Wednesday, September 04, 2019

The General Election - and after

As the General Election looms, our Party needs to be on an election footing and – not before time (as I was saying) we are moving to the selection of candidates.

However, some of the most insightful comments I have read on the current political crisis direct our attention elsewhere. Aditya Chakrabortty says that; “our political parties, chiefly Labour, need to show the public what use they are in the 21st century. That means providing advice to voters, not just members, on welfare, housing and employers. It means acting to collectively procure cheap utility deals. It means laying on classes in how politics and economics work and why they matter. Real democratic renewal will not come through Westminster manoeuvring, or new pieces of legal text, but through building serious and sturdy new institutions.”

I think this challenge should be of interest to all those of us who are more than a little disappointed at the limited impact on real life of the surge in Labour Party membership after 2015 – and may be particularly relevant to mass membership CLPs (Constituency Labour Parties) which aren’t on anyone’s list of marginal target seats.

Having had several weeks to lie in bed watching 1970s television (as I slowly regain good health) and to think about how the world has changed , I am very struck by the relevance of Chakrabortty’s arguments which I will paraphrase to say that, in the twenty first century, a civil society which is weaker and less rooted than it was in my youth currently fails to challenge and sustain democratic institutions. The weakness of those institutions enables tiny political figures like Boris Johnson to try to ignore them.

Rebuilding civil society in general (and the working class movement in particular) is at least as important as putting a socialist in Downing Street – and the hundreds of thousands of Labour Party members, many of whom are already active in their communities, could be the people to take this task on.

In the coming weeks we must focus on the General Election, but in the coming months and years we need to think about what we want from our Party in the twenty first century, and then act upon those thoughts.

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