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  • Lawrence Bailey

Labour has yet to reach the crossroads



It’s said by cynics that the reason why the Labour Party willingly publishes its internal difficulties is because everyone expects what’s said in private to get leaked anyway.

We’ll have to decide for ourselves if this was the thinking when commissioners issued a 150-page paper last month on why the party lost the last general election.

The marathon analysis concluded defeat had been a "long time coming” and could be traced back to how Labour had failed to recognise the changing nature of what had hitherto been regarded as “core” support. The report also somehow determined that a result which gave the party it’s smallest number of MPs since 1935 was not entirely down to Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, the manifesto or Brexit.

As you might expect, such findings gained a somewhat sceptical reception from several quarters. But external observers believe the report isn’t so much about assigning blame as signalling a step change under new leader Keir Starmer.

This includes an inevitable loosening of the left-wing’s grip on party organisation, albeit mainly so far through changes of personnel rather than policy.

Meanwhile, activists warn each other that Labour will ooze itself back towards the centre-right outlook with which so many UK voters purportedly identify.

The party has seen a spate of investigations, suspensions and whatnot. All that said, turmoil within Labour isn’t what it used to be. The sacking of Rebecca Long-Bailey didn’t produce anything like the meltdown predicted.

Maybe that’s because the apparatus is presently hamstrung. Branches and constituencies can’t meet and it’s difficult to have whispered conversations in corridors while two-metres apart.

The immediate challenge that now confronts Labour is how it can present itself as having viable alternatives. That’s not an easy call when Conservatives currently propose massive public spending levels that surpass those outlined in Labour’s radical manifesto.

Starmer is gaining ground. He continues to impress with a cool forensic questioning of government performance. He has a good media presence and he can make a positive impact simply by not being Boris Johnson.

Eventually he will need to do something more. More importantly, he will need to take his party with him.

For the time being however, Labour has yet to reach the crossroads, let alone make a choice of direction.

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THE TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGING

Two things struck me the other day as I read an online story about the mounting commercial traumas that confront social media giant Facebook.

The first was that the BBC actually employs someone with the job title of ‘Specialist disinformation and social media reporter’. The other is that it’s a strange turn of events when big business takes the moral high ground.

As you’ve no doubt read, Facebook is getting prodded into taking action to tackle misinformation and hate speech. Interestingly, the main pressure is coming from major league firms who have imposed an advertising boycott.

The Stop Hate for Profit campaign is gaining ground but despite more than 150 corporations - including Coca-Cola, Starbucks and Ford – all announcing temporary halts to advertising, the situation hasn’t reached anything like devastating. The vast majority of Facebook advertisers are small operations and with 2 billion users worldwide, it remains to be seen if the ‘top-down’ protest is sustainable.

The fact that it happened at all though yet again shows how times – and priorities – are a-changing.

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