that we can to avoid such. In the wake of this catastrophic defeat, it is impossible to conclude that we have.

We will have more chance of doing better in future if we can see ourselves as others do. Which now, it seems to me, is a cocktail of dangers.

Security danger: a leader who always seems to back Britain’s enemies, including terrorists, who has inspired an unprecedented fear among a minority population. Economic danger: outlandish spending commitments (e.g. free broadband) setting off fears of tax bombshells, alongside a commitment to a 4-day week that is otherworldly to hard-pressed workers. Political danger: over the influence of the SNP under a minority Labour government and uncertainty as to how a government of this sort would resolve Brexit.

In the 2015 general election, as Jon Cruddas wrote in its aftermath, “we lost everywhere to everybody”. In the frenzied years that followed, it became a sad joke that the UK had preferred “stability and strong government,” as David Cameron claimed he offered, over the “chaos with Ed Miliband” that Cameron positioned as the alternative.

By intensifying the dangers that voters attached to Miliband – more likely to do whatever   Nicola Sturgeon, Hezbollah or Das Kapital require – Labour in 2019 found new ways to lose in unexpected places. In a general election that Boris Johnson wanted. By allowing this election, Labour contravened the rule that the Waugh brothers followed to secure a generation of cricketing dominance for Australia: always do the opposite of what your opponent wants.

Johnson said he needed a popular mandate to break the Brexit deadlock. To the extent such a mandate was required, which was questionable after the passing of Johnson’s deal at second reading, it did not need to be via a general election. But Labour never offered the alternative: a referendum on Johnson’s deal.

This referendum might have been lost, condemning us to Johnson’s deal, but we must now swallow Labour’s worst general election result since 1935 and a 78 seat Tory majority, with Johnson’s deal merely the bitter cherry atop. It would have been preferable to follow the Waugh brothers’ approach and insist on that which Johnson did not want (but which, faced with parliamentary gridlock and Labour intransigence on a general election, he may have been forced to accept): a referendum on his deal.

Those of us who supported such a referendum did so for three reasons: reluctance to accept that the 2016 referendum sustained a mandate for the quite different Brexit that Johnson offered 3 years later; a referendum, especially on the defined terms of Johnson’s deal, being a contained risk in a way that a general election is not; and the possibility that through this referendum the UK’s membership of the EU might be salvaged.

The election now moves me to the sorry conclusion that the time has come to concede and move on from that membership. We should argue for close partnership with the EU and for no diminishment of rights and regulations. We should leverage the UK’s defence capabilities to make the UK relevant to debates about the continent’s future and be as constructive as possible in these exchanges.

But, in doing so, we must now accept Brexit. As well as recognising threats to the UK’s security and being fulsome in our support of steps to tackle them. As we should support, too, sensible economics – sums that add up, that kind of thing.

We face a long road back from being a danger to again being a vehicle of plausible hope. Moaning about “media bias” won’t make this journey any quicker – it will make it longer by dulling our concentration on the things in our control. Outrage at Johnson’s uses and abuses of the bully pulpit of government won’t help either – we’ve surrendered that advantage; the point is refocusing on what we can do to recapture it.

Most fundamentally, we must reconnect with the values, instincts and culture of mainstream Britain. In speaking of “a nation of billionaires and food banks”, we painted a picture that most people do not see themselves in. We got stuck in social media bubbles and revelled in a countercultural style. Only when we show that we hear the aspirations and concerns of mainstream Britain will we earn any potential to bend these hopes and fears in progressive directions.

In 1945, 1964 and 1997, we succeeded in articulating senses of national mission in which most people and places felt they had a part. We must seek a 2024 vintage. If we are to speak for that Britain, we must put down our laptops and lattes with an obstinate will to truly hear the country as it is, not as our left-wing biases might wish it were.

Jonathan Todd is Deputy Editor of Labour Uncut

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8 Responses to “Labour won’t win by seeming a danger to mainstream Britain”

  1. Alf says:

    Whatever the question, Jess Phillips would not be the answer. A Tory-lite Labour party led by an attention-seeking Blairite with a reflex cheeky maid schtick would be a disaster. So, RLB dfor me!

  2. Ken from glos says:

    In other words listen to people outside London. But you are not instead you are fighting like rats in a sack and blaming all an sundry for your failures.

  3. Tafia says:

    You need to find a Leader that:-

    a. Accepted the Brexit result at the time.
    b. Took no part in Peoples Vote, signing blocking/delaying Amendments trying to overturn etc, etc etc
    c. Is not and never has been a Corbynite
    d. Does not come from a ‘metro’ seat in a big city or a university town.

    If you don’t, you will lose again in 2024.

    But you’ll ignore that, think you are better than the voters, and in 5 years time you’ll be sat about scratching your arses wondering you lost again.

    You lost because the voters DID understand your manifesto and current party direction. They understood it only to well.

    I’ve written on here time and time again that you don’t understand the blue-collar working class north of Watford (John P Reid understands). So I’ll remind you again. It is deeply patriotic. It loves the Queen. It loves the national anthem. It loves the Union Jack. It is intensely proud of it’s Armed Forces. It supports nuclear weapons. It supports Israel. It utterly despises the IRA and Islamic terror groups. It is very proud of our history, culture and traditions, and sees no reason to apologise for or be ashamed of any of it. It wants British history taught in schools as a positive thing. All of it. It wants tougher justice meted out to sex offenders, violent offenders and people who steal off other people. It does not want drugs tolerated. It wants immigrants who commit sex, violence, drink/drug related offences (including drink driving), and theft from the person kicking out of the country no if’s, no buts, no exceptions. It wants domestic child killers hanged. It does not want to be in the EU or under control of any of it. It does not want anymore of this ridiculous diversity bollocks, political correctness, identity politics and the gender shite that’s currently all the rage or anything similar -especially when it’s their taxes paying for it. It does not want men and women having mixed toilets. It des not want open birders. It does not want Asylum Seekers allowed to launch appeal after appeal. It wants them dealt with and deported. It wants illegal immigrants turned round and dumped back where they set sail from and treated as what they are – criminals (it is a criminal offence to enter this country illegally). It wants religious slaughter banned in the UK along with impoorts that have been religiosly slaughtered. It wants live exportsof sheep, cattle, pigs etc banned.

    Are you starting to realise why you lost the North yet?

    But you won’t listen. You won’t even take any of it on board. You’ll say the voters are wrong, or the voters don’t understand – when really it’s you. It’s a toss-up which is in a bigger shit-state and the biggest joke – Labour or Everton FC.

    Just remember, you did far worse than the figures suggest. Between a quarter and a third of your vote this time was tactical voters from the Lib Dems, Greens etc. And the boundary review is going through this Parliament. There will be less seats in Scotland and Wales – and Labour has never, ever won an election without winning both Wales and Scotland.

    Do you want to win? Or do youwant to sit on the sidelines.

    Let’s Get Brexit Done.

  4. John P Reid says:

    Don’t waste your time Tafia ,judging by the views criticising Lisa Nandy, of
    Dave and Daniel they’re not listening
    enjoy your
    decades in opposition , lads

    It’s a moral victory isn’t it

  5. Anne says:

    We have lost a major battle but we are still in the fight. Certainly Johnson’s slogan of ‘get Brexit done’ seemed to resonate with people who are sick of hearing about Brexit. Labour’s position on this subject came too late. For better or worse we have to accept the position of leaving the EU. However, we do not have to accept what is termed as a hard Brexit, which is what Johnson is propelling the country towards.
    My faith is still with Kier Starmer, who, I believe, is most knowledgeable on this subject.
    We have to try and be objective in our choice of leader. My view in this is that in any interview situation perspective candidates should be viewed on ability – who is the best person for the job – who has the vision for our party.
    Rebecca, I feel, has done a good job as shadow business minister and was good in the television debates. She and Lisa have both spoken out for nuclear (JC’s position on this lost him the Cumbrian seats) but I feel these two, as yet, do not have the gravitas for the position of leader. Lisa, I feel, does understand ordinary people’s lives. Another who understands ordinary people’s lives is Jess, but again not for leader, but a senior position in shadow cabinet.
    I like Elizabeth Warren who is a candidate for the Democratic Party in the up coming American elections, but talking to some American friends who liked what she was saying, but said she was too left wing and would not be elected by the American people. Some of JC’s polices were good, but, as Jonathan has said not economically viable. We have to take smaller steps to get there. The idea of a green revolution was good.
    I like Francis O’Grady from the TUC – I would like to hear more from her. This is important because if Johnson goes for a hard Brexit this will affect workers rights.
    We really do have to be objective in this reflection – name calling such as Tory light is just not helpful. We have got to come together here – we have a mountain to climb but we must persist for the millions of people we seek to represent.

  6. John P Reid says:

    Frank Field and Gisela Stuart were Saying 2 years ago they hope they could hang on in the party and hopefully After the defeat. Jess Philips or Lisa Nandy respectively could take over and sort it out, they couldn’t hang on, but maybe their predictions the party can be saved is right.

  7. John P Reid says:

    Basically momentum don’t want
    Jess Philips as leader (personally I can’t take her serious) or
    Lisa nandy( who while a bit better is too Fabiansish) so the trots are finding a Black person who bought into the Oh- Jeremy- Corbyn-Song
    And call Philips a racist and say because some blue labour types are backing nandy and they call Paul embery a fascist
    It means she’s a race appeaser too

    Using these Racist accusations to say to non Corbynites If you’re not with us you’re against Black or Asian people not into identity politics or if you’re black and support Jess Philips you’re the worst as it’s a case you’re a Uncle Tom is disgraceful

  8. ExLabour says:

    in a previous thread where Jonathan Todd expressed his view that Labour would win, I called him a buffoon, and it seems despite his previous rambling nonsense he has grasped the fact that the public do not want Corbyn, communism, Red Len, piss poor economics, antisemetism and much more.

    We are a proud aspirational people who believe in our own capabilities and strengths. We do not want to governed or even associated with metro-chatteratti Stalinist elite.

    Todd if you think this is about 2nd referendums or referendums on Brexit deals you are woefully and maybe blissfully ignorant yet again.

    I despair the fact that you think Thornberry, Starmer et al are potential leaders. Have you not learned anything FFS ???

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