Owen Jones wrote a piece on Labour’s ‘existential crisis’ in which he said that the left as a whole is on the cusp of a total disaster. Whilst I agree with much of what he wrote I can’t help but reflect that far from being on the cusp of a disaster the left in the UK is right in the middle of one.
The Labour leadership campaign highlights the paucity of ideas, the one candidate who offered something different was rejected and what she offered wasn’t policy or particular insight it was the fact that she was a woman, something that the Labour and Liberal parties, despite campaigning for equality of opportunity, seem unable to accept in a leader.
Owen Smith the ‘I am not Jeremy’ candidate has little chance of being the next leader and I’m sure he knows it. His likely defeat will leave the majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party in the paradoxical situation of supporting a candidate who they say might win an election but who can’t even win an election of their own members.
Alas Owens Smith and Jones sit facing each other unable to articulate how to get out of this mess.
The voters provided much of the liberal establishment with a bloody nose in the recent Brexit coup; some on the left could see the revolt was going to happen but were powerless to do anything about it. People who voted for remain and those who voted leave did so for a number of reasons, however a number voted for, what could be termed, a reactionary revolution, this reaction against the London-centric elite, was most obviously seen in areas which were once Labour but never anything less than conservative with a small c.
The moment when Eddie Izzard started berating Nigel Farage on Question Time during the referendum campaign encapsulated this reactionary revolution better than any other. Izzard thought he spoke for everyone, he sensed that right was on his side… but he was being left behind. Izzard began with ‘stats’ and ‘facts’, he berated Farage and was told to shut up by a member of the audience. Izzard predicted Scotland would leave the UK and that Wales would follow… then he talked about transgender and running marathons and how brave he is, and one can only wonder how this went down with the voters who were drawn to UKIP. Izzard boasted of reaching out to those in France and Germany; his is a liberal, tolerant, ‘global’ viewpoint that misses one important part of the international picture… his own backyard.
These people have felt left behind for years.
As Owen Jones asks: “So what is a clear vision for Labour that will resonate beyond those who, on social media and in rallies?” To this question there is no answer as far too many in the party have forgotten about the value of home, community, institutions, family and nationhood, and all these areas are being lost to Conservative doctrine. The ‘liberal’ intelligentsia is now being left behind. With no narrative to offer, they can only fight each other from the sidelines. Corbynista, Soft, or even Blairite left, they are united by inability to know what they are for and their own inability to engage with others outside their own cliques yet quick to turn on each other as the ‘Blairite traitor’ Owen Jones has found to his cost.
Until Labour can offer a galvanising message and a series of policies that address people in their communities it has no chance. Labour will remain left behind if it gives up on family and flag. It needs to rebuild a belief in institutions rather than in managerialism, community rather than in globalism and in patriotism as an alternative to our splintering nationalisms.