Another election lost by labour, this time in Britain. The Blairites have their long knives out and will no doubt fight to drag the UK Labour Party back to the right. The Australian Labor Party is still gasping like a stunned mullet after its own loss, with no indication that it can manage anything beyond continuing to pander to anyone who might still reluctantly give it a preference. With their focus on tactics and personalities, most politicians and commentators miss the big news.
Don’t end the crimes against humanity being committed on Manus and Nauru, don’t bother with a human rights charter for Australia, address the housing bubble through the housing supply rather than the money supply, propose some new (but not too dramatic) policies on inequality and reconciliation, drop a few crumbs to the complainers. Don’t even think of mentioning the highly counter-productive ‘alliance’ with a rogue super-power. Global w– … what?
Progressive reformers are attempting to take control of the major parties of the nominal left in the United States and the United Kingdom, in the wake of losses in national elections and the rise of reactionary forces. Even if the rebels do not take full control there is some prospect that the parties will at least be substantially changed.
No such fate threatens the Australian Labor Party. There is no flicker of unorthodoxy from within. There is little prospect of the plebian hordes storming it from without. The ALP stands, inert and impregnable, occupying the political space where a progressive party ought to be, the greatest obstacle in Australia to the constructive reform we desperately need if we are to have a tolerable future.
No doubt the apparatchiks of the Australian Labor Party are currently very exercised with how to counter the Turnbull Coalition Government. It is now possible to conceive that Malcolm Turnbull could comfortably win the next Federal election. Or perhaps the Coalition will tear itself apart and Labor will coast in. In these early days no-one knows.
But the ALP would do well to focus also on a more profound challenge, one that may turn out to be existential. The personification of this challenge is Jeremy Corbyn, who recently won a landslide victory in a ballot of members and supporters for the leadership of the UK Labour Party.
Tony Blair, like a lot of mainstream people, is mystified why anyone would support Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership of the UK Labour Party, but then he’s mystified why anyone would think invading Iraq illegally based on a lie was stupid and wrong, so his views are not worth discussing.
The useful thing to discuss is whether it can be sensible to oppose austerity, and possibly some of the other ills of the modern world like rising inequality and social discord, and a feral and destructive financial system. Young Labourite Rosie Fletcher is right, this is not 1980, and a few things have become clearer since then, to those who will look.
For example, economic performance in the neoliberal era has never equalled the economic performance of the postwar mixed social-democratic economies.