The Left and the Break-Up Theory of Government

In today’s article, Alex Graham puts down his ice cream to explain that the factionism within the Labour Party is not a bad thing but actually a necessary part of the road back to government. 

We’ve all been there. The person you love, who means the world to you and who you’ve planned a bright and prosperous future with, sits you down one day, looks you in the eye and tells you that they don’t love you anymore and that things are over. You feel rejected and you know that the future you planned together has gone.

The question of what happens next is often answered in one of two ways. Depending on your preference, you spend a period of time either at the pub consuming a large number of alcoholic beverages or crying in front of a movie like Dirty Dancing whilst eating copious amounts of ice cream and looking at their picture. Occasionally, you’ll hold yourself together and pretend that it’s all ok. You’ll pretend that although you may have done the occasional thing wrong, you’re still the person you were when you were with your partner and you can DEFINITELY get people to like you again. Yet sooner or later, the whole edifice comes tumbling down. Regardless of what you try, whatever persona you take, everyone around you realises- even if you don’t- that you’re just a shadow of your former self and you definitely aren’t ready for a relationship any time soon.

Before anyone starts wondering whether LYON has suddenly become an advice blog for lonely singles I’ll get to my point. Losing power in a general election is, in some ways, just like a break up. The ‘person’ who fell out of love with the Labour Party and its vision for a bright and prosperous future was the British public. Our mistake, as a party was that we tried to hold it together under Ed Miliband. While we tried to convince ourselves that we were going to win, you can tell from hindsight that there was no more enthusiasm for Ed’s fads of ‘Predistribution’ or ‘Predators v Producers’ than anyone in the wider world had for any of my post break up attempts to try to be a ‘new Alex’. It’s almost as if we completely failed to acknowledge that we had been rejected by the electorate and so carried on as if it was business as usual but without the same enthusiasm as when we were in government.

I firmly believe that this is why Jeremy Corbyn was so appealing when he stood for leader in 2015. Jeremy’s 2015 campaign was a retreat into indulging our core values- the political equivalent of the aforementioned sad movie and ice cream. This is not a bad thing. It has made us feel better as a movement and it has done a lot to bring issues such as inequality and exploitation of unskilled labour to the forefront of the country’s political discourse once more. But this is not enough, just as the dumpee cannot eat ice cream forever, Labour cannot indulge itself in its core values forever.

But, as I said at the start of this piece, we’ve all been there. We’ve all been dumped but somehow we learn to love again. We may have to go through inner turmoil to ‘find ourselves’ but without this turmoil, we can’t pull ourselves together again and move towards the point where we can build another meaningful relationship.

Labour is currently in the stage of internal turmoil. The time of warring factions. Hardly a day goes by when those of us within the Labour bubble aren’t hit by another story about how Momentum is planning to deselect MPs or Labour First is crowdfunding for an organiser. On the face of it, this looks like bad news. There are currently a lot of people who have had had their noses put out of joint or been adversely affected by the fights and arguments within the party. But on a more macro party level, this debate and competition will be the storm that will make the seeds of a new and relevant platform for a future Labour Government grow.

Although it has not always been healthy, debate- when done in the right way- is good for the party and good for the process of recovery and the road back to government. It will eventually lead, as it did in 1964 with Harold Wilson and 1997 with Tony Blair, to a platform on which a charismatic leader can stand to make the changes, the metaphorical slimming down and suiting up, needed to take our message to the country and win an election. Then on that day- whenever it is and whoever the next Labour Prime Minister might be- we can truly celebrate that our road back to government- back to the favour of the country we love- is finally complete.

Until then, as January approaches, Labour- like many others all over the country- must put down its ice cream spoon, embrace the uncomfortable position that it’s in and slowly but surely make its way to the gym.

Outcard Photo
Alex Graham

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