My views on the current direction of the Labour Party
Updated: Apr 7
By Ollie Chapman
Outlining my views
To understand my personal views on the direction of the Labour Party I need to outline how I view success and why I view it in this way. Many fellow left-wing people may disagree with my conception of success but as I will explain there is an important underlying reason why I view it as I do. The current state of our country is the result of 12 years of scandal, poor policy, and prioritisation of self-interest by the Conservative Party. This must be undone by another party, as the Tories have shown they are forever committed to their unsuccessful methods. This can only be done in government, hence why being elected, for me, tops the list of priorities for Labour.
This is the reason that I feel a need to separate my personal views into ‘views in principle’ and ‘views in practice’. I do this because, as will become apparent throughout this blog, I fear that my ‘views in principle’ won’t win elections – something that needs to happen for the greater good. There are two crucial points that I will make before further discussing Starmer’s Labour that I’d like to be understood by anyone who reads this blog. The first is that I believe every leader should encourage and allow Labour to be the broad church of the left that it is. The second is that nobody should feel at threat within the Labour Party for holding views different to that of the leader unless of course, they are bigoted.
The British electorate has generally made it quite clear for decades that they lean more towards the centre or centre-right of the political spectrum. Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown, Cameron, May, Johnson, Truss, and Sunak all have something in common: none of them are fiercely left-wing politicians. It is a very fair point that this pattern is also the result of a right-leaning media and flawed voting system, and I agree. However, when discussing the current direction of the Labour Party we have to assume we will be playing to these rules at the next election too because the Tories certainly won’t be changing the voting system any time soon. I believe that Keir Starmer has made the same realisations that New Labour did, and is to an extent trying to recreate the success of Blair and Brown, which could be both beneficial and risky.
The most crucial benefit is that New Labour were elected and as a result were able to implement 13 years worth of valuable policy, especially with Brown as Chancellor. The biggest risk is being viewed as ‘Tories in red’: an accusation levelled against Labour under Blair. I am not a Blairite, but I also do not think that he was just a red Tory. Regardless of my views on Blair, I prefer the vision of Labour under Brown, who for me was undoubtedly more left-wing than Blair and very competent in straddling the line between implementing valuable policy to benefit all of society and remaining electorally strong. People will counter my previous point by pointing out that he lost the 2010 election, but this was after the 2008 financial crash was attributed to Labour, which we all know is laughable considering it was a global crash. Opinion polls on Brown were also good in his early premiership, hence why many people wish he'd have called an election in 2007.
I believe that Keir Starmer has made the same realisations that New Labour did, and is to an extent trying to recreate the success of Blair and Brown, which could be both beneficial and risky.
Furthermore, much of the policy from New Labour was Brown’s work too. This is admittedly something which excites me about the current direction as Brown seemingly has a level of influence over the current shadow cabinet, shown by his spending time with Reeves and Starmer and also writing reports for them. If Starmer’s intention is to simultaneously be electable and implement good policy, beneficial to the working class, then it is something I can get behind. However, as much as I think he has these intentions, there are some big grey areas where Starmer has made some decisions which worry me.
Starmer’s Labour on immigration and strikes
I certainly do not agree with Starmer’s Labour on every point as this would be ignorant. There is no reason for Labour to stray from their longstanding values when there is no benefit that would come from it. As my friend Ronny, a Labour Party, Unite, and Warwick Labour member, puts it, “Labour has a rich history of representing working people and to not do so is a betrayal of its core values; there is no sound reason not to do so and it constitutes a betrayal of working people across the country.”
What I take from this point, and agree with, is that there is genuinely no reason not to openly and proudly back strikes and industrial action when popular public opinion is in favour of these measures. Starmer should not be worried and cautious about supporting strikers; he should be highlighting the fact that the Tories have pushed workers to a cliff edge and left them with no choice. Not only would this be true to Labour values, but it would also increase his election chances as it’s bad press for the Tories and Sunak.
If Starmer is attempting to appease voters who believe in this idea by being harsher on immigration then this is not the correct response – he should instead aim to educate our electorate on why the Tory attitude is simply bizarre.
Another key issue I can’t agree with Starmer on is immigration, especially when Nigel Farage comes out and says that “Labour are now to the right of the Tories on immigration.” This is a policy area where I believe he is trying to appear more ‘centrist’ to gain votes, but not in a manner I see as justifiable. This is quite clear in the fact that Starmer was previously very much pro-freedom of movement as a benefit of being in the EU.
I think opting for a harsher immigration policy plays into the idea of a European refugee crisis. There is simply not a refugee crisis on the scale that is depicted in primarily right-wing media and exploited by populists to gain more widespread support. If Starmer is attempting to appease voters who believe in this idea by being harsher on immigration then this is not the correct response – he should instead aim to educate our electorate on why the Tory attitude is simply bizarre.
I have made it quite clear that I think many of Starmer’s decisions as of late have been purely in pursuit of winning an election. I believe an election win over the Tories via following a New Labour mould is preferable to an unsuccessful Labour Party that is too stubborn in its views and allows the Tories to run rampant. However, that’s not to say that the current stance on strikes and immigration can be defended under the same reasoning; this is because they go against the actual objective truth of the current situation and also against public opinion.
I believe that Starmer will win us an election, and that his government will ultimately deliver far better for the country than the Tories. I also think that with his history in law, he will be especially good at cleaning up Westminster, purging the corruption and sleaze the Tories have weaved through it for a decade. In government, I would like to see some very beneficial traditional left-wing policy introduced, such as the re-nationalisation of some key industries, and higher corporation tax alongside tax rises on higher earners to fund education, the NHS and public transport.
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