I feel like I should write about something happening in politics other than the race to be the next Labour leader. Yet I can’t help myself; the whole thing is such a fascinating clusterfuck, I cannot turn away. Barry Gardiner’s 24-hour challenge. The spectacular falling apart of Rebecca Long-Bailey’s campaign – that has still not been enough to kill her chances of winning given she will be Momentum’s pick. Thornberry’s 0/10. It’s all comedy gold.
On a serious note, however, there is one thing is emerging that Labourites need to think about. And that is a dreaded element of Blairism that even dogged Blairites think the party should avoid using again, coming front and centre into Labour politics again all of a sudden: triangulation. This is when you look at what the right are all about at the moment, then what the left are saying and doing, and then try and plot a perfect course through the middle. Centrism by number, you could call it. It is painted as vacuous and managerial as it doesn’t come from a place of believing in anything per se, other than the need to split the difference.
Since the general election result, this is what Labour appear to be creeping back toward. Look at Keir Starmer, at the moment the most likely winner, and his run for the leadership. He’s hired Simon Fletcher to run his campaign. The signal here is: I will keep some of the loony left around, but only someone like Simon who, although he’s a communist, is professional and knows what he’s doing; but relax PLP, I will ditch the rest of the tankies. Keir’s campaign message is essentially: I will find a middle-ground between Corbynism and mainstream Labourism, whatever the hell the latter is supposed to be now. Details will follow, hopefully, eventually.
I’m picking on Starmer here to start off with, but all of the campaigns to be leader are similar: lots of stuff about how Labour needs to reconnect with the country, with nothing in the way of how this will actually be accomplished. Most of them scared of slagging Corbyn off to much, while simultaneously trying to distance themselves from parts of his legacy. Triangulating, in other words.
At least some part of Blairism has made a return to the heart of Labour, which should give those on the right of the party some cheer in this dark hour.
Iain Sharpe says
Maybe I’m missing the point here, but I felt that Blair (as opposed to those who went along with this project and might have passed as Blairites) didn’t really triangulate but actually said and did what he believed. In that he really did support a strong private sector, people’s aspiration to become wealthy and successful, toughness on crime, ‘bogus asylum seekers’ etc., public service reform as well as liberal interventionism in foreign affairs, albeit balanced by a committment to investment in public services. It was more Kinnock (see David Hare’s play The absence of war) who triangulated in terms of having basically lefty views but was obviously trimming to get elected.
I’m not defending Blair here – I opposed the Iraq war, hated the ASBO culture and felt that the dirigiste attitude towards local government and public services in general at best counterproductive.
The phoenix says
Always do what your enemy least wants
In this case the tories
Triangulation did not hurt blair
We would still have a labour government if not for Iraq