Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Labour's Low Expectations

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Labour's Low Expectations

Article excerpt

On 15 June, Jim Murphy, the outgoing leader of Scottish Labour, gave a speech at the London headquarters of Policy Exchange, the enterprising right-leaning think tank. In a bravura performance, he spoke with wit and candour about Labour's catastrophic defeat in Scotland, the rise of the Scottish National Party (which he likened to "a pseudo-religious rock concert"), why he would always be a unionist (he argued for the pooling of resources and cross-border solidarity) and why, if Labour is to win again, it must first win over Conservative voters. An appeal to altruism was not enough, he said. Labour had to move back on to what he called, quoting Ludwig Wittgenstein, "the hard ground".

"In truth we suffered two and a half defeats in one election day--reverses against the SNP in Scotland, reverses against the Tories in large parts of England and partial retreat to Ukip where they were also challenging us," he said. "It appears that Labour lost ground to our primary opponents, whoever it was, in different parts of the UK." Mr Murphy continued: "You cannot assume your way to an election victory. To paraphrase [Harold Wilson], the victory of ideals must be earned. I look forward to a leadership debate that reflects the depth of our defeat rather than a one-more-heave mindset."

The four candidates for the Labour leadership--Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Jeremy Corbyn and Liz Kendall--should heed this warning. For too long, Labour has been ruinously divided between the so-called Blairites and Brownites. …

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