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With the exception of the realignment in British politics in 1922, when the Liberal’s gave way to Labour as the main second party of the system, we need to look at repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846 to see a similar seismic change, when the Whigs were replaced by the new Free Trade Liberal Party. The latter marked transition between the Agrarian and Industrial Revolutions. While for some time experiencing the change from the Industrial to the Information Age, our current party ideologies have become out of alignment with their constituencies of the future that they are destined to serve.

The neo-liberalism of the Thatcher years was taken on wholeheartedly by Blair and his New Labour project. This arose however from the abolition of Clause Four in 1995 with a replacement that Thatcher would have certainly acknowledged. Consider the two below:

1918 Clause Four “To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.”

1995 Replacement “Labour is committed to a dynamic economy and will work in pursuit of these aims, with the trade unions, co-operative societies and other affiliated organisations and also with voluntary organisations, consumer groups and other representative bodies.”

Whilst claiming to be a broad church, the Labour Party cannot exist with its current ideological structure because the individualism of New Labour conflicts with the Communitarian values of the pre 1995 party. Although some started to re-emerge under Corbyn and were by no means rejected in total in the 2017 election. Labour is no longer a homogeneous party. The two ideologies are incompatible resulting in two separate parties with opposing values and views of Society. Starmer cannot reconcile the two however hard he tries, because “two into one will not go.”

In the meantime, the right is making hay by becoming increasingly authoritarian, reinforcing the new Thatcher/Blair political/social contract. Making policies, often without consultation, that suit the narrow community of the prosperous at the expense of the majority, in actions which show more signs of a move towards Fascism than many would care to admit. Ironically laying ground for the increasing call “one law for them and a different one for the rest.”

In my paper, Three Types of Socialism ( I identify more clearly the differences between Social Democracy; Marxism and Co-operation, which clearly demonstrates that the former is not established to provide the best economic outcome for the producers of wealth. At the same time, it has created a new proletariat whose raison d’etre is to consume, often unwanted, rather than necessarily produce the goods and services. The world post-Covid; post-Artificial Intelligence and Climatic changes will be a very different, providing a variety of opportunities to make the world a fairer place. Capitalism is only 250 years old and there is nothing immutable about its continued existence as a form. Indeed, exploitation is on the rise in the industrial West with a return to the values of working practices, such as zero hour contracts, which had been abolished years ago.

This cannot go on without recognition and change. It can be brought about but not under the current Tory light approach by the current Labour party. On the other hand, the collective, co-operative approach of the original party can come back to the fore by forming and managing production where all are shareholders capable of participating in the fair distribution of their contribution.

Many of these ideas are advocated in The Green Party manifesto, especially in terms of Workers Rights. Blair’s New Labour embraced Thatcherite ideas and drove them even further to the right. The Conservatives were given an own goal in 2010 supported by the Liberal Democrats. The Blairite side of the Labour Party have placed Starmer in an impossible position in trying to sufficiently differ from the ideology, which has become the dominant force of British Politics for the past half century. This is demonstrated in particular when such an esteemed director of films on Social Realism as Ken Loach is told that there is no longer a place for him in the Party. An alternative to suit the original communitarian side of the Party, suggests an alliance with The Greens, thereby establishing a true alternative to the current exploitation of neo-liberalism. At the same time, this would provide an ideology fit for the challenges of the post-Covid world in creating an opportunity of greater fairness, to say nothing of an environment capable of sustainability. The sooner this occurs, where Labour MP’s decide which party they are in, the better. Yes! this would result initially in an overwhelming victory for the neo-liberals. It took Disraeli 16 years to eventually make the modern Conservative Party electable after the split of 1846. Ultimately however, it would allow the opposition to be heard, with a single voice and a genuine alternative to create a society for the future, where everyone is considered and not just the one per cent at the top.

Roger Lovell August 2021

Author of Managing Change in the New Public Sector and Managing for the Millennium

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