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Why Labour would be wrong to chase the ‘centre-ground’

As soon as I read an article which states something like “the centre ground in politics is perennially important“, my hackles rise. This is largely because I don’t believe in the existence of such a thing. To me, it’s as  real as Camelot or the Tooth Fairy. Centrist politics and ‘the centre ground’ are the subjective creations of ideologues that seek to impose upon people their notion of where a consensus should lie. It  is a craftily designed weapon that aims at the undemocratic exclusion of other arguments through them being labelled as extreme,  taboo and beyond the pale; to be excluded from debate and ‘rational’ discourse at all costs. It shows how tyrannical, by its very nature, ‘consensus’ politics actually is.

Almost invariably a call to occupy this territory is in reality a call to move to the right. Rob Marchant’s article at Left Foot Forward is no exception. The grain of truth contained therein is the staggering weakness of the organised labour movement which has been effectively confined to the public sector and stretches not very far beyond the ever-narrowing and now under siege confines of this sector. However, this situation can be reversed and now, more than ever, the conditions exist for that reversal to take place.

Marchant worries about Labour not speaking to the ‘aspirations’ of private sector and non-unionised workers. He fails to consider that the private sector or any other sector is becoming rapidly incapable of servicing any kind of aspirations. Wages are falling in real terms across the board, not just in the embattled public sector, and prices are rising with a terrifying inexorability. Job security is out the window and unemployment is rising. Meanwhile, the wagons are being circled as those who have done so spectacularly well over the past period seek to sustain themselves and deny access to declining riches to the rest, even the sons and daughters of Daily Mail readers.

In actual fact,  economic conditions similar to those that are fanning the flames of revolt across the Middle East are creeping up on us here. Soon enough people will be less worried about ‘reasonable aspirations to wealth’ and dramatically more worried about the even more ‘reasonable’ aspiration to be provided with the means to survive. I don’t think in this situation attacks on the out-of-control wages of those at the very top will be as vexing to most people as the comrade suggests. As for the ‘grey vote’,  attacks on pension provision are at the very core of this governments general assault on the vast majority of the British population and its standards of living in the name of preserving the profit margins of the select few.

In conditions where capitalism is cannibalising it’s own middle class to sustain itself which, broadly speaking, is exactly what is happening it’s the pronouncements of the likes of comrade Marchant which are ‘out of touch’ and ‘detached’.  I have no problem with Labour reaching out to build a ‘broader social church’. I want to see it and the wider labour movement grow stronger but the actual fact is this will not be achieved by adaptation to the urgings of the likes of comrade Marchant. It will be achieved by a trenchant critique of a capitalist system which has failed not just the poorest and most vulnerable but has also failed the hopes and dreams of anybody who is not a member of the super-rich elite. This along with a positive vision for radical social change will build the broad church that the comrade professes to want; not his worrying and fretting and pursuit of a mythical beast, the ever-elusive centre-ground.

2 Comments

  1. Luis Lorente-Becerra says:

    The reality of the Labour Party at the moment, so far, is that not a very good impact has been made towards the change in the monolith attitude of the party itself; with a vertical direction that doesn’t allow any serious democratic dialogue between ordinary members and organizers of the party, and as a consequence of this they feel disenfranchised.
    To reach the electorate in general is an arduous mission and that is lacking from Labour, and indeed all political parties, because they feel that they have been betrayed by the lack of honesty in the system our politicians manage.
    The AV will not alleviate those anomalies, the election of the new Labour leader proves it. So, there are plenty more things to come…

  2. Darrell says:

    @Luis,

    I sadly think you have it about right. It seems Ed prefers talking to Lib Dems over Labour members.

    Again I agree, if we were to delve deep into this I would say the problems lie with representative democracy as a whole and AV most certainly will not make anything all that much better.

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