When I was a boy, my old man explained to me the cyclical nature of British politics and how history keeps repeating itself.
Nothing I have seen since has given me any cause to refute his explanation.
History has certainly repeated itself with the appointment of Jeremy Corbyn as the new Labour leader. When faced with a dominant and strong Conservative government, the Labour Party always lurches back to the Left. This time that lurch is more of a quantum leap. It could be argued there is nobody lLeft of Jeremy Corbyn and for this simple reason – the euphoria of new Labour members who voted for him notwithstanding – the Labour Party has rendered itself unelectable for years.
Labour did break that Left-leaning mold with the New Labour project and it is amazing to think that it is less than twenty years ago that this fresh approach brought the Party a dominance of Westminster that seemed unassailable.
Yet here we are and Labour is back in the howling wilderness, with Corbyn the bearded prophet leading his ragged flock. New Labour is dead and so, for the moment, is the two-party system that has been our way of life for decades.
Corbyn is unlikely to appeal to English voters, who rejected Ed Miliband for being too Left-leaning. And here in Scotland, the flocks of voters who abandoned Labour for the SNP seem content that they have found a better representation for their own socialist ideals.
This means that Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP is effectively the party providing most opposition to the Tories in terms of a balance of power – particularly since Sturgeon has a massive say in the future of the UK. This is very ironic, given that it was New Labour who opened the door to such previously undreamt of leverage by their devolution policy. A policy which Tony Blair has recently publicly recanted.
If politics reflects what is really going on in society then you could say that the emerging head-to-head of Unionism versus nationalism is where it is at – with Labour a mute, powerless bystander offering nothing but a return to failed twentieth century socialist ideas.
A more positive approach for Nicola Sturgeon would be to throw off the grevance-based political costume she wears and embrace an opportunity for her party – and Scotland itself – to have a bigger say in the United Kingdom by partnering with the hated Tories and being a counterbalance to Conservative policies. The argument for such is very basic: Why throw off the shackles and limitations of two-party politics only to jump right back in to them?
Britain needs leadership and true leadership comes from humility, not macho posturing. This is why the entire political system needs reforming from one of hostile standoffs to one of cooperation and working together. The good of the nation and its people must trump the need to be top dog in political dogfights.
Labour’s suicide is an opportunity to breathe life into a failing system. As I have repeatedly said, the answer is not to leave the UK because of this hackneyed old system but to radically change how politics works.
That path has now been opened by Labour’s closing the door on its own chances.
Who will grab the thistle and begin to work for a UK we can all believe in? Let’s hope that Nicola Sturgeon and David Cameron are both big enough to lay aside party and policy loyalties for the sake of the nation and its people.