Report warning liberalism destroying party not heeded in 2019 – and denied publication clearance
Yesterday, Labour front-benchers Ian Lavery and Jon Trickett published their ‘Northern Discomfort’ report.
The report addresses the ‘modern vicious twist’ the class divide has taken post-Brexit – a culture war against people in northern and other towns being waged by liberals inside and outside the Labour Party to distract from the real battle of the 99% vs the 1%.
And it highlights the catastrophic consequences both for those communities and for the party – and the danger that the party is about to push further along that disastrous road.
The report acknowledges the achievements of New Labour governments – but exposes the reality behind them:
Following the 1992 election defeat, right wingers in the Party launched a full scale assault on Labour’s structures, culture, values and policies. This assault accelerated with the seizure of the leadership by a small group around Tony Blair.
We were told that we could secure a great prize but that we must pay a price. They offered the party electoral victories in exchange for selling a part of its soul.
Blair’s core electoral strategy was based on a vulgar idea that Labour’s “heartlands” in industrial communities had nowhere else to go except to vote Labour. Instead of a unifying policy of long term restructuring of our economy and society which would have helped both ‘southern aspiration’ and heartland areas he thought he could pocket the votes of the latter and take them for granted.
Standing on a platform of assumed heartland votes, New Labour then set out to win Southern middle class voters. They thought that they could move forward by realigning the Party with a set of assumed values supposedly embedded within these Southern communities.
For a time, the tactic worked in the sense of delivering majorities in the Commons.
And the MPs go on to expose the consequences of that soul-selling:
Out of fear of Southern voters’ flight, many of our radical purposes were abandoned.
But – and this was clearly predicted at the time – the key assumption that heartland communities would then remain blindly loyal, soon began to break down. And this process accelerated as the tsunami of de-industrialisation and austerity, combined too often by the breakdown of hitherto strong communities, began to bite into the heartlands.
After the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader, Labour began to change. It was in the first leadership campaign, for example, that we addressed problems in one of our great heartlands in the North of England when we launched “Northern Future” . For the first time in many years we had a policy paper that clearly gave voice to the North of England, and indeed working class people.
But the powerful forces in the Party who remain wedded to the failed New Labour project continued to make their case – and in increasingly strident ways – now even gaining traction amongst the “soft left” . And there are extremely strong elements in the wider society, who out of fear of a perceived threat to their privileged position, are determined to push the Party backwards.
You don’t have to look far to find ‘progressives’ who would write off the majority of people in the heartland communities as backward looking, racist or reactionary. Or even simple minded, uneducated. Regrettably, there were those in the party – including some in important representative positions – who reacted to the EU referendum result by seeking to overturn its result thereby giving the impression that the party would turn its back on the majority.
The relevance and prescience of this report for the general election results in December are clear – as the report itself states, it was originally to be published last July:
This pamphlet was written in summer 2019 before we knew there would be a general election.
Tragically the election proved that a substantial part of our analysis was in fact accurate.
It wasn’t published at the time for a variety of reasons…
We publish it now because there is clearly a huge task ahead and many of the ideas in here are of direct relevance. We have added some preliminary analysis from the 2019 election in order to gain a better picture of the current state of play.
But the SKWAWKBOX can reveal that among the ‘variety of reasons’ that the report was not published lies a very simple and fundamental one:
Its publication was blocked when clearance was denied by the party.
It seems that a large faction of Labour’s front bench was so determined to press on with the headlong rush to pivot to a ‘referendum and remain’ position – a position that intrinsically devalued and disrespected the votes of millions of ‘Labour leavers’ – that it could not countenance the publication of a report that exposed and confronted what lay behind that rush.
Tragically, for the country and for the Labour Party, the consequences of that decision to snub the working class people for whom the party was created was exactly as the report predicted.
Lavery and Trickett were prominent voices warning of what would happen – even outside the pages of their report – but they were not the only ones. Many grassroots activists and a number of ‘new left media’, including this one, were warning behind and in front of the scenes that a referendum call would be poison.
We were ignored.
Labour must rebuild its grassroots presence, activity and engagement in those now-former heartlands. But it cannot even hope to begin to do so if it continues to ignore the warnings and to disdain the votes and wishes of Labour’s now-former heartlands.
Presenting a new leader to those communities who was at the forefront of that fundamental disrespect for their votes and views will be lethal to Labour’s hopes of recovery, potentially for years.
Those whose obsessions and agendas brought Labour to the catastrophe of last December must not be rewarded for the contempt their decisions in 2015, 2016 and since heaped on working-class people.
Read the full report here.
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