Politics has changed and one reader says Labour loyalists must stop looking to the past.
The problem facing Keir Starmer is simple to state but immensely difficult to solve. It is one that has been with us for a very long time.
After two decades working in the coal industry, I became a writer and researcher. In 2005, I visited a large call centre to write a case study. The centre was located in the Dearne Valley – the heart of the former Yorkshire mining area (and firmly Scargill country). Indeed, the modern centre had been built on a former colliery site. The contact centre displayed all the necessary conditions for the emergence of a trade union. Staff were working closely together; many were from traditional mining families; they were not particularly well paid; if they took action the effect on output would be immediate. Yet there was no trade union presence and that tradition was completely absent. For them, the miners’ strike might have taken place 120, not 20, years earlier.
This changing economic and employment structure has led to a shift in cultural allegiances. It is impossible to rebuild a working class, trade union base in an economy that is knowledge-driven and service-led. Moreover, appealing to labour nostalgia is incompatible with appealing to younger progressive voters with an international outlook. Brexit produced the sharpest focus on this divide and Jeremy Corbyn had nothing worthwhile to say on it (or anything else for that matter).
Starmer‘s immediate task is a search to identify a new base on which to build. This will be very difficult. The best that those of us who are traditional Labour loyalists can do is to shut up and let him get on with it.
It’s easy to despair seeing the, to many inexplicable, Tory triumphs. One result that I find particularly baffling is the Conservative by-election victory in Hartlepool: Eleven years of Conservative government and they are, apparently, “punishing” Labour for not listening to them. What am I missing here? Do they really believe that their dissatisfaction was the fault of our EU membership and not Tory austerity policies?
Keir Starmer has been disappointing as opposition leader, though I appreciate that the job has not been easy during the pandemic. He seems oddly supine in the face of Johnson’s lies and bluster and the evident cronyism and chumocracy of the current government. Starmer clearly has zero appetite for any campaign to rejoin the EU or even to renegotiate Johnson’s poor deal. Does he think that this is the best we deserve or is it that he’s of the opinion that such a policy would not be a vote winner?
Those of us who still believe we are stronger together in the EU – or if we can’t fully rejoin, for now, know that we should at least have something better, a “Norway-style” arrangement perhaps, are politically homeless. The 16.8 million have no voice and we are expected to just “move on” and “suck it up.” Until a party or alliance of parties puts the case for Rejoin or Re-negotiate we are nowhere.
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