For four years the vast majority of progressives in the Labour Party have watched in painful tedious silence as the Labour Party marched merrily down the road to nowheresville. Unlike the hard left of Labour and the Trade Unions, the majority of Labour members are intrinsically loyal to the leadership, whomever that may be, so we kept our opinions to ourselves about the national approach, tried to carry out a progressive Labour agenda wherever we could in our local areas, and enabled a national picture of Labour Party unity to prevail.
And now, there is anger. Lots of it. Five terrible, wasted years, which have left Labour unelectable throughout most of the country. And now we need to have – again – that generational fight about the purpose of the Labour Party. Any progressive candidate for the Leadership has to be prepared to face down the regressive forces in the Party. They have to be prepared to for lots of angry-protest-activists to walk away, they have to be prepared for a showdown with the unions, and they have to be strong enough to fight those within the Party who will keep Labour out of power for a generation.
There are those (of us) in the Labour Party who see winning power as pretty fundamental to fulfilling Labour’s moral purpose. There are those who believe that winning power is a compromise too far with the electorate. And there are those, like Ed MIliband, who certainly recognise that winning power is necessary but, through what appears to be an almost superhuman capacity for cognitive dissonance, insist Labour wheels out the same unelectable offer to the electorate again and again and again.
They just don’t understand. The people of this country don’t demand politicians who agree with every last part off their world view. The vast majority of people don’t demand ideological purity of the left/right/liberal/conservative/secular/religious/and-so-on variety – what they want is something far more achievable, far more reasonable: respect. Not of the ‘when I see a white van’ variety, but a genuine respect that is borne of familiarity, understanding and yes, even affection, for the way they live their lives. Whoever understand this most will be given the opportunity to govern and implement their policy programme. Whoever doesn’t, won’t.
If you have contempt for the people of this country who didn’t vote Brand-Jones-Miliband, please, please get the hell out of mainstream British politics, because you have done far more harm than good.
And where was the contrition in defeat? Where was the humility? Saying “I take full responsibility” doesn’t actually mean anything if it isn’t followed up with ‘therefore today I am asking all those who continue to demand the Labour Party does more of the same, to accept that we lost, we lost comprehensively, our policy programme and rhetoric was rejected, utterly, abysmally, by the British people. We must return to the radical centre and rebuild our Party as one fit to govern for the country as a whole.’ Instead we got one that basically said, ‘You’re welcome! I’ve taken us this far, thank you for the selfies, and the millifandom, wasn’t it fun, didn’t we all have a great time, I’ve done my part, now it’s time for you to do yours’.’ Yes, Ed you did indeed do your part. You gave us a Tory majority government, and an unelectable Labour Party. Again.
Now his supporters are lamenting the loss as though it is absolutely everyone elses’ fault. Dewy-eyed pictures of Ed tweeted with the words, ‘you lived your life like a candle in the wind.’ Comments about Ed still having a soul and so being a better man than David Cameron, so really he’s the winner here. “Ed, you didn’t deserve this!” “How could they do this to you?” This is not about one man. Labour politics is far too important to be a vanity project, an ego trip for those who should just know better. Labour politics are the urgent pursuit of power to help the largest number of people to live happy, healthy lives. It’s not complicated, it’s not dogmatic, it’s just so bloody obvious.
Now it’s time to rebuild the Labour Party this country deserves, needs, and – critically – wants.