It is not uncommon in politics for parties to reinvent themselves – Tony Blair famously did it to Labour in the mid 1990s, the Conservatives did it under David Cameron and the Lib Dems did it under Nick Clegg. Since September of last year the Labour Party have been doing it again in rather radical fashion after the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader.
Normally, the point of such exercises is to make the party more electorally appealing by rebranding and dumping unpopular policies. Blair in particular was able to transform Labour from perennial loser to electoral juggernaut in the space of just a few years. Regardless of one’s own opinion of the man, it is hard to deny his skill in party rebranding.
Fast forward two decades and the man in charge of Labour is very much the anti-Blair in almost every respect. For those on the far-left of Labour this is a positive thing, a badge of honour even. It is hard to pinpoint exactly when New Labour died: many say 2010, some say 2015 and Blair himself puts the date at 2007. Regardless of when the New Labour project finally died, it is now clear that 19 years on from Blair’s landslide victory, Labour is refashioning itself once more.
This “New Old Labour” project, headed by the 1970s socialist Corbyn however, is very different to the kind of rebranding normally undertaken by party leaders. While Blair sought to make Labour more electorally appealing, Corbyn seems intent on unwittingly doing the exact opposite. For the man who is more at home addressing a CND rally than the House of Commons, ideological purity appears to be the only goal of his leadership. While Labour have long been the party of virtue-signalling, Corbyn has ratcheted it up to 11. Winning elections and providing strong opposition don’t matter – just so long as Labour are seen to be righteous.
Policy-wise, what Corbyn and his close associates have been doing is nothing short of extraordinary. While Blair ruthlessly dropped unpopular Labour policies from the past, Corbyn is resurrecting them with gusto. His determination to make unilateral nuclear disarmament official Labour party policy (again) for example is the political equivalent of dunking one’s head into a tank full of piranhas. Labour’s economic policies are also now hideously backwards, even more so than under Ed Miliband. To Corbyn, there are few if any economic ills for which nationalisation or more state interference are not the answer.
Corbyn’s rejection of New Labour is not, however, absolute. Under his stewardship Labour have maintained some of the most disastrous New Labour policies including opposition to immigration controls, advocacy for rampant borrowing and slavish support for the EU (in spite of Corbyn’s own Euroscepticism). Add to this Old Labour socialism and New Labour social recklessness a hatred of the West and apologism for terror and you have a toxic mix.
The Corbynite worldview, whereby the US, UK and Israel are to blame for all of Earth’s problems and Islamist terrorists are shown only lukewarm hostility at best is perhaps the most hideous aspect of this political monstrosity.
For Conservatives, this should not be taken as a sign to switch off and become complacent, although unfortunately the government have already shown signs of this over the past few months. At the same time however one can not stop but watch on in horror. By combining the worst of Old Labour with the worst of New Labour (along with a liberal serving of West-bashing), Corbyn has created a hideous, lumbering behemoth of political failure. While this will likely benefit Conservatives electorally, it is important that the dangerous and sometimes hateful policies whipped up by Corbyn’s Labour are confronted head on before they form into a toxic soup at the heart of our political narrative.
Ben is an I’m an international relations postgraduate from the University of Kent. Follow him on Twitter: @btharris93
The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty