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Happy Birthday Labour!

Happy Birthday to Labour which has reached the grand-old age of 111. Out of government it maybe but that is not to say it is not in surprisingly rude health for its age following an influx of new members and scaling some impressive heights in terms of its poll rating. Looking back, it has plenty to be proud of; most notably the creation of the welfare state, the NHS and the implementation of the minimum wage. True, these achievements are tempered by the fact that capitalism remains in place and still deprives the majority of the country of the full fruits of their labours but nonetheless they are significant achievements that have made so many people’s lives better.

However, these achievements are in serious danger of being washed away as they were always eventually and inevitably going to be under capitalism. No longer threatened by the spectre of overthrow and somewhat terminally short of cash, the market, ably represented by Pinky and Perky….errr, I mean Clegg and Cameron, is poised to swallow them whole. Defending them is a matter of necessity but the time has come to realise their place can only be ensured by turning defence into offence and not just repelling or ‘limiting’ the market to just beyond their borders but pushing into its territory with a programme of regulation, democratisation and therefore socialisation.

When it comes to the world, I would argue Labour’s impact has been more patchy. It has not been as committed to Europe as a project as its internationalist credo suggests it should have been. This is a shame because a stronger pro-European Labour voice could lead it down a very different path. When it comes to the wider world, although there were some bright spots, the overall foreign policy balance sheet of our last period in government doesn’t look pretty. Labour’s ‘International’, the rather ironically titled ‘Socialist International’, arm has degenerated and fallen into widespread disrepute and functions only in name.

When it comes to representing the labour movement and the working classes Labour still has an awful long way to go. Denis MacShane, writing for Progress, dealivers this rather damming indictment of the lack of Labour MP’s from working class backgrounds:

111 years on since the unions or worker-intellectuals like Hardie gave birth to the Labour party it is rare indeed that a working man or woman is selected to be an MP. A good Russell Group degree is now the sine-qua-non for advancement in Labour’s ranks. No chance for today’s Keir Hardies.”

Advancement in today’s Labour Party is all about who and not what you know. During the leadership election, Ed Balls promoted the idea of a Labour Diversity Fund to address issues such as this but since the leadership election this idea seems to have sunk without a trace. It urgently needs to be revived and the trade unions need to be encouraged to not just bankroll candidates Labour selects but to actively promote and support people from within their own ranks to be Labour candidates not just in name but in their values, background and politics.

111 years on we are still a long way from Labour fulfilling its own potential as a Party to change things fundamentally and forever and to usher in a new society born from the ashes of the old. A lot has changed in that time but as is often said, the more things change, the more they also stay the same. Let’s hope for another 111 years but equally that reaching this potential does not take quite that long.

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