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Refounding Labour: political homeopathy

Interestingly enough, Peter Hain is one of the few people with credibility in public life openly to champion homeopathy. So to his way of thinking, it presumably follows that by diluting the influence of unions in the Labour Party, Refounding Labour will ultimately make them that much stronger.

The only snag is that the particular form of alternative medicine of which he is enamoured is widely ridiculed in the scientific world, and with good reason.

Homeopathy was devised by German physician Samuel Hahnemann in 1796, and works on a glorified ‘hair of the dog’ principle. Take a substance that produces symptoms similar to an ailment and dilute it by a factor of several trillion, and it becomes an extremely potent cure.

It is of course true that by this time, not one molecule of the original substance remains. But that’s OK, because water has a memory. Apparently.

Likewise, my best guess would be that opening up Labour to registered supporters – a central tenet of Hain’s initiative – will have no significant impact whatsoever. Dilute union influence? When it comes to control of policy direction, the truth is that they haven’t really got any.

Either people are sufficiently attracted to the Labour Party to take out a card – which after all, doesn’t commit anybody to anything in particular – or they are not. I cannot see the offer having widespread appeal. A few thousand additional voices in leadership contest ballots would not usually prove decisive either way.

The main purpose of the exercise seems to be a bid to placate the Daily Mail, in the hope it will stop using the words ‘elected by union votes’ every time it mentions Ed Miliband’s name. That’s not the mood music I would want to send out to grass roots union activists if I were running the show. But I’m not.

The real potential for abuse comes with the opportunity for so-called open primaries. Of course, selections for safe seats have frequently been fixed ever since the Labour Party was founded. Democracy has been at best a secondary consideration.

Mechanisms used to achieve this end have varied; sometimes nominations have been secured by trade union patronage. Under New Labour, head office often cut to the chase and just imposed their chosen man or woman anyway.

Open primaries risk creating latter day GMB or NUM pocket seats, this time under the control of self-appointed community leaders, without even the formal accountability union officials owe to their memberships.

Strip out the hype then, and Refounding Labour will not amount to much. I suppose the depressing thing is just how far the document is in line with some of the party’s worst traditions.

One Comment

  1. Robert the crip says:

    I suspect in then end Labour will get what it planned for, it will then spend so much time chasing the middle class so called swing voter the rest of us will wonder which Tory party we should vote for. the blue one or the other blue one.

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