Fred Hughes: “How Corbyn visit laid bare Labour divisions” – Fred Hughes



It’s close on four years since Jeremy Corbyn, as the new leader of the Labour Party, addressed a rally from the top of the Fire Brigade Union’s battle bus in Hanley’s Upper Market Square, to proclaim his view of a nation based on fairness and equality.

Since he became leader 12 months earlier, the party’s membership had increased hugely through left-wing activism. Rallies like this resulted in Labour increasing its share of the vote in the election of 2017 to 40 per cent, with a 9.6 per cent swing and a gain of 30 seats.

This election surely was proof that a move to social democracy was in the air, even enabling the Liberal Democrats to gain four seats. And had the momentum been maintained, it was conceivable that Labour was on course to win an ensuing election.

Electoral analysis shows that since 2010, the UK electorate was looking for a government with more inclusive policies.

And in the run-up to the 2017 election, Labour’s activists went to town to highlight a socialist answer to the public’s disenchantment with disorganised leadership.

But things started to go wrong with promises of ‘getting Brexit done’ matching the re-emergence of active nationalism. Labour was so deeply involved in internecine rivalry, that it failed to recognise the dark clouds gathering its former working-class heartlands.

Worse still, the party’s struggles were being fought publicly, enabling hand-rubbing opponents to exploit its insecurities. There is no doubt, voters were left confused.

It’s important to understand that while Labour remains a grassroots party, it is no longer a workers’ party. This was illustrated in the election of 1997, won by Labour’s ability to manage a socialist version of open capitalism.

By socio-political definition, Great Britain is a capitalist state. Simply put, generations since the 17th century have grown to rely on capitalism for progressive direction whereby wealth and investment have been the basis for success in the concentration of prosperity and economic power.

Labour, as a proportionate collective advocate, found its place through trade union activism. And while time has naturally changed its strategy, activism endured as Labour’s principal expressive tool. But in these times, it is in interest groups where activism shows its strength. And this makes it increasingly difficult to see it working for modern socialism.

Nonetheless, Labour’s comprehensive defeat in the 2019 election meant the end for Corbyn’s policies, and party activism. For as many that joined a proactive movement, the same have since left.

And with a new leader, Keir Starmer, it may also mean the end of what we traditionally understand to be the party’s exclusive ownership of left-wing ideology.

But back to that September lunchtime in front of Hanley’s ‘blue clock’ before a crowd of several hundred, Corbyn wasn’t talking solely to his activists.

He instinctively spoke to the general public. And many stopped to listen, absorbing his message of inclusion, rights for the disadvantaged, for the young in education, and the elderly in care, for opportunity in employment and for community integration.

One of the organisers was Ruth Rosenau, then a city councillor, standing out in the absence of Labour’s council leaders and its three MPs.

This was the marker that clearly showed Labour’s split, between those that banked on modernised traditionalism, and those that bared the pulse of nowness!

There was a bit of a noise on Facebook last week when Ruth told non-activists to ‘get out of the way of activists’ like herself, who are fighting universal battles.

Having a personal high regard for this departed Labour Party member and community representative, I’m certain she will continue along the path she set for herself when, for Labour, she achieved much for society’s disadvantaged.

And it leaves the question – is Labour an electable party? Is it better with or without its active energy? Or will it remain, as it currently appears to most people, a slightly more radical version of Conservatism?





Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *