I wrote this draft essay before the 2017 general election with the intention of publishing it in the early hours of June the 9th once I’d returned home from the local ballot count. The outcome was not what I predicted, and I’m immensely happy that my prediction was wrong. Despite this, Labour still has a mountain to climb before it returns to power. The only reason our party performed so well in the general election, I believe, is because we started to embrace the way of thinking that I discuss in the article below. I don’t mention Brexit much, and deliberately so. It is a political dead-cat: a distraction that obscures more subtle and fundamental forces at play in Britain.
Labour has lost – badly. We’ve been almost obliterated nationally, and cling on only in isolated parts of the UK. Where we do cling on, we do so with a residial tribalism that echoes the Labour of old, not the Labour of today. Victorious, Theresa May has been returned to Number 10 with a vastly increased commons majority. Anyone that cares about progressive politics I’m sure feels that now is the time to curl up and hide from the world. How could things get worse? Yet they can and they will, because this time Theresa May has no reason to appease the opposition benches while pushing destructive policy through the commons.
I’m here to convince you that the next 5 years provide the single greatest opportunity the left has had since 1945 to reshape Britain. In this article, I’ll lay out why I think this and how I believe Labour can form a majority government in 2022 to rivals the magnitude of even Blair’s 1997 victory.
Time, Tide And Fist-Shaking
Labour’s recent demolition by the Conservative Party comes as no surprise to anyone. Since 1997 Labour has been leaking support like an old balloon. Aside from the expected ebbs and flows in polls that comes with a transition to and from power, Labour’s gradual decline is clear to all that bother to Google it.
The Conservatives have won their victory on a wave of drum-banging and cultism. They’ve used the power of populism and media reach against us. We know they won’t deliver for Britain, but none of that matters electorally unless we can convince people of the same. Populism is the tune of the day, and it’s here to stay.
But there is a silver lining. In order to accomplish their victory, the Conservative Party has been forced to change their image considerably. No longer are they waving the banner of Big Society: today, they’ve been forced to consume UKIP – bones and all – and take a more socially conservative outlook to maintain their place at the top of the political pecking order. This is clear evidence that the Conservative Party’s stranglehold on Britain is not as strong as it may seem.
Why has this happened?
Recent events in international politics – Brexit, Trump, Le Pen and the 2017 Tory victory – have their origins in problems arising from the economic dichotomy of the past 30 years. Since Thatcher and Reagan came to power, western economies have focused on the pursuit of growth and wealth gain. The measure of all policy has become “how much will it cost?” or “will it boost growth?”. This approach stinks of ignorance about how society operates, but it constitutes modern wisdom regardless.
This is a troublesome time for the left, but the de-facto answer seems to be one that involves dredging up the past and polishing it. The ageing trade-unionism & national centralism of Corbyn and the liberal market-driven third way of Blair are just as much an impulsive reaction to change as Trump and Brexit are. Until we realise this, we have no hope of moving forwards.
For almost a third of a century the material well-being of people has been ignored. We’ve seen periods of vast economic growth and almost immeasurable increases in the material quality of life. People – no matter what income quartile they fall into – are richer and healthier than they were 30 years ago. But amongst these façades of plenty, we face an ugly reality.
Across Britain, communities are being decimated. The number of people that attend church or other communal gatherings are falling through the floor. Local jobs and industry are vanishing. Britain has an epidemic of old-age loneliness that is quickly becoming a crisis. The cast-iron strength of British institutions such as the NHS, our welfare state, and the policing system are crumbling. Inequality is soaring, and the social hegemony of individualism has displaced the communal understanding that dominated post-war Britain. People feel lost, alone, and unsafe. In this time of viral uncertainty, it’s no surprise that people cling to what they know: patriotism, strength, and a hunger for the old times. Any party that can pretend to offer solutions to the country will profit, and the Conservative Party – ever the lurking chameleon of history – has done so with ease.
At the same time, the left keep banging their drum. We’re well aware that something isn’t right, but – unable to condense our frustration into meaningful solutions – we are lost in a time and a way of thinking that has long since evaporated in the public eye. It’s easier to wonder from the eye of a distant observer why the message put forward by Jeremy Corbyn isn’t having a more measurable effect. We forget that in times of uncertainty, people – particularly the British – cling to leadership, strength and the familiar to see themselves through. Quoting figures about NHS waiting lists does not make a credible alternative to the now dominant Conservative Party.
The Path To Victory Will Be Scattered With Ideological Corpses
These are dark times, but times in which the left should be thriving. The left has always held answers to issues of material well-being. From Karl Marx to the pragmatism of Harold Wilson, a precise and conscious understanding of the human condition traditionally lie at the centre of left-wing thinking. It is this commitment to understanding the problems people face and how we can most directly solve them that has been lost in the modern left. Rather than discussing how things like renationalisations will improve lives, we are left debating an abstraction that has long-since eclipsed any understanding of how it will make an impact on the lives of voters. We accuse the right of providing nothing but sound-bite politics, but we aren’t far off the same.
The solution to this is simple: To hell with the abstract. We don’t need it. Stop talking about spending commitments, NHS restructuring, nationalisation, debt or trade. We don’t need it in our message, and it’s not helping us. Force your head to the ground, and take a rustic view of British life. Understand what drives communities, and what brings people together. Understand that co-operation and strength of community are the solutions to a world that seems just fine unless one chooses to peek lower than the rooftops.
Drop your aged and troubled spears labelled “NHS”, “Privatisation” and “Police Cuts”. Equally, drop your red, white, and blue pencils. Painting a union jack on party literature won’t appease the UKIP vote, and besides: if we’re appeasing, then we’re doing something wrong. Shut up about Labour’s vision for Britain for a moment, and put your ear to the ground and hear what voters are all but yelling at us. Winning is not a right: it is a privilege bestowed only upon those that truly understand people. People don’t want patriotism or flags or Brexits, they want a bloody solution to the each-for-himself economic anarchy that’s driving the community of Britain that we all love into the ground.
This essay is unfinished: I originally intended for there to be several other sections, but decided not to include them because they were working drafts and no longer have much relevance.