What on earth is happening in the Labour Party?

You might have thought from the Tory tabloid screams at Ed’s conference speech plus the sidelining of the three older Blairites in the reshuffle that the Labour Party was taking a sharp turn to the left.   Nothing could be further from the truth: plus ca change, plus la meme chose.   The Left has been dropped or shunted out of sight, whilst the Right is everywhere dominant both in the shadow cabinet and in the Leader’s office.   If this were a plausible plan for restoring a demoralised party or for winning an election, there might be a case for this.   But it isn’t.   The new incumbent at DWP loses no time at all in repeating the mantra of her predecessor, which had made him so unpopular within the party, that ‘Labour will be tougher than the Tories on benefits’.   Her new colleague at education, equally untried, has immediately cosied up to a version of Gove’s free schools and has said Labour will put ‘rocket boosters’ under parent-led academies.   With Labour still stuck to the Tories’ expenditure cuts and presenting no clear alternative to austerity, this is clearly a consolidated shift to the Right.

It generates problems at almost every level.   First, unless the policy review produces some unexpected surprises, it offers at the level of fundamentals very little difference from the Tories which might encourage people to vote Labour.   Second, it raises real questions about how policy is now made within the party.   The Labour Party used to be a democratic party in which policy was actively debated through political education and campaigned for up and down the country until finally settled through negotiation and votes at conference between party and leadership.   That process is now defunct, or at least tranquillised, and replaced by top-down ex cathedra proclamation without apparently either consultation or consent (just like the Tories one might add).

Third, when is the party going to start addressing the fundamentals rather than simply tweaking Tory policies?   Instead of protecting flank by saying we’ll be even tougher on welfare than the Tories (a pretty depressing prospect for everyone except the Daily Mail), why do we not point out that the right way to deal with the problem is not by punishing people for failing to get jobs which are non-existent, but by public investment to stimulate jobs and growth which will get people off benefits altogether?   And why don’t we, instead of aping Gove with Gove-lite policies, assert that success in education lies not with surface concerns about school ownership, but with the inspiration of the head teacher and the quality of all the teaching staff, as well as much more attention to the role of home and community on educational performance?


real problem is obviously Osborne’s economic policy keeping 2.5 million workers unemployed at a massive cost to taxpayers of over £18bn a year,

9 thoughts on “What on earth is happening in the Labour Party?

  1. unless you in the Labour party don’t turn left and start to become a credible alternative you’ll be consigned to the dustbin of history. Get rid of Millipede he’s got the political nous of a whale and the charisma of a dead rat. Start to trust the people and stop – yes stop, fearing the right-wing media. These people will attack you whatever you do – so ignore them and do what needs to be done. Take the utilities back into public ownership shut the tax loopholes which allow giant corporations to pay no tax, stop nuclear new build, scrap trident, tax bank transactions, cut out the bonus culture. Stop attacking the poor and start attacking the Tories and big business end the £4 billion subsidy to the oil industry, expand renewables and create a level playing field with the cost of feed in tariffs – and start to look like the opposition not Tory Red

  2. Dear Mr. Meacher,
    What an excellent article, it echoes what I have felt for some time. The people of this country, those who do not campaign, write to MP’s or attend council or political meetings, are desperate for a party which rejects the both the Tory right-wing and Blairite alternatives.
    People are not turning to UKIP because they are desperate for a referendum, indeed, most would not bother to vote, if election trends are an indication. They want an alternative which offer a real difference, a party which would tackle tax avoidance and gather the billions recovered to offer real, solid help to the ever-growing ranks of the needy, not pathetic gimmicks and sound bites.
    The increasing calls for re-nationalisation, and anger expressed on social media regarding the sell-off (under-valued, of course) of the Royal Mail indicate to me a huge swing in public opinion to the left.
    Sadly that “left” is devoid of any credible Party to garner the votes.
    I wish you well in your attempts to wake up the Labour Party. I have told a friend, a Labour Councillor, that I cannot join the Party while it supports the rich at the expense of the poor, albeit by default.
    Yours sincerely,
    Neil Godwin

  3. as an ex-party member with a multi-generational history of labour activism it’s heartening to read your blog –

    I’m considering rejoining – Blair pushed me to the limit much, Iraq pushed me over the edge – but Cameron is pushing me back – but Blair’s de-democratisation of the party is one of the things that most puts me off returning to the fold –

    The lack of fire from the leadership is stunning – no mention of the corporate dominated tory agenda – weak handling of the NHS privatisation – an issue where the public are on our side and where groups like NHS Action are spoonfeeding the ammunition, complete silence in the wake of Osbourne’s idiotic mumbling on “carbon friendly fossil fuels” as he subsidises the fossil energy sector with both direct tax breaks and, by withdrawing increased excise on fuel at still further pain to the exchequer, rather than making energy companies link retail energy costs to the international wholesale market – As for continued support for austerity – despite plenty of evidence of it’s destructiveness –

    Well – it’s why i’m only considering rejoining – my heart’s in Labout but my head is asking me “what’s the point”

  4. Labour as they stand now are no longer a choice for me as a Scottish citizen. I use to vote labour and believed they where the party for the working class but that is further from the truth now.

    I’ll be voting yes come the independence vote and if that doesn’t work I’ll continue to vote SNP.

    Labour are no longer deserving of calling themselves Labour. They are to me a sudo-conservative party and there is no point in voting for you until you reform and remove those that lean to the right from having any power or voice in your party.

  5. I saw this originally as a Facebook shared item. One of the comments accompanying this was; “They won’t change anything whilst they’re worried about capital flight.” My response to that was, “Why should any of them worry about capital flight? Most of the money’s already gone! That’s part of the problem. Labour should consider reoccupying closed factories and create cooperative manufacturing. We should start manufacturing our own products and share profits among the workers. If not, we seriously need to be thinking of any alternatives to the self-destructive neoliberal ideology before it takes us all down.” I would also like to ask you, Mr Meacher, why Labour chooses fiercely right-wing advisers to head “think-tanks” on such important matters as welfare and health? Why aren’t Labour’s advisers at the very least left-of-centre? Don’t the party member MPs have ANY say at all in such matters? I became one of the “defeated” after Tory B’Liar betrayed us so badly. I vowed never to vote again because they’ve all become so beguiled by profit and gain they’ve lost sight of reason and rationality. Then I remembered my history – People died getting us the vote! I truly do not want to be betrayed again! But having seen the Royal Mail sell-off go ahead, despite being against the wishes of more than 64% of the population, I worry about democracy in this country!

  6. It is time that we (members of the Labour Party) had the fruits of Jon Cruddas’ Policy Review to consider and debate. Nor should that debate be confined to those within a Policy Forum (National or Regional)but be opened up to members and non-members alike. Mindful that membership pf the Labour Party is not the sole criteria for voting in a General Election, why not run the Manifesto passed the whole Electorate and call for comments before asking for everybody’s vote. Like we once did !

  7. Mr Miliband. There’s more to leading a poarty than one speech a year. Your new Front Bench not impressive You judge a leader by strength of his team leader. Back in silent mode. You are a liability – 2 steps forward 6 steps backwards. LEAD MAN 7 some strategic labour policy.

  8. I agree with Earl Bramley-Howard above, it sounds like the Green Party is where your mind is.

    If Labour aimed for half of the Green Party’s policies they would win back the left. In the end, those are the things that people want.

    I personally come from a Labour voting family, I turned Lib Dem when I got older seeing how bad Labour were at the time and then became disillusioned by the Lib Dems from the Coalition. When I read the Green Party policies I instantly knew that they want the same country that I do. I’m sure you would be surprised by how many do.

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