Home > General Politics > Labour left finds unlikely guru.

Labour left finds unlikely guru.

Perhaps this bloke could help us?

In his latest piece in a series of articles that lay out the case against all the candidates for the Labour leadership, Hopi Sen, whilst setting out the case against Diane Abbot, seems to have taken on the unlikely mantle of political Guru to the Labour Left.

As he’s said at the beginning of each of these articles, he’s hoping to ruin any chance of future employment with the party. Perhaps he’s feeling a bit rebellious, I might send him a membership form for the LRC..

I don’t usually like reading anything from devout centrist types, that sets out to discuss the left of the Party, it tends to raise my blood pressure somewhat. But surprisingly Hopi has some pretty good pointers for us.

The next few years are a major opportunity for the Labour left.

Labour has just lost office thanks to a crisis in capitalism and the failure of the Labour centre-right to respond to that crisis it in an electorate pleasing way.

As a result, we have a government which will run an anti-public services, anti-social spending, anti-housing benefit and welfare agenda, while pursuing policies that will, at the very best, slow the decline in unemployment.

For the first time in a generation, the left could have a coherent intellectual and electoral argument. If the face of the left is Diane Abbott, that argument will be less likely to be taken seriously.

I find it hard to disagree with that. I think the left should be careful not to allow Diane to become our default mouthpiece once she loses the election, though Hopi go’s on to say pretty much the same thing of John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn, with which I don’t agree.

John is by far a more effective communicator, in fact I think the only reason Diane is on the ballot is because David Miliband was shit scared of sharing a platform with John! And rightly so, he would have embarrassed him on any number of issues, up and down the country for weeks on end.

I’m glad Hopi points out that this is an opportunity for the left-wing, in fact its nice to hear someone say it. Too many lefties seem to have got into a perpetual state of despair about the Labour Party, to an extent that a vital opportunity may be missed.  

I especialy liked this last bit;

Instead they should focus on developing a new generation of strong voices for whom the chance to stridently oppose the government, challenge their own party to be more radical and win applause from party members will be attractive. Most of these won’t be in Westminster – they could be council leaders, or trade unionists, or simply fluent, passionate activists.

The challenge for the left isn’t winning this leadership election, it’s becoming strong enough to ensure that in conference, NEC and shadow cabinet, it’s people and ideas are taken seriously.

I would say that this wouldn’t just be a good thing for the left of the party, but for the whole. Regaining a more pluralistic type of politics is essential for the Labour Party, the only other option is a slip back to the top down, control freakery of the Blair years.

So I wonder. If the time really is now, and the above were used as a loose set of aims for the left over the next couple of years, how would we best start to get things moving at a grass-roots level? This will no doubt be the subject of numerous meetings in the coming months, but hey, if we don’t put the comments section to use for things like this, then whats the point in having it!?!

Categories: General Politics
  1. July 31, 2010 at 3:11 am


  2. AaronKiely
    July 31, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    I agree, I think the party is becoming more pluralistic and becoming all the better for it!

  3. Simon
    July 31, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    My most obvious observation would be that the left needs an effective means of organisation, one which builds the necessary bridges both with centrist party insiders but also with the large mass of like minded individuals outside the party who feel disenfranchised by the spectre of New Labour.

    The LRC, to date, has not been particuarly inspiring in this role (although it has the right idea in terms of combining labour members with critically supporting outsiders) and as much as I admire John McDonnell and believe he would have made a vastly superior spokeman for socialiam than Diane, the reality is he has simply failed to use the last three years (or more) to set himself up as a plausible leadership candidate.

  4. July 31, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    I’m with Simon.

    And as usual I think Aaron Kiely is full of gushy crap. In the face of a Labour contest in which the actual socialist – rather than Abbott – was excluded by cynical (and piously justified) machinations of the PLP elite, it bears some doing to declare that suddenly the party is becoming more pluralistic.

    It’s also not what the article is saying; the article is a demand for pluralism.

    Surrender your pom-poms at the door; no zealot like a convert.

  5. Adam White (@theday2day)
    August 1, 2010 at 1:13 am

    I agree with the point on the LRC. We’ve had a very positive presence in various campaigns outside of the party, but when it has come to organising for any kind of serious campaigning within the party, then there doesnt seem to be much success, or even effort some times.

    My main interest in the LRC is the idea of bridging the party with the broader movement as Simon points out, bringing those two groups together in some way. On a local level, the branches (which do need to be more regularised, with more encouragement/assistance to members wishing to get branches going) essentially just operates as a forum again. This isnt necessarily a bad thing, as we get to co-ordinate with other like minded Comrades on local matters, which can then be presented to the broader, local party structure as a united front.

    Many people have often commented to me that they arent satisfied with what the LRC is (or isnt) doing, but when pressed further it becomes clear that theyre not sure what they expect from the LRC in the first place, which is something, as a member, I would have to confess to feeling at times.

    Simon, on your point about John, he does his best to raise his profile, but as he puts it, he’s not a part of the “london dinner party circuit”, and finds the quest for media coverage an uphill struggle. I’ve wondered wether or not the LRC would benefit from some advice regarding communications strategy, from someone who actually knows what theyre talking about. But I think Hopi hit the nail on the head really in pointing out that we should be looking to our councils, and TU branches for organisational leadership as opposed to the PLP.

  6. Simon
    August 1, 2010 at 2:14 am

    “but as he puts it, he’s not a part of the “london dinner party circuit”

    Isn’t that Andy Burnham’s line? Either way, as much as I appreciate John’s distancing himself from the Labour norm over the past two decades, he hasn’t performed as well as could be hoped in terms of building an electable coalition within the PLP which, like it or loath it, is an undeniably his fundamental weakness.

  7. August 1, 2010 at 6:21 am

    But, and I think this should be stressed, the right socialist orientation is not to compromise on socialist aims to build that coalition with other factions in the PLP – it is to appeal to and organise the rank and file. The LRC is still only in the early stages of doing this, with the local groups that don’t even cover most of England yet.

  8. August 3, 2010 at 9:35 am

    I think some of the points regarding the LRC are pretty unfair.
    Speaking as the person to form the first regional LRC in 2007, I agree it’s been an uphill struggle. But you can’t blame the leadership if at a grassroots level people aren’t prepared to put in the work to build the LRC locally.
    We’ve tried twice to launch groups in Greater Manchester, I have offered to speak at various CLPs (including Adam’s) and gone to as many meetings as I could but if people won’t build from the bottom it’s v dificult to progress things.
    I have also been responsible for bringing he LRC National Committee out of London – individuals who complain about everything alwoays beung down there were notable by their absence.
    The comments re John McDonnell not building coalitioms are also way off the mark – do people actually realise how right-wing and supine the PLP now is. There is a massive resistance to the Labour Left, still. It is onoy by outting in the work, becoming councillors, PPCs and changing the composition of Labour’s Westminster representatives we have a hope . So, yes, a new generation is needed.
    But, at the risk of soundimg irritated, blogging is no substitute for real-time activity. Look forward to seeing some of you at the LRC events at TUC and LP Conferenmce in Manchester

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