Should Labour lurch left?

Helen Goodman MP argues today that Labour should adopt policies that enhance liberty and equality. She says the party allowed its "bossy tendency too much free rein".

Labour MP and former pensions minister, Helen Goodman, argues today that, as it considers how to respond to the coalition government, Labour should adopt policies that enhance liberty and equality. Labour, in power, allowed its “bossy tendency too much free rein” and allowed other parties to “outflank us rhetorically and criticise our record on equality”.

In a new paper, published by Left Foot Forward, “Stuck in the middle? Should Labour lurch to the left or stay on the centre ground?“, Helen Goodman – who is supporting Ed Miliband in the leadership race – uses a liberal/authoritarian axis and an equality/inequality axes to argue that:

“There now seems to be a growing consensus (which I share) that we need to become more “liberal”

“[We also need] more energetic policies to deliver social justice and better communications [of those policies].

In relation to civil liberties, Ms Goodman says:

“we gather that in the coalition negotiations AV and the abolition of the DNA database were offered. On reading this, many of us were left wondering why we’d had them in the manifesto anyway! …

“there is also a good case for arguing that actually the last government did allow Labour’s bossy tendency too much free rein – and not just on the big issues like ID cards – also in allowing the development, especially at local authority level of a risk minimisation culture which is self-defeating.”

On equality, Goodman asks:

“How was it that despite the fact that our policies in government and our prospectus for the future (minimum wage, tax credits) were way more distributive than those of the opposition parties (inheritance tax cuts etc.) they were able to outflank us rhetorically and criticise our record on equality?”

Download the full paper here.

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27 Responses to “Should Labour lurch left?”

  1. irene rukerebuka

    Yes. >>RT @leftfootfwd: Should Labour lurch left? Unravelling the strategic dilemma

  2. James Shirtcliffe interesting graph. I agree that labour are about right on social equality but FAR too authoritarian (more than tories)

  3. Ryan Bestford

    Should Labour lurch left? – (via @leftfootfwd)

  4. LCID

    RT @leftfootfwd: Should Labour lurch left? Unravelling the strategic dilemma

  5. Guido Fawkes

    No, no, no, shift left and elect Ed Balls as leader please.

  6. Bhaskar Dasgupta

    Should Labour lurch left? lol, sign of times when Labour has to ask if it should move left. #ukpolitics

  7. Rupert Read

    Come off it, Guido; Ed Balls would hardly be a shift to the Left! Balls, like Brown was, is trueNewLabour.

    The whole discussion here is prejudiced by the term ‘lurch’. Why not consider the possibility that some genuine Leftism – some genuine interest in equality as a value, for instance – might help Labour to recover some sense of what it stands for, after the disastrous hollowing-out process of New Labour.

    Be confident in this: If Labour elects a right-winger – a New-Labourite such as Balls or one of the Millibands – as its new Leader, it will be challenged strongly FROM the Left. By Caroline Lucas MP, among others. The Green Party believes in equality as a value, and as a guide for evaluating policy-instruments. Check out our manifesto from the General Election, if you want to know more about what I mean.

    The graph above is hopelessly crude, in that it represents liberty as one thing. But liberty is an incoherent value: it can mean everything from abolishing inheritance tax to opposing ID cards to introducing a basic (or ‘citizens’) income. Are the poor freer in a society where inheritance tax has been abolished, or where there is a decent basic income for all?

    If you play the game of opposing liberty to equality, you are playing into the hands of right-wingers. In which case, you will indeed think of any move to the left as a regrettable ‘lurch’.

  8. Bernard Randall

    RT @leftfootfwd: Should Labour lurch left? Unravelling the strategic dilemma

  9. NormalBloke

    Liberalism is where the coalition is at – liberal on social issues, liberal on economics. And there is the conundrum- how can labour make its self of value – could it move further left and thus away from enabling wealth creation and closer yet to entrapping people on benefits or by moving to the right – oops the middle liberal ground is already occupied! The progressives are on the right of the Liberals and the Left of the Conservatives. The Labour Party are struggling to find an answer because they have the legacy of 13 yrs of misrule big govt , spin lies and deceit to contend with. So another question – how can Labour build trust – remove mandy, campbell, Balls and Draper would be a good start – there has to be a move from the past.

  10. Harry Barnes

    It would be an advance in the Labour Party if it accepted that the expression of democratic socialist views and influences were acceptable within its ranks – including there having a legitimate role to play within the PLP. This would be aided by the democratisation of the Labour Party itself and greater parliamentary freedoms for back-bench Labour MPs (which is aided by being in opposition, one of its few advantages). The left itself has responsibities in furthering such a pattern. The Socialist Campaign group needs to look beyond its bunker and those with a soft left/labourite past need to put their heads back up above the parapet.

  11. Martin Burns

    RT @leftfootfwd: Should Labour lurch left? Unravelling the strategic dilemma

  12. Matt M

    The leadership candidates need to be careful here. It is one things to constructively criticise the last government’s errors in order to learn from them, it is quite another to engage in rudderless self-flagellation. The mantra “Beyond New Labour” will I expect within the next few months cloak all sorts of wierd and wonderful ideas as to where the Labour Party should be centred, some of which will be poles apart but all of which will be united in a desire to unequivocally bury the past thirteen years. If “re-connection” and “re-engagement” are to be the new leader’s watchwords, they will certainly not be achieved by endless self-recrimination, which will have as devastating an impact as the worst sort of negative campaigning.

    It is worth remembering if but for a second why the reorientation towards New Labour was so necessary, both philosophically and politically, before the Labour Party starts to wield its own destructive axe.

  13. Billy Blofeld

    “bossy tendency”

    ….. amongst other outrages Labour stated a war.

  14. Ex Labour Voter - 2010

    Labour become totally out of touch, undemocratic, obsessed with ineffective authoritarianism and too centralising. Far too willing to sign up to the EU and its undemocratic institutions.

    Personally I would like to see the Labour Party take far more notice of the Labour Euro Safeguards Campaign instead of the Leaderships obsession with being part of a federal EU.

    I don’t ever want to see again the grotesque spectacle of a Labour leadership joining with the EU political class to ignore the voters in democratic referendums against the peoples of Europe (Ireland, France and Holland). The failure to uphold the 2005 manifesto commitment of a promised referendum on the EU Constitution was a real low point for Labour and democracy. The backstage deals and lies to cover this up were even more degrading.

    Labour is supposed to be the party of the people not the political class!

    Labour also has the best MP in Parliament, Frank Field MP and I would like
    to see the Labour Party start listening to Frank a lot more, particularly on the subject of immigration.

    Frank’s think tank is a useful reference point.

    Unfit for office in 2010 and rightly kicked out!

  15. Jacquie Martin

    Spot on Baskhar. What a question indeed!

    New Labour lost sight of its values fairly early on resulting in a complete loss of integrity by the time it was finished.

    The heirarchy spent too much time hanging out with extremely rich people. They seemed oblivious to the inequality which was happening all around them.

    This LibDem group is filled with the same type of confidence tricksters as Tony Blair was. People will see that eventually.

    But the Labour party need to concentrate its efforts on understanding and committing to help the large numbers of people who feel they have no hope of ever making their lives better.

    Gordon Brown doubling the stamp duty threshold to 250k was a prime example of simply not understanding what is going on in the outside world. Not everyone knows someone who can lend them huge amounts of money, beyond their obvious means to repay, like Peter Mandelson did.

    There’s far too many depressed people who feel worthless because politicians bang on about money and wealth all of the time and act like it’s the holy grail. Anyone who’s got nothing is worth nothing is the message.

    Of course, they need to be more left. Get in touch with who they were formed to represent – the ordinary prols. Stop acting like they’re an embarrassment.

  16. Jacquie Martin

    Sorry, errors in above. What are the head honchos called? LibDemCons, ConDemLibs? Instantly forgettable, to me.

    Also, stamp duty raised for 1st time buyers only.

    Aplogies. Inequality and enforced lack of social mobility makes steam come out of my ears.

  17. rjb

    Why “lurch” left? Agreeably alliterative, I’ll grant you, but why not discuss the ways that Labour has reeled right over the last fifteen years?

    The centre-ground, at any rate, is not exactly prime real-estate at present. Let’s assume the governing coalition has that covered.

  18. Fat Bloke on Tour

    The whole exercise shouts of Q+D analysis done by crayon.
    The level of overlap between the parties is totally out of kilter with what the parties would actually do in practise.

    Labour = Close to the centre because it has a record to defend.
    LibDems = Middle class welfare state / motherhood and apple pie to everyone else.
    What happens in practice, Orange Bookers call the shots and they end up being Tories without the kicking boots on.
    Tories = The box may be where Clan Cameron want to be but as time will soon tell the Maggie lovers will soon put a stop to that.

    Labour lost the election for many reasons.

    Since 97 they have lacked confidence and imagination.
    They were too rational and lacked emotion.
    Their ranks were filled by too many metropolitan, middle class, professional politicians, a failing that the leadership election reinforces to a degree beyond parody.

    Consequently the 2D analysis is far too simplistic.
    Any progress towards a successful labour government has to include the following:

    Making the state work — Too many good ideas were poorly implemented. Managerial competency over the state apparatus has to improve. Ministers being moved every 12 months is a recipe for disaster.

    Making the state work for people — Too much effort was put into controlling the officers of the state without taking into account how this would affect their relationship with the people.

    The party has to become more blue collar / working class. We have to be the party of the poor and the underprivileged and we need to see the world through their eyes. Consequently a quota has to be placed on Oxbridge graduates coming from professional homes and entering politics through the SpAd route.

    People have to understand what government is trying to do — KISS.
    Transparency has to be introduced throughout society, private sector as well as public.
    Public services need to be improved for those at the bottom in a non prescriptive, non patronising manner.
    Taxes need to become simpler, more comprehensive and more transparent.
    Working class issues need to come to the fore — Fairness, opportunity, improved public services and social mobility need to come first.
    The middle class liberal agenda needs to be put on the back burner, needs work and should be implemented at a gradual pace in a non threatening manner.
    Too often the Trendy Wendy’s in the party were implementing policy to impress their dinner party guests and not help the people at the bottom.

    Basic point in all of this is that if the state wants to do something it has to do it well and it has to generate the results that the policy was set up to do.

  19. Robert

    It would be nice if somebody did remember us at the bottom, I’ve a disability we are being attacked from all sides at the moment, the best bet for me voting this time around was to sit at home because everyone wants us dead.

    I had an accident at work breaking my back damaging my spinal cord I had to have three disc removed and the last one gave me MRSA for god sake why is it I’m not the baddie

  20. victor bernhardtz

    helen goodman, former @UKLabour pensions minister, wants a more liberal labour. message weird, cool usage of graphs.

  21. Bham Labour Students lots of people have been asking me to get Labour to "lurch left". BULS itself debates these issues regularly!

  22. Confused of Croydon

    Well said, Fat Bloke!

  23. Tom Miller

    I think this is a very fair point. Leadership candidates should be setting out an agenda for personal freedom.

    But I do hate all this language about ‘lurching’, which gets applied to any leftward move. I don’t think your headline helps, to be honest. It builds us into an ideological paradigm which was first conceived to limit us anyway.

  24. Chris Atkins

    And why not a lurch? Wouldn’t it serve to counteract the 13 year neo-libral slither that lost the last election?

  25. Robert

    New Labour does what new Labour does, end of story with a leadership contest looking like a new Labour stitch up with the Miliband brothers, it looks like I will be a long time out of the New Labour camp, and a long time before i bother voting again.

  26. tracy j

    new Labour was a disaster. it was so far from real Labour values. Miliband will be a disaster for the Labour party. he is just Blair mark II without any bollox

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