The strange death of Labour in England
I was breakfasting in Elda’s Colombian Coffee House recently, chatting with my pal Nat, who told me about life out on the stump. Nat knows a bit about it, having stood for Parliament on several occasions in the Liberal interest. He has no ambition to be an MP, but he’s a long term Lib Dem activist, and so he’s stood for the Lib Dems in constituencies where a Lib Dem candidate was necessary, but where the best that could be hoped for was saving a deposit (which, he points out, he did both times he stood). His brother was the first Liberal to represent Ludlow in Parliament since the 19th Century, and Nat was so close to the heart of the Lib Dem project that he actually shared a flat in London with Lembit Opik before he moved down here. Nat knows a thing or two about campaigning.
Once at a party, he told me that he thinks that the Labour Party will fade into obscurity. He said that the natural state of politics in Britain is a perpetual war between liberalism/radicalism and unionist conservatism, and that socialism was a historical aberration, whose time was passing. I said I hoped that wasn’t quite true. After all, we have a successful socialist party here in Wales. I said that I hoped the forthcoming humiliation of the New Party at the polls would re-empower what remained of the left to take their party back, so that we might have some real choice at the next election, or perhaps the one after that. After all, although it makes some of my readers who remember the eighties retch, Cameron has re-invented his party, to an extent, and the communitarianist ideas behind ‘The Big Society’ are radical, well-argued and not a million miles away from things the Greens have been talking about for years. Some time in the wilderness might be the very thing to enable the Labour Party to re-emerge from under the bombed out and bankrupt wreckage of the New.
Now Nat tells me he thinks his argument is coming true, and not just because of the surge in the polls. He says that nobody is encountering New Party activists out on the doorstep. They have just… gone. There are Lib Dems and Tories aplenty, and a few UKIP saddos, too. But the New Party foot soldiers are simply not there. Hopefully, they are sitting in backrooms, plotting to take over on May 7th. But Nat could be right. The party really could be over.