Lorna Finlayson believes that becoming more rightwing is not the best way for Labour to become electable again (Electability does not mean an inevitable tack to the right, Journal, 3 February), but does not present any convincing alternative way forward.
Leftwing policies may be popular with the public, but this was clearly not enough for Labour to be elected in December. There is no evidence, either, that choosing a leader like Rebecca Long-Bailey will do anything to improve Labour’s chances. It is clear, whatever his supporters say, that Jeremy Corbyn was a key factor in persuading traditional Labour voters to desert the party, and though giving him “10 out of 10” for his performance may show commendable loyalty, it has probably already scuppered her chances of being viewed as a better alternative.
As unpalatable as it may be, the December election result has shown beyond doubt that elections are won by playing the game, not by showing integrity and honesty, or even having the best policies. An electorate that is disenchanted with politics is easy prey to simplistic slogans and publicity stunts. While there is undeniably a strong rightwing bias in the print media, simply complaining about this will get us nowhere. It is the world we live in, and the party has to find a way of dealing with it.
Tony Blair was good at playing the game, and was able to win three elections as a result. Unfortunately this was at the cost of sacrificing too much of Labour’s core values for many of us to stomach. Perhaps a better example is Harold Wilson, the only other Labour leader apart from Attlee (in the exceptional conditions of postwar Britain) to win elections convincingly. As well as being a successful performer in the media, he also managed to maintain a balance between the left and the right of the party, something that arguably no leader has managed since.
• Lorna Finlayson argues in support of Rebecca Long-Bailey, and in continuing the cause for leftwing policies. But surely liberal democracies rely on a political pendulum which is sustained by reaction, not subtraction. No political party has a monopoly on virtue or competence. If the electorate were to buy into this, we would be living in a one-party state.
When the pendulum swung back towards Labour in 1997 it was on the back of a manifesto that promised: “Some things the Conservatives got right. We will not change them.”
Within a few years the Tories reacted, by setting out their own “aims and values”, in recognition of the success of Labour’s own clear and concise expression of “the principles”.
From 2010 the Tories have pursued their own principles of “compassionate conservatism”. Of course, translating principles into deliverable policies does not come easy. However, our three main political parties, when in power, have all explicitly signed up to the core principle that “social justice” is best delivered by the proceeds of wealth creation.
The precise strategies will obviously vary, either through experimentation, or in response to unforeseen global trends. But ultimately the electorate will judge performance, as it is they who control the pendulum.
If any party seeks to swing its own extreme pendulum, purely in the belief of its moral superiority and historic values, it will need to demonstrate extraordinary powers of persuasion when “the people’s trust” is the final arbiter.
Chandler’s Ford, Hampshire
• As a recent subscriber to the Guardian, I have to thank many of the contributors to the Journal for helping to preserve my sanity, following the general election and Brexit. Sadly, Lorna Finlayson isn’t one of them. Her piece proposes Rebecca Long-Bailey as the answer. She is only the answer if the question is “Which of the leadership candidates is most likely to guarantee another election defeat for the Labour party?”
• Labour’s ostrich tendency, which blames calamitous defeat on Brexit, the capitalist press and an insufficiently “woke” electorate, evidently has an adherent in Lorna Finlayson. Labour’s policies may have been popular “in isolation”, but the party leadership had clearly forgotten what Nye Bevan used to say about socialism and the “language of priorities”. People vote for a party that clearly knows not only its preferred destination but how it is going to get there.
Dr Colin J Smith
West Kirby, Wirral
• Lorna Finlayson claims “there is no evidence that Labour lost the election because of its leftwing policies”, but nowhere in her article does she offer an explanation of that outcome or any suggestions as to how the party can do much better next time. To adopt a modified version of her own conclusion, while Labour remains unable to address the reasons for its devastating defeat, the Tories have little to fear!
Labour, House of Lords
• I join Fiona Millar (Education, 4 February) in despairing that there appear to be many in the Labour party, including sadly some MPs, who want to forget, distance themselves from or even trash the many achievements of the Labour government of 1997-2010. Shades of Monty Python and “What did the Romans ever do for us?” Those of us who endured the Thatcher years, and the years since 2010, should not need to remind people of the progress that was made, but it seems we must do so. Otherwise we play into the hands of those who will happily portray Labour as a party not fit to govern.
Elsecar, South Yorkshire
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