The ideological direction of the Labour Party has never been more contested. To their credit Blue Labour were the first group of thinkers to present a fairly coherent route away from the failed New Labour project. Their focus on communitarianism and improving living standards struck a chord with working class men that had rightfully concluded New Labour no longer spoke for them. The Achilles heel of course was Maurice Glassman's over-concentration on anti-immigration rhetoric and the unwise brusqueness with which he seemed to regard gender equality. The majority of lost Labour voters at the last election were indeed women and as such the Blue Labour package of ideas fell short of what was required. That said, it would be a mistake for Ed Miliband to dismiss their ideas entirely.
Purple Labour have sought to bring a 'New Labour' continuity to the post-Brown years. Their main contention is that Gordon Brown by pausing Blairite public service reform helped contribute to an election defeat in 2010. Importantly, Purple bookers have recoiled against the idea that New Labour are dead. Instead they argue that the neo-Liberal principles of consumer choice, a small state and individual empowerment are more relevant than ever. The Progress wing have even updated their message to embrace universal child care and have appeared on the cutting edge of transport innovation with their campaign for High Speed Rail II.
Whilst Ed Miliband is right to take their ideas seriously and include them in any future policy making, Purple Labour have failed to understand that the squeeze on living standards and explosion of personal debt are a direct consequence of the light touch regulation and aggressive commodification of all aspects of society that occurred under New Labour. This fatal flaw means that voters, especially working class, will be very wary of voting for a Labour manifesto that would repeat the mistakes of old. Purple Labour must recognise that New Labour are dead if they are to regain the ear of lost Labour voters.
The problem for Purple Labour is that voters more than ever before are acutely aware of profit. Voters lament their daily struggle to pay housing, transport and childcare costs while big business makes unethical profit margins and pay little tax in return. Juxtaposing the 'haves and the have nots', and exposing with transparency the ill gotten gains of telecommunication and energy companies, has never been easier in our 24 hour media age. Polling data has shown that voters have become increasingly concerned with the unethical imbalance in the UK economy where those who work hardest struggle the most. The law of diminishing returns hangs over the UK nation like a dark cloud and it is the real reason New Labour were dumped from office.
The element of the Labour Party that shows the best chance of communicating to voters that they understand that is Labour Left. Founded by the author and now busy working on a volume of essays entitled the Red Book, Labour Left are leading the front in translating Ed Miliband's rhetoric on the 'British Promise' and the 'Squeezed Middle' into ethical socialist policies that show they understand. Labour Left, the home of ethical socialism, is the group to watch in the coming months and years as Labour plot a course of rapprochement with the great British public.
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