I sometimes think that the best thing to happen to David Cameron was failing to win the 2010 general election. Not because it allowed him to further the detoxification of the Conservative brand through forming the Coalition, or to create a perception that the cuts were necessary through an alliance with the Liberal Democrats, but because it meant that the Labour Party didn’t notice how badly the 2010 election went.
Of course, at every all members meeting, conference on the future of the Left, discussion forum, book club or fundraising dinner, at some point, someone will intone solemnly that the 2010 was one of the greatest defeats in our history, we were hit so hard that Keir Hardie felt it, etc., etc. Unfortunately, this is the ‘I’ll do it later!’ of political discourse; we don’t actually mean it.
While we might have spilled a lot of ink about our defeat and the need for humility, everything we’ve done since 2010 – and this actually predates Ed’s ascension – has been some way short of humility. It’s got to a point where I wouldn’t be wholly surprised if, in 2015, we put out a poster with ‘Hey Britain, How’d The Tories Work Out For Ya?’ as the slogan.
And so it’s been with the hateful, bile-laden reaction to Luke Bozier’s defection. While there’s plenty of fun to be had with the way the media has run with the story, and the description of Luke as a ‘senior’ adviser might be a little overstated (my rule of thumb: if you aren’t mentioned at least twice in The Journey, then you’re not a ‘senior Blairite’ anything), you’d think, from the reaction on the left-leaning interwebs, that moving from Labour to the Conservatives was some paradigm-breaking shift. The usually sensible Kevin Meagher actually likened Bozier’s shift to to Kim Philby’s defection to Soviet Russia. Philby’s treachery cost lives and endangered the United Kingdom. Bozier’s defection cost him a couple of Twitter followers and might endanger Labour’s Business.
All Luke’s done is walk down a very familiar road, one that millions of ordinary people took across the country in 2010. His defection isn’t an alien heresy, it’s startlingly mainstream. Of the 28% of people who voted Labour in 2010, two-thirds of them thought it was time for a change of government. We have to face up to the fact that a vital chunk of the country – let’s call them ‘Blair Conservatives’ – doesn’t trust us with their money, their jobs or their country. Very few of those people will ever go so far as to join a political party, but when one does, we shouldn’t take their defection as a moment to shriek ‘betrayal’, unless we think that’s an appropriate response to every single person who’s switched their vote from Labour to Conservative over the last however many years. What it should be taken as is a moment for reflection, and to think on how far we have to go to get back into power.