A New Page in the History of the UK Labor Party
A New Page in the History of the UK Labor Party
A few days ago, the British Labor Party elected a new leader, ending the reign of the leftist populist Jeremy Corbyn.
Sir Keir Starmer, the new leader, is very much a product of the labor movement, and his socialist credentials are beyond reproach; he was even named Keir as a sign of his parents’ admiration of the historical Scottish Labor leader and unionist Keir Hardie (1856 – 1915).
Other than this, Starmer’s election ushers an important step for the Labor Party towards realism, rationalism and moderation. This is taking place during a serious period for the world – including the UK, of course –, particularly, for the forces of the Left, the working class and the role of humanity in these times of existential change in every field.
The world did not have to face a killer pandemic like COVID-19, to stop, and ask some vital honest questions, and seek to find the right answers.
It is true that this is not the first time mankind has been forced to ask these questions; but this is happening now after we thought we had achieved progress huge enough to overcome all challenges. We have deciphered the human genome, made impressive advances in stem cell technology, and gone far in the development of artificial intelligence (AI); making the whole world a mere cocoon for the communication revolution.
Yet, for all these achievements, we are staring today at several aspects of human limitations and failures. After thinking that we were invincible, here we are forced to be self-quarantined; which is something that should convince us that we have to win several battles against ourselves, before overcoming the global existential challenges.
Many postulates have now collapsed or are about to collapse. Many faces of arrogant stubbornness have almost reached a dead end. Many hypotheses have proven to be illusions…
During the last decade, western democracies were strongly shaken, as major traditional parties of government became almost irrelevant, while others in Germany, the UK, Austria and other countries badly weakened. Even in the USA, the mainstream within the Democratic and Republican parties has suffered badly at the hands of emerging radical upstarts.
In Europe, the debate about the ‘European identity’ has pitted the pro-globalization and cross-borders environmentalist groups against the ultra-nationalists, secessionists and isolationists. The economy has stood idle by as the confrontation became fiercer between the currents of globalization and technology on one side, and worried and confused individuals and peoples trying in vain to find themselves in a global economic system that is marginalizing them, on the other. As a result, many in the heart of western democracy, during the last ten years, have become increasingly convinced that they were forgotten.
The situation in the ‘Third World’ has not been better, as a result of accumulating old and new problems; including tribal, linguistic, religious and sectarian conflicts, as well as corruption, increasing authoritarianism and abuse of power.
Even exceptional countries, like India, the world’s most populous democracy, whose founding fathers Gandhi and Nehru dreamt of making an example of coexistence and epitome of tolerance, is now facing the unknown. Under the leadership of ultra-nationalist Hindus, India is now sliding towards sectarianism, racism, authoritarianism and extremism. Also, unhealthy have been the developments taking place in countries that emerged from decades of communism, such as China, Russia and some Eastern European countries; especially, as regards the disdain of human rights, transparency, good governance, and devolution of power. In these countries there has been a gradual return to the worst practices of the ‘police state’, as well as extreme right populism.
The change that took place in the UK a few days ago is significant although it is not going to affect a speedy or radical change; as the ruling Conservatives’ parliamentary majority is large enough for them to do what they please without any problem. Moreover, the change at the helm of the Labor Party must include all the structures which contributed to its present bad state following four terrible election defeats, and deep divisions on critical issues encountered by the country, led by leaving the European Union (BREXIT).
Indeed, the mere fact that a radical Leftist activist, like Jeremy Corbyn, managed to reach the top was sufficient proof of the badly defective mechanism that disqualifies Labor as a ‘party of government’. The reason for this is that Corbyn – as honest and sincere he might be – has never been a ‘statesman’ who can strike deals, and achieve broad national consensus, through flexibility pragmatism, and tolerating disagreements.
Incidentally, the radical wing which voted Corbyn in, during the fall of 2015, has always been disinterested in the simplest dynamics of electoral democracy, whereby any party must strive to neutralize the enemies, and win over the neutrals. Any party, as strong as it might be, cannot win elections by depending on its own die-hard committed supporters only, but must gain also many uncommitted and undecided voters.
What the ‘Corbynites’ did during the last few years, however, is that due to their dogmatism, managed to alienate many moderate members and voters? Furthermore, they brought into the party ultra-radicals who were never interested in Labor being a broad-church party with wide appeal; thus, turning the party into nothing more than a loud protest movement.
Keir Starmer, is a different kind of leader. He has an approach similar to that of Gordon Brown, the former decent, cultured, pragmatic leader and prime minister.
True to form, Starmer’s first speech after his election, against the tragic background of the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the UK, was a call for unity and togetherness, in both party and country. His words, actually, were of a greater value given the fact that even some Conservative politicians entertained the idea of a national government to oversee the national efforts to confront and contain the pandemic.
In the presence of responsible and mature Labor leadership, which knows when, how and why to oppose … this job has become less complicated