Since childhood I’ve had an affliction. It doesn’t have a profound impact upon my life, but it can at times be embarrassing. I’m colourblind. Very specifically I can’t tell the difference between blue and purple. I’ve never had any problem with red though. It’s my favourite colour. I can see it clearly. I like it when things are red. Or at least red enough.
It seems that my affliction is going to get political in the coming months. I’m not about to confuse blue and purple. There will clearly be a number of significant differences – both in social and economic terms – between Blue Labour and the Purple Bookers (as we shall, in time, feel obliged to call them). Yet they are both likely to involve a level of conservatism that many in the party might feel uncomfortable with.
Looking at both the media coverage these two groups have already managed to accrue, and the number and quality of people and organisations backing them, there can be no doubt that the blues and the purples will help shape both the practical and theoretical future of the party.
But where is “Red labour” in all of this? Surely if New Labour/the Blairites, can redefine themselves in an attempt to reshape the debate according to their views, then so can the left. Surely it should be down with “Old” Labour (it was pejorative and no-one ever defined themselves that way anyway) and up with “Red” Labour?
There’s one problem with this though. Whilst Blue Labour and the Purple Book are adapted and updated versions of Labour thought, the left appears mired firmly in the past. Whilst the Purple Bookers admit even in their introduction to the world that they must move beyond Blair and the nineties formulation of New Labour, the left of the party seems stuck in the past (and specifically the 1980s), with neither the new ideas (or the desire to alter old ideas) that would give them an equal platform in the coming years.
It’s understasable that this morning many on the left of the party will roll their eyes and wonder why the right of the party is dominating the debate in opposition. But if the left wants to play a genuine role in the debate, it needs to pull together some new ideas, or present the old ones in a new and fresh way, and soon. Or else they’ll be left behind.