Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Making Labour the Nasty Party

More on this another time, but Damien McBride and Derek Draper are not just two idiots who don't understand how e-mail works, but members of a particular tendency within the Labour Party which aims to make Labour into the new Nasty Party.

The same tactics which they discussed in their e-mails were ones which were on display a few years ago in the Birmingham Hodge Hill by-election. In the aftermath of the Iraq war, the Labour team running that by-election campaign decided that the way to defeat the Lib Dems was a combination of personal smears against the Lib Dem candidate and attacking the opposition for being "soft", in that particular case on so-called "bogus asylum-seekers". That by-election launched the career of Liam Byrne, now a member of the Cabinet.

Labour has traditionally had a reputation for being the party of the underdog and sticking up for the vulnerable and powerless. The deliberate aim of some of Labour's current ministers and advisers, including not just Liam Byrne but also others such as Immigration minister Phil Woolas, is to change that. They introduce policies which, whether they work or not, enable Labour to criticise its opponents, whether Tory, Lib Dem or Scottish Nationalist, as "soft", "weak", and on the side of unpopular minority groups, whether asylum-seekers, people who have been out of work for a long time, or people addicted to drugs or alcohol.

The key thing to note is that "giving the vulnerable and powerless a kicking for perceived electoral advantage" and "making up smears about their political opponents for perceived electoral advantage" are part of the same overall political strategy.

Not only it is morally reprehensible, there is no evidence that this approach is electorally successful. Indeed, quite the opposite. Hodge Hill, for example, saw a 27% swing against Labour, one of the worst by-election performances in Labour's history. As a political strategy, it is suicidal for Labour, as for any party of the centre-left, to adopt a strategy of dividing its supporters into "deserving" and "undeserving" and trying to win the support of the former at the expense of the latter.

And it's got to stop.

In many ways, the way that the Nasty Party Tendency goes about its business is similar to the Militant Tendency back in the 1980s, who were also known for their aggressive bullying and personal viciousness to others in the Labour party who disagreed with them, combined with dogmatic, electorally repellent and outdated politics. But in some ways, that comparison is unfair.

After all, at least the Militant built some council houses.


At 6:43 pm , Anonymous ad said...

People who believe themselves to be on the side of righteousness are rarely famous for their honourable or pleasant treatment of their enemies. After all, their enemies are, by definition, opposed to all that is right and proper.


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