Can I get a mass party of the left, please?
Sir Keith Strimmer revealed his true colours (blue?) quite quickly after assuming the leadership of the Labour Party. This has led to much discussion both inside and outside the party about whether socialists should leave and form a new party of the left. A socialist party, in fact.
I’m pleased to say that I left Labour the day after The Strimmer was announced as leader. I didn’t have any foreknowledge that he would be quite so disastrous a leader but my reasons for leaving were straightforward. As a socialist, I had never seen a reason to join Labour, but I joined to vote for and support Jeremy Corbyn, and I left when he was no longer leader. Although I believed that Sir Strimmer was one of the main reasons behind the disastrous 2019 election result, with Corbyn gone, it was clear that Labour’s once in a generation flirtation with the left was once again over.
There are left wing parties out there. Is there room for a new one? Possibly. However, remaining within Labour and thinking that there is any possibility of advancing socialism from there smacks to me of a combination of wishful thinking and laziness. The laziness that comes with the comfort of a party with large membership. So I think the only chance of success for a new party of the left depends on a majority of those who joined or re-joined Labour under Corbyn to switch en masse. This is not a guarantee of electoral success, of course. It will only generate funds. There have been desertions from Labour since the purge of the left began but, to be frank, not enough — and not quickly.
Would I vote for a credible socialist party at an election? Yes, in short. Then again, it’s an easy choice for me because I live in a constituency that is a Tory safe seat. Then again, with the proposed boundary changes and with Scotland lost to Labour for ever, an increasing number of English seats appear to be safe for the Tories. A party offering mild rebukes to the corporate class and pandering to business and repeating the old canards about spending and cuts and taxation is not going to instil a new generation of voters with passion — or even hope. After all, it was the centrist bromides of Clinton and Obama that led us to Trump. And the long decline of hope under Blair that brought us Johnson ultimately. A party of the centre always finds itself drifting ever to the right.
And speaking of Scotland, I remember when the SNP was considered a joke, both inside and outside Scotland. When they won a Westminster seat, it was thought a flash in the pan. Look at them now. A new party with a purpose, a strong message, and a grassroots network that links movements and communities may not win many seats at a first election. But this is about the long term, despite the fact that ‘long term’ is becoming increasingly relative with the planet burning.
I suspect, too, that in the not-too-distant future The Strimmer will want to pursue his own Clause IV moment and suggest the time has come to rename the Labour Party. After all, the name has overtones of, well working and the working class. Surely that connection is now redundant, they will say. The new party should describe where the true interests of its members lie. A focus group will be set up. Brand managers will be hired. And after many hundreds of thousands of man-hours and many hundreds of thousands of membership fees, the new name will be presented. Something bland like The Centrist Party, perhaps. More on the nail, do you think? How about the Neo Liberals?
[this post first appeared on grahamdstewart.com]