Labour’s now fighting for the soul of the party, where are the centrists?

The Corbyn surge is a powerful wave of religious like fervour, this was exemplified yesterday with a 2,000 strong rally in the capital. Corbyn was late because he delivered a thumping speech on top of a fire truck, and another in a second room as the venue simply wasn’t big enough to accommodate the swathes of people who have suddenly got Corbyn fever. No matter though, the event had warm up acts including the baby faced Owen Jones and artist Brian Eno. The indomitable spirit of Jones was telling, passionately arguing that there was no putting this genie back inside the Lamp. He declared that a movement had been born, mere weeks into the Labour leadership it might well be a bit early to declare a triumphal return to post war consensus politics. Especially due to  the unshakeable conviction that even in defeat the principles which they hold cannot be changed, this was shown with one of the biggest roars of the night from a Brian Eno quote ” electability isn’t the most important thing”.

That is what really shook me about the Corbynite crowd, they now have their martyr which will guide them towards electoral suicide and the ideological purity which they crave so much. I’ve heard this a great many times, what does it matter if we’re obliterated we’re the Labour Party and we’re socialists.  This was seen by the first speaker who was practically frothing at the mouth, apparently they could do much from opposition as stopping the Syrian intervention showed. Of course she missed the crucial points, the Syrian intervention in some form has taken place, and it was only stopped because it was a free vote, and the lack of any ‘end game’ scuppered the idea as soon as it was thought of. The idea that in opposition you can trigger change in the British parliamentary system is simply nonsense. Only power can implement the changes you want, New Labour achieved more in one Parliamentary term than every Labour opposition movement combined.

So where have the centrists gone? There seem to be plenty of us, after-all Owen Jones has complained of the smarm, contempt, and bile which has infused the anti-corbyn campaign. A problem which I have outlined in the past is the lack of a compelling centrist candidate. Burnham seemingly lacks any ideology and foresight besides acknowledging London centric politics is done and dusted. Cooper has the policy nous but has the communication skills of someone with their tongue cut out, and Kendall is coming into the contest a couple of years too early, despite her great ideas especially on the problem within education. Rather than frittering away billions on abolishing the progressive tuition fee policy, she wants to attack early education where the real problems occur. Many including myself are waiting for another Tony Blair , he was a once in a generation politician convincing in speech and vision he was able to not just quell the discontent of an electorally saleable Labour Party, but managed to rally people behind it. The lack of an outstanding candidate has split the centrists into three camps.

The lack of a message coming out apart from an anti-corbyn one is also depressing. Kinnock’s and others (including my own) pleas for electoral reality to visit the Corbynite camp is a message which will not be heard. This is why Alan Johnson’s argument in today’s Guardian is so important. It highlights the ambitions, and achievements (there were a great many) of the Blair government which are already being forgotten. A central pillar of the centrist campaign must be to not allow the far left of the party to misrepresent the Blair government. We need to speak up about the minimum wage, LGBT rights, the falls in poverty, and the rise in living standards just as a start. However, Blair’s record needs to be built upon, the social advances of the Blair government are not enough. The policies then are not workable now. Centrism needs to evolve for it to be viable for Labour once more.

People in the party need to forge centre left politics as something to be excited about, it’s transformational as the previous Labour governments have proven. With the added bonus of it being electable, the centre left of the party need to emphasise what we are talking about can come into fruition. Whereas the Corbyn bandwagon can talk about extensive QE all they want, but it isn’t going to happen. Cooper’s rhetoric on immigration, Burnham’s argument on Scottish devolution for the Party, and Kendall’s proposal’s on focusing on preschool, and primary education all make for the beginning of an exciting approach which can and should be lauded more than it is.  There is a battle for the soul of the party and the centrists are losing, after dropping clause 4 we’re no longer a socialist party, and it’s time we showed that to the public.

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