This is our truth, tell us yours
CN for mention of suicide and rape without any details, in reference to legislation
When Blair intervened in the Labour Leadership election, like the annoying drunk in the pub who just has to tell you one more thing, he claimed that unless Labour took the center ground they would never win elections. Many of his acolytes repeated this, and the BBC, ever the government lapdog (whoever the government of the day is) joined in. Presenters (I refuse to call them journalists since the neither investigate or question) sagely opined on the dangers of not being a party of the center, look at Blair in 97 they cry, be more Blair!
When the Labour party won in 1997 Clause 28 was still law. Clause 28 was a vile piece of legislation that said homosexuality must not be taught about in schools, and that no school should teach that homosexuality was acceptable or a “pretended family relationship”.
Children like me growing up were not allowed to be told they were normal, we could not be reassured by our teachers after our suicide attempts, we could have no sex ed that kept us safe, we were perverts and deviants and had to be made aware of that, with the full force of law.
Want to talk about the middle ground? Middle England supposedly supported this law, the Daily Mail lauded it, the Sun routinely called gay people perverts and linked being gay with being a child molester. This was the supposed middle ground of the day. The Labour government first tried to repeal it in 2000, but were defeated by the tories, and it was eventually repealed in 2003.
The middle ground is a shifting ground, a mere 12 years later David Cameron supported gay marriage.
In 2003 the Sexual Offences act was passed. It is very much a curates egg of an act, it criminalized consensual sex between young people and Labour swerfs made being the partner of a sex worker technically illegal. However for the first time parliament ruled that sex with someone too intoxicated to consent was rape. This is still not something of the center ground. My twitter mentions right now are full of people saying “but what about the menz” Along with the Human Rights Act of 1998 it enshrined in law protections which previously had been on the interpretation, and whim of a judge.
Speaking of judges, the 97 manifesto also included a pledge to abolish the hereditary peers (they failed on that one, but it was in the manifesto). It included the huge constitutional changes of the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly. It promised a freedom of information act, which protects us still.
I am not, and have never been a Blairite. Hearing him push the myth of the center reminded me why. The center is not where elections are won, or lost, it does not in fact exist. When we imported American spin doctors and campaign managers we also imported a belief you could identify the few thousand people who swung elections. In an electoral college system this makes sense, in our system it is fairy dust. Blair did not win in 97 because he was centrist, he won because he offered an alternative, on a number of strands, that appealed to diverse groups of people. Labour lost in 2015 not because they were not centrist enough but because they did not offer an alternative. The race for the center will always be lost, because the center is an El dorado, a mythical land which can never be reached. Labour won in 97 because they showed, in a number of ways why they were different to the tories. They will win in 2020 by doing the same.
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