The Tories have the evil gene – that was the subtext to Ed Miliband’s jibes
about the complacency of the children of Thatcher. Labour’s former General Secretary, Peter Watt, disagrees. In an important post for Labour Uncut, Watt observes:
‘But there is an arrogance at the heart of our politics that is going to make it difficult to really understand why we lost. It is an arrogance that says that we alone own morality and
that we alone want the best for people. It says that our instincts and our motives alone are pure. It’s an arrogance that belittles others’ fears and concerns as
“isms” whilst raising ours as righteous. We then mistakenly define ourselves as being distinctive from our opponents because we are morally superior rather than because we have
different diagnoses and solutions. It is lazy, wrong and politically dangerous.’
Watt goes on to explain how compassionate conservatism has exposed Labour’s oversight. IDS does not want to grind the poor deeper into the dirt, nor does Michael Gove – both see the
state’s size as an impediment to realising aspiration.
The complacency, then, is Labour’s – or, to be more accurate, its Fabian strain. Drawing on the communitarian tradition of social justice espoused by Jon Cruddas, Watt argues:
‘Not all of people’s hopes and aspirations may chime with our rigid moral code. And, increasingly, voters are less tribal in their political allegiances. In fact, most people are
probably not even habitual voters for a single party, never mind being tribal. If we are really to connect with enough voters (such that they vote for us in winning numbers at the next general
election), then we will have to find ways of understanding their moral sense of the world. We can’t just condemn or patronise everyone as not understanding just because they say or feel
things with which we don’t agree.’
There are plenty within the Labour communion who believe that society is a greater force than the state. The problem is that they aren’t near the leadership.