There’s a sort of grim fascination with the corpse of the Labour Party, isn’t there? Columnists hunch over it, like vultures, unwilling to pass on the carrion until every last morsel has been pecked at.
Reading such commentators at their, ah, mastication is like watching David Attenborough, daring you not to cover your eyes: look! the snakes are swarming over the baby lizards! Shudder.
Just this week, Barbara Ellen confessed heartbreak over David Miliband’s refusal to Come Home For Labour, while Matthew D’Ancona and Adam Boulton issued separate laments for the plight of Labour’s “centrists.”
All great writers; all, to a greater or lesser degree, in despair about the Labour Party, hopeful that it can be resurrected, that some fabled “centre-left of centre ground” be reclaimed. I think they’re making a category error. Centrist politics is my instinct. I just don’t understand what it has to do with the object called “Labour”.
Thanks to my cultural heritage, I have no folk memory of Why We Need Labour at all. Families which climbed from the working to the lower-middle classes in the 1970s, at the height of the west coast Scottish Labour hegemony – people in bought hooses – were Labour’s undisputed class enemy.
All that hatred you spat about “That-churr”, comrades; all the lies you spread about her supporters’ “selfishness” and “greed”: some of us noticed, when we were children, that you were attacking our families and friends. It’s karma, it’s cosmic justice, that your hegemony is gone.
What did you achieve with it, anyway? Until Thatcher, owner-occupier rates were higher in communist Yugoslavia than they were in Labour’s (the apostrophe was, at the time, accurate) Scotland. Just a tad more important than some Harriet Harman drivel about hatecrime, the leitmotif of the Blair-Brown Terror.
Of all the revenants in the Labour collective, it is the Blairites for whom I feel the least pity. Their “centrism” was an attempt to rewrite history: “We didn’t really mean to call you ‘vermin’, Tory voters. We’ve nothing against pampass grass/ Ford Mondeos/ foreign holidays [insert latest focus-grouped intelligence insult here]. Now look the other way while we spend your money like a coked-up footballer at the gee-gees.”
These Blairite “centrists” still altered the country’s fabric completely, immigration and thoughtcrime being only the most egregious examples. When Blair said Labour was the “political arm of the British people” he forgot to add “by whom I mean the millionaire spivs and vacuous actors, who love me as much as they hate the suburbs and the plebs who live there.”
A rule of thumb: did it require Iraq for you to understand that Blair is a lying fake? If so, you may be writing wistful columns about David Miliband, while seriously imagining that anyone will read a review of Harman’s biography, let alone buy the godforsaken thing.
So I come not to praise Labour; uninterested in making its corpse jerk about, simulating life, for an electoral cycle or two longer (“It’s alive!” No, Dr F: it isn’t.) Whether its post-Jezza leader is an urban Southern Remainer or a Northern industrial Leaver doesn’t matter. Let Corbyn stamp Labour’s body into the ground. (Maybe a sensitive fellow traveller could write an angry song about that?)
The late, great Anthony King, writing after the 1992 election, said (I can’t locate the exact reference so this is a paraphrase from memory) “We no longer have two major parties. We have one super-party (the Conservatives), and various minor parties.”
True again today. Despite all that wailing about the lack of a centrist party, there is one: the Conservative Party, and it is going to run the country for the next few decades. Effort is better spent arguing about the direction of Toryism (which isn’t an ideology, bent on dismantling blah blah blah, no matter how shrilly the Guardian screams), than shedding tears for the career plans of leftover New Labour androids.
“All governments need a strong opposition to hold them to account.” Of course. But we don’t lack anti-Tory opposition, in Parliament or elsewhere.
If you are fanatical about the EU, and antimatter-UKIP fanatical, then support the LibDems. This goes for the Blairites too. There’s nothing liberal in any historical sense, nor even (deconstruction alert) in any nomenclatural sense, about the Reverend Farron’s Social Democrat, Orange-Book-expunged, left-of-centre “LibDem” construct. Anyone happy to vote for Peter Mandelson could as easily vote for Paddy Ashdown: all that separates them is small-difference narcissism.
Alternatively, if you nod along when Shami Chakrabarti says Phil Shiner “did great work”; if you believe that “Zionists” control the media; if some of your best friends are gay-hating Islamist nutters: you are not disenfranchised either. Vote for Jezza, like that ex-studiously-neutral-BBC-commentator Paul Mason. Voice of the people, man; like a new way of, like, doing things?
But what of those who can’t bring themselves to vote Conservative, because of the party’s hatred of the NHS, or its hatred of the poor, or its hatred of … whatever.
Such people are suffering a psychopathology: David Cameron’s administration objectively wasn’t, and Theresa May’s objectively isn’t, “hateful”: hating things is what Left-wing people do (I have a long memory, comrades.) One feels sorry for the delusional, but they’re not helped by pretending they have a point. Such a pretence led to Blairism in the first place, after all.
Let the leftover Blairites retro-absorb the LibDems: there’s your centre-Left. Most of the rest of us – liberal in the real sense; appropriately conservative where it matters; fiscally sane; geopolitically aware – are quite happy to be governed by the centre-Right Super Party.
And leave Jezza to finish off Labour. It’s a matter of supreme indifference, while he does this, whether the lizards are eating the snakes or the snakes are eating the lizards. Vultures aside: who cares?