Why hard left is a threat to Labour Party

Posted by ap507 at May 09, 2016 04:55 PM |
Dr Simon Bennett discusses how Ed Miliband’s £3 membership gimmick opened the door to a new generation of extremists
Why hard left is a threat to Labour Party

Dr Simon Bennett

Think: Leicester does not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Leicester - it expresses the independent views and opinions of the academic who has authored the piece. If you do not agree with the opinions expressed, and you are a doctoral student/academic at the University of Leicester, you may write a counter opinion for Think: Leicester and send to ap507@le.ac.uk

Let me tell you a story. Long, long ago when I belonged to the London Labour Party I encountered a rather disturbing type of activist. Usually dressed in black and carrying a copy of a faux newspaper called Militant, these card-carrying members of the Labour Party seemed permanently at odds with the party’s leaders, whom they considered decadent lackeys of the capitalist world order.

Most disturbingly, these well-educated activists (some had gone to public school, many had degrees – few had money worries) thought it legitimate to side unquestioningly with anyone opposed to the State of Israel.

Some would make tasteless jokes about Jews (the sort Northern comedians used to make before alternative comedy consigned stereotyping to the dustbin).

Militant evolved from the Revolutionary Socialist League, a pernicious cocktail of Marxists, Leninists and Trotskyists. Militant peddled hate – of the rich and of those who aspired to be so. With nothing positive to offer, Militant was a dangerous indulgence that during the 1980s rendered the Labour Party unelectable.

Coming from a poor South Wales coalmining and steel-making town called Neath, this annoyed me. Neath was crying out for the sort of investment only a Labour government could deliver.

I grew to despise the nihilism and smug self-indulgence of the Militant Tendency. I grew to despise Militant’s thinly-veiled anti-Semitism. I danced around the room when, in his conference speech of 1985, Labour leader Neil Kinnock told Militant to take a hike.

Militant rebranded itself the Socialist Party which, in my opinion, is partly populated by the guilty sons and daughters of the comfortably-off. Unfortunately, the Labour Party has repeated the mistakes of the 1980s. Ed Miliband’s £3 membership gimmick opened the door to a new generation of agitators.

The party claimed that every one of the huge influx of new members was vetted. In my opinion that claim is nonsense. The party had neither the manpower nor money nor time to vet even a small percentage of new members. The result? The party is revisiting the failed policies and nasty prejudices of the 1980s.

The party’s current political complexion is fostering idiocy, like Ken Livingstone’s claims about Hitler. In my view Ken’s problem is that he sometimes forgets to engage his brain before opening his mouth. Not a good trait in a politician.

Apparently, Labour MP for Bassetlaw John Mann was criticised for castigating Ken in front of the media. More power to you, John. I don’t want the only viable electoral alternative to the Tories to surrender itself to the kind of hard-left insurgency that dashed its chances in the 1980s.

Dr Simon Bennett is director of the Civil Safety and Security Unit, at the University of Leicester

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