To say that 2015 was a difficult year for Labour party is an understatement. Still reeling from the crushing defeat at the ballot box in May, we rushed headlong into the most divisive leadership election in living memory and, from there, straight into a maelstrom of in-fighting, factionalism and acrimony. “Things,” as they say, “can only get better…”
This will require large doses of maturity and common sense on both sides of the equation.
The parliamentary Labour party must accept the fact that Jeremy was elected with a thumping mandate, and that he needs time and space to establish himself, while party members have to understand that MPs are representatives, not delegates: we were elected to serve our constituents on the basis of our manifesto, not via random straw polls, or through who’s shouting loudest on Twitter this week. The day that we start crowd-sourcing the whip is the day that we cease to exist as a serious political party.
It is also critically important that we define our purpose, mission and project. In September, I published a pamphlet – A New Nation: Building a United Kingdom of Purpose, Patriotism and Resilience – that was my “starter for 10” contribution to the debate about the future of the Labour party. The entire Labour movement now has a golden opportunity to rethink, rebuild and relaunch: let’s seize it, with both hands.
This will also be the year in which we will win the EU referendum. Labour is now the only pro-European national party of any significance, and we must present our arguments with pragmatism, passion and patriotism. If we go into the referendum campaign in the right frame of mind, we will demonstrate that we are the only party that truly fights for the national interest, and a by-product of this is that we will emerge as a more united and credible party of government
Set against the backdrop of these momentous challenges and opportunities, the chatter about splits and reshuffles rapidly becomes little more than noises-off. Let’s not go there. Our hopelessly undemocratic first-past-the-post electoral system would strangle any split at birth, and a reshuffle would simply leave people confused about what this fabled “new kind of politics” is all about. It’s a waste of time and energy. The Tories are our opponents. They are impoverishing and dividing our country. Let’s turn our fire on them, not on each other.Last year taught us that making predictions in politics is a mug’s game, but I will stick my neck out and say this: 2016 will be a make-or-break year for the Labour party.