July 9, 2010 2 Comments
Using figures noted by Harriet Harman recently, Ellie Gellard, Labour’s social networking guru, reminded us that 30,000 people have joined the Labour party since the election, people who, presumably, no longer think it useful to begin and end ones political input at the ballot box.
Gellard believes that Harman’s figures, based on research undertaken by the Labour party, show a surge in youthful radicalism, which will hopefully spur on a new politics in the Labour party.
One of the complaints that I hear by many outside the Labour party is that there is not enough will inside the party for it to return to it’s grassroots. The Labour left is a spent force and most inside the CLP and PLP have washed their hands of it. There are more Tom Harris’ than most of us would care to admit, not to mention the unelectability of the party were it to return to explorations of class and wealth inequality.
But if the above claims by Gellard are able to be substantiated – which I’ve little reason to believe would be otherwise – then the next generation of Labour activists are going to be expecting a little more than complacency than is present among many at both constituency and parliamentary level.
This complacency occurs because trends may reveal certain earmarked areas not having a history of Labour rebels, but safe, toe firmly to line, New Labourites. The culture we are left with is Labour leaders who do not reflect activists, but second guess the electorate as a whole, without the stomach to promote change. This kind of politics might have been justified in the recent past, for keeping majorities, but politics is moving on; past risk aversity in leading Labour members has done nothing to promote the party as one of fairness, not forgetting that most have joined the party because it appeals also to those whose voices can often not be heard loud enough.
Having leading Labour party members not take risks by listening to the voiceless has meant that the big society – the way the Tories see it – had its prototype in the last few years of politics; fairness as an agenda only if it pleased those people in communities with the most political clout.
Having a party that accepts it won’t please all of the people all of the time, but is reflective of an emerging drive at the membership level to restore grassroots issues, that identifies injustices in the way cuts are being dealt, and that puts pressure on its leaders to avoid complacency, will be better for the party, be better for new members, and be better for democracy.
The way this complacency within the Labour party has expressed itself in society has been the rise of fringe parties. I’ve little doubt, as contentious as this may seem for some, that there are some people within the green movement, within the vast array of far left movements, and even really disaffected voters who have disasterously fallen into the BNPs trap, whose natural home is the Labour party. But the desire to stand for what is right has been replaced with the impossible mission to try and please all the people all the time, and it has to end.
Perhaps change will come on the advent of a new voting system. With a more proportional system, the main parties will have to step up their campaign to stop voters turning to fringe or single issue parties.
What I detect often in the argument against AV and other more proportional systems, and the fear that the far right will benefit from them, is complacency again. It is not the electoral system which is to blame for the rise in the BNP, it is the complacent attitude towards the disaffected in society and the negative effects of only listening to tub-thumping and loud noises from the loudest speakers. This is not the future, and it should be done away with before it spells the end.