15th January, 2016
Who are you calling hard right? A search for Labour’s moderates
In the wake of the long reshuffle, John McDonnell accused moderates within the Labour Party of being hard-right. This is not totally surprising as Corbyn supporters have long been tweeting that Progress members are the extremists of the Labour Party, and that they, the Corbynistas are the moderate majority now. Matters have even reached the point where a petition was set up through Change.org with the intention to stop centrists being referred to as moderate at all!
We can have a look at who are the moderates and who are the extremists in this equation. This may be harder than it sounds, but here are some definitions from the Oxford Dictionary to start us off:
Moderate: “(Of a person, party, or policy) not radical or excessively right- or left-wing” or “Average in amount, intensity, quality, or degree”
Extreme: “(Of a person or their opinions) far from moderate, especially politically” or “Not usual; exceptional”.
This graph from the Institute for Fiscal Studies has been shared a lot on social media, and it appears to demonstrate that the government of Tony Blair seemed very concerned with the rapid alleviation of absolute poverty among various groups. The government could have been accused of making “extreme” progress in this area, with radical policies such as the minimum wage and Sure Start.
Contrast that with the Corbynistas who do not exhibit similar urgency in helping those who suffer under the Tories. They are happy to tell us to “give Corbyn a chance” and seem less concerned with ensuring that we have the confidence we have a leader who will win in 2020.
A couple of months ago I went to a celebration of the work of volunteers at a local food bank. It was a great evening with cake and singing. Perhaps it is not a problem to some in the Labour Party that we will be forced to keep the food bank open for many years to come.
The Labour government slashed the numbers of hereditary peers in 1999 from over 800 to just 92. That could be described as “extreme”, and we can make the comparison with Corbyn’s friends at Stop the War who would have wanted to uphold the hereditary principle in Iraq and allow Saddam Hussein to remain in power to hand over to his sons one day. Many Corbynites take a moderate and not so radical approach and seem untroubled to allow the tradition of birthright to continue within the Assad family.
On the subject of foreign policy, Blair’s international interventions in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan may seem extreme to many Corbynistas. However, they emulate the approach of Attlee who recognised our obligation in the Korean War. How preferable it is than to look to Miliband for our example and carry on with the supposed avoidance of the “rush to war” in Syria.
The troubles of Northern Ireland could have seemed intractable, so Blair’s government could have been accused of exhibiting “extreme” ambition by standing up and instigating the end process which culminated in the Good Friday agreement. Corbyn moderated his criticism and invited those who represent the terrorists over for a cup of tea and politely observed the silences at the funerals of those very terrorists.
Centrists will take on radical positions to improve peoples’ lives that today’s Labour Party would be incapable of.
I remember it all being so much easier when I first thought about politics. I was thirteen and I just dreamed of maturity as I would be able to vote Labour!
The simple narrative I was fed was that the right-wing supported the interests of the well-off, and that the left-wing stood up for broadly everyone else. I later enjoyed living under the New Labour governments and found that the centrists who were accused of being close to the dreaded Tories were actually the ones who created opportunities for the poor and had the policies that would provide everyone with the economy under which they could thrive, along with a responsible society which kept people safer, better educated and with the best healthcare we had ever known.
Then this summer I sat on the phone bank for a leadership candidate, speaking to people in my local area. To my dismay I found Labour members who would vote for Jeremy Corbyn, even though they knew he will never win an election and become Prime Minister. It does not matter to them if the Tories remain in power. All that counts is that we are a “pure, socialist Labour party”. My thoughts are, that maybe it is alright for them to think that way, but what about the millions of us who need a Labour government?!
An article in the Financial Times appears to argue (even with little more than snapshots and anecdotal evidence) that the massive increase in Labour party membership has been in the most in the more affluent areas.
My conclusion will have to be that the current leadership of the Labour Party attracts many amongst the well-off, as the party will facilitate the indulgences of pure socialist ideals. The moderates within Labour actually want to do something helpful and positive for the poor, winning elections and introducing revolutionary policies as they have done with great acclaim, such as the NHS in the time of the moderate Attlee.
The present Labour approach turns the narrative of my teenage years completely on its head, and leaves me wondering just who it is, who really represents the working class now.
Corbyn’s Labour is making only average efforts towards fighting for a Labour government – anyone up for signing a petition for Corbyn’s instant resignation now?
By Paddington Baby