Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I didn't leave the party...

The defection of Luke Bozier to the Tories caused something of a mini-stir over the end of the weekend. Not really because of any great inherent significance in a former bag-carrier switching parties (brilliantly lampooned by Sadie Smith) but more because of the reaction of lefties to the news. This ran the gamut from baffled rage to furious contempt, none of them really addressing the central point that Bozier was trying to make.

I became a member five years ago, in the final days of Tony Blair's leadership. Back then, New Labour was still the intellectual heart of the party. A pro-business attitude and a commitment to revolutionising our creaking public services made sense to me...

Ed proudly declared that New Labour is dead; how tragic. With it, the passion for reform that made our party electable has gone. So too has the pro-business, pragmatic approach to wealth and enterprise.

But the Labour Party - which has comfortably turned back into Old Labour - no longer speaks for this country. And it no longer speaks for me and the sort of Britain I want for my children. And that is why, today, I am joining the Conservatives.

Why is anyone surprised at this sort of sentiment? Tony Blair made a great play of having changed the Labour Party - he even changed the name. At the heart of this change was the sort of pro-business rhetoric pursued (even in the dying days of the Labour administration) by figures like Peter Mandelson. It was a conscious abandonment of the old Kinnockite and Footite Labour movement, and was resented as such by many of the old guard in the Labour Party.

Those days are now over - the death of New Labour is not an accusation hurled at Ed Miliband by his opponents, but the Labour leader's avowed position. When Miliband was chosen as leader, Neil Kinnock exulted that he had his party back. So why should anyone be surprised that someone who was attracted specifically to the Blairite re-invention of the Labour Party should feel disenfranchised by the repudiation of that re-invention? Luke really didn't leave his party - his party left him, and rejoiced that it had done so.

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