"Everyone who wants to support Labour is crying out for a new hope, a new direction." With Ed Balls' appearance on the Andrew Marr Show last Sunday, this was the statement he was met with from the head of the GMB Union. In an examination of the Labour Party, the weight of this statement can be felt much further beyond the party's acceptance of the Conservative cuts. This want for a new hope and direction by Left-Wing voters, has stemmed from behaviour exhibited by the party, most notably since the start of this year.
Accusations that the Labour Party has moved away from socialism are not new. However many thought that 'Red' Ed Miliband, son of Marxist writer Ralph, would take his party back to the Left. However, there were fears that the heavy New Labour presence within the party would halt this. Such fears came about with Ed Miliband's row with arguably the cornerstone of the party: the trade unions. In an interview with New Statesman, Len McCluskey - the head of Unite - said that if Ed Miliband attempts to go forward with his "austerity-lite" policy set, he risks being "cast into the dustbin of history." This was a warning (first coined by Leon Trotsky) that 'One Nation' Labour may drift too far to the Right.
As predicted, Labour has moved beyond "austerity-lite," with Ed balls being accused of "out-Osborning the Osborne" on his Andrew Marr Show appearance. This is because Labour announced that it would not be reversing all of the heavily criticised cuts made by George Osborne. The Spending Review was delivered, stating more cuts to day-to-day services that Labour has now pledged to continue.
The means, by which these cuts would be continued, may be subject to change (stated by Labour). But to the detriment of the voters, the party has not agreed on their alternatives. On Saturday 22 June, Channel 4 reported that Labour would not consider borrowing more money in order to fix the economy. But just a day later on the Andrew Marr Show, the Shadow Chancellor was asked seven times whether or not increased borrowing could indeed be an option within his economic plan, eventually conceding that "of course there is a case to do that." Alongside further ammunition for David Cameron, this uncertainty combined with the acceptance of Tory cuts, has inevitably cast doubt in the minds of those who were hoping to vote Labour in the next election.
Political parties of all types encounter economic problems. Labour are quick to remind David Cameron that he was an advisor to Norman Lamont during Black Wednesday. It is the handling of signature policy sets that normally set them apart, and for Labour this has always been the welfare state. However, it was recently revealed that in the last Labour government, pressure was being put on the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to downplay any wrongdoing within the NHS. In Prime Minister's Questions on 26 June, David Cameron looked to Andy Burnham, and told him that this had been the culture within the NHS under his watch, using a quote from Barbara Young (head of the CQC at the time) to make his point.
This represents a more damaging turn for the Labour Party. If it is seen to be inadequate at controlling the one policy area it calls its own, voters will be left in a serious position of evaluating whether or not Labour is the party to forward their interests. This scandal comes alongside the party's acceptance of damaging cuts to services, meaning that 'One Nation' Labour looks more Conservative than ever.
This voter re-evaluation would not be an isolated incident. The very same thing has happened as David Cameron has brought in his own brand of Conservatism. It is a brand that was long associated with the 'Wets' within the Tory ranks, and has become the force pulling the party towards the centre ground. Nowhere has this been more evident, than in the furious debates over equal-marriage rights, which saw quite dangerous tears in party support. So much so, that traditional Conservative support defected to the further-Right, UK Independence Party.
The once ignored Eurosceptics performed beyond the expectations of politicians and journalists alike, with outstanding gains being made in the recent local elections. The party has become so important to the next General Election, that the Huffington Post UKreports on rumours that Nigel Farage could indeed appear in the scheduled television debates, incorporating the leaders of the main parties.
Could this be the fate for the Labour Party? Historically, the only Leftist party to ever have considerable success has been that backed by the Trade Unions, which could potentially limit the chances of Left Wing satellite parties. However, European politics has shown that this can happen. Green Parties in both individual states and the European Parliament hold a lot of seats, and have a considerable say in European affairs. They do this by coupling considerably left-wing policy with the increasingly important sustainability agenda. The UK Green Party is one step ahead of UKIP, as it already has an MP, Caroline Lucas. This, combined with the evidence outlined above, shows potential for similar fallout on the Left.
The CQC scandal has potential to be a turning point. Not having the best handle on their signature policy area may lead to supporters re-evaluating whether Labour does indeed best represent their interests. The unions seem unconvinced by the economic plan, and Labour members are crying for a new hope. It has happened on the Right through an empowered UKIP. An eruption on the more politically volatile Left could see something similar.Suggest a correction