The Labour MP for Barnsley Central Dan Jarvis has called on the party to offer a more radical vision for the 2020 election campaign. Jarvis, is widely seen as a potential future leader of the party, has come out swinging in favour of tackling social inequality, distancing himself from New Labour in the process. This is significant moment as it marks that Corbyn’s desire to shift the internal discourse of the party to the Left, despite the Blairite resistance, has been successful. The ramifications of the speech are important as it reinforces Corbyn’s position as Labour leader and puts the party on a different trajectory, especially is Jarvis does go on to become Labour leader himself one day.
Jeremy Corbyn has been making headlines every day for the last week despite doing very little other than name his shadow cabinet, but the first test of the new Labour leader was to take on the Prime Minister at PMQs: the political establishment’s weekly version of the FA Cup final. It became clear early on, however, that Mr Corbyn was telling the truth when he said he wanted to change PMQs, unlike Mr Cameron who when Ed Miliband used to ask him questions would take seconds for his face to take on the appearance of a piece of gammon. The specific way that Corbyn conducted his first PMQs was refreshing and, despite my early reservations about going after the PM, quite politically astute.
The Labour Party of old is gone, the political dynamics have changed and the Left needs to unite behind a movement based on ideas rather than the rosettes worn by MPs on election day. The UK, in its current form, will not last the next twenty years so it is best for Labour to work with other progressive forces, especially at Westminster, to bring about better societies in Scotland, Wales and England. By establishing electoral pacts with other parties a left-wing government will be much easier to elect, but it is up to Labour to make such a move.
In recent weeks the Labour leadership campaign finally stopped being as interesting as an audio book read by John Major as a new series of polls suggested that veteran left-wing MP Jeremy Corbyn is leading the race ahead of his younger, more centrist opponents.
However opponents of Corbyn who favour Liz Kendall (God knows why) or Yvette Cooper have attempted to change the terms of debate by declaring that it is time for the Labour Party to have a female leader and as such Andy Burnham and Jeremy Corbyn should be ignored on this basis. Some journalists have also adopted this mantra but I believe that this logic is incorrect.
Although the British electorate is left-wing on many issues, it is also true that significant portions of the electorate are quite right-wing on some issues, particularly in the wake of the European Sovereign Debt Crisis.
The rise of unconventional right-wing parties across Europe such as UKIP in Britain, the Front National in France, and Jobbik in Hungary presents a real danger that politics rooted in fear and distrust of the ‘Constitutive Other’ and it is Labour who must be at the front-line fighting against this negative narrative.
Broadening the base of support for the Labour party must include significant political reforms to attract former Lib Dems as well as establishing a better political settlement. Making a pitch for disaffected Lib Dems would involve constitutional reform but also by adopting socially liberal positions on a variety of issues, whilst retaining left-wing economic standpoints.
As a consequence of the 1997 General Election it has become conventional wisdom in the Labour Party that the only way to win elections is to lurch toward the Tories, thus capturing the support of floating voters that would have voted Conservative if the Labour Party hadn’t shifted to the Right. Although the logic sounds reasonable a key reason that there is such disillusionment with the political system is due to the accurate perception that Labour and the Tories are too ideologically similar.