The Blog

Nothing Particularly Moderate About the Labour 'Moderates'

Politics is all about balancing passion with pragmatism, radicalism with reality but just tinkering around the rough edges of a flawed, broken system is not good enough anymore. The sooner the right wing of the Labour Party - and let's drop the pretence that they are anything other than right wingers - come to terms with this the better.

I should nail my colours firmly to the mast right from the start. I don't have some fanciful desire for a socialist utopia where a significantly expanded paternalistic state caters for my every need. Such a notion is sadly impractical and, as far as I'm concerned, pretty undesirable. How often throughout history have we seen popular movements and leaders swept into power on a wave of altruistic intentions but very swiftly end up wanting to wear crowns?

Now I've got that off my chest I need to make it clear that I believe the governance of Britain needs to take a change of direction and not just with baby steps.

The UK is failing.

Whether it's been successive governments totally half arsed attempts at clamping down on multi billion pound tax evaders and avoiders, the pitifully slow economic 'recovery,' the cloak and dagger attempts to ultimately destroy cherished public services and institutions or an addiction to disastrous meddling in other nations affairs, Britain, still one of the worlds wealthiest nations, limps feebly along, governed, on the whole, for the few and not the many and it's been like this for decades.

Since May of last year the Tories led by 'Conservative Majority Dave' have proved to be a different proposition to how they were under 'Coalition Dave.' The nasty party, of course, never really went away but is now brazenly crushing its fag butts into your carpets and peeing on your toilet seats with a swagger that befits a set of people genetically programmed to think of themselves as the nations natural rulers.

Yes, yes, yes, we know all of that, I hear you cry, but what's this got to do with so called Labour moderates not actually being very moderate? I'll come to that in a moment...

Lest we forget, the Labour Party underwent a metamorphosis that started under Kinnock and culminated in the Blair and Brown years. It was, with hindsight, all about keeping some of the nice socially liberal bits ingrained in the Labour Movement but at the same time buying into Chicago School of Economics ideology or 'Thatcherism' to give it its British monicker.

Under New Labour things very briefly started well. There was an optimism that things really could only get better. An autocratic presidential style of leadership, a vomit inducing love-in with Murdoch, absolute devotion to unfettered market forces, a doomed light touch with banking and financial sector regulation and pursuit of a calamitous foreign policy culminating in a war that may yet see Blair get his day in court, quickly removed the scales from the eyes of most of us.

The Tories are the Tories and they're very often nasty bastards but New Labour? Well, they kind of spoke like right-on, dinner party handwringing liberals but at the same time many of their actions were every bit as cynically right wing as their Conservative opponents on a whole host of topics. New Labour was a suspiciously conservative project but masked as something else. It was disingenuous and ultimately the electorate saw through it.

So, what of the Labour 'moderates' of today? And why aren't they anywhere near as moderate as the media narrative tells us they are?

The expression 'Labour moderate' started getting bandied around in the run up to, and in the aftermath of, the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. The media has for many years set the very narrow parameters in which our political parties are allowed to play and the bearded member for Islington North was beyond the pale as far as our intrepid heroes with roving mics and notepads were concerned. His views and those of his followers were quickly prefixed with 'far left' and 'hard left.' The right wing of the Labour Party - the Blairites, the New Labour loyalists and the apologists for Labours last stint in government were the 'moderates.' Nice tag if you can get it. But, it hasn't just been the obvious right leaning media outlets chucking that sobriquet out there, the BBC has been the worst culprit.

Now, I love the BBC. It makes some marvellous wildlife documentaries and superb period dramas but its news and current affairs output has been on the slide for many years and, with the odd notable exception, has long since given up properly scrutinising, amongst other things, our economic system. I'm not talking about pulling apart the minutiae of market fluctuations, I'm referring to the lack of any in-depth scrutiny of the whole premise for unchecked free market economics. Thirty plus years of Thatcherism in various forms, including under Blair, has seen the BBC all but throw in the towel as a serious objective economic analyst. Neoliberalism is the norm' and it's just too much shit and aggro for the Beeb to even explore a different narrative.

Under modern 'rules', a market interventionist like Harold Macmillan would now be regarded as a radical and a danger to the nations economic security! It's bonkers. Bonkers dressed up as sober faced objectivity.

Likewise, the recent incredibly easy ride given to those 'moderates' favouring military intervention in the Middle East and the exact opposite for those opposed to it. Our mates at Broadcasting House may not be chest beating jingoists but they've long since swallowed the liberal military intervention rhetoric.

Back to our moderate mates in the Labour Party...Their view is largely supportive of military involvement in Syria - despite Britain's disastrous record in the Middle East. This time it'll be different. What could possibly go wrong?

The same wing of the Labour Party seethes at the very mention of any kind of debate within the wider party on the retention of Trident and whether to continue as a member of NATO. It's probably worth reminding the myopic, right wing rump of the Labour Party that the vast majority of mature democracies don't possess nuclear weapons and do perfectly well without them. Similarly, NATO membership is not a panacea when it comes to national security - sometimes, quite the opposite. The UK is one of the few countries where such a view would see one marked as a political extremist in the margins of the debate.

Corbyn certainly deserves some criticism for his leadership style and his knockers within his own party correctly point out that there is a huge amount of work to be done to make Labour even remotely electable. The right wing of the party are also never slow to remind us that Blair won three general elections. It was some achievement but an achievement based on giving up just about everything the movement ever stood for. Hollow victories and all that.

Politics is all about balancing passion with pragmatism, radicalism with reality but just tinkering around the rough edges of a flawed, broken system is not good enough anymore. The sooner the right wing of the Labour Party - and let's drop the pretence that they are anything other than right wingers - come to terms with this the better.