Forest of Dean & Wye Valley


In Editorial on July 7, 2014 at 8:22 pm


We now have “fixed term” parliaments – a wheeze introduced by Cameron and co. after the last election. Which means that we’ll all be going to the polls to elect a new government  in less than a year’s time. If that doesn’t concentrate the minds of Clarion readers then surely nothing will.

The vast majority of our readers will surely be hoping that the Tories (and their sidekicks in the Liberal Democrats) will tumble to defeat. Those who read The Clarion embrace a range of left-wing views – and that’s how it should be.  But many accept that when it comes to the polls, the only practical alternative is a Labour government  – and a number will be working to try to ensure that Labour wins – not just in the Forest of Dean or in neighbouring constituencies across the Wye Valley, but  throughout the country.


But we also need to ask the question, what kind of policies will Labour be putting to the voters when the election campaign really gets under way?  Is the electorate going to be faced  with an  election manifesto for change – or will we have to accept a watered down compromise that’s prepared to accept the basic tenets of the ConDem approach whilst merely tweaking it here and there to make it more palatable?

If so, we’ve been here before – when “New  Labour” was elected back in 1997. Those of us who met in the Miners’ Hall to hear the results cheered as Tory seats tumbled – and in the early hours  of the morning the news came through that Diana Organ had won the Forest of Dean for Labour.  It was a heady moment – only tempered by the gradual realisation that when it came down to the basics, the underlying philosophy of Thatcherism would remain in place. Under Blair the erosion of the role of the public sector continued. Changes to the structure of the NHS paved the way for Cameron’s Health and Social Care Act. Many former gains  in education were put into reverse (making it easier for the likes of  Michael Gove to ride roughshod over our children’s future).


All this of course took place long before Blair’s final betrayal, when he chose to back Bush over the invasion of Iraq. This, more than anything, tarnished his reputation in the eyes of Labour loyalists. Today there’s a knee-jerk reaction within the party to Blair and all that he was associated with. That’s not surprising, but this alone is not enough. What is needed is a bold break with everything that “New Labour” stood for; and a return to the kind of values that once typified Labour, and ensured that its roots were strong and well nourished.

The trouble is that within the Parliamentary Labour Party at least, “New Labour” hasn’t gone away.  There are still those who adhere stubbornly to the kind of policies and approach practised under Blair during those frustrating years between 1997 and 2009.  The election of Ed Miliband as leader of the Labour Party did promise a change in direction. Indeed, there was a change in the rhetoric from the leadership – and of course we should welcome such promises as those to repeal the iniquitous “bedroom tax” and the Health and Social Care Act – as well as bringing education back under local authority control and the promise of a living wage for all.

But in other policy areas we’ve had to put up with either slogans (“One Nation Labour” sounds good, but in itself it doesn’t mean a lot) or vague statements that may be aspirational but at the very least need clarifying.  There has as yet been no document that spells out Labour’s electoral policies, so we can’t even pick over the bones of that.


We’re told that within the Parliamentary Labour Party there are divisions between those who favour a “cautious” electoral strategy (in other words, one that doesn’t promise too much) and those who advocate one based on radical change – though even here, there may be differences over what we’re being radical about.

Certainly a timidity of approach won’t get Labour very far.  A point which seems to have been reflected in the patchy results for Labour in the local elections. True, gains were made but by no means on the scale one might expect.  There needs to be a firm declaration that Labour will reverse the run down of the public sector. A pledge to re-create a National Health Service that’s fit for the needs of ordinary people – and an education policy based on creating a structure in which our children can be happy, confident, and can grow into the kind of citizens of tomorrow that our society needs. And above all, Labour should be prepared to support those on the bottom rungs of the social ladder, rather than insulting and deriding them.


As well as that, Labour should refuse to pander to the racist under-belly of those who support the likes of UKIP and those on the right wing of the Tory Party.  Indeed, we need a sustained attack on the bigotry of those who peddle such views is needed. Racism has never been part of the labour movement.

The Clarion is realistic enough to acknowledge that we may not be able to recreate the “spirit of 1945” at this stage. Certainly not in its entirety, more’s the pity. Too much has changed, including society’s priorities.  But Labour should, now more than ever, be in business to break the underlying philosophy of Thatcherism which for too long has ruled politics. “New Labour” was a child of Thatcher, whether we like it or not – just as Cameron and his cronies are the grandchildren.

It’s no wonder that so many voters believe that the mainstream political parties are “all the same”.  We may well argue that this belief is wrong – but a political consensus certainly exists. Isn’t it time that it was broken?


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