Labour Must Unify and Fire Up the Machine

Labour Must Unify and Fire Up the Machine

Observations within the breach are somewhat caveated during times of upheaval and change, especially when political forecasts are often guided and upheld by the twin staffs of tradition and conformity; crutches that have been cast aside this summer. Policy-making usually adheres to a traditional subservience to views of the parliamentary party who carry out the day-to-day abrasive work of opposition. The pledge to democratise this whole process, a shift of power towards Jeremy Corbyn's support base, leaves concrete policies up in the air until new, more formal procedures, can be developed.

Nevertheless, what seemed an eternal march for Labour has concluded with the hoisting up of a red flag, a pink sky on this new morning, and no indian summer. Storms already blow as controversy spreads itself throughout the breadth of the party, reminding us that reactionary politics is not simply the provenance of the tabloid press.

In the last few weeks coups have been written and unwritten, knives now sheathed. What is clear is that Corbyn now commands an unprecedented mandate to reshape the Labour Party. A shadow cabinet has been appointed amidst controversy, especially surrounding the selection of John McDonnell, chair of the socialist campaign group, as shadow chancellor of the exchequer.

The fury I understand - change can be a violent process - but McDonnell's appointment should come as no surprise given the longstanding camaraderie between he and Corbyn. We only have to look towards to the Blair/Brown relationship to consider how perilous a divided Leader and Chancellor can appear, and only as far as Cameron and Osborne to see the usefulness of a harmonious relationship.

Despite the initial surge of anger, McDonnell's appointment is firmly rooted in fulfilling the development of an alternative economic strategy, which remains the flagship promise of Corbyn's mandate. Furthermore the cabinet includes figures who are not natural allies of Corbyn, most notably the very capable Hilary Benn, who will be a moderating influence as shadow foreign secretary.

Sections of the party angered by McDonnell's appointment must accept that the political ground has shifted, and breathing space is required. It was reactionary politics that forced Labour to accept the economic expedience of austerity rather than to challenge it. This failure to provide a coherent opposition is why even 'moderates' have flocked to Corbyn's banner.

For this reason, the election has not been a straight-forward surge of the left reliant on "entryists" as clearly shown by the breakdown of votes across members, supporters and affiliates. We can't continue to ignore the reasons why the old centre ground, once occupied by Labour, now seems hollowed out. This is not to say that New Labour was always a vacuous exercise but that today the UK faces radical problems that demand more fundamental solutions.

We have witnessed a necessary and positive realignment. Labour can now, once more reshape the political narrative. The conservative party has been extremely able in this pursuit, most notably in their successful revisionism of the financial crisis. Labour needs to begin to challenge those dogmas, reveal alternative truths and not be afraid of crafting a new political consensus.

This can not be done in days or by a select few within the parliamentary party, even if that isolated circle currently command overwhelming external support and officially lead from the frontbenches. The machinery of the party over the next few months will either become a a tool with which to inflict undemocratic, unpopular and derisory influence over the shadow cabinet against the will of party members, or it will become an integral part of a labour movement capable of inspiring a broader base.

It is time for unification. History does not repeat itself in the same manner, but even the warning signs of economic strife could lead the government to embrace the further dereliction of public services. The exchequer has only one strategy: austerity; it's an impediment that Labour provides an alternative.

Those who have invested their careers in modernising Labour know that the exercise of redressing the party to new challenges is ongoing. Labour does not believe in an end of history, or the prospect of a dialectic set in stone, or indeed a changeless utopia. Our heterotopia, our cultures of difference and tolerance, show us that routes of progress must face constant renewal. The future of the Labour Party can not capitulate to old territory but must subsume it to grow and to bloom.

We must surmount old divisions through the creation of a truly radical ground - but that requires tempering from across divides. Labour has to challenge the assumptions of Osbourne's austerity, to face up to the very real housing crisis, to acknowledge that people living on the streets are not beyond government help and that employees deserve the stability of proper employment. These are principles we all rally behind. The time for morose sombreness is over; the whole party must now contribute to the expression of these causes.


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