Comment: The majority of the British people are not living in hope of a socialist utopia

Now is the time for the left in Britain learn from the electoral successes of the right


The belief that Ed Miliband did not take the party far enough to the left is at best naïve, at worst a potentially catastrophic piece of advice for those now charged with picking a new leader. Sadly if the polls are to be believed, it is a message that is resonating with supporters intent on pushing Jeremy Corbyn into a position as leader of the opposition.

What the wider left has to realise is that the majority of the British people are not living in hope of a socialist utopia, simply waiting for a credible party to put forward that prospectus to lead us away from the horrors of Conservative rule. As much some may wish it – there will never be a sufficient number of people who back a party with policies like those that the Green party stood on in 2015 – it just doesn’t seem credible to most people.

The only Labour government I, and many others, have known in our lifetime was elected on broadly centrist policies with a leftist tinge. Tony Blair’s Labour was by no means perfect – and the Iraq war has left an indelible mark on a whole generation of progressive voters – but the party have spent too long distancing themselves from the popular, election winning, and importantly, left of centre policies that were implemented under Blair’s watch. Imagine what more he may have achieved if there had been a bit more mature, persuasive, internal pressure from the left within New Labour.

Now is the time not for a swing to the left, but for Labour to step back to the centre. To reclaim the ground lost to a still unpopular Tory party. To collect disenfranchised Lib Dem supporters so let down by the ‘rose garden years’.

And now is the time for the rest of the left – the Greens, the ex-Labour SNP voters, the NHS Action party – to accept that the best chance they have of a left of centre government lies with a united left, not in an increasingly noisy, unproductive rabble of progressive parties squabbling amongst themselves. A big tent, with a spectrum of views, but working towards a common cause.

When the Tory party do something its donors disagree with – gay marriage for example, or increasing the national debt – there may be a spot of wailing from the right-wing press, but they don’t take their ball and go home. There aren’t a host of right-wing parties leaching support, pushing the party so far to the right that they would become unelectable. There is a single-issue party – UKIP – pushing the right’s buttons for sure, but despite hopes, seemingly doing more damage to Labour than the Tories.

The pragmatic right, as always, knows on which side its bread is buttered. Stick together, and then once the Conservatives have won, their supporters kick in to action, nicking the best ideas from the opposition while pushing them further right than the manifesto upon which they were elected. That is the time for disagreement, for subtle and not so-subtle pressure to be applied – not when an election is being fought. Then unity is all.

The seven-party debates were illuminating – not because of any great political discourse – but as the human embodiment of the fractured left. A host of political leaders who broadly agree, and would like to see more a more progressive politics in Britain. But rather than fighting a common enemy, they spend their time fighting for the same voters and allowing the Conservatives to march back in to Downing Street when their collective power should be sufficient to block them.

There’s a reason Cameron wanted the Greens in the debate – and not just so he could hide in the background – it takes votes from Labour’s core. The party offers a tantalising alternative prospectus, one which many natural leftist voters may in fact prefer to what has been a more cautious, centrist tone of Labour. But it is not a prospectus that will ever win a democratic election in Britain. Instead of getting on board Corbyn’s band wagon the left must support Labour.

The party needs to be able to rely on those core of voters if it is to succeed more widely in the nation. It cannot spend its time battling the Greens or the Corbynites on its left flank, when all the while the Conservatives are plunging spears into its side from the right.

That’s where the energies must be focused if Labour is to again be an electoral force.

The left must learn it is better for us all if it persuades from within the tent of the Labour movement, not from outside. And that goes not just for the leadership, it is true of the electorate too. Help Labour to a win, then see how far we can push the policies while taking the British people on that journey with us.

I am not a Blairite. I am not trying to destroy the party from the inside. I am a Labour party member that wants to see the party back in power and who realises that it will not be possible to do so if it stands on a manifesto that appeals to just to me, and does not take in to account that I am to the left of the majority of the British electorate.

It is important that we do not just come together over the things with which we dislike on the right – the selfish individualism, the privitisation of public services, the abolition of the human rights act. There are some basic goods that unite the entirety of the left – fairness, social mobility, community, enabling everyone to live a good life, not just those in the ultra-elite.

Traditional Labour supporters who have abandoned the party to either sit at home or vote UKIP must be listened to and engaged with. At the very least they should be able to recognise something of themselves in those who aspire to represent them in Parliament. This is a job for all progressives – the issues of immigration and marginalisation that so enrage those sections of society must be addressed.

The left has a story to tell about what makes a good society which the right will always struggle to match. A party that can marry idealism with pragmatism is best placed to tackle a Conservative party that always struggles to describe what they believe in. Progressive politics is full of the rhetoric of team-work, selflessness, communities – what better way to demonstrate its possibilities than for those that believe in those principles to come together to create a better society, rather than fight amongst themselves over who has the most unblemished socialist/anarcho-syndicalist/environmental credentials.

Democracy is about compromise. Better to compromise and negotiate with the Labour party than harp on from the sidelines at the Conservatives. Together the Labour party, and by extension the left, is strong. Divided they fall.

Now is the time for the left in Britain learn from the electoral successes of the right, grow up and come together around some basic moral values in support of, if not a perfect future, then a better one.

Toby Moses is deputy sport news editor at the Guardian. Follow him on Twitter

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19 Responses to “Comment: The majority of the British people are not living in hope of a socialist utopia”

  1. Rjs2662

    When your starting position is compromise you are bound to fail. Ask Neville Chamberlain.

  2. Asteri

    With bland wishy-washy, “lets be nice to the Tories otherwise they won’t like us” stuff like this its no wonder Corbin is doing so well. The Tory party is not a conservative party, it’s a neo-liberal party of corporate interests and oligarchs. Like Labour, its voters are stuck with no choice other than abstaining. Blair was also never really left-wing, he was a neo-liberal who appealed to Tory voters disenchanted with the discredited, sleazy and unelectable Major government and a elite London clique of Champagne socialists who were too cool for the Tories, his government betrayed every Labour value possible. Blair also wasn’t that successful in elections, he lost seats in the 2001 and 2005 elections while the Tories gained them, the last election Blair won was with a whopping majority of 31, he was lucky and was advantaged by the political climate of the time not out of his own brilliance.

  3. JohnRich

    Common sense comes to LFF !!!!

  4. stevep

    Based on this argument, Labour might as well rename itself the Conservative Labour party.
    Democrat/Republican. Good cop, Bad cop. Light orange, Dark Orange – who cares? As long as it`s the same flavour. We might as well have a one party state.
    Labour gambled years ago that if it shifted to the right in order to appeal to “middle England” and other floating voters, it would take much of it`s core vote with it.
    1997 and the Blair landslide happened because the electorate was sick to their stomach of the Conservatives. One newspaper commented the day after that it felt like getting rid of an occupying force.
    The Core Labour vote has been getting increasingly impatient with them ever since, waiting for core policies to empower working people to appear. Waiting in vain.
    That`s why in 2015, in core Labour areas, the electorate voted for someone else. UKIP, Green, SNP, even Conservative. Their patience had run out.
    If Labour shift further to the right it will become a meaningless party with constantly shifting values as it seeks to sail with the prevailing wind. A bit like the LibDems.
    At least the Conservatives have values, nauseating though they are. They are a Brand and like it or not, most of us buy brands in preference to generic products. That’s why they won.
    Labour needs to stand for something, to fight for something. Working people and democracy would be a start.

  5. madasafish

    Pearls before swine..

    Doctrinal purity is preferable for many Labour supporters rather than the messy compromises of being in power..The Greens no doubt agree.

    After all, what happened to the junior Coalition partner?

    I suspect another 10 years in Opposition awaits till reality dawns..

  6. Matthew Cole

    This is all far too sensible for any self-respecting radical to go along with.

  7. AlanGiles

    Oh well a sports news editor (DEPUTY!) comes in to talk politics .In his prejudiced mind it seems, though he talks a lot about him, he doesn’t want us to see him, so the picture above shows 3 of the candidates (albeit one of them appears to be sleeping), but instead of Jeremy, lovely Tristram, who, while he kisses the backside of LK isn’t actually in the running for the job.

    Perhaps there are just too many “Toby” types trying to jump on the Labour bandwaggon these days – Toby or indeed Tristram, sounds so terribly twee and Surrey.

    I doubt the deputy sports editor, while he is hanging out in the changing rooms, has to cope with living on a part time low paid job, having to count every penny and having to shop at budget supermarkets. Toby Moses needs to get back to what he normally does, and when he grows up he might even become a real editor.

    Sorry but articles like this show just how desperate Labour right-wingers are.

  8. lpa

    Goodby LLF.

    This country is a leading advocate of neoliberalism so it’s no surprise that if anyone wants to read or listen to opinions that are opossed to this ideology they have to dig a little deeper; James O’Brien, parts of the BBC, the New Statesman, the Morning Star and the Guardian all provide an alternative to the government narrative… Left Foot Forward used to be on this list, not anymore. I don’t expect to agree with every article but seriously, this site is too obsessed with party politics, I give up.

  9. Harold

    Find this an interesting debate, the point about the loyalty of the right wing is one I have observed, I have met people seriously worse off due to Tory policies who regardless still vote for them. When I grew up the political history of left v right was readily available, we debated the issues of the day, but for many voters Tony Blair is the only example of a Labour Leader. Labour needs to clearly set out what it is about, why it is different from the Tories. If I am honest I am amazed Labour managed to lose the last election, in that against a Conservative Government who did so much harm, failed to meet its own targets and has little good to show for five years, any serious party should have walked it. Trying to be Tory-light was wrong.

    Yet needs to be a broad church, it cannot become a single issue party nor should potential supports have a position of only supporting if one or another policy is promoted. Labour also needs to learn how to do politics, look at how Osbourne is political is nearly everything he does, Labour was good at Politics at one time, it needs to re-discover the art of winning.

  10. 3948_Bohr

    Reasoned and reasonable comment. It omits, however, discussion of the principal cause of disunity on the broad political left – the right wing of the labour party. In 1981 the split that resulted in the SDP did considerable damage to labour’s electoral prospects for more than a decade. Now, we see Cooper, Kendall and Umunna ( refusing to work in a shadow cabinet led by Corbyn. Perhaps they and others on
    the right of the labour party should also reflect on the need to ‘grow up and come together’.

  11. David Osler

    “Instead of getting on board Corbyn’s band wagon the left must support Labour.”

    Sorry, remind me again … of which party is Mr Corbyn a member?

  12. David Osler

    And also … who has claimed that the majority of the population is living in the hope of a socialist utopia? When did they do so? Links, please?

  13. David McKendrick

    Tony Blair’s landslide Labour government got fewer votes than Neil Kinock. The reason he won was that the Tories were in disarray with infighting and got even fewer votes. During Tony’s stint in power he continued to lose Labour votes.

  14. 3948_Bohr

    Good point. You might add that in England in 2015 Labour attracted slightly more votes than Blair’s Labour in 2005 (8,087,684 vs. 8,043,461). [1, 2]


  15. Guy Dawe

    Lesson One …Labour can only enact Labour policies when in power and a Corbyn lead fractured Labour party will continually lose whilst piling up votes in already safe seats.
    Lesson Two … Labour needs to face up to its past mistakes and provide a manifesto that is comprehensive and consistent rather than a collection of soundbites
    Lesson Three … Labour actually needs to listen not just to its own supporters but to the whole electorate to gain power and take issues like immigration and EU seriously
    Lesson Four … Demographically the Labour heartlands in the north are in relative decline so labour needs a voice that speaks to southern voters and should stop blaming the electorate for a conservative victory.
    Personally I knew the game was up on election night when labour failed to gain Nuneaton at 2am.

  16. madasafish

    Lesson Five.

    OAPs vote: twice as more likely to vote Conservative as Labour.
    A higher percentage of OAPs vote than any other group.
    The number of OAPs is growing – both in numbers and as a percentage of the population,
    Labour needs to have sensible and appealing policies for them.

    No point in rolling out policies in the last months of a campaign.

  17. madasafish

    And who is the MP who has rebelled MOST against his own Party?

    I’ll give you one guess.

    Cried of unity from Corbyn supporters are pure hypocrisy.

  18. Ednamcraver

    Go to Our Community l e f o t o a d Online money

  19. pay_no_tax

    Word of advice – don’t write rubbish like “the horrors of Conservative rule” if you ever want the electorate to take you seriously.

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