Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tribalism: Labour's besetting sin?

A number of pundits and bloggers have been speculating whether this election marks the nadir of tribal politics? Short answer: no - but it left me wondering if tribalism isn't more of a problem for Labour than either the Tories and the Lib Dems?

It isn't that the others are less so; I'd argue in particular that the Tories are, if anything, more so. But it's a special problem for Labour in two ways:

1) They do it more explicitly than anyone else. Can anyone seriously doubt this? If you do - do come to Scotland and we'll show you how it works here. Disagree with my position? Here's why you're wrong... Nothing could be more alien to the Scottish Labourist tradition. Disagree with me and you are a traitor to the long-suffering proletarian. You know the man - the one most Labour politicians have had described to them. Now tribalism can have it's attractions - provided you feel you belong to said tribe. But if you don't, it's this sort of thing that is designed to draw the line between those who belong and those who don't more sharply. It leaves us with a problem: for every one Chris Dillow who feels drawn to Labour for aesthetic and nostalgic reasons, there's at least three who do not - which leads us to the second fatal problem with Labour's tribalism:

2) It's that the aforementioned tribe is shrinking. This is something those who were Brown's cheerleaders never understood. I would compare him to Michael Foot in one respect only: he was a candidate who was the very incarnation of the malady that sometimes afflicts (losing) political parties - the malady that has to do with mistaking your 'grassroots' for the electorate. Blair on the other hand - despite his faults - was two things: he represented an understanding that Labour has to reach beyond its natural constituency - and he was a party leader who also actually understood this personally. I still take the view that Blair could not have continued but I also take the view that it is because Labour no longer has what Blair represented that it is now facing electoral oblivion.

Blog Archive