The Strange Death of Labour Britain
The Labour Party which under Harold Wilson and Tony Blair legitimately posed as THE party of government is finished. A perfect storm is sweeping it away. For years it relied on its rotten boroughs in the North and in Scotland being effectively a one party state. The SNP were sneered at as being “tartan Tories”. Maybe , but monopolies in any market lead to flabby organisations, poor management and worse leadership. Remember Labour introduced devolution in Scotland and Wales to head off nationalism. Oh dear.
The old Labour alliance between the intellectual middle class and the trade unions has broken down on a simple fact. The trade unions declined with the fall of major industry. More and more worked for the non unionised, fragmented service sector than for the heavy brigades of coal, steel and heavy industry-which have all but disappeared.
That left the intellectual middle class,the enlightened liberals who more and more became involved in protecting and forwarding minority group interests. Racial, immigrant, sexual, environmental groups went to the head of the list. Remember the amount of parliamentary time Blair devoted to banning fox hunting. Remember the disdain they treated alarmist talk of mass immigration from the EU. Around 15000 a year they claimed.
All the time the white working class was losing its jobs and falling behind immigrant groups in terms of education and social mobility. Brown famously called a die hard Labour supporter who expressed her concerns on these matters, a bigot.
The rise of UKIP has of course given a voice to these groups. The Tories have as they do, hedged their non ideological bets. Labour as parties do after defeats has lurched into its ideological heart land-and further away from its traditional electorate.
The Labour careerists see the train coming down the track, the party’s idealists are where they want to be, ready to die for their cause.
Whatever happens to Corbyn,the Tories will get a new leader who will call an election. The Tories will do a little better(not least because of the state of the other parties),UKIP where it threatened Labour will beat them, SNP will hold, Liberals may make a mild come back and Labour which only seven years ago was the party of government will be a rump-less than 100 MPs. In 1997 Labour had 418 MPs,now it has 229,the graph is getting steeper with each election.
Typically Labour’s response to Brexit has been that the people have made a terrible mistake-racism now stalks the land, while the Tories are saying ,however they voted, this is where we are, lets get on with it. Its obvious which will be the most attractive to the electorate.
I grew up with the classic history The Strange Death of Liberal England. The saga of how a party which had been the other pillar of British politics for 100 years disappeared from centre stage. History as Marx said repeats itself first as tragedy then as farce. All the Labour Party is missing is Brian Rix.