In May one of my LinkedIn Contacts was elected to a London Borough Council – as a Liberal Democrat. I had always enjoyed a good professional relationship with him and sent him a congratulatory message. He replied that he followed my blog, found it interesting (for which thanks), and continued: ‘I remain baffled that you actually want to have Corbyn in number 10 and (much worse) McDonnell in number 11!’ This is a fair point and deserves a response.
Let me start by saying there is much substance in what he says. Alastair Campbell, Press Secretary in the Blair Government, speaking at the Progress Annual Conference (available on The New European website) described the 2017 General Election as a battle ‘between competing visions of the past. 70s v 50s, with little to match the sheer scale of challenge facing both the country and the world’. He continued ‘frankly I am finding life and politics tough right now. I’ve been lucky enough to be on the winning side of arguments a lot of my life in politics. Today, whether on Brexit, Labour v Tory, or the direction of the Labour Party, or the spread of populism, it doesn’t feel like that any more.’
This all struck a chord with me, and I could also relate to the passage that followed: ‘I am also a very tribal person. Short of Putin and Assad leading a consortium to buy Burnley, for example, and installing Johnson as chairman and Rees-Mogg as manager, nothing will challenge my football tribalism’. For me the side is Cardiff Blues which, like Labour Party membership, is part of my DNA.
However I recognise that the above paragraph does not offer much to those outside the Labour Party tent. Come inside and suffer alongside us is not a compelling argument.
Pointing to those who remain and are increasingly vocal offers a better argument. Here I must applaud Neil Kinnock for his recent forthright interventions: writing in the Independent he warned that Jeremy Corbyn is about to commit a ‘serious evasion of duty’by refusing to back a plan to keep Britain in the single market. David Miliband followed two days later by saying that the Labour Leader will ‘be the midwife of a hard Brexit that will harm Britain’s poorest unless he fights to stay in the single market.’ I am sure that these two interventions and others that will follow are co-ordinated and are building up to a crescendo at this September’s Labour Party Conference.
Neil Kinnock, who I knew from my South Wales days, and David Miliband, represent the two Labour different strands: working-class traditionalist and North London intellectual. Together these two strands shaped the party I joined. While they are prepared to fight for the future within the party so, in a very modest and isolated way, am I. Add in Yvette Cooper, David Lammy, Alison McGovern and Rachel Reeves and there is more than enough to make me continue to hope. Indeed I am prepared to take another hiding as the candidate in Glaven Valley in the 2019 District Council elections. In 2015 I polled 78 votes. I do not expect any improvement: the return of Labour to mainstream politics will not start until Brexit is well behind us.
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