Saturday, September 28, 2019

Could Labour Win the Next Election in the UK?

An unequivocal "maybe". They actually have a very interesting and potentially popular economic program but lots of things could derail their chances including, of course, how they handle the Brexit issue, not to mention a range of unwise positions pushed by left activists within the party.
Both the problems and the promise of Labour were on display at the recently concluded annual Labour Party conference. They are well-described by my old friend John Judis, who attended the conference as research for a book he is preparing on the US and European left. I was particularly struck by this passage at the end of his article, which reminds me a great deal of some of the conflicts that bedevil the left here in the US.
"To assess not just the party’s electoral prospects, but its future, I spent a good deal of time as forums organized by the younger party activists. Obviously, I had to be selective and what I say here should be taken with a grain of salt. But I would draw a very rough distinction between what I heard from elected officials or trade union leaders and staff and what I heard from Labour members who teach or study at universities or work for political organizations or the media. Of the latter, I’d say that like their American counterparts within the Democratic party, they advocate positions that don’t take account of what a political majority might now or someday support. Their ideas are expressions of moral and even quasi-religious conviction. For instance, they want the British to give up their “privileges” that came from their colonial empire; they favor open borders; they warn of planetary extinction, on the other hand, but on the other hand, see a Green New Deal not merely as a way to stem global warming, but as a sure pathway to full employment.
On Wednesday, after much of the leadership had left for London for the reopening of Parliament, the delegates who remained got the conference to adopt measures along these lines. They voted to remove any control on freedom of movement to the UK, remove any caps on or selective criteria for immigration, grant immigrants immediate access to social welfare, including the National Health Service, and grant the vote immediately in national elections to immigrants and to foreign nationals living within the UK (so that the proverbial Polish plumber would be eligible to vote in the UK and Poland.). They also voted to eliminate by 2030 — in only ten years — all power plants and vehicles and home heating that depend on fossil fuels. These positions contradicted those of the party’s leadership and its 2017 manifesto, but would also land the party in very hot water if it were identified with them in the next election.
The party leadership’s equivocation on Brexit was precisely meant to win over some of the 52 percent, including the voters in Labour constituencies who supported Brexit, but these voters supported Brexit partly because they rejected the EU’s policy on immigration and borders. Labour’s parliamentary candidates may diverge from these positions, but the resolutions mandate that the positions will show up in the party’s official election manifesto (which carries far more weight than party platforms in the US do). If they do, Labour will be in even more trouble, and its dazzling economic program, which has considerable political support in the country, could be lost for a generation."
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