Thursday, 18 June 2015

Are We Seeing The Labour Party Sliding Into Oblivion?

Recent history demonstrates that in the future the Labour party is probably going to have to choose between being slightly economically right of centre and having a chance at winning an election again, or reverting back to its left wing roots and never winning an election again.

You have to consider why this is probably true. Labour has not won an election majority since the 1970s, except for when the slightly right of centre Tony Blair led them on three successive occasions. Even more so than anyone expected, Ed Miliband's shift to the left away from Blair's New Labour made them unelectable again. The upshot is, left wing parties don't win UK majorities anymore (the SNP exception to this in Scotland is too meagre in numbers to have any real bearing on the UK as a whole).

What about Labour's response then? Recently I suggested that people even further to the left than Ed Miliband would probably end up splitting off into another group, as it's clear from recent events that back to the centre-right is where this next Labour is heading under either Andy Burnham, Liz Kendall or Yvette Cooper.

This is a shame. While far left is very far from my position economically, the working classes won't have any proper representation under Burnham, Kendall or Cooper, because their job is not to make Labour socialist again, it is make them electorally popular again - and the only way they can do this is by vying for the centre-right ground.

That's why I predict a left wing split at some point in the near future - the socialist faction is going to demand some better representation, and short of moving to Scotland, they are not going to find it in this current Labour lot.

If there is a Labour split, then the party will surely gravitate towards a political void, just as the Liberal party did in the 1930s, leaving a very fractionated opposition to the Conservatives that is unlikely to budge them for decades to come.

The 19th century Liberal party rose to the fore due in no small part to the dynamic and forceful rise of industry against conservative land owners, and the 20th century Labour party rose to the fore due in no small part to the dynamic and forceful rise of the unions against what they saw as the capitalist pig.
But with so many more people educated about the extent to which the free market has been the biggest driver of human progression in the past two centuries, and how private enterprise is more efficient and innovative than public ownership, it seems to be the case that, apart from the relatively small number of socialists chomping at the bit, there is currently far less to grumble about, which, as recent history has shown, makes it nigh-on impossible to be a successful left wing opposition party. Incidentally, polls also suggest that less than 15% of the UK population consider themselves socialist, and 71% of people now consider themselves middle class.

The other thing to realise on the back of this is that, as is evidenced by London's success, most future prosperity will not come about through the hard sweat of manual labour, it will come through skills like those found in science, technology, financial and other service based industries, which continue to make Britain far more prosperous than in days gone by - perhaps explaining why so many people now feel like they belong in the middle classes.

That's even more reason to suspect that the divide will narrow, as people's absolute gains become ever more important than the relative inequalities. For that reason the age-old class conflicts of rich vs. poor and capitalists vs. the workers are gradually sliding into oblivion. Not wholly so - and not yet of course, as there are still plenty of societal wrongs to be put right, and still many people struggling on a daily basis - but I'm pretty certain that as we carry on my prediction will come to pass and we will see the end of the Labour party as we know it.