It is not just an opinion that appealing to enough of the centre ground is the way to win a British General election, it is a psephological fact. Consequently, Labour is in very real danger of being ‘Left Behind’ by its own lurch to the ‘Left’.
Norman Smith at the BBC suggests that the vote itself reveals at least half of the 53 new-blood Labour MPs are “well to the left of the mainstream”. Alongside this there is the fact that Jeremy Corbyn is gaining a good deal of traction, Liz Kendall likely to come fourth in the wake of the party’s ‘Blairite bashing’ and a leadership campaign that is looking ever more insular and about the party’s base and less so the public they failed to win over, it is clear as Smith said, “that the gravitational pull of the party is not back to the centre, but to the left”.
Kat Smith, one of those 18 New MP’s that voted against the bill and the party whip to abstain said today on the Daily Politics, “Labour didn’t lose the election because it was too left wing“, that this trajectory is ultimately a way to differentiate Labour from the Tories. However, I refer back to my previous analysis of Labour’s problems at the election:
“Labour did not lose Scotland because of a lack of genuine socialism, they lost it because of an insurgent nationalism and an air of ‘Metropolitan’ London centrism. They did not lose chunks of votes in the north to UKIP because they admitted to the need for some public sector cuts, they lost it because of their record of incompetence and indifference over immigration and welfare dependency. They did not fail to swing Middle-England because New Labour had been largely pro-business, they lost it because they had nothing to inspire aspiration and relied on the ‘politics of envy’ instead of a route to prosperity”
Going further to the Left will do nothing to address these problems; and in some cases, would exacerbate them. Those in the Labour ranks who think that the route to a more Leftist agenda is the way forward need to think about the arithmetic. Even if you took every Left wing vote for the Greens across the country and gave them to Labour, they would have only converted a handful of seats, and this is assuming that the move away from the centre would allow them to keep the swathes of centrist votes in those constituencies and not alienate more people in the North to UKIP; which of course they would not.
The existential problem Labour has is a deep and profound one. The age of ‘Mass Party’ has been dead for decades, they need to appeal to the centre if they wish to win. However, they find themselves in the invidious position where the centre is moving a tad too far to the right than a lot of their old guard are happy to accept. The response appears to be to double down, only time will tell the depth of the loss they will suffer if this shift to the left is wholly adopted.