The reactions to my post on Labour’s problem with antisemitism yesterday were, in many cases, depressing. It’s my belief that Labour can address this issue where it matters on the ground vastly more effectively than it has, and keep the Jewish community happy (many of whom should be natural Labour supporters) and be honest to its beliefs, simultaneously. It was clear many disagree. And if I was disheartened by some of the comments, I wonder what I would have felt like if I was Jewish? I am certain deep alienation would be the best description.
And yet what many seemed not to notice was that what I actually wrote about was the fact that Labour is, by letting internal divisions fester, failing to do the job it is meant to do on behalf of the people of this country. What I mean is, it is not opposing the most dangerous government we have had in decades at a time of massive political crisis. That is what I actually wrote about. You might never have noticed, such was the reaction.
I am not alone in holding this view. This is John Harris in the Guardian this morning:
[Anna Soubrey] well knows something too many Tories choose to ignore: that if these people increase their influence via one of their number becoming the prime minister, they will eventually kill traditional British Conservatism for two generations at least. But the left has to wake up, too. It is the reckless right, not “Blairites” and centrists, that is the real enemy. If we want an end to the fear and anxiety that currently define the national mood and a future worth living for, these are the saboteurs who will have to be crushed.
I know what the reaction of some will be. It will be that the Guardian can’t be trusted and is, in any case, aligned against Labour or, at least the Left. It so happens I don’t share the view. Just as I don’t share the view of many of its columnists. But I also understand that both commercially as well as intellectually and politically it feels the need to represent a broad church of interests who are never intended to speak with a single voice, but from whom each interest can learn, even if only by working out why they disagree, and what they could do better.
And Labour could do better. I bothered to explain this weekend how it could take on the issue of failing councils and solve it by pursuing a policy that puts the vulnerable first. I have heard nothing from Labour on this.
Sometime in the next hour or so I also intend to finish a blog on the poverty of Labour’s economic thinking, where it obviously still thinks it is in hock to banker’s and has to deliver austerity as a result.
And on the biggest issue of the day, which is Brexit, it isn’t even sure it will trust its membership to speak at its conference on the issue as yet as far as I know.
My point is that if Labour is to deliver it has to be radical. It has to be clear in whose interests it acts. It has to be coherent and consistent on their behalf. And it has to be willing to set its own agenda.
This does not mean accepting the Labour right’s agenda. Far from it.
But what it does mean is actually having an agenda other than some tokens, like rail nationalisation (which really is the easy stuff, and which will not radically alter most people’s lives), that can actually be used to show that a Labour Government would make a big difference to what it is like to live in Britain today.
I am far from alone in thinking that Labour is far away from achieving this.
I want a radical Opposition in this country that fights the far-right and the economic, political and social madness they promote with policies that will effect real change. I don’t think that is too much to hope for.
But I am a very long way from getting it.
And I reserve my right to say so.