Labour – stop dancing to the Tories’ tune and give us the compassionate leadership our country needs

Photo by Marc Nozell
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Imagine being angry about small boats, wanting to see refugees shipped to Rwanda, and not knowing what Labour’s policy was.

Mightn’t you read this tweet as a message that Labour, in power, would promise to send more people to Rwanda?

Like much Labour material, it’s clever drafting – designed to send different messages to people with different politics.

A necessary evil, you might say, of the first past the post (FPTP) system.

(The one the Labour leadership doesn’t want to change)

But it’s dangerous. 

Because that subliminal message – that all the Rwanda policy lacks is competent administrators – sticks.

Not just with authoritarians, but with the large numbers of people who are just not very engaged in politics. 

“If everyone’s talking about Rwanda as a thing, Rwanda must be a thing.”

“It must be OK to send people there.”

“Mustn’t it?” 

Last week, I put out a thread (which the editor used to update an earlier article) about the speed at which the Overton window has shifted in just a year, ‘dragged with chains and whips’ by the Tories, as @MermaidsPurseJ put it.

But the Overton window doesn’t just move at the hands of those who are instigating the change – in this case the zealots who have captured the Conservative Party.

It’s helped along by those who acquiesce, allowing the zealots to set the terms of debate. 

One of the many detestable things about the Tories’ messaging is how they preface every act of extremism by telling us that “we are a compassionate country”, or some variant of that.

It’s designed to make people feel comfortable in their intolerance. 

But the great tragedy is that most people – whether in the UK or elsewhere – ARE naturally compassionate.

It’s human nature.

But you can have it drummed out of you with lies, hate speech and propaganda. 

A Labour leadership confident and skilled enough to stand up for its party’s traditions of progressive politics and internationalism would seek to tap into that natural compassion and make people feel proud of it. 

A Labour leadership which spoke like this: (George Monbiot)

Or this:

Or (whisper it, Scottish Labour) this:

A Labour leadership which spoke for what would be, I suspect, a majority of its members, MPs, MSPs and MSs.

A labour leadership, you might say, which showed some leadership. 

This week, in words anybody who is awake should find utterly chilling, a British prime minister stood up and declared himself and his party to be above the law.

Much of what passes for our national press noted all this uncritically. 

Never in our lifetimes have our freedoms been so under threat.

It’s terrifying. 

Not because the Tories will win the next election.

But because, when Labour do, they won’t change the electoral system which enabled a minority of extremists to come to power in the first place. 

An electoral system which forces Labour perpetually to dance to the Tories’ tunes, and all of us to live with the consequences of that. 

It’s terrifying because it is entirely possible – some would say probable – that, with our politics moving ever rightwards and the economy at rock bottom, the Tories will get elected again in five or ten years’ time and finish off this fragile democracy for good. 

I know all the arguments.

“We have to get the Tories Out”.

“This is the electoral system we have, and we must play by it”.

“Wait until we’re in office, and we’ll change our positions”.

“We’ll introduce meaningful constitutional reform”. 

I agree with the first, with a passion.

I agree with the second, with a heavy dose of cynicism (see below).

I’m not at all sure I believe the third.

I definitely don’t believe the fourth. 

Recognising some of these contradictions leaves me with a dilemma.

But my answer to that dilemma is not, and never will be, to stay quiet while I see Labour enabling the constant shifting to the right of our politics.


I genuinely don’t like feeling obliged to criticise Labour.

For most of my life they have the been the party I voted for, and would have voted for every time under PR.

If I were still living in England, they probably still would be. 

But, if our democracy does crumble away for good, they will bear huge responsibility.

For their acquiescence.

For their timidity.

And for their insistence on sticking with an electoral system that offered us no protection whatsoever. 

Robin Cook was right to fear the Blair/Brown governments would fail to bring in electoral reform.

But he was wrong to assume that, after another bout of Tory government, the subsequent Labour administration would see the error of its predecessors’ ways.

Source: Open Democracy

Unless you believe that Keir Starmer has a secret plan to get rid of the first past the post.

I don’t.

Do you?