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Labour in Britain May 15, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Very interesting piece here in the LRB on the situation of the BLP at the moment. From a largely sympathetic position in regard to Corbyn it does make some fairly important points – that the increased membership alone isn’t enough to connect more widely and that there has been too much optimism in that regard. Another is that the roots of the present crisis developed in the Blair years – particularly in attitudes to immigrants and immigration. And in relation to Brexit…

It isn’t that class ceased to exist, or that people ceased to feel they belonged to the working class – marked inequalities in health, education, security of employment and pay shape self-perception and the perception of others in much the same way today as they did fifty years ago – but that, as both Labour and the Conservatives converged on the profitable electoral ground represented by an expanding middle class, they effectively restricted political choice: working-class people could not vote along ‘class lines’ because no one seemed to represent them. One result has been that in the last ten years, Ukip in England and the SNP in Scotland have hoovered up working-class votes, using differently defined nationalisms to attract them. But the more significant consequence has been that many working-class people, whose rates of electoral participation once barely differed from those of the middle classes, have stopped voting altogether: among them are some of the now famous five million working-class voters who abandoned Labour between 1997 and 2010. Evans and Tilley show that the EU referendum brought out working-class voters because it finally allowed their political preferences – for immigration control and the return of sovereignty – to be ‘expressed unambiguously at the ballot box’.

I think that last is very persuasive. As is this:

The gamble Corbyn and his supporters have made is nowhere near as foolish as political commentators have made it out to be, or as the result of the general election may make it appear to have been. The Corbynite analysis of the malign effects of New Labour’s ‘post-class’ politics, and the political vacuum it opened up, is entirely borne out by the statistical evidence presented by Evans and Tilley. They are also right about where New Labour went wrong. And it is not the case, as Blair and his allies sometimes seem to suggest, that the old coalition is waiting patiently to be stitched back together again. There is no reason why a plea to ‘do things differently’ couldn’t work: the gamble has been that the public are sufficiently disillusioned and dissatisfied with politics-as-usual (which they are) that they will vote for radical change (which they’ve already done once, in choosing to leave the EU). The problem is that while May and the Conservatives have looked at the post-New Labour landscape with clear eyes, the Corbynites, like the Blairites, have looked at it predominantly through the lens of Labour history.

Christ knows, though, it’s not an optimistic piece. And how could it be. Perhaps as the concluding paragraphs note there is an argument for hunkering down and hoping matters break in a direction that further down the line will work for the BLP, and more importantly those it represents. One has to hope so.

BTW, one last quote worth considering.

What is not so frequently mentioned is that much of the conservatism of the Labour Party when it came to the empire, monarchy, the armed services and so on was dictated by the views of its working-class base.

Perhaps that overstates matters, and one would have to wonder at this point how much bearing it has, but as a factor inflecting the BLP it is undeniable.

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