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‘Labour against Sin’ launched today (and why we should oppose it)

Well, almost. Labour for Democracy actually. Misleading name – it’s the electoral reform lobby. They just won’t lie down. As if we haven’t had enough of coalitions! We haveone now that satisfies neither party that’s in it, and gives us policies that their voters voted against, never mind ours. And they want more of the same (though they talk about pluralism versus tribalism). The Independent suggests its real purpose is “to heal the party’s rift with the Liberal Democrats and open the door to Lib-Lab co-operation in another hung parliament.

Fortunately, there seem to be plenty of us who are for Labour, for democracy, and against sin for that matter, but also against Labour for Democracy, and from all sections of the party. Labour First, shadowy right-wing Old Labour group run by John Spellar got in first (though the mouth of former Labour national executive member Luke Akehurst), describing the new group as “a slap in the face for grassroots campaigners“. They make the perfectly reasonable point that:

It is completely premature and defeatist to start flirting with the Lib Dems when all the opinion polls and by-elections show we have a realistic chance of a majority Labour government.

I’m not tribally Labour — I am happy to work with people from other parties to the left and right of Labour to defend community services, stop unnecessary wars, protect jobs, act against climate change, or whatever. But I’m in the Labour Party to win and believe that we can. We will not win over formerLib Dem voters by telling them we’d like to work with the party they’re no longer sure if they trust.

Labour for Democracy present evidence showing showing that high proportions of voters of many parties share our progressive opinions on a range of issues. Quite so. They talk of  how voters of all parties have lost confidence in politicians and in the political process. Quite so.

And yet (here we may diverge from Labour First), rather than put behind us the triangulation of New Labour and the neo-Blairites in the Tory party which has made us seem all the same, they’d rather adopt a system which made sure those in government actually are all the same — give or take a few at the margins.

What about Labour against Triangulation? I’d join.


  1. Simon Daniels says:

    The Conservatives have been the most succesful right wing party in western Europe since the Second World War. They have spent more time in power than any of the Christian Democrat or other right of centre parties in Germany, France, Scandinavia, etc; all of which have more proportional voting systems. Do you not think that first past the post has played a significant part in that Conservative success?

    1. Jon Lansman says:

      Simon: First past the post has given us periods of both Tory rule and Labour rule. PR would probably have prevented us having any majority Labour government, not least because it is doubtful that Labour would have survived. But PR would not have prevented governments pursuing right-wing neo-liberal policies because, as we are now seeing, the ‘Liberals’ are happy to support them and they would have been in government almost continuously. Facing the disaster of the worst economic crisis for almost a century, and the disastrous ‘remedy’ of austerity, only a majority Labour government offers any prospect of an alternative that can restore sustainable growth, jobs and investment.

      Robert: I’m not tribal because, in campaigning on any specific issue, I’ll work with almost anyone who supports my objective. Labour isn’t in my blood – it used to be but the Blair years changed that. But I am still Labour because it is the only route to changing things for the better.

  2. Robert says:

    Your not tribally Labour, oh yes you are, not to sure the voters are anymore and I’m not sure what the Labour party has become, maybe that’s why you say you will work with anyone including old new and the right, well one has to earn a living.

    Yes your right about people seeing politicians for what they are people in over paid jobs doing sod all. please do not tell me how hard they work, mine is never here and loves long holidays in sunny parts, ok she says it for a poverty report, well she does not need to go far any more, does she.

    Vote labour get Miliband, no thanks.

  3. Robbie Scott says:

    I think a lot of folks have got the wrong end of the stick on this. I went to the launch last night and the network really isn’t about coalitions particularly it’s about creating a collaborative space for people to share ideas on policy and political campaigns (that is what is meant by democracy). Although, there are people who are keen on electoral reform.

    We’re currently campaigning (very badly) against Scottish Independence, we’re working with a whole host of political parties who share that objective but there is not permanent structure for doing things like that. The AV referendum is another example and any future referendum on the EU will be another example in the not too distant future.

    After the last general election the party intrusted a whole host of negotiators many of them unelected spads to thrash out deals on behalf of the party behind closed doors with no mandate from the membership whatsoever. One aim of the network is to do that publically in advance, not to negotiate anything but to create a chest of policy positions that we the greens liberal’s nats etc can feel comfortable with, a starting point.

    How happy are you for the central Labour party to be dictating whether Cllrs in local government work in coalition? Why do you wait to be thrown into coalition before you start the policy work? What do we do given in light of independent Mayors and Commissioners? So far we’ve chosen to make ourselves irrelevant in the hope of winning a later election, Bristol is the latest example of that.

    “Facing the disaster of the worst economic crisis for almost a century, and the disastrous ‘remedy’ of austerity, only a majority Labour government offers any prospect of an alternative that can restore sustainable growth, jobs and investment”

    This really is a nonsense. The Labour party backed a benefit cap. The Green voted against. Then there’s tuition fees, we’re so progressive we’ll only charge you half as much. Half the cuts of the Tories. And then there’s the privatisation of the past 12 years and the wars… We can learn and work with other parties and we ought to. Maybe not the entire party but certainly elements of them like the social liberals, or the green tories who did some fantastic campaigning on saving the forests and the 3rd runway.

    1. Jon Lansman says:

      I was also at the launch last night, Robbie, and listened to five platform speakers (Vernon Bogdanor was rather good) but came away none the wiser about what they are actually for.

      We heard what they weren’t for – several things that various reports said they were for (not only what we said). We were told how much agreement there was between voters for different parties on important issues in spite of the disagreements between the parties they support, but Jessica Assato in particular was at pains to persuade everyone that she still always wanted Labour candidates to win. But why the need for this organisation?

      “A new approach to the way we do politics” was what Paul Bloomfield said. What does that mean? Nick Clegg says there’s a thirst for it, and the Lib Dems often say that’s what they do, though that’s not what they seem to be doing in the Coalition! It’s what the Yes campaign said about AV (just coincidence?). I’m sorry but I don’t think it means anything at all.

      Of course we can peel away social liberals and green Tories on some issues, and we can work with most Greens on many things. But come election time, we want people to stick their cross next to the name of the Labour candidate.

  4. Peter Rowlands says:

    OK, they are pro PR which Jon argues against and none of the commentators makes a good argument for. Let me try. If we’d had PR since pre WW2 there wouldn’t have been a Tory government since 1964 (no Thatcher),at least until now. There would mainly have been Lab/Lib coalitions which would not have substantially inhibited anything that Labour governments did.The Blair/Kennedy government would have been better. ( No Iraq invasion by UK).

    If PR means the compromise of coalition, FPTP means a prior compromise, of constantly chasing the middle ground, and while I believe that it is possible for Labour to currently offer something more radical than it is doing, that constraint is still there.

    The left has advanced in the Labour Party in the last two years, but we are still far from where we should be, while the left outside Labour are tiny with virtually no representation. Contrast this with the situation in several countries with PR, most notably Germany and Holland, where large socialist parties exist with substantial representationat all levels.Sooner or later these parties are likely to form coalitions with the social democratic parties to their right, thus opening up the possibility of a major advance for the left.But we need PR to allow this to happen here.

    1. Jon Lansman says:

      Your speculation about what would have happened is ust speculation. I’d contend that parties are much more likely to split under PR and therefore it makes no sense just to reinterpret what the results of elections might have been. For example, the SDP would have survived as a separate party. They might well have done better as separate parties under PR without the damaging rows about merger that destroyed them as a possible real third force. I think PR would have seen a much stronger centre and a weaker left – in spite of the direct representation of fringe left parties. I don’t think it would have stopped Thatcherism. Remember it was Labour that introduced monetarism to the UK, not Thatcher.

      FPTP means a prior compromise“: Certainly not as much, I’d suggest, as AV, but fortunately we don’t have to worry about that anymore. I’d certainly accept that electoral expediency under FPTP was the basis of triangulation, but wrongly so – it led to the loss of most of the 5 million lost votes. But Pete misses the real significance of PR – it destroys any prospect of a “contract” with the electorate. You promise to do one thing and then, in the coalition negotiations behind closed doors, you agree to do something completely different – the opposition in several cases by the Lib Dems following the last election.

      Sooner or later these parties are likely to form coalitions with the social democratic parties to their right“: the ever lasting hope of small socialist and progressive parties around the world. Often totally unfulfilled, sometimes achieved but for little gain followed by punishment by the electorate. I’d argue that the best opportunity for radical transformation of society is in a crisis when you are in government. The left is much more likely to be “in government” within a broader social democratic party under FPTP, in my opinion.

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