After my recent adventures on the Labour Party FB Forum and the We Are Labour FB Forum it feels to me the Blairite v Corbyinista blame game is in real danger of tearing the Party apart.
Some Blairites refuse to accept Corbyn as leader because they think he will bring about electoral catastrophe and for them politics only has meaning if you can win elections and gain power. To them New Labour was the saviour of progressive Labour Party politics because it finally recognised the realities of winning elections. To them political principles and ‘ideology’ are secondary to the pragmatic realities of winning elections in the real world.
Conversely some Corbynistas regard the New Labour project as an unprincipled right-wing coup that led to a betrayal of true Labour Party values. Thus to them the Blairites appear as right-wing, careerists willing to sacrifice all principles in the vain-glorious pursuit of power for it’s own sake. To them politics without principles and ideology is vainglorious, careerist, posturing.
These perhaps appear at first glance to be irreconcilable positions that can only lead to conflict as both sides aggressively and self-righteously fight for the moral high ground; both sides trying to prove that they are correct and the other side wrong, and that their side are the ‘good guys’ and the other side are the ‘bad guys’.
But I would like to suggest we can reconcile these two positions, because in fact it is obvious when you frame it as I have, that both sides are wrong AND both sides are right.
In fact it is surely perfectly clear that politics without principles or ideology is indeed meaningless, BUT equally that idealistic politics without reference to pragmatic realities can end up as ‘just talking’?
Now just for clarity I personally am a committed Corbynista and I do think that Blair’ism’ was Toryism under a different name. BUT that does not mean I regard individual Labour Party members who supported Blair as ‘class traitors’ or hypocrites, or whatever. During the New Labour years many individual LP members thought that they and the party took the most effective action in the circumstances to fully express the values of the Labour Party as far as they thought it was possible at the time. I don’t agree with that analysis but I can recognise it as a perfectly honourable position to take. I can also understand why a life-long LP member who took that ‘pragmatic’ approach would be infuriated by now being called a Tory-Lite, Red-Tory or whatever by a Corbynisata who they perceive have only having joined the Party 5 minutes ago.
Conversely, I would hope it might be possible for those who took that ‘pragmatic’ position during the Blair years, to recognise that those of us who support Corbyn feel the Party now needs to refocus more on principles and ideology and rebalance the relationship between pragmatism and principle.
But to do this we need to find a way to re-clarify what our principles actually are… but without never-ending recrimination and blame.
Blairite’s need to accept that Corbyn has been elected leader of the Party and that to attempt to publicly undermine his credibility is unacceptable. To criticise his specific performances and/or policies is entirely acceptable but always with the intention of working out to improve the situation, not how to ‘bring him down’.
Similarly Corbynistas have to accept that the Blairite position was/is honourable and that constantly harping on about what did or didn’t happen between 1997-2010 is not helpful.
As has been said ad infinitum, the Labour Party is a ‘broad church’ and even setting aside this Blairite v Corbynista blame game, from where the Party is now it is going to take a one hell off a robust, lively and I imagine, sometimes uncomfortable debate to agree actual policy positions. If in fact that is possible?
But first we all need to acknowledge the reality of the new situation and stop blaming each other.