This is our truth, tell us yours
… no not a reference to Francis Fuckwitoyama’s worst theory, but to the Labour Party.
So obsessed has Labour become with the day to day struggle to survive, that it’s failed to notice history happening around it.
The changes announced over the weekend, with a new benefits cap and the means testing of council house rents, amount to a radical re-shaping of social housing and the welfare state.
Labour meanwhile are so busy trying to find a reason to vote for one leader rather than another they haven’t noticed.
Labour are so busy trying to find a reason not to vote for Liz Kendall they haven’t noticed what’s happening in Greece. Not the referendum, but the way in which Germany and other Northern European EU countries have been working towards regime change in Greece, making clear they don’t approve of the outcome of democratic elections.
Labour is so busy trying to avoid getting on the wrong side of the Daily Mail they haven’t noticed that BBC correspondents describe them as ‘having been scattered to the winds’.
Soon, if Labour doesn’t regain an awareness and sense of history, it will be history.
The excellent @philbc3 has published a blog pointing out that Yvette Cooper and Jeremy Corbyn have commented on Greece, while Andy Burnham and Liz Kendall haven’t.
The problems are two fold. First of all, Yvette’s intervention is well-meaning guff, of the ‘on the one hand but on the other hand’ kind that adds nothing to our understanding of the situation, and ends with a cheap shot at the government. Corbyn’s response is worse, the kind of stuff you’d expect from a Trot newspaper seller on a wet morning outside your local dole office.
Neither one adds to the stock of human knowledge, and neither one demonstrates conclusively that either person is capable of any thought deeper than ‘what must I say to gain an advantage in this leadership election.’ Yvette Cooper may be capable of deeper thought; I have reservations about Corbyn and his ubiquitous career as a megaphone for the concerns of the demonstrating classes of Camden, but neither has said anything about Greece that changes my opinion of them.
The second problem is greater though. What is Labour’s understanding of what is happening in Greece? Not the press office’s understanding of it, or the leadership candidate’s soundbites, but what is Labour learning from Greece? What will Labour share with its members and supporters about these significant political events?
Answer came there none. Labour has no newspaper, no journal, no voice other than press releases tailored to the electoral cycle and the news cycle of Westminster. History is being made, and, as far as the Labour press office is concerned, it’s off-grid, a set of events for which no policy position has been calibrated or prepared.
Part of Labour’s shambolic defeat in Scotland was that history was happening, and the weary, under-resourced but over-staffed Scottish Labour party had no response, no process by which it could tell the world what it thought, or even that it was thinking. History is made by individuals, but not in circumstances of their own choosing; Labour appears to be choosing to let history pass it by, and to react after the event.
One further comment needs to be made about this. I live in one of the city regions of the Northern Poorhouse, George Osborne’s well-crafted plan to impose regional inequality by transferring the burden of funding welfare and health back to the regions, in return for allowing some spectacularly stupid politicians like Nick Forbes and Richard Leese to pretend they’re in charge. Have they not read Foot’s biography of Bevan? Do they have no sense of history, no understanding of why welfare and health must be centrally managed and funded to a universal set of standards? Can they not see the trap in front of them?
It used to be the Labour Party’s job, as an institution, to provide ideas, to shape the debate, to guide the hands and voices of its members and representatives. That this is no longer the case is a stark symptom that Labour may be on the way out if it can;t find its voice and its sense of direction.
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