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25.11.15

What next for Labour’s moderates

Labour moderates need a new name (not Blairite or anything redolent of), philosophy (vintage in tapping into the same revisionist traditions as the Third Way, while also being thoroughly contemporary), and (having been comprehensively out organised by the left during the leadership election) structures. Apart from that, everything is fine.

Acknowledgement of these profound challenges is not original. David Butler stressed philosophy here. Spencer Livermore elsewhere. Liam Byrne even wants to emphasise it through a new Clause 4. And renewed organisational vitality comes from Labour First and Progress.

This fusion of names and groupings associated with Blair (Byrne/Progress) and Brown (Livermore/Labour First) and a new generation (Butler) shows that the old war is over. Imagine what combatants might have achieved if their generals – Blair/Brown – had remained as united as those now ruling the roost – Cameron/Osborne.

The dilemma now is whether to train all artillery on these national rulers or reserve some strategic strikes for our new party leaders.

Cut moderates and we bleed Labour red. In this red, we must draw lines of differentiation with both national and party leaders. Lines that are coherent in deriving from relevant intellectual traditions – the philosophies imbibed by Livermore, Butler and Byrne, a new firm of provincial solicitors with big ambitions. Yet accessible in being painted in everyday language and concerns, not lofty principles.

Name. Philosophy. Structures. All hard enough. The red lines may be harder still. Yet perhaps the most vital part of a package, which depends upon both the deep reflection that sustains high principle and the quick fire action of low cunning.

The moderates have underperformed for years, which is why Labour is where it is. We should go home or get better.