Seeing Labour officials and candidates rushing to declare that the forthcoming leadership elections is for ‘true’ party supporters only has both a good and bad side to it. First of all, The Telegraph urged its readership to vote for Corbyn in order to hasten the demise of the Labour Party, and now the party itself has said that Trotskyists and Communists are now joining the party in order to vote for the Islington North MP’s bid to become party leader.
Corbyn today spoke out and asked for ‘naughty’ voters to leave Labour alone – whether he was speaking about Telegraph-reading Lords with a penchant for orange bras and powder, or to some political activists sitting on some electoral naughty step, suspended in stasis since Michael Foot’s defeat, is unclear.
Questions must be asked of a media outlet hoping to completely alter the democratic process in the country, never mind, trying to influence a party that previously conservatives have had no interest (or possibility) in meddling with. Unsurprisingly, voices in the press from other quarters have hardly mentioned this fact; conversely having the hard left infiltrate, depending on numbers would make it no less fair. The numbers on either side if ever ascertained will never be revealed for good or ill, unless of course it all goes horribly wrong for the Blaire section of the party and a bitter divorce from the (cliche of the week:) ‘broad church’ of Labour ensues.
Imagine though, if the Labour leadership were a vote open to all? Never mind the caricatured sketch of two tribes, arch-capitalists and anarchists, going tug-o’war to tear the heart out of the Labour party, because that would never do. Instead it would be a referendum on the direction and future of Labour in one sense, but would also be in other senses as well be the broadest election in ideological terms in over nearly a quarter of a century – the pre-Blair days when social ideas were not seen as ‘anti-business’; when social capital was perhaps more diffuse and not connected to totalitarian communist or as being ‘anti-business’. It would be the clearest mandate yet on the political direction the country wishes to go in, whether that’s neo-liberal, centre-right and business-friendly future or one with social ideals and inclusivity, and one that stands up to business when the distribution of wealth becomes too uneven.
Since Tony Blair’s first election victory, Westminster has assumed – at the behest of big business – that centre-right politics is the only way the ‘country’ will benefit. Who that intangible, cryptic noun represents has never been clear. Yet the voters have never been offered a clear cut choice between parties and ideologies at the polling station. Miliband’s campaign, despite being called left-wing, showed very little socialism other than to curb coalition damage.
No doubt, the real election will be billed as some kind of anti-austerity vote by those voices more sympathetic to the Labour cause or the idea of healthy democracy; by those less so, it will be billed simply as a health check on Labour’s collective sanity.