Will the return of Respect test Labour left loyalty?


by Sunny Hundal    
10:52 am - April 12th 2012

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Labour councillor and organiser Luke Akehurst spent a few hours arguing with Salma Yaqoob and other Labour lefties on Twitter last night, which ended with him saying: “Digusted by sectarianism I am reading of alleged Lab members preferring Respect to their own party comrades. Shocking. Sick.”

He also added: “Labour left should be as hostile to Respect as loyalist Labour right was to SDP. SDP and Respect both scab parties.”

I’m no fan of George Galloway, as regular readers will know, but I think he has to understand why some lefties are drawn to Respect.

The problem for the Labour party is that there seems to be a significant base of support that is angry, apathetic or disillusioned enough to vote for a alternative that presents itself as ‘Real Labour’. But that alternative has to be viable, which is why the party hasn’t bled support in the past like the Conservatives are doing to UKIP.

In a sense Respect has once again managed to position itself as ‘Real Labour’. Sean Dolat’s piece on that election nailed it.

And this why Respect’s win in one sense presents a bigger shock to Labour’s system than is being acknowledged – it exposes that rump of Labour voters who have gotten tired of being taken for granted.

It was the view of many within New Labour that it could occupy the centre ground and party with bankers because its base had nowhere else to go.

[And by base I don't necesarily mean the 'profession left' (many of whom also left out of disgust, but are absolutely vital for electioneering), I mean the poorer working class base that stopped voting for Labour after 1997. They also felt abandoned and ignored.]

Clearly, I’m in no position to preach to others about party loyalty, having joined Labour just two years ago. But I was part of the left who felt the Labour party thought I would vote for them anyway because I had nowhere else to go.

Even now, some people within Labour criticise me for having voted Libdem in 2010, as if I should obviously have made that decision, without asking why Labour attracted only 29% of the vote.

I think it is fair enough for Luke to expect loyalty from Labour activists, but it is much more difficult to demand that of Labour voters. And that is a bigger problem for the party compared to a few Galloway fans on Twitter.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


I don’t think there’s a legitimate argument for enforcing party loyalty for its own sake.

As far as I’m concerned you should vote and campaign for the party you think will make the biggest difference to people’s lives.

Anything else seems to be profoundly unethical on your own terms.

You could argue that having a cohesive party with discipline is going to make a bigger difference, and there may be some truth to that. But if you think Labour is already too stale, doesn’t have enough internal debate, and needs a kick in the backside towards the left then voting to the left of Labour is probably the right thing to do on balance.

Also, with regards to the SDPers, it’s all well and good to say “look, we all stayed and spat on the splitters” but the fact is that a lot of people didn’t stay, and a lot of people did join and vote for the new party… In fact, in 1983 Labour got 27.6% to the SDP’s 25.4%. I’d be happy to use that as a benchmark for a left-of Labour alternative in 2015.

I think the problem is that labour left members (like myself) don’t feel a stake in the party, if candidates for all elections were elected by local party members and not parachuted in from above then we’d be much more loyal, we need genuine participatory party democracy.

Labour is so afraid of the Militant shadow, that anyone mentions ‘left’ and they bolt off to closer to the centre. I think they might want to look at, and listen to voters who want a welfare state, end to demononisation of claimants, proper pay and employment…

“Labour left should be as hostile to Respect as loyalist Labour right was to SDP”

That does make me laugh. Before it became clear that 97 was going to be a labour landslide, the blairites spent years in an informal alliance with Paddy Ashdown, with plans to form a coalition post 97 that inevitably would have left the labour socialists out in the cold. Nothing wrong with this – quite sensible strategy at the time – but the re-writing of history is laughable.

What is even more amusing is the idea that the labour right is in any way loyal. since the election they have been moaning about the fact David didn’t win, undermining the Milliband Balls strategy by saying they would agree with cuts, Blair himself launched a major attack on Brown and endorsed cameron, this added to the hostility they shown to trade unions over the past decade and a half, the contempt they’ve shown for the most succesful labour politician at the moment Carwyn Jones (first minister of Wales yet not even leader of welsh labour and gets undermined by peter hain constantly), Akehurst’s support for the arms trade etc…and you want to talk about loyalty?

The only thing the labour right have been loyal to recently are their careers.

How can leaning toward Respect and being able to work with the Respect party sectarianism? Surely demanding tribal loyalty from the labour left and informing them as to why they ought to hate Galloway is the very definition of sectarianism. If Luke Akehurst is being disgusted by sectarianism, he should stop looking in the mirror at himself.

6. Chaise Guevara

Akehurst’s statements should be the opening words of a book called Why Party Politics Makes You Stupid. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone so enraged by the idea of independent thought.

Good article generally, Sunny, but why this: “I think it is fair enough for Luke to expect loyalty from Labour activists”? Does becoming a Labour activist mean sealing your alignment for life, regardless of changes in your politics or the party’s?

7. Paul Newman

Wishy meets washy for a game of who can be the most nebulous … but the exciting news is that Sunny and I both elected the Coalition.
Salutations bro, and may I say that the “Tory lead Government ” which I also support will not be taking you for granted .
Given your virtually Communist opinions and the repeated assurances given by Clegg he would support the winner ,anyone stupid enough to vote Liberal, on the day, might just as easily pop a cross on an intimate erogenous zone of which we shall not speak.

Brother Hundal you are beyond valued, you are priceless …

8. Chaise Guevara

@ 5 Cylux

“How can leaning toward Respect and being able to work with the Respect party sectarianism?”

Good point. Perhaps he meant secularism?

9. paul barker

As a libdem, thanks for the Scab label, I shall wear it with pride.

Why should anybody on the left of the Labour Party feel any loyalty at all? From the mid 1990s, New Labour de-democratised the party and once in office cuddled up to the US and business interests– and those same people run the Labour Party today.

As a secular socialist, there is much I don’t like about RESPECT, but the left in many parts of Britain can achieve a great deal more working with Respect than they can brown-nosing to the Labour hierarchy.

@ 5 Cyclux.

I agree. This was my own thought when I first read the shortform blurb on the homepage.

Supporting a party on the basis of some kind of traditional loyalty rather than on policy grounds is the very definition of sectarian.

12. Chaise Guevara

@ 7 Paul

If you’ve got nothing better to add than sneers that were old within a week of the coalition agreement, peppered with hysterical and paranoid labelling of your opponents (COMMUNIST!!!11111 8o), perhaps you should bugger off? Just a thought.

13. paul barker

Labour are actually facing a double attack from the far-left, from inside & out. Respect have very close links with socialist action, to the extent of some people being in both. Socialist action ( what was the IMG) are the organising force behind Red Ken. You have entryists & external enemies, sometimes the same people under different names.

14. Planeshift

“a book called Why Party Politics Makes You Stupid”

*Goes off to write that book

Also, isn’t throwing ‘scab’ around as a slur for parties outside of labour a bit rich given that labour is hardly the unions friend it used to be, and isn’t all that shy about condemning strikes when the media scrum demands it.

You seem to be confused, Luke. Scabs aren’t people who refuse to support your warmongering. They are people who refuse to support a strike.

You know, like the leadership of your party.

Does becoming a Labour activist mean sealing your alignment for life, regardless of changes in your politics or the party’s?

Yup, but you are welcome to leave if you feel your values have changed or the party has (Luke Bozier)

18. Chaise Guevara

@ 16 Sunny

“Yup, but you are welcome to leave if you feel your values have changed or the party has ”

Then surely that’s a “no”, not a “yup”, and disloyalty is not a sin?

Sectarian, in relation to what. I always thought on the left that meant putting your party ahead of the class, something which labour do all the time.

He uses the word scab, what a ignorant, politically unsophisticated class traitor.

Fact: Today’s Labour Party isn’t that much different to the SDP.

@3

Labour’s biggest mistake was to engage in the anti-Militant witch hunt. The party hasn’t been the same since.

@19 buddyhell

New Labour, and indeed Newer Labour, aren’t simply the SDP de nos jours. There are a number of differentiating factors, even if you can characterise their tents as being pitched on over-lapping territory on the centre left of the political spectrum.

I doubt the SDP would have had much sympathy for New Labour’s stance on civil liberties for example, or Europe and the EU, and certainly not on electoral reform. Given that New Labour spent much of their period in power looking and acting as though they were to the right of the LD’s (and even the Tories in some respects), I doubt many who were in the SDP would agree with your characterisation.

I also suspect that a fair proportion of disillusioned former LD voters who are currently “homeless” are natural SDP voters and aren’t about to vote Newer Labour. The failure of the SDP to supplant the Labour party (it wasn’t that fancifule an idea in 1983-ish) will remain as one of the great “what ifs” in our history; it might at least have saved us from the nauseating New Labour project.

I followed the conversation with interest. I have some sympathy with both sides and clearly there is a struggle starting to happen – hallelujah! I was once a Blairite in the very early days of his leadership/PMship but the Iraq war finished me off and I left the party. For years I watched the wriggling and spin from New Labour, the lack of empathy with ordinary people who were depending on Blair and his cohorts to support them and I know there are many, many who feel completely let down.

The organisation Progress seems to be a party within the party. It’s funding is highly questionable – think I read somewhere they’re funded by Pottingers (not 100% about that) but this ‘chasing the money for their own ends’ does not resemble the party I once knew and loved. Blair and Mandelson took their eye off the ball and I think spent their time networking, writing their diaries for £m contracts and setting up their own selfish lifestyles.

I read The Green Benches blog with great interest. I can understand why some people on the left of the party might feel more comfortable with Salma Yaqoob and her policies. It isn’t all about Galloway although I think he will cause a few raised eyebrows when he enters the Commons. Salma Yaqoob comes across as a person who has self respect and respects others, sorry about the pun. Luke Akehurst, to me, was offensive when he referred to Trots, Islamists, Islam and he lost the plot. Salma didn’t make any comment whatsoever. Those comments will have been hurtful to her. I don’t have a faith but I thought those comments were inflammatory and he used them without any cause whatsoever. I wonder why he did that ?

Finally, the Labour Party needs a new direction and if a shared agenda is found between non-Progress types with Salma’s Respect then that is fine with me and I suspect with others. At least Dr Clarke and SalmaYaqoob seem to have some morals and do not come across as self-serving. The Labour Party has become a party of egos and career-led individuals – it SHOULD be about serving the people of this country. The agenda should be to rid us of this awful, cruel government. Fighting them should be the crusade not against Islam, Trots, the Left or whoever. If Progress and those types flee to where they belong and morals re-enter the party, I might join again as I believe will others. Depends what people want doesn’t it and if they are ready to fight for what they believe in? Next time I see a discussion develop, I might join in. Will you ?

Will? I understand why the embedded commentariat are so eager to rubbish the electorate of Bradford West and its choices, but ignoring the fact that the Labour left in its wards flocked to support Galloway is surely taking convenient blindness a step too far.

I forgot to say I read Liberal Conspiracy most days. I find it to be balanced and the comments are usually very reasoned too – unlike The Guardian. Thanks to all.

@23 Briar

“but ignoring the fact that the Labour left in its wards flocked to support Galloway is surely taking convenient blindness a step too far.”

I’d argue that the collapse of Scottish Labour, and the abject failure of Labour to tackle the SNP, is probably a lot more relevant in as much as Bradford can be written off as a one trick pony/ bye election blip. Galloway and Respect are a sideshow… they will only serve to take votes from Labour in some areas by trying to outflank them from the left, just as UKIP do with the tories from the right.

The SNP in the meantime are busily deconstructing the formerly monolithic Scottish Labour party by demonstrating that they are a bunch of third rate careerists, who no longer reflect the aspirations of the Scottish people…. if only someone would do the same in the UK as a whole… it certainly isn’t going to be Miliband and Balls.

Nothing sectarian about Luke Akehurst, obviously. He leads a party within the Labour Party, but who cares? The London Labour Party simply has no internal discipline whatever. Absolutely none.

@22 Hear, hear

When you say “Labour councillor and organiser Luke Akehurst spent a few hours arguing with Salma Yaqoob and other Labour lefties on Twitter last night”, it sounds as though you’re implying that Yaqoob is Labour, which obviously isn’t the case. “Other Labour lefties” sounds like it needs another Labour lefty earlier on in the sentence. Not Akehurst, presumably, who seems quite rightwing.

I think the Labour left has been more loyal than the Labour right was (and since, as someone pointed out, a lot of people did join the SDP, it is nonsensical to compare the Labour left with the loyalist Labour right – the correct comparison would either be Labour left with Labour right, each loyalist and otherwise, or it would be loyalist Labour left with loyalist Labour right, though by definition the latter comparison is useless). But if the left has been more loyal it is mostly down to FPTP (and partly to trade union institutionalism). When the SDP was founded, a lot of people thought it would “break the mould”.

You can also hardly compare Respect with the SDP. Galloway was expelled from Labour, as Ken was, whereas the SDP leaders left of their own accord and free will.

Poor old Luke he is so new labour, it must hurt to be out of power, waiting for a safe seat so he can make a move to be leader.

Correct me if I’m wrong but wasn’t Luke one of Ed’s most fervent supporters in the leadership contest?

Making the case for paleo-Labour and for the possibility of such candidates at the next General Election has caused my account to be deleted on Comment is Free.

Is it being edited by Damian Thompson? In one sense, yes: in this country, we have the media and the public, and never the twain. Fall out with one of the Fleet Street club, and you have fallen out with them all. They are as much of a cartel as the parties are. Indeed, they and parties are the same cartel.

Am I proud to have been so treated by a Coalition rag, which has supported the Lib Dems at the last three General Elections? “Proud” hardly begins to describe it.

33. Paul Newman

Well done David ! I am also banned from Cif it was when Polly Toynbee wrote an article about Will and Kate and how the monarchy was classist and nasty .
I wrote an extended satire on the marriage of a Toynbee and a Milliband attacking the irresistible target of her own class privilege and wadda-you-know banned in perpetuity.

They have no sense of humour do they

CiF is comfortable with the page views they get from posting troll bait, but the Guardian has zero interest in hearing working class views, preferring to filter them through the strainer of Polly Toynbee, who spent eight months living amongst the working class in the 70s.

Pretty much what you’d expect from someone who was a big fan of the Gang of Four and has supported a more authoritarian state.

It’s always been the Liberal mantra – cast yourselves as defenders of the poor and needy, but make sure there are no poor and needy people speaking for themselves and that their material conditions don’t change.

The Labour party is a Liberal party now in the same way.

I’m sure the situation can all be resolved with a nice witch hunt and everyone who ever said something nice about Salma being expelled from the Labour party.

I seem to remember a piece on here not too long ago calling for more witch hunts and the expulsion of left wingers from the Labour party.

It was Labour uncut in fact

http://labour-uncut.co.uk/2011/09/13/good-home-offered-to-custard-pie-throwing-entryists/

Like most issues in the Labour party it can be solved by rounding up people who do things based on principle, who frankly don’t belong in the Labour party, and kicking them out.

“SDP and Respect both scab parties.”

Hardly surprising that the “centrist” Labourites are worried.

Their little game of enforcing neo-liberal policies while keeping their traditional base on board by claiming they’re class traitors if they vote for anyone else (Traitor! Scab! Splittist!) is wearing thin.

“I mean the poorer working class base that stopped voting for Labour after 1997″

But they didn’t did they? 55% of DE voters voted Labour in 2001, that is only 4% below 1997 (i.e. within the combined margin of error) and still a much higher level of support than Labour had from DE voters in the 1979, 1983, 1987 and 1992 general elections.

Oh wait, you aren’t talking about real voters are you? You are talking about the millions of completely imaginary, lost, left-wing working class votes who were meant to return to Labour if Ed Milliband became leader. Has that fantasy not worn off yet? Is it not time to try and appeal to real people?

38. Chaise Guevara

@ 32 David Lindsay

“Making the case for paleo-Labour and for the possibility of such candidates at the next General Election has caused my account to be deleted on Comment is Free.”

I would bet quite a lot of money that you were actually banned for writing interminable eight-paragraph adverts for your vanity-published book.

39. Chaise Guevara

Oh, and Paul Newman and David Lindsay need to do some research on the coalition. I know that means dredging up sources from the long, long ago of 2010, but describing the Guardian as a “coalition rag” or saying that Sunny voted for the coalition is factually wrong, as well as silly and childish.

Nobody voted for the coalition. They voted for their two separate member parties, which decided to join forces after no party won enough votes to form an outright majority. Actually, the two of you should probably start by learning the basics of the UK election system. Wikipedia is your friend here.

Spot on about the “profession left” Sunny.

Labour’s very appeal used to be in its name – it was the party of the labouring classes, which they clearly understood.

My guess is that it now stands for the “ruling” classes, which is why Respect can be understood to have some appeal – it’s not just Muslims who do not feel “respected”.

Since Thatcher, Labour has fallen out of love with the working class, culminating (in its incomprehension) with Brown’s contempt for “that bigoted woman”.

It sought to replace its ideological soul (class struggle) with relatively peripheral issues. It came to exist simply for the sake of existing, and in doing so simply became a pinker hue of blue.

The old Leftists who support Respect see Muslims as a new form of working class vanguard. They are naive only in so much as they believe socialism is stronger than Islam, or perhaps they’re too far gone to care.

Paradoxically, the people who may be doing the most for the working class are Cameron’s Tories – by impoverishing them through bad economics and reduced benefits, at some stage they may actually get angry enough to redevelop a consciousness.

However, short of a few broken windows at JD Sports, it may be a long time coming.

41. Dick the Prick

Good article, cheers. They had some Respect guys on Look North the other day and I was definately left with the feeling that they know they’re angry but not really sure what about which is fair enough but a tad amateurish. Guess they can learn on the job.

42. Paul Newman

Chaise, lighten up you sound cross and , to my delicate ears; spotty with perhaps lank lifeless hair.

Be fair, it was obvious that the Liberals were going to support the Conservative Party they could not have made it plainer so unless you are suggesting the Liberal Party were likely to win outright there was only ever one possible outcome in a Liberal vote.
The joyful outocome is that, for once, juvenile posturing is rewarded justly and the sell by date for reminding the Hun of this is …the Glorious 12th of Never! Sorry.

Ben2 I really love your reminder of Polly Toynbee`s Book about being “Working Class”..it was like something form the Mass observation movement in the 30s. There are some delicious sections were she reports from the front line, where the Dinner Ladies ply their gruesome back breaking trade. When I was at school my Auntie Susan was a Dinner Lady there, and I remember it dawning on me that to a Toynbee this really was a Lost World experience. Just fantastic, she`s a magificent collumnist actually, but for god`s sake don`t take her too seriously.

43. Chaise Guevara

@ 42 Paul

“Chaise, lighten up you sound cross and , to my delicate ears; spotty with perhaps lank lifeless hair.”

I’ll let you have that one as it’s a likeable turn of phrase. Although I would like to state for the record that my hair is luscious and the envy of all who gaze on it.

“Be fair, it was obvious that the Liberals were going to support the Conservative Party they could not have made it plainer so unless you are suggesting the Liberal Party were likely to win outright there was only ever one possible outcome in a Liberal vote.”

Um, no. That would be hindsight, which is always 20:20. In the run-up to the election, the general feeling was that Clegg would deal with Labour if the results created a situation where any two of the main parties could form a coalition. And, based on opinion polls that in the end failed to translate into real votes, that looked like a likely scenario. If it was obvious that a vote for Clegg was a de facto vote for Cameron, why did the right-wing media panic so much when the Lib Dem ratings soared after the first TV debate?

You’re being a revisionist, too. Upthread you claim Clegg said he would deal with the winner. He did not. He said he would approach the party with the most votes first. Given that this was a response to premature claims like “only Clegg’s vote counts!”, it wasn’t unreasonable to guess that he preferred Labour and was planning to demand so many concessions from the Tories that they’d have to refuse. We now have no way of knowing whether this was the case, as dealing with Labour turned out not to be possible.

You seem very pleased with your ability to predict the past…

@43 Paul Newman

Chaise is correct @43… your attempt to re-write (very recent) history is as breathtaking as it is wrong-headed.

There were very few prior to the election who gave any credence to the thought of a Con/LD Coalition, both on the basis that most thought the LD’s would have more seats than transpired, and that it would be Labour they would go into coalition with, because Labour and the LD’s together (perhaps even with a few minor parties) would have been preferred by most LD’s.

The New Labour bitter enders have to take a large measure of the blame of course, both for the result and for their effective scuppering of any alternative to the Con/LD deal. If they had forced Gordon out right away, and offered a better deal than the Tories (including PR) then an alternative Coalition was feasible… and would have been a much better result for the country, for the LD’s and probably for Labour too.

The guff about it being unstable and simply too difficult simply shows how short sighted and inexperienced Clegg and his team were; they had no “bottom”, and were paniced into the arms of the Tories by a combination of hysteria about the sky falling down if they didn’t do something quickly, and clever Tory concessions.

Of course, it is now obvious that what many of us predicted has come to pass; the LD’s have been destroyed as a political force, they failed to gain significant concessions from the Tories who comprehensively out manoeuvred them during the 5 days of May, they obtained no major cabinet positions, have abjectly failed to act as the promised break on Tory policies, and threw away the best opportinity for electoral reform in a few generations.

To cap it all, they are now in the process of helping destroy the Union by aligning themselves with the Tories and Labour in Scotland with respect to the devolution/independence debate, by failing to promote devo-max/ full fiscal independence.

The “there was only ever one possible outcome” meme is simply false, and it doesn’t get any more convincing by dint of constant repetition. Other outcomes were quite feasible, however hard they may have been, and falling for the tendentious apologias of the LD’s or New Labour cling-ons lets them off the hook.

We deserved better.

45. Paul Newman

Yes it was a fair asumption the yellow perils would cuddle New Labour having been largely left of them for their tenure.That is why Clegg, by saying he would give the winner the spoils, ( on numerous occassons ),was making it crystal clear he would deal with the Conservatives, who were in the lead by a long way at the time.

There was no other possible interpretation,or outcome, other than just maybe , in the “I agree with Nick” boy band politics week ,if you got your politics from the pages of Elle( Girl) , the teenstyle periodical of note.

For adults ,for your case to work, you have to assume Clegg was a lying invertebrate slimy power seeking missile who would say anything, even support a clearly rejected, and in many places hated ,Labour administation if he could inflict his malodorous progressive bag of nonsense on the Nation, having promised not to.

Ahhhhh…

Ok, now I get it, do you want him back ? Please ?

46. Chaise Guevara

@ 45 Paul

Can you please provide examples of a) Clegg saying he would “give the winner the spoils” and b) you saying, before the election, that the only possible outcome was a Con-Lib coalition? Because otherwise you’re just ignoring all criticisms of your claims and just repeating the same thing, presumably in the hopes that the rest of us will grow bored and go away. Which is likely, to be fair.

There will soon be an awful lot more Labour-controlled councils, even than there are already. They should transfer their advertising non-Coalition-supporting newspapers, such as the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail. Let The Guardian go down with its beloved Lib Dems.

48. Chaise Guevara

@ 47 David Lindsay

“They should transfer their advertising non-Coalition-supporting newspapers, such as the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail. Let The Guardian go down with its beloved Lib Dems.”

You must have missed it, but I helpfully explained the error you’re making here @39. You’re welcome.

I suspect that I know the Labour municipal base a lot better than you do. Do not be surprised if this happens. Not because I had suggested it, but because it had already occurred to them.

@22 Galen

I wouldn’t expect the SDP to agree with my characterisation. However today’s Labour Party isn’t what I would describe as a workers party nor does it appear to want to represent worker’s interests. In this way and in the way they fully embraced neoliberalism, they are the SDP in all but name.

51. Paul Newman

You Chaise are being contrary for the sake of it , this is from wikipedia but I am sure you can track down a few more gobbets yourself .

Replying (To David Cameron) Clegg said that he had always maintained that the party with the most seats and the most votes should have the right to seek to govern. Speaking to the press he said “It seems this morning that it is the Conservative Party which has more votes and more seats — although not an absolute majority — which is why I now think that it is the Conservative Party which should seek to govern in the national interest.”

Was there another Party likely to have the most seats and votes at any time ? Nope;so on what Clegg had said ..I agree with Nick

End of

The creation of the SDP was premature. Those who had determined upon that creation ought to have waited until the new Electoral College had given the Deputy Leadership to Tony Benn, casting their own votes in the MPs’ section to that end. Benn as Deputy Leader would have made it unanswerable that the Labour Party they had joined no longer existed.

A new party would have taken with it half or more of Labour MPs, most Labour peers, huge numbers of councillors, great tracts of the activist base, and a good many unions. At least one, and possibly both, of the former Labour Prime Ministers then alive would have joined it. Victory in 1983 would have been quite plausible, and victory in 1987 would have been practically certain. There would have been no need, if there ever really was, for the Alliance with the Liberals. A rapidly Benn-led Labour rump would not have been “split”. It would simply have been replaced.

But instead, although (for want of a better term) the Labour Right’s internal differences over incomes policy and over devolution were, up to a point, carried over into the SDP, its diversity over Europe hardly was. Almost all Keynesian, pro-Commonwealth defenders of national sovereignty remained in the Labour Party, as did almost all of the right-wing Labour MPs who were not easily young enough to start again, or who had any real roots in local government or the unions, or who could not have been certain of making at least as much money if they had lost their seats as if they had kept them. The new party’s character was thus fixed from the start: a very readily identifiable post-War type that was still relatively young in 1981, had few or no roots in wider civil society, and was on the up economically. The 1980s were to be those people’s decade.

Apparently unable to see that the trade unions were where the need for a broad-based, sane opposition to Thatcherism was greatest, the SDP was hysterically hostile to them, and instead made itself dependent on a single donor, later made a Minister by Tony Blair without the rate for the job. It had betrayed Gaitskellism over Europe, betrayed Christian Socialism (and, although this is not generally understood, Gaitskellism) over nuclear weapons, adopted the decadent social libertinism of Roy Jenkins, adopted the comprehensive schools mania of Shirley Williams, and carried over her sense of guilt at not having resigned over past Labour attempts to control immigration.

Faced with Bennism and Trotskyism on one side, and with the forces around Margaret Thatcher on the other, it advocated exactly the wrong thing, “more, not less, radical change in our society”. Alliance with the Liberal Party committed the SDP to constitutional agenda scarcely distinguishable from those of Tony Benn, many of which have now been enacted and most of which are now the policy of all three parties, as can also be said of social policies that were then peculiar to Ken Livingstone and the “Loony Left”.

Benn and Livingstone were both vilified for cavorting with Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, yet it is now no more possible to cast a meaningful vote against that than to do so against either Benn’s signature policy of abolishing the House of Lords or Livingstone’s signature policy of redefining marriage to include same-sex couples. The SDP was always at least sympathetic towards the second and third of those, if not to all three. So it certainly contributed to creating the present consensus that defines itself as “the centre ground”. But not remotely in the way that most people imagine.

The only British Minister ever known to have been an agent of the Soviet Bloc (specifically, of Czechoslovakia) was John Stonehouse, the Labour MP most closely associated with the proto-Thatcherite Institute of Economic Affairs in the days when it was still trying to persuade both main parties, and later the only MP ever to have sat in the English separatist interest, before, having left Parliament, he joined the SDP.

Chris Huhne had very close ties to the International Marxist Group while at Oxford. Sue Slipman, one of David Owen’s closest allies, had been a Communist Party member of sufficient prominence to be made President of the National Union of Students, a position by then openly in that party’s gift, only a very few years before joining the SDP that she told to “retain the classless opportunities provided by Thatcherism”, to “civilise the Thatcherite project”, and to “be a friendly critic of Thatcherism”.

One could go on.

53. Chaise Guevara

@ 51 Paul Newman

“You Chaise are being contrary for the sake of it”

If you think that honesty is contrariness then god help you.

“this is from wikipedia but I am sure you can track down a few more gobbets yourself”

I’m not doing your homework for you, especially as this involves what I suspect will be a wild goose chase to find a quote that doesn’t exist.

“Replying (To David Cameron) Clegg said that he had always maintained that the party with the most seats and the most votes should have the right to seek to govern. Speaking to the press he said “It seems this morning that it is the Conservative Party which has more votes and more seats — although not an absolute majority — which is why I now think that it is the Conservative Party which should seek to govern in the national interest.”

Key words there being “the right to seek to govern”. Seek to govern, not govern. Faced with a choice of joining up with Labour or the Conservatives, Clegg could easily have allowed the Tories to “seek to govern” while effectively insisting on a Lib/Lab coalition. I explained how this could be done earlier in the thread.

“End of”

Only not. Got any quotes that actually back up your claims? And I’m still waiting on a quote of you predicting “the obvious” before the election, too. If you can’t provide either you’re flogging a dead horse. Two in fact.

54. Chaise Guevara

@ David

“I suspect that I know the Labour municipal base a lot better than you do. Do not be surprised if this happens. Not because I had suggested it, but because it had already occurred to them.”

Not sure if that’s a reply to me (it’s below my comment but not addressed to anyone), but if so, it has nothing to do with what I said. Are you going to stop making specious claims that people “support the coalition” simply because they favoured the LDs before the election?

What’s a shame is that there is no one but Respect like parties or Socialist Workers for people fed up with Labour to go to on the left. Or UK uncut or Occupy non party movements. None of them are good enough IMO, but that’s all there is out there.

Anything that comes along (Like ”Blue Labour”) that’s not quite lefty enough – in a Ken Livingstone/Diane Abbott kind of way, will get shot down and accused of being right wing.
So there’s no getting past this dilemma IMO. The left sucks, and there is no alternative.
Respect is certainly no alternative.

To me, what’s staggering about Galloway’s win (and it was as much Galloway as the actual party) is that it’s actually took this to happen before various Labour hierarchies have noticed (or perhaps *cared*) what’s happened to much of their voter base.

The idea that this has somehow “exposed” anything is a nonsense as there’s a suggestion there that this has happened ‘under the radar’ or was ‘hidden’. The fact of it is that this “rump” has been trying to tell the (New) Labour how it feels for years. No one remember the anti-war demonstrations? No one remember the outcry about ID cards? No one remember the concern about the shift to the right of the political spectrum?

How about the fact that, since the last election (that’s TWO years ago), people are having to create their own ‘government opposition’ through protests and social networks because the Labour party – for various reasons – appear to have no real cohesive or tangible opposition to anything this vile Tory-lead government has done.

Much of Left, including a lot of Labour voters have been crying out since the middle of the Blair-years and they’ve been practically screaming since 2010 but it’s all fallen on deaf (New) Labour ears.

Rather than Respect’s result revealing anything about Labour voters, perhaps the real issue is Respect’s result revealing something about (New) Labour.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Will the return of Respect test Labour left loyalty? http://t.co/Qel067ZO

  2. BevR

    Will the return of Respect test Labour left loyalty? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/dZAii9Ta via @libcon

  3. Robert CP

    Will the return of Respect test Labour left loyalty? http://t.co/Qel067ZO

  4. sunny hundal

    Will the return of Respect test Labour left loyalty? http://t.co/rRTRQhFj < my response to @lukeakehurst

  5. Seema Chandwani

    Will the return of Respect test Labour left loyalty? http://t.co/rRTRQhFj < my response to @lukeakehurst

  6. leftlinks

    Liberal Conspiracy – Will the return of Respect test Labour left loyalty? http://t.co/Q3PuGY0R

  7. bob woods

    Will the return of Respect test Labour left loyalty? http://t.co/rRTRQhFj < my response to @lukeakehurst

  8. Nick Lewis

    Will the return of Respect test Labour left loyalty? http://t.co/rRTRQhFj < my response to @lukeakehurst

  9. Mark Smithson

    Will the return of Respect test Labour left loyalty? http://t.co/Qel067ZO

  10. Mark Smithson

    Will the return of Respect test Labour left loyalty? http://t.co/Qel067ZO

  11. Mark Smithson

    Will the return of Respect test Labour left loyalty? http://t.co/Qel067ZO

  12. Mark Smithson

    Will the return of Respect test Labour left loyalty? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/1WxUi1gl

  13. Mark Smithson

    Will the return of Respect test Labour left loyalty? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/1WxUi1gl

  14. Kamaljeet Jandu

    Will the return of Respect test Labour left loyalty? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/WDwOoavo via @libcon

  15. Jason Brickley

    Will the return of Respect test Labour left loyalty? http://t.co/d996gRJr

  16. Mark Smithson

    Will the return of Respect test Labour left loyalty? | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/dZAii9Ta via @libcon

  17. Rebecca Church

    The challenge of Respect & George Galloway is preventing Labour from taking the British Left for granted: http://t.co/6neb2LjD

  18. Petrelli Pierre

    The challenge of Respect & George Galloway is preventing Labour from taking the British Left for granted: http://t.co/6neb2LjD

  19. Sam Kington

    The challenge of Respect & George Galloway is preventing Labour from taking the British Left for granted: http://t.co/6neb2LjD

  20. David Swanson

    The challenge of Respect & George Galloway is preventing Labour from taking the British Left for granted: http://t.co/6neb2LjD

  21. Arline Abdalian

    The challenge of Respect & George Galloway is preventing Labour from taking the British Left for granted: http://t.co/6neb2LjD

  22. steve

    'The return of Respect is a danger to Labour because it exposes that rump of voters tired of being taken for granted' http://t.co/rRTRQhFj

  23. STEPHEN LAVERY

    'The return of Respect is a danger to Labour because it exposes that rump of voters tired of being taken for granted' http://t.co/rRTRQhFj

  24. News Alliance

    'The return of Respect is a danger to Labour because it exposes that rump of voters tired of being taken for granted' http://t.co/rRTRQhFj

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    'The return of Respect is a danger to Labour because it exposes that rump of voters tired of being taken for granted' http://t.co/rRTRQhFj

  26. Will the return of Respect test Labour left loyalty? « jerrywaggon1

    [...] Source: http://liberalconspiracy.org/2012/04/12/will-the-return-of-respect-test-labour-left-loyalty/ [...]

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  28. Luke Akehurst and Respect « Representing the Mambo | My Blog

    [...] the context of an article discussing the supposed ‘resurgence’ of Respect, Sunny Hundal on Liberal Conspiracy yesterday pointed out an interesting debate on Twitter (yes, [...]

  29. Mac

    'The return of Respect is a danger to Labour because it exposes that rump of voters tired of being taken for granted' http://t.co/rRTRQhFj

  30. Arun Mehta

    Will the return of the Respect Party test Labour left loyalty? http://t.co/TZTkSvUn via @libcon

  31. "PARTY WITHIN A PARTY", A STRUCTURAL OBSTACLE TO LABOUR'S REVIVAL | Socialist Unity

    [...] genuine change” to reconnect with the 5 million voters lost under New Labour. At the same time, Labour right-wingers like Luke Akehurst express “disgust“that other Labour members can put aside loyalty to their party to express solidarity not only with [...]





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