Monday, April 15, 2024
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Labour, a party whose time has gone


THERE have been numerous analyses of Labour’s problems in the wake of last Thursday’s elections and the aftermath of Sir Keir Starmer’s botched defenestration of his deputy Angela Rayner.  

One feature of note is that the constituencies that faithfully used to send Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson to Westminster are now all in the hands of Labour’s opponents. 

The Labour Party has a more fundamental problem, which is that Britain has now achieved all of Labour’s historic material, as opposed to ideological, objectives and its new goals do not resonate with the majority of voters. Put simply, the people of Britain have no further need for the Labour Party. 

Labour was once the party of the working man and woman. Most adults in Britain worked, but Labour’s focus was on those at the bottom of the economy, mainly in the ‘dark satanic mills’ of industrial towns.  

Despite the quality of life of the average Briton being better at the end of the Victorian era than it was at the beginning, things were still quite harsh for certain elements of the industrial working classes, especially the unskilled.  

Housing was poor, and there were low levels of sanitation and high rates of disease and pollution. In the mid-19th century, adulterated food in towns was unsafe. There were levels of crime and disorder that attracted harsh punishment. Employment was precarious and standards of work and reward sometimes just rested on the morality of the employer. 

The major cause was that the transition from a rural agrarian economy to an urbanised, industrialised one had not been completed. Society had not caught up with disruptive technological  innovation.  

We experience something similar in our times as social, moral, legal and organisational structures are just about getting to grips with an all-pervading and highly portable Internet that has not been shackled by dial-up analogue modems for almost two decades. 

However, all the major boxes alleviating the plight of the working classes of the 19th and early 20th centuries have now been ticked.  

In Britain we enjoy unprecedented levels of wealth, safety, and freedom. Foreigners are willing to risk death on the high seas to travel here illegally and live and work on the lowest rungs of the economy.  

Public health issues, pandemic notwithstanding, are mostly associated with diseases and conditions of extreme age or over-consumption. The health issue outside the pandemic attracting the most attention is about whether or not authorities should be allowed to poison and mutilate teenage girls so they might look more like boys.  

Deaths or debility due to deprivation are so rare now that single instances attract headlines. Labour now never campaigns primarily on welfare during a general election, as after the public outcry following the Channel 4 documentary  Benefits Street, it is too toxic. It is only when the party has just lost that it brings up the subject. 

But Labour was always about more than just improving the lives of the working classes – a task that has been largely completed, mostly by Conservative governments. It wrongly believes that the only way lives can be improved is by the establishment of an irreversibly socialist state.  

This is provably not the case, since we have seen considerable improvements in quality of life after Margaret Thatcher excised socialism from the productive portion of the economy and substantially reduced the power of the unions. But, despite the vote-winning Blair interlude, Labour clings to this vote-losing belief in state socialism. 

Its socialist ideology also means that the party simply cannot comprehend certain important issues. Labour’s pacifist element in the 1930s saw it obstructing measures designed to help Britain stand up to the rise of fascist dictatorships. Why it objected to Britain opposing Hitler and Mussolini’s numerous treaty violations is now barely discussed in Left-wing circles.  

Tory Premier Stanley Baldwin had to wait until his victory in the 1935 general election before responding properly to Germany’s rearmament, by which time it was too late to curb it through enforcement of the Treaty of Versailles.  

Labour leader Clement Attlee opposed the Chamberlain government raising a loan in 1937 to pay for our nation’s defences. Had Attlee succeeded, we may not have had enough military capacity to prevail in the Battle of Britain. 

Slavish support for the unions and their communist-inspired mission to destroy business profitability led in the 1960s and 1970s to the loss of post-war overseas markets, which are vital for a trading nation. 

But the rights of unions were seen as more important than British economic success, unlike in West Germany. Labour opposed membership of the EEC on the basis that the Common Market could inhibit its plans to build a ‘truly socialist’ command economy.  

But in the late 1980s it realised that membership of what was to become the EU meant the party did not have to worry about an international trade policy, which was good. Labour is always clueless about international trade, being over-concerned about the internal politics of potential trade partners or just wanting to establish a siege economy. 

It was this ideologically-induced blindness about international trade by the Labour leadership that explains its unco-ordinated response to the EU referendum, where Jeremy Corbyn went AWOL rather than campaign for Remain.  

International trade is not the only major issue Labour is unable to grasp. Its support in Scotland collapsed because socialism affords no strong position in the debate about Scottish independence.  

This ideological blindness regarding the issue of unionism means that the anti-SNP vote has been going to the Conservatives, while Scottish Labour dissolved into pointless infighting and rivalry with London.  

Labour is now the third party in the Scottish Parliament and has only one MP north of the border. Voters there increasingly regard the party as irrelevant to Scottish politics. 

Its ideology meant it could not arrive at a unified position in 2019 regarding Brexit and the leadership opted to face both ways or support Remain, depending on which member of the shadow cabinet was speaking.  

Labour opposed Theresa May and Boris Johnson just for the sake of opposition and little more, even when this meant disputing the referendum result.  

While it blames Brexit for its landslide defeat in 2019, the fact remains that individuals in the party made ideologically-blinded policy decisions. And those individuals are to blame, not an allegedly deterministic force. 

Now that the major socio-economic issues affecting the working classes in the last century and a half have been addressed, Labour still feels it has to continue to crusade and has cast its net wide for different groups and causes to champion.  

It found substitutes for its traditional economic constituency in the form of identity politics, where people who are well-fed, housed, educated and clothed are portrayed as ‘oppressed’ by capitalism.  

The consequence is that Labour’s original supporters are largely regarded as racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic and Islamophobic for even mildly disagreeing with the extreme positions taken by the party’s new support base.  

Love of country is also beyond the pale and the Palestinian flag is considerably more popular than the Union Flag at party conferences.

When a secret focus group report suggested more displays of the Union Flag, senior Labour staffers felt obliged to censor it due to the oversensitivity of activists. 

Socialism is now a curse for Labour, as it prevents the party from addressing major challenges facing the United Kingdom or forces it to make bad choices.  

It has been punished for failing the country over Brexit and Scottish independence. It champions narrowly trendy but widely unpopular causes and abuses those who disagree. It is deliberately contrarian and oppositionist, rather than using nuance or intelligent argument to appear distinctive.  

Labour’s complaint of existing social decay makes no sense while it also wants to invite unlimited numbers of foreigners to come to live and work in this country when it surely should be trying to warn them off. 

Voters in Labour’s original heartlands have finally realised the party consists of metropolitan snobs whose main activity is sneering. Since it is no longer the party of labour, perhaps it should now be called the Snobs Party.  

Labour seems an organisation that has served its historic purpose. While some in the party may talk of abolishing the monarchy, Britain’s political system may find greater benefit in abolishing Labour and replacing it with socialist and social democratic parties. There would be a certain final symmetry in Labour’s first and last leader both being called Keir. 

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Paul T Horgan
Paul T Horgan
Paul T Horgan worked in the IT Sector. He lives in Berkshire.

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