The Tories have turned radical – while Labour stands still and self-flagellates | Suzanne Moore | Opinion

If a week is a long time in politics, the Labour leadership contest is stretching across eternity. There are two contests – one for leader and one for deputy – and we won’t know the result until April. Why can’t the deputy just be the one who comes second? What a gigantic waste of time this is while havoc is being wreaked by a government that feels no one will hold it to account. It feels that because it is true.

This is a radical moment for the Tories, and Labour has met it with timidity. If, after this election, the party does not realise that speed is a virtue in a fast-changing world, it stands in quicksand. It is not self-flagellation to ask what went wrong; it is self-flagellation to keep saying the same stuff at a considerably slower pace. Yes, this government is ripping up the rulebook and, no, it doesn’t see any need to appear on establishment shows such as Today or Question Time, just as I don’t see any need to listen to them. Whingeing about this is a weird preoccupation.

We don’t need to buy into the dark genius of Dominic Cummings – he is just a copywriter who wears his tops inside out, and with a fetish for mathematicians. Weirdos and misfits? In his dreams.

However, his refusal to kowtow to the established way of doing things does match Johnson’s insouciance. Floods? What floods? The convention is that the prime minister puts on a pair of wellies, visits some victims and pats them on the back. This is a convention Johnson is flouting, as he flouts so many.

If you are immersed in this world of political niceties, this may bother you greatly. If you are not, and you voted Tory for the first time because you wanted change, then maybe dress codes and pretend caring aren’t your priorities.

Cummings’ basic mantra – that many of our failing systems don’t work – is correct. His proposals to fix them may be brutal and unworkable, and may not benefit those who gave the Tories their victory. Yet, as I have said before, if we refuse to understand that this is radical, then the future for Labour is grim. First, it has to give up the nostalgia, not just about mines that were shut 30 years ago, but about what nearly happened in 2017 – when it lost. Jeremy Corbyn has been rejected, personally and politically. Repackaging his policies is nowhere near enough.

The leadership debates are genial and dull. They operate in a safe space – thus we cannot talk about the decriminalisation of drugs. Since Clive Lewis is out, proportional representation is out. As long as Labour refuses to make alliances with other parties, it is out. Do the maths. This loss was so big that what is needed is not a safe pair of hands but something riskier.

The Tories are in attack mode over the BBC, universities and immigration – and such attacks may indeed be popular. If it starts taking an axe to the establishment – why do we need so many MPs? What do the Lords do? Do we need another level of bureaucracy in the civil service? – I imagine those attacks will strike a chord, too. If the strategy is just chaos and disruption, this at least feels different after a period of paralysis.

Old definitions of right and left become increasingly meaningless when faced with such recklessness. The Tories are prepared to destroy the union and may well simulate the end of austerity for a while. Cummings may go the way of any overpromoted minion and get binned. What matters is that a radical coalition be built that can oppose the Tories. That coalition cannot disappear into arguments about identity politics that merely alienate voters.

It is as if the last four years had never happened. The radical victory of identity politics was the leave vote and the subsequent Tory majority. To mistake culture wars as being only about the prescribed subjects of race, gender and class is a fundamental error. There are other ways of identifying available. Have we not seen how Trump operates? If not playing by the rules can appear radical and exciting, why is Labour plodding along as if it has all the time in the world?

Suzanne Moore is a Guardian columnist.

Source link