The Labour faction calling itself “Blue Labour” (BL) would deny that the ‘blue’ in its name indicates a resemblance to the Tory party. But if that was ever true, it appears no longer to be the case.
If you’re fairly new to politics and don’t know much about BL, you don’t need to look much further than the fact that it considers immigration to be one of its central issues and numbers the awful Tom Watson and Frank Fields as key supporters.
Fields is a significant contributor to BL’s main publication, “Blue Labour: Forging a new Politics” and the group is also supported by the likes of Lisa Nandy and Graham Jones, who were prominent in the summer’s ‘chicken coup’ and spoke at the BL conference in Manchester last weekend.
And that conference. The presence of such personalities among its supporters speaks volumes about BL’s ‘weather vane’ nature, but even a group that prefers to turn with the prevailing wind rather than point to a better destination should be ashamed to have stooped as low as BL did by inviting Stephen Woolfe to its conference.
Stephen Woolfe is the former UKIP leadership contender who left the party after being hospitalised following an ‘altercation’ with a fellow UKIP MEP.
Mr Woolfe’s stated reason for leaving the party was that the party was ‘ungovernable‘. It had nothing to do with UKIP’s dog-whistle racism, its misogyny or the hatred of some of its members for the NHS.
Nor has he had a sudden conversion to humane politics. Even before leaving UKIP, he announced himself ‘enthused’ for Theresa May’s leadership and was reported to be considering a defection to the Tory party.
So what were BL doing inviting him to their conference? Woolfe was unable to attend the event in the end, apparently because of a family illness. But the mere fact of his invitation is a scandal that should (but won’t) have the organisers up in front of Labour’s National Executive Committee on disrepute charges.
Instead of thanking their lucky stars for a near miss as any rational person would do, BL announced it was ‘disappointed’:
Disappointed to announce that @Steven_Woolfe will not be able to join us tomorrow due to family illness. Hope everyone is better soon Steven
— Blue Labour NW (@BlueLabourNW) November 25, 2016
Woolfe’s presence did little to improve the tone of the conference. As well as the aforementioned Ms Nandy, speakers included representatives of the Tory Spectator magazine, the neoliberal Policy Exchange, a published advocate of Conservatism
It’s clear which direction BL thinks the wind is blowing.
The idea of the ‘threat’ of UKIP is popular among a certain section of Labour MPs, with Dan Jarvis ridiculously telling Murdoch-rag The Times that all Labour’s parliamentary seats are under threat from UKIP unless Labour takes “the opportunity to reset” on immigration to head off the supposed UKIP danger.
Of course Labour needs a credible, coherent policy on immigration – just as a political party needs a credible, coherent policy on most things before voters can take it seriously. But blowing a dog-whistle only attracts dogs – and following the herd makes you cattle.
What Labour needs – and has – is a leader. Leaders lead, to a better destination – and that inspires people. Pandering to people’s fear and prejudice can fool the gullible and the bigoted, but it will not excite those who stayed at home during the 2015 General Election because they were sickened by the sameness of the available candidates and the lack of inspiration, of hope that they offered.
By inflating UKIP’s significance – including inviting former leadership contenders to speak at a conference or mouthing off to Murdoch rags – Blue Labour and the like are falling into the same error committed by the media that gave an unmerited platform to Farage and led to the rise of UKIP in the first place. It’s idiotic and shows they’ve learned nothing – and that they have a desperately poor and condescending attitude to the people of this country.
I believe – in spite of the constant barrage of xenophobic propaganda of recent years – that this country is not just populated by dogs that are panting for a whistle. I believe that more of us have just been waiting for someone to give us hope that the UK can be run in a humane way.
The needed course of action by Labour MPs – both for electability and to be worth electing – is to stand behind the party’s leader so his message is amplified to the ears of the many waiting for it, not to blow whistles that the right will always be better at blowing. That latter way lies madness – and defeat.
Blue Labour has shown itself to be on the wrong path – one strewn with dog turds – and in the wrong party.