Jayne Dowle: Labour need to follow a new path to power

IF I could make one political wish for 2018, it would be for the Labour Party to be brought back to its senses. As this difficult year draws to a close, MPs, party members and left-leaning voters must be wondering what the next 12 months might bring.

Jeremy Corbyn - the Labour leader needs to remember, according to columnist Jayne Dowle, that he is supposed to speak for the many and not the few.

In November, we heard widespread claims from the centrist group Labour First that a plot by Momentum, the hard-left faction of Corbynistas, is spreading like wildfire through our town halls. The plan – it is said – is to oust moderate and centre-left local councillors in favour of those with more hardline socialist views.

This attack on local councillors is just the latest salvo in the left versus centre-left battle which has been going on since Jeremy Corbyn became leader. I’ve no wish to entangle myself in the intricacies; by all accounts, it’s a nasty business fraught with allegations and counter-allegations.

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In any case, I have no right to intervene as I can make no claim to any particular political affiliation. I’m pretty simple when it comes to political belief. I just want the fairest society possible, a good education for my children, decent jobs that pay a living wage, a functioning health service and a reasonable social security safety net for those who are struggling. I’m also pretty keen on keeping terrorism under control and national security intact.

And I do believe in the constitutional principle that the Government should have a coherent Opposition if we are to keep our principles of democracy intact. With Brexit proceeding, this has never been needed more.

We should have a serious shadow cabinet team capable of holding Theresa May and her Ministers to account at every turn. As it is, Corbyn and his allies and enemies spend more time fighting amongst themselves than uniting to challenge the Government.

I’m like millions of people in the country, really. And I guess that when it comes down to it, people like me look to the Labour Party first. The sad thing is that every time I look at the Labour Party these days, I don’t see very much of myself reflected back.

If I’m honest, I’d like the New Year to bring a fresh start. Just imagine that for a moment we could invent a new Labour Party? What should it offer people like me; hard-working, law-abiding, just wanting to get on in life and bring up their children in a confident, caring country?

Hang on a minute. Haven’t we heard all this before? Didn’t a chap called Tony Blair do this back in the 1990s? Well, yes. However, as the fissures we see opening up before us today prove, his vision of ‘New Labour’ – idealistic and attractive as it was – simply papered over the cracks between intellectual left and pragmatic centre which have dogged the movement since its very inception in the early part of the 20th century.

As soon as Blair was discredited and wider economic forces impacted on the credibility of his successor, Gordon Brown, the whole party began to sway out of control.

Fast forward to the eve of 2018 and here we are. There’s growing evidence to support the theory that if the march of the hard left continues under Jeremy Corbyn, the rest of the party will be left floundering and ultimately, destroyed. That’s why this dithering and misplaced loyalty to leader has to stop.

I can’t see any alternative. I reckon moderate MPs, such as Barnsley Central’s own Dan Jarvis, once spoken of as potential leader himself, and the outspoken shadow Education Secretary, Angela Rayner, should grasp the mettle and form a new party.

There. I’ve said it. The Labour Party is like two children locked in a perpetual battle of tit for tat. If it can no longer play nicely together, it should be split up.

I’d like to see this new party led by a group of individuals who actually agree on basic political principles. There’s plenty of eager young MPs sitting frustrated on the backbenches. Bring them forward. Their agenda should be simple – the economy, employment, education, welfare, defence and national security. A clear line on Brexit is vital.

They should have a clear line of command and a method of being held to account which is clear and transparent. Much blame for what has happened to the current Labour Party can be laid at the feet of the NEC, the National Executive Committee, rife as it is with factions and infighting.

And this new party would have to go all out to attract voters. Under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, the leadership and its immediate cabal 
has become far too distant and metropolitan.

I know that there are plenty of traditional socialists in our region who are prepared to put up with this peculiar form of elitism if it promises to deliver them the kind of society they yearn for.

However, there are many, many more ordinary Labour supporters who just want their voices to be heard, and their concerns treated with respect. If Jeremy Corbyn, a leader who says Labour is for the many and not the few, is unable to achieve this, the party will be over.