I have always admired and enjoyed the Guardian’s independence, its ability to put forward views outside the conventional media wisdom. While it is often joked about as the Labour Party’s house journal, the Guardian offers much more than a mouthpiece for Labour. It’s unique in British politics and deserves support.
But support has to be won and in order to be taken seriously a newspaper, even one leaning leftwards, has to be credible. Once a publication stops seeing issues in a reasoned fashion based on hard evidence, it risks becoming at best a propaganda sheet and at worst a laughing-stock.
Not that the Guardian is either of these, but I am becoming concerned at some of its pronouncements.
Seamus Milne yesterday talked in no uncertain terms about “New Labour’s failure…it’s triangulation, social authoritarianism, embrace of flexible labour markets and support for tuition fees” , the implication being that Labour lost because it was not left-wing enough.
It’s also worth pointing out that the Guardian also urged its reader to vote Liberal Democrat in this year’s general election.
Both the newspaper’s current line as articulated by Seamus Milne and its ill-fated encouragement to support the Lib-Dems point to a muddle, if nothing else. Perhaps the Guardian feels it needs to ver towards the left to erase the memory of the Lib-Dem fiasco.
I find this New Labour bashing not only unhelpful but deeply flawed. I was never an uncritical follower of Blair and I strongly opposed the Iraq war, speaking openly against what has seen proved an expensive debacle.
Yet New Labour and Tony Blair were what people wanted. No other Labour Prime Minister has won three elections in a row, two with landslide majorities.
The British electorate has no apparent appetite for anything further to the left that Blair, at least at national level. There is little evidence that in the 2010 election those disillusioned with New Labour turned to the Lib-Dems to any great extent. Since the Conservatives won more seats than Labour, the glaringly obvious conclusion is that those who wanted a change voted Tory.
This is the nub of the issue for the Labour Party. On any rational and objective analysis there is no mass of people, either working or middle class, in this country who want a government of what they perceive and what we would call the “left”.
As a veteran of the 1980s, I have been here before, only in a much worse way. Many in the Labour then truly believed that if an electorate which had rejected socialism was given more of it, they would return Labour to power.
I for one do not wish to go through those gruelling 18 years of opposition ever again. I hope the Guardian will come to see the sense of my point of view. In the meantime, we should all thank Martin Kettle in Guardian Comment is Free today for making a coherent and valiant attempt to redress the balance.