1997 – when things got better

“We won the argument, but I regret we didn’t convert that into a majority for change,” says Jeremy Corbyn, a couple of days after ‘leading’ the Labour Party to its worst defeat since 1935. “We must now ensure that the working class, in all its diversity, is the driving force within our party.” Where do you begin with that?

First of all, I am announcing in the most narcissistic and self-important way possible to my loyal reader that I am going back to Labour. Yes, you read it right: I’m rejoining the shitshow that Labour has become since it was taken-over by cranks, nut jobs and the 57 varieties of Trotskyism and Stalinism, who are all much the same thing.

I’ve been a Labour member for much of my life, although I have resigned periodically from time-to-time as a result of events which include Iraq (I should have stayed because, I now concede, Tony Blair was right to be part of the effort to remove a psychopathic genocidal maniac like Saddam) and the election of Corbyn himself. I have now concluded that I was right all along about what Labour needs to do to win power: it needs to take the people with it.

A friend on a social network came up with precisely the correct word for it last night: gradualism. That has been my political philosophy since I found myself to be a natural mainstream left of centre socialist or social democrat. I do not care which of these you call me. In the dark days of the 1980s, when Labour lurched increasingly to the far left it began to promise the earth and most of the planets with it. It proposed taking the country from it’s natural empathy towards the centre ground of politics to somewhere near the extremes all in one go. Margaret Thatcher won election after election, until John Major won an election and kept the Conservatives in power for 18 long, grim years.

John Smith, and then Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, changed the game. Not only did they believe that change could only happen incrementally, they actually believed in that philosophy. And when Labour finally came to power, they took the people with them, including centre and even centre right voters who saw a new project, new Labour, that promised gradual change, it did not over-promise and would not immediately turn society on its head. And that’s pretty well what happened. Under Blair, things got better, as he promised they would. Forget the siren voices of “Iraq” from his hard left detractors. The UK was a happier place under New Labour.

If anything, New Labour probably failed to make enough changes that would be much harder for a future Tory government to unravel, but that’s hypothesis. I wanted New Labour and Tony Blair to govern forever. Still do, if the truth be known.

Corbyn’s wretched vision of Labour was radically different. Presented as something quite new, Corbynism was nothing more than reheated Bennism from the 1980s, put forward by the same elderly relics who were busy confining Labour to opposition then as they are now. And when Corbyn seriously argues that “we won the argument” you realise, all at once, the delusional world in which he lives.

That ten million people still voted Labour does not mean ten million people bought into Labour’s huge spending plans, using money that did not exist other than by borrowing. Some clearly did, but many voted for other reasons. Some voted tribally, because they always voted Labour. Others, like me, voted tactically to try and prevent Boris Johnson’s right wing hard Brexit Tory party gaining a majority. Far from winning the argument, Labour comprehensively lost it. Their ‘big bang’ manifesto, using the Magic Money Tree was a nonsense. Johnson won with a landslide.

I will be returning to a Labour Party which, at an elite level, is far from a “working class” organisation. From Corbyn down, Labour is a middle class – and in the case of Seumas Milne and Andrew Drummond-Murray, an upper class – party. It is London centric, its power bases are in big cities and nowhere else and within those cities the affluent middle class well-educated hipsters are massively over-represented. Tony Blair, hardly a sink-estate lad, still understood the lives and aspirations of working class people better than any of Corbyn’s comrades.

I am not going back to Labour to vote on repairing pot-holes and agreeing house extensions. I am going back for politics, to do my tiny bit to take back control of Labour, to return Labour to its traditional values and by a policy of gradualism take the people with it, giving them something believable and credible to hang their metaphorical hats on.

Jeremy Corbyn was the prime reason Labour was humiliated last week but not the only one. Its sit-on-the-fence stance on Europe hardly helped, but in the end it was Corbyn; Corbyn and the people who surround him, who knew better than anyone else how unsuited to leadership he was. That is the biggest hypocrisy of all.

If we don’t change Labour and embrace people who occupy the centre ground of politics, we will have a Tory government forever. That, comrades, is not winning the argument. Winning the argument is winning elections. Otherwise, what is Labour for?