During the parliament that has just elapsed, most of what came from left of centre voices in this country was ill-informed, reactionary and often downright childish. I know that’s a harsh opening statement, but now is not the time to be mealy mouthed. It started with the cuts marches being endorsed by Ed Miliband in person, comparing those participating to the Suffragettes. The worship of Syriza; all the talk about “post-capitalism” without any concrete alternatives being offered; as a final kick in the groin, the left of centre’s commentariat embracing the SNP and their brand of nationalism during the short campaign. In a parallel development, the Labour Party seemed to willingly throw away all of the advances the Left had made over the previous decade and a half and engage in a parliament long bout of navel gazing. Last Thursday’s result was the consequence.
Thus far, the signs are not great that this present parliament is going to be all that much better. The protest on Whitehall in the aftermath of the election, one in which a monument to the women of World War II had “FUCK TORY SCUM” spray-painted on it was semi-condoned and even applauded by certain members of the left commentariat. Labour already seem to be engaging in internecine warfare in the build up to the leadership contest, with Len McCluskey coming forward to help all of us scratch an item off our post-election bingo cards by declaring that Ed Miliband lost the election because he wasn’t left wing enough (in what counts as a small mercy, at least the Unite boss waited a few days before sticking the boot in).
The narrative that’s being written as we speak is the following: five more years of the Left throwing its toys out of the pram, coming up with nothing constructive whatsoever; everything being a reaction against what the Tories do. Another left leaning Labour leader who bangs on and on and on about the NHS, but without even a Lansley figure to throw eggs at this time round. And then, another Tory majority, possibly a much bigger one, come the next general election.
If everyone on the left just settles down a little and thinks more positively, it doesn’t have to be this way. An alternate narrative can be constructed. People, I think, mostly voted for the Tories in the numbers that they did out of fear. If the Left can reconnect with middle class worries and aspirations, it can be win again. Yes, people in middle England worry about their house prices and taxation increases making their lifestyles unaffordable. But they also worry about their public services declining. They worry about poverty being on the increase as it makes the society they live in (and that their children live in) considerably less safe as a result.
The Left is at its best when it inspires people; when it says “things can be better” and the way forward they outline is credible, sensible and inclusive of a majority of the British people. It’s not going to come from energy price freeze pledges or spray painting profanity on Whitehall monuments, just like it didn’t last time round.
I was thinking the same this morning. The ‘most right wing government ever’ narrative pitched against a coalition that was basically following Alistair Darling’ and Labours own economic prescriptions, simply squeezed Labour into a ghetto of its own making, but also pushed many Lib Dem voters towards the Conservatives.
Worse in Scotland this narrative provided a hangman’s noose for the Labour party when it shared a common platform with ‘Tory vermin’ during the referendum campaign.