My political New Year’s resolution for 2017 is going to be to try and find a way to bridge the divide between moderate Labour supporters like me and those who have spent the past year attacking Labour from the inside. Well, I’m not confident I will be able to bridge the divide between my politics and those who lead the conflict within Labour but I am optimistic that that band of a few dozen people can be put aside and common purpose can be joined by the rest of us.
It’s been a frustrating year and, as someone who views Labour’s current center Left (apologies for using such an unhelpful term) politics as the only credible opposition cornerstone against the disastrous mess that the Tories are making of Britain, I hope that Britain flushes twice at the end of 2016. Since Labour’s summer of malcontent, things have begun to look better for the party. The majority of the PLP have been reassured by the leadership’s move forward and have begun to work as a party again; it is still a work in progress (or against Progress) but the signs are positive.
Just as Labour has suffered from the actions of its right-wing splinter, its left-wing splinter provides a shadow under which the party does not wish to return, but I genuinely hope that those who were drawn in from the center ground by either faction see their behavior for what it is and place them back in their respective boxes. In 2017, Labour cannot afford to be derailed by marginal agitators in the way it has been in 2016. I have spent more time discussing Labour’s problematic right-wing because they have been instrumental in recent years for the damage to Labour’s appeal to the wider electorate; primarily because they have the funds to buy influence in excess of their popularity or support, but I recognise that there are those in the center ground who remember and fear a rise of Labour’s most peripheral Left.
I also understand why the current leadership’s moves to reinvigorate and enable Labour supporters is viewed with suspicion by Labour’s right-wing because they have never enjoyed the popular appeal within Labour that Left politics has. Labour’s Right have always been a vanity project of wealthy donors, exercising their political egos, and have never attracted a popular audience, hence New Labour’s marginalization of the party membership which culminated in Labour’s collapse in Scotland in 2015. Labour’s grass roots support is returning and it is only natural that those leading Labour’s right-wing would feel threatened and seek to marginalise and isolate it but those on Labour’s center ground need to realise that those of us in this groundswell are on the same side; if we are speaking out against the right-wing it is because we see the damage they are inflicting and we will call out any left-wing activity that does likewise, just the same.
So, will 2017 be plain sailing if moderates like myself strive to put aside the superficial differences that were stoked this year by those desperate to reclaim control of Labour? No, obviously not. Groups like Progress and one man bands like Labour First haven’t changed their position. Hopefully more of the PLP have realised just how impotent the factions on Labour’s extremities actually are; the membership roundly saw off the few dozen right-wing wreckers in 2016. I truly hope we will see the PLP working shoulder to shoulder with their CLPs and local supporters to take the fight to the Tories, even as Progress etc still seek to perpetuate the drubbing Labour’s appeal to the wider electorate has taken. I also hope we will see the current leadership continue with the push to franchise the party membership and strengthen the party’s structures and front bench team.
The Tory ‘nasty’ party are creating a legacy that will take decades to unpick which is, I’m sure, their intention but Labour can unseat them in 2017, working together and marginalising those elements seeking to usurp power.