Editorial Statement: Progressive Politics – Challenges and Responses for 2017

Centre left politics across Europe and the USA faced challenges in 2016 unprecedented since the 1930s. The Trump victory and the Brexit referendum reverse were true low points but the near victory of a neo-fascist in Austria in December and the rise of far right parties across Europe suggest that challenges from the Right will intensify in 2017. The consensus which underpinned centre left politics after 1945 is under threat.

This is the context in which Labour in the UK must rebuild. Progpol Now focuses on the issues facing the centre left at a time when the polls indicate that Labour faces threat to its traditional heartlands in England and Wales. Scotland was lost comprehensively in the short term after a long, gradual but dramatic decline through the leaderships of Blair, Brown and Miliband: there has been no revival under Corbyn.

Progressive politics now faces what has been called “a perfect storm of globalisation, hyper-capitalism and right wing populism which threatens to hand the next 30 years of civilisation to politicians and forces for whom working people are a threat”. Centre left parties have contributed to the crisis by appeasing these forces through the short term pursuit of power and personal agendas. Clintonite and Blairite machine politics dominated the Democrat and Labour parties in the 1990s and into the twenty first century, yet these have proved to be a lasting problem, not part of a lasting solution.

This site focusses on three aspects of the situation. Firstly, the Reality Check section looks at electoral developments against the performance of centre left politicians. We are not sympathetic to the internal factionalism which has divided the Labour Party, rather we see the root cause of the problem as being the New Labour project — loss of the support for which was clear in the UK after 2001. New Labour/Clintonisation provided short term electoral success but faltered on the back of a long term accomodation with neo-liberalism.

Secondly, the State of Play section looks at key issues facing the centre left, notably its lack of response to the alienation of increasing numbers of ordinary people, particularly youth. The growth of support for the SNP and UKIP symbolises the fatal attraction of nationalism over a progressive politics that has been watered down to avoid confronting neo liberalism. The need for effective policies and activities to bring back the coalition of voters which backed Labour in 1997 is a priority for the UK.

Thirdly the Perspectives section looks at the long run developments which have undermined progressive politics, notably the development of a Westminster cadre in the Labour Party whose behaviour and attitudes are increasingly out of touch with the voters who should be supporting Labour.

Labour cannot continue as it is now, factionalised between left and right. Progressive and people based politics are at risk as the triumph of globalisation undermines the achievements of New Deal style politics from the 1930s in the USA and the bottom up democracy advocated by Labour in the UK during the C20th.  On current trends, the UK Labour Party faces a similar race to the bottom in England and Wales as that seen in Scotland. The risk of Labour becoming irrelevant and losing seats at Westminster across the UK is growing.

In the world of rampant xenophobia, aggressive nationalism and what the Oxford Dictionaries have dubbed the word of 2016, “Post Truth”, thinking outside the box is required. New political approaches, some argue even new alliances, are needed to defend progressive and civilised values against the new Brutalism.

It is time to bring the issues clearly into focus. This is an open invitation to help to do this via the approach outlined above. This site is an attempt to take  progressive causes forward and we invite and welcome dialogue.

The Editors: Andy Howell & Trevor Fisher
January 2017