Posts Tagged ‘soft-left’

Labour’s in a mess because the soft left has disappeared

20/08/2015, 06:03:58 PM

by Trevor Fisher

The Labour leadership election is becoming a gift to the Tories, because of the Corbyn surge. The politics of Corbyn now dominating the agenda has revived talk of the soft left, which commentators including Luke Akehurst think is capable of intervening. Dan Hodges in The Daily Telegraph, rightly bemoaning the disastrous new electoral system, commented that “pragmods” wanted the current individualised membership plus “many elements on the soft left of Labour.” Pragmods may be right, but where the elements of the soft left are, is another matter.

As someone active in the Labour Coordinating Committee (LCC), the main soft left group in the 1980s, I can endorse what Luke Akehurst says about its grassroots effectiveness in tackling the hard left and shifting the national agenda. But the successor organisations are now dead, except for Compass which is now outside the Labour Party orbit.  Luke Akehurst wants to bring the remnants of the soft left into action, Dan Hodges believes they already are. So something needs to be said about the soft left and whether it has any role to play in the current drama.

As Akehurst has said, the soft left of the eighties had much policy agreement with the hard left. But there were at least two major differences.

Firstly, the soft left did not believe the barrier to political progress was the party establishment. Though there were sharp differences with the leadership through to 1983, the real problems to advance were seen as the Tory party and the deep roots in popular culture the Tories had and still have. From this, the second big difference was the soft left wanted to work with the leadership, the hard left to replace it.

It is sometimes said the hard left do not want power. They certainly do. In the eighties they controlled a number of local councils. But they did not want compromise. They shared with the far left the desire for purity, but unlike the far left Trotskyists’ sects, the hard left did want elected position.


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Soft left or soft thinking? A response to Neal Lawson.

14/01/2011, 12:00:59 PM

by Rob Marchant

Ed Miliband’s victory has brought a renaissance of the Kinnockite “soft left”. Sadly, the thinking emanating from it seems not just woolly, but dangerously flawed. A case in point is an article by article by Neal Lawson, the chair of centre-left think tank, Compass. Hold your judgment, for a moment, on the title: “Ed Miliband can help us believe in a better world again”, and on the flowery prose. Just concentrate on the arguments: the “big tent” strategy; the worry of achieving office without power; and a rather vague concept called the “good society”.

First, the big tent. Lawson wrongly implies Miliband’s backing for Compass’ controversial idea of opening up its membership to Liberals as well, tartly described by Labour blogger Luke Akehurst as “suicide”. Rightly so: “big tent” has been tried and failed three times in recent history: in 1977, in 1997 and in 2010.

Next, Lawson reveals his deepest fear: that we might be in office, but not in “real” power. The subtext being, confirmed later on in the article, that last time Labour did not achieve anything important. In reality, it seems, he means that Labour did not achieve anything important that he agreed with. (more…)

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Thursday News Review

23/09/2010, 07:58:50 AM

It’s almost over

The five-month long contest for the Labour leadership ended tonight as the ballot closed, leaving the two Miliband brothers, David and Ed, waiting until Saturday afternoon to discover which of them will be given the task of leading the party. The result, which is said to be too close to call, will be announced at the opening of the party’s annual conference in Manchester, giving the new leader two days to prepare his set-piece speech to the conference. Both camps exuded private confidence that they had won, but also stressed that the victor would reach out not only to his brother, but also to rival supporters to heal any wounds inflicted during the contest. – The Guardian

The 109-day leadership election is over. On Saturday 25 September, the 20th leader of the Labour Party will be announced at its annual conference in Manchester. His name will be Miliband. Whether the victor is David or Ed – and we have made clear our preference for the latter but also our admiration for the former – the challenge facing the new leader will be the same. How will he rebuild a party that slumped to its second-worst vote share since 1918? How will he refresh and re-energise Labour, which left office after 13 years demoralised, fractious and hollowed out? And how, above all, does the new leader persuade the electorate that the party can once again be trusted to form a government and manage economic policy? – The New Statesman

What now?

David Miliband made a plea for unity yesterday as the ballot closed in the contest for the Labour leadership. Mr Miliband, the slight favourite ahead of his brother Ed, said the contest had been “hard and tough”. He added: “Whatever the result on Saturday, we have all said we will unite behind the party’s choice and turn all of our energy into exposing the new government and presenting a strong Labour alternative. “This is a vital time for the country, which needs a strong Labour opposition.” – The Mirror

Four long months after it wheezed into life, the Labour leadership contest has proved one thing beyond doubt: for all the ideological gymnastics of the New Labour years, the party’s political centre remains much where it ever was – on what used to be called the soft left. Spurning the most laissez-faire aspects of the Blair and Brown years has been obligatory. Ahigh pay commission and living wage are the season’s policy must-haves. Equality is all the rage; even David Miliband has been chided by the Times for looking dangerously social democratic. What has happened to the party’s right? Most of its remaining number are clustered around MiliD, and aside from the odd pop at “Red” MiliE, keeping shtoom. But do not be fooled: they are as fired up as ever, and preparing for a return once the membership gets back to leaflets and balloons. – The Guardian

Waiting game

Plans to inform candidates 30 minutes before the announcement, after removing mobiles, reminds me of the TV carry-on surrounding the 2007 deputy leadership. Sky did a deal with Alan Johnson’s enforcer, Gerry Sutcliffe, to receive a signal as the hopefuls left a briefing room before entering the hall – if Sutcliffe departed wearing glasses, Johnson had won. Reeling at a narrow defeat, Sutcliffe forgot and emerged four-eyed. So Sky News wrongly reported that Johnson had triumphed. The BBC reached an understanding with one of Hattie’s entourage under which arm a handbag would be carried. Thus the Beeb correctly predicted that Harperson would be crowned. Look out for unusual nose-scratching in Manchester. – The New Statesman

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