More than just an interim

By Jade Azim / @JadeFrancesAzim

As an outsider, you’d think The Labour Party was a heavily dichotomous creature. Disagreeable, a Cold War where the unaligned must choose a side, or worse, a Question Time panel as a national party. Two sides, growling and hissing at one another, vying for both the actual leadership and claim over the moral leadership and direction of the party. The Left versus the Right is an age-old battle.

Peter Mandelson addresses a Tribune Rally. Who knew what was to come?

But it was fought for nearly 20 years in the 80s and 90s. The Left as the beginning and the Right as the end. What came in-between, represented by Cook, Kinnock and Smith, was seen as an interim, a bridge. A means to the end.

What was historically coined as ‘the soft left’ is actually Labour’s mainstream. It is the normal, the majority, where most members and MPs lie. It is the grassroots. Its support during the leadership spread out where it may have been concentrated in the younger Miliband in 2010, but found no popular home in 2015. So where is its confidence? The confidence to be more than a means out of the dark? While the failures of the Miliband era may dampen the spirits of its advocates, It has its long standing intellectuals that continue to outlive all else, ideas that continue on to be reshaped into popular policies.

It continues on no matter the shifts in The Labour Party. Its thinkers are historical and contemporary. From Cook to today’s Nandy. Heck, chuck the likes of Krugman in there. Picketty. Polanyi, writer of The Great Transformation. Hall and Soskice, of Varieties of Capitalism, which argued for the limitations of the market. It exists in The Spirit Level. It has existed in Fabian pamphlets. In Tribune. Its literature stretching far and wide, sporadic and never collected as one. But it shares a common thread; inequality, the injustice of fettered markets. A scepticism of the power of the private, of privatisation. And in the 21st century, a hostility toward a concentration of assets never before seen. Its solutions involve tax and land reforms, new forms of redistribution that overcome the voting population’s hostility to means-tested welfare.

All of this written word argues, ultimately, for a Left confident in its economic argument, of overturning the market consensus with popular consent. Something initiated by Miliband but perhaps found an advocate too cautious in practice to see it through, leading to an uneasy approach to fiscal responsibility but also a radicalism that never seemed to quite fit together, never trusted to its Left or to its Right.

Now is the time to stop being cautious.There is a public sentiment there, an angry sentiment, and we can provide its solution while at the same time presenting solutions ‘sensible’ enough for the people to trust us with government. To be radical and reliable.

But before we can influence the popular opinion and voting choices, we must win the heart of Labour members. And Open Labour can, because we believe it represents the common view of the majority of members. Yet, we have to be comprehensive in our arguments, to present our purpose, to collate these sporadic resources of the economic left together, to find a collective intent, to not pick at the seams, to ditch technocratic pick and mix for a wholesale offer of a Great Transformation, both of Labour Party thinking and of society.

The historical ‘soft left’, or the ‘sensible left’, must choose to be more than an interim, to be confident in its history and its arguments. It has to form its own base, an original base. So here we are.

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