From the archive: Labour is not a ‘project’

Tessa Coombes /   May 12, 2015 at 8:40 PM 5,169 views

Labour Party

A post by Lilia Giugni from November last year, on the New Labour ‘project’ and how it profoundly changed the Labour Party is worth looking at again. Particularly now as the Party begins the process of working out what to do next and how to win the next election.

Whilst many were indeed carried away by the rhetoric and spin of the New Labour Project in the beginning, in more recent years there has been a real backlash in response to the reality of what it actually meant and what it has done to the Party. It has left the Party in turmoil, not quite knowing which direction to take and who their core voters are. It’s left a Party devoid of values or ‘soul’.

“In 2010 and in 2015, Gordon and then Ed allowed themselves to be portrayed as moving backwards from the aspiration and inclusion that are the heart of any successful progressive political project,” (David Miliband, 11-5-15).

According to David Miliband (in that TV interview), and Peter Mandelson, we lost because we ditched New Labour and now is the time to return to their political project! I can’t tell you how much I detest this notion of labour as a political project, please can we move away from this?

This piece by Zoe Williams pretty much hits the nail on the head – Labour’s leader is not the problem. The Party’s missing soul is. Those at the core of the Labour Party need to stop seeing it as one big ‘project’ and start thinking about values, principles and its wider membership. They need to reflect on what went wrong, but determine to change things by engaging and involving the membership. The Party needs to take its time and consider what it stands for and what its core values really are before it can choose the right leader. I agree with Zoe, it’s not about who the leader is, it’s about what the Party believes in and stands for.

At the moment I would be hard pushed to really answer that point. I used to know what Labour meant, I used to be a member. I stood for election to my local council and served for eight years as a Labour Party councillor at a time before and during New Labour. I left because of my disillusionment with the New Labour Project, and the notion that something that I felt was about values and belief had suddenly turned into a political project for a group of intellectuals and spin doctors. Labour did of course gain power during this time, and like others I was initially carried along on a tide of optimism and enthusiasm. Until, that is, I realised that actually the political landscape had shifted so far to the right during the previous administrations, that there was a mountain to climb to turn things around and sadly, New Labour never really seemed to have that as their agenda. They appeared content to just get re-elected and move ever further into the right of centre political ground where English politics has been for some time now.

I have listened to all the narrative about Ed Miliband being too left wing and how Labour lost this time because of the return to left wing politics. Well, really, I seem to have failed to notice just what was so left wing about much of the Labour manifesto. To me, Labour very much seemed to be trying to fight the Tories on their own ground, spouting the same kind of policies and underlying approach, just being a bit nicer about it. The Party has undoubtedly, in my view, lost its way. But now there is time for a fundamental rethink. There’s time to talk to Party members and time to re-evaluate core principles, values and beliefs and once more become a party that has a soul that is connected with its members and beliefs that matter. I just hope someone picks up that challenge before the leadership contest begins and falls into the same traps as before – it has to be about real people and what matters to them, not some political project run by people with little experience of the real world!

Courtesy of Tessa Coombes

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