I quite like the Labour party, in theory. A progressive, left-leaning party with an emphasis on protecting the rights of the workers, supporting the needy and, through social schemes, helping those on the lowest rungs of society. Taxes are funnelled into public services, public care, and public works.
It’s a good idea, and one that has proven to work. The Nordic Model, although heavily reliant on a strong labour movement, works hard to find the balance between rigourous welfare systems and a free market economy, allowing a growing economy, social mobility (with government funded assistance), and a safety net for those who may fall through the net.
What I dislike is the idea that the UK Labour Party can only succeed if it takes the form and appearance of the Conservative Party.
The leak of a presentation by PR firm Republic, analysing the public’s view of the Labour party and their views, or rather perceived lack of any strong views and beliefs, caused worry among the left with a call to focus on:
“The use of the flag, veterans, dressing smartly at the war memorial etc give voters a sense of authentic values alignment.”
Now, I’m no political theorist and I’m by no means an authority on the topic (I’d much rather talk about the nightmarish imagery in Thomas the Tank Engine, and I will be writing that blog), but the adoption of the imagery of the right will not save the left. What will happen is the Labour party will continue it’s “slow” movement toward the centre and mediocrity.
Just as the Tories have taken the policies and imagery of UKIP and the BNP from ten years ago (wholesale in some cases), the Labour Party have taken the imagery and policies of the Tories.
Playing on national identity politics is scary, at least in this way. It isn’t creating pride in nationalism, it creates a cult of Fatherlandism. As Britain claims to be “opening up to the world” as we turn our back on the EU (ergh), flag waving and exceptionalism will not engender the world to work with us.
More than being scary, to prioritise slathering the union flag all over your materials as a recruitment tool is incredibly petty and demeaning to the voters. ‘There’s no way people will vote for us unless we’re seen to be as British as possible’, as if that’s the key issue that voters will be dealing with and targeting when they’re looking at who to vote for.
This plan has been lauded as a way for Labour to “win back the red wall”, the traditionally Left leaning constituencies in the north and north east that the Tories took in the wake of the Brexit vote. The reason that these seats were lost in the first place wasn’t due to a lack of flag waving candidates, but due to a total failure of acknowledging what the voters were actually wanting. If you want to win them back, talk to them and find out what they are wanting from a workers party – don’t assume that what people in Grimsby want will be the same as those in the Blyth valley. And don’t even get me going on how disastrously this will go over north of the border where the Scottish Labour Party has already been neutered by the actions of their colleagues in Westminster. And before anyone says anything, I think Welsh labour also teeters on the precipice but that will depend on the Senedd election results.
How else could the Labour party actually win back the public, be patriotic and still attract the votes of the left?
In my opinion, the best flavour of patriotism is where you can see the problems with the country and can see the potential present in the country. “I love this country. It’s not perfect, but it could be. There’s class inequality, poverty, etc., etc., and we want to fix that.” It’s cliched, but it’s a policy, a strong policy with a clear message and target. It’s forward looking and positive. What it doesn’t do is get the veterans out in force and glorifies Britain’s military past.
I have been a staunch defender of Starmer, a more centrist image of the man in a suit but with the voting record of a progressive, liberal, left leaning politician, but since taking over as Leader he’s made a steady move to the middle, retreading the ground the won Blair the 1997 landslide election. But the world has moved on since the late ’90s, we don’t need more Blairite policies, we need a progressive and protective social movement, protecting the NHS and funding for the education system. What they need above all is clear policies and clear PR to push them. A muddled message on the fence is destroying the public face of the party at a time where opposition is needed more than ever.
But most of all, be relatable. The reason BoJo has managed to fail his way to the top is that he’s the “charming” underdog buffoon who just happens to be very well connected behind the scenes. His public persona gets him the popularity required, and his powerful friends keep him there. Starmer has the charisma of wallpaper paste. I don’t know if he’s quick witted, endearing, cold but lovable – his public face is currently just one made of rough brick. If the labour party want to get into power again, it needs a jolly long look at how it sells itself as a force for positivity.
What they don’t need to is to superficially wheel out the old guys wearing medals, like rattles to the idiot babies they think the voters to be.
(This, of course, wouldn’t be such an issue if this stupid union got rid of FPTP and got a decent voting system instead)