Having had time to digest conference season a little over the last 24 hours since returning home from Birmingham, I am left with few things that give me hope for the future. Liberalism is in trouble – by that I mean liberalism with a small “l”, not just within the Liberal Democrats. The turn towards social conservatism within the Tories scared me – and not just because it is so far away from my own personal politics. It frightened me because I could see the unfortunate electoral genius in it all. With an unelectable Labour Party in situ, the Conservatives can afford to go after the flanks without having to worry about swing voters. So grammar schools, tough talk on Brexit and immigration (Amber Rudd has left me feeling incredibly disappointed here), even some large state, business bashing stuff can fly knowing that the business community ultimately have nowhere to go – and UKIP voters can “come home” while the old, working class Labour base in the north of England will contemplate voting Tory for the first time in large numbers. I know many on the Left would find some of that ridiculous, but it all feels a real possibility if you try and look at things as objectively as possible.
If you’re a liberal, what was there out there that provided hope over the last few weeks? Anything at all? Weirdly enough, inspiration came from the oddest of places. Some of you will think I’m mad at first but hear me out. Momentum – yes, that Momentum – gave me a sliver of a dream to cling to. In order to realise this, I had to think not of what Momentum is currently, but rather what it has the potential to become.
The positive thing about Momentum is that it has provided a place for thousands upon thousands of politically interested young people to come together as a movement and share ideas and enthusiasm. As such, it has an incredible energy to it; in a listless conference season, I have to admit that “The World Transformed” was far and away the most lively thing on the trail. Unfortunately, it’s busy at present following an old Trot who is telling them that if they want to change the world all they have to do is believe.
Imagine if after the next election, one in which Labour is crushed, they mature as a movement, realise that if they want to change the system they have to work within that system – if they want to change the rules they need to play by the rules to start with – then you could have something really powerful there.
Try and picture this: a strong, charismatic Labour leader who could unite the different factions within not just the Labour Party but the Labour vote, backed up by a million or so newish members. That would be a force that would terrify the Conservative Party. It will probably never happen – electoral annihilation will probably scatter the whole thing to the winds – but it is nice to consider what might be possible.