Thoughts on Labour’s future
What went wrong with Ed Miliband’s campaign? The public saw through it
I’m a Labour Party member. I also voted Labour in the recent election. Yet I woke on May 8th and I was not at all saddened by their election defeat.
This past week I’ve been reflecting on why that might be.
I joined the Labour party because I believe in a democratic society where everyone gets a chance to succeed in life.
I also believe in market capitalism — competition, generally is a good thing, it complements human nature. I also recognise that competition has a habit of favouring the powerful, and as such, those with less power need a helping hand and those with more sometimes need holding back.
The Government’s job is to keep the market in check for the good of society and taxes are their main tool. Taxing and spending helps ensure the rich don’t hold so much power that the poor don’t stand a chance. Wealth redistribution often helps to keep the playing field level, but that doesn’t mean wealth redistribution should be the aim itself. Taking money from the rich to give to the poor is pointless if all it achieves is to remove the motivation for the poor to aspire.
Ed Miliband’s vision for the Labour party seemed to suggest the rich should be punished for being rich and the poor rewarded for being poor. Logically, this leads nowhere.
Ed’s headline tax suggestion was a Mansion Tax. Take money from the “rich” and give it to…well…that wasn’t really clear, but maybe the NHS. Would it make houses more affordable? No. Would it make the lives of the working class better? Unlikely. Would it even trouble the mega rich it seemed designed to punish? Nope.
It was a spectacular flop; a failed example of trying to marry up left wing fundamentalism with populism. The public saw through it.
Maybe I’m a Tory in Labour Clothing…
It’s left me wondering, am I actually left wing? If the lefties believe in punishing the rich to reward the poor, I don’t think I can join them.
However, I’m not sure I can be a Tory. Conservatives seem to view competition as an unquestionably good thing - believing if you leave the market to it’s own devices, the desire to be rich should be enough to motivate everyone to work to that end. Taking away state support (welfare) will only further motivate the poor to get off their backsides, or so goes the logic.
Sadly, I know this to be untrue. Most of the unemployed/on benefits are there because they have no marketable skills, if we didn't give them welfare they'd starve.
Leaving the market unquestionably to it’s own devices will lead to a society with a powerful, small, very rich elite and poor majority unable to jump the gap. Forcing an open market on certain sectors such as education and the NHS, while also keeping them free at the point of use, proveably doesn’t work. It’s like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. There is still a place for the state sector. Government needs to step in at times, but only a little bit. All welfare has to be evaluated — is it helping or hindering? Privatisation should be compared objectively to state run services. Ideology shouldn’t be guiding policy, evidence should.
Labour needs to swing back to the centre. Those lashing out on social media at the Tories for being poor-hating need to take a chill pill. Tory policies may sometimes hurt the poor, but suggesting that is their intent is unhelpful (and wrong). There are plenty of Labour policies that have backfired and hurt the poor. It does not mean they hate them.
Where does that leave me?
There is a gap in the British political spectrum. New Labour filled that gap perfectly. It made mistakes, sure, but they can be learned from. Their humane approach to free market capitalism matched up this country’s heritage for aspiration with it’s help-each-other-out comradery.
Unless the party moves that way in the next few years I will be cancelling my membership, as I’m sure will many other right minded people.
Where we will end up is a bigger question. Will a new centre party pop up? Will the Tories try to capitalise on their success by softening their touch?
It’s going to be an interesting 5 years.