|By 2020, it will have been 23 years since the 1997 Labour landslide.|
On the penultimate night of Labour conference, which was the Labour List karaoke night, me and a few friends went to the karaoke. We all had some good fun. I then played a cruel prank on a friend which meant that he had to sing "Things can only get better" (The song is strongly associated with Tony Blair and New Labour within the Labour Party, and activists naturally chant "Tony, Tony"). When the chanting started there was a significant amount of booing and jeering, with half the room instead choosing to chant "Jez we can!". On the last night of conference we had the NOLS disco. The same thing happened, except this time even some of the senior blairite MPs who were at the disco refused to chant "Tony!". Steven Twigg MP, someone who I have known for a while and a key figure of the Blair-Brown era, turned around to me and said "We've got to move on!".
Though Steven did later on turn around and join in with the singing and dancing, this peculiar moment had a profound impact on me.
It is clear from the result of the leadership election that New Labour is dead. The election of Jeremy Corbyn with 60% of the vote is the most severe rout of moderates in the history of the party. It is also clear that a profound, and probably nearly permanent realignment is happening within the party. The "Left" now includes only people who subscribe to the full hard line left wing doctrines of comrade Corbyn, Mccdonnell, and the campaign group. This group form only a small minority of the PLP but have mass support among ordinary constituency activists. Then you have the "Right", which includes people who would generally have been considered to have been on the left wing of the party 10 years ago, such as the Brownites, lumped together with blairites, some of the less left wing elements of the soft left and the "Old right" of the party. It is also clear, that with this sharp realignment within the party, that no "New Labour continuity" candidate will be able to win a leadership election for the foreseeable future, because the most blairite of the candidates managed only 4.5% of the vote in this leadership election, and the new, young, idealistic and generally left wing members are still going to be there in 5 years time.
Regardless, a revival of unreconstructed New Labour ideology is undesirable as well as impractical. By 2020, it will have been 23 years since "Things can only get better" played on that famous `97 election night. Calling yourself a blairite by then would be like calling yourself a Gaitskellite in the Foot era, or a Kinnockite in the Blair-Brown era, or a Bennite today. Ideologies evolve and societies evolve. If they do not, then they decay and fail. The same will go for the revisionist tradition of social democracy.
This is what we now have to look to build. Together. We must look forward, not backwards. There is room for a social democracy that is inclusive, supportive of business and the middle classes as well as the traditional Labour vote, and recognizes that to spread the wealth you must also create the wealth. Let us end this feud, between blairites, brownites, social democrats and otherwise, and work together to create a new revisionist tradition fit for the challenges we will face in 2020 and beyond. This is the challenge for the moderates of the Labour Party. And I look forward to playing my full part in this challenge.