Thursday, September 2, 2010

Why the outcome of labour's leadership election will make no difference.

I have been thinking about this since I found I had a vote in the election through my union Unite, who incidentally are supporting Ed Miliband. Earlier today I was prompted by someone on Twitter to read this article by Luke Bozier and I left a comment on it which is the basis for the rest of this article.

Luke Bozier's belief is that C1 and C2 voters are the people who win elections and that David Milliband appeals more to them. My position is that the leader is not the issue, but whether the Labour party is seeking electoral victory or social justice for the poor. This could easily be caricatured as "Old Labour" or as a circular argument with the ability to make change being dependent on power and the only route to power is by appealing to middle class voters. But what I don't see in this election is any personal vision being set out by the candidates other than "I am more likely to win an election". That's simply not enough.

I am an unreconstructed Fabian and I am still haunted by Fabian Tract no. 1 "Why are the many poor?". If you have never read it you can download a copy here (pdf file). Although written in 1884 it is still resonant today. Whilst I accept the Fabian's emphasis on campaigning for the rich to recognise their obligation to the poor and act on it, the fact is that C1 and C2 voters are not rich and they did not vote Labour for those reasons. In 1997 they voted Labour because Labour weren't Conservatives. In the same way they voted Conservative in 2010 because they weren't Labour. Rather like the vox populae of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar they will lend their support to one or other group, but to what end?

This morning on twitter I posted "Why are there still homeless people sleeping rough in Edinburgh? This should not be happening." Its quite interesting how many of us who campaigned for labour in the dark years from 1984 to 1987 abandoned politics for careers in the voluntary sector where such questions matter, and where action (no matter how superficial at times) is taken. We are Labour's lost generation of leaders and we took our vision with us.

Politics is clearly missing something, but so are the electorate. Especially the C1 and C2 voters who seem to be repelled by leaders with strong convictions. Because of this the future seems to hold very little hope for the homeless of Edinburgh or those without the ability to fend for themselves. A very, very sad situation to find ourselves in 116 years after that first Fabian tract was published.