Wednesday, May 5

A “patriotic” Labor Party would embrace the activism of its young supporters | James stafford


TThe Labor Party’s endless debates about “patriotism” have a Groundhog Day quality. From Blair to Brown, Miliband, Corbyn and now Starmer, it is hard to remember a time when the party did not seriously question its supposedly antagonistic relationship to questions of British, lately English identity.

This speech It has hardly changed since Blair’s third term, and has often exhibited the worst and most counterproductive qualities of a declining party: introspective, focused exclusively on Labor and its alleged failings, and largely neglected the political context in the process. that the party operates. To the general public, the endless discussions of Labor patriotism suggest a fatal lack of confidence and self-reliance, in stark contrast to the unwavering and carefree right of the Conservatives.

Charges that Labor lacks a sense of “patriotism” are almost as old as the party itself. The revisionist story told by many commentators, that Labor was deemed irreproachably “patriotic” by one and all until Jeremy Corbyn arrived, is a ridiculous fabrication. In the 1930s and 1980s, conservative governments succeeded in portraying the organized industrial working class – inflationary, rude and potentially seditious – as if it were a “true” British nation characterized by the “vigorous virtues” of thrift and propriety. bourgeois. Now, it is the urban squatter and even many college-educated salaried professionals who have suddenly discovered that their interests and values ​​are not included within the conservatives’ definition of national politics.

Because gig economy workers, tenants, and urban professionals don’t fit many people’s idea of ​​a traditional Labor supporter, and because some people who look and sound like versions of the latter have changed their Loyalty to the Tories, it can be difficult to identify the structural similarity between these people and the central constituencies of Labor in previous periods of electoral defeat. However, the similarities are there. The economy under the Conservative Party during the 1930s and 1980s was notoriously stacked against workers in declining heavy industries in Scotland, Wales, and northern England. In our time, a combination of stagnant wages and skyrocketing asset prices puts young workers and tenants at a disadvantage everywhere, especially in British cities with Labor vote.

Treat “patriotism” as something static Set of values That a metropolitan Labor party has carelessly abandoned misrepresents the challenge facing Labor. The party has a dynamic relationship with patriotism, shaped by a rhetorical contest with its opponents over a myriad of possible visions of the nation and by the changing material circumstances of the people. The history of our time is not the abandonment by the party of an English working class that has long gone through a heartbreaking process of decline. Rather, it is about how the right wing has presided over an economy that rewards asset owners at the expense of everyone else, while purging liberalism and social democracy from British political culture.

The result of this is a kind of superficial and misanthropic nationalism that lacks any real regard for Britain’s history or institutions, and is based on little more than blind deference to privilege, cruelty to outsiders, and contempt. for our fellow citizens. For voters, the main appeal of this new conservative nationalism is that it makes voting for the traditional British ruling party seem like an act of stirring rebellion against the “awakening orthodoxy” represented by those under 40 who live in big cities. In focus groups held in “red wall” seats, the accusation that the Labor Party is a party “for students” is often heard. Labor leaders correctly interpret this as an invitation to find out what needs to be done to convince former voters that the party still represents them. But it is the intensity of the disdain for the students, not the belief that Labor is for those students, that’s new and worrisome here.

As it stands, Labor is going to have a hard time convincing anyone that it is not “for” young people and those who are “awake”, at least to a greater extent than conservatives, which is what matters in electoral terms. It would be folly, then, to allow this kind of heightened resentment to set the parameters for how the Labor Party tries to tell its own story about Britain. Unless the party can convincingly articulate why idealistic youth have a role to play in the future of the nation (something that, in a more functional political culture, would not be that hard to sell), then it will be permanently locked into defensive position. has occupied for much of the last decade. The only way to break free is for the Labor Party and the people it represents (whoever they are) to establish their own idea of ​​the future of the country and confidently invite others to join them.

A good starting point would be to take a little more pride in Labor’s good reputations with young people. In many other European countries, established center-left parties would do almost anything to attract an overwhelming majority among those under 35 to support their programs. It is not something to take for granted; Nor is it surprising that in an aging society, in which young people are forced to look for work in a small number of large cities, the votes of these cohorts count less than they did before. But Labor should not accept a zero-sum choice between maintaining the coalition it has and growing the coalition it needs. The party leadership does not need to praise or condemn every action of social movements promoting racial and climate justice. These movements should also not give much importance to what the leader of the opposition says or does not say about them.

What labor politicians can however, he vigorously rejects the notion that there is something inherently unpatriotic about defiance and dissent; and proudly weaving popular movements, past and present, back into a more generous and less fragile description of what it means to live in 21st century Britain. Unlike the cynical politicians and journalists who anger themselves to poke fun at movements like Black Lives Matter and the climate strikers, these movements truly believe (at least on some level) that Britain is capable of addressing both the past atrocities of the nation as current injustices. This is not patriotism in light of opinion pages or focus groups. But it exhibits greater faith in the real moral and intellectual capacities of British citizens than does the rhetoric of Johnson and his acolytes when the cameras are rolling.


www.theguardian.com

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