After losing the leadership contest in April, the left of the Labour Party regrouped. Organising as part of old factions like the Socialist Campaign Group and new ones such as Don’t Leave, Organise, they have held Zoom events and created websites, pledging to make life difficult for Keir Starmer. One thing is missing, however, from their plans: any serviceable ideas.
The left of the party can’t seem to name one solid thing in policy terms on which they disagree with Starmer. And, they appear unable to point to a single practical thing they would do differently had they won the leadership contest. Instead, they frame everything in culture war terms, and when the discussion does get round to policy, it’s so vague it falls to dust.
This isn’t confined to the left of Labour – it’s a process that has been going on for a decade across the whole of the party and is a major reason the party has lost four elections on the trot. It is tempting to blame Corbyn, but the hollowing out of any serious thinking within the Labour universe began before he became leader, and actually gets the causation wrong. It was an increasingly anti-pragmatic Labour Party culture that created the space for Corbyn to become and then remain leader of the party.
The trend began under Ed Miliband and for the most part was complete by the time Labour got trampled in the 2015 general election. While a new coalition government stormed ahead in 2010 with plans to change the country, Labour seemed spent. Everything they suggested was reactionary and weak; remember the party’s complaints that cuts were happening ‘too far and too fast’?
While you could blame burnout from 13 years in government for this initially, the problem only got worse over time.