Richard Harman has reported that a group of right-leaning Labourites are in the process of establishing a new think tank, to be called Progress.
Normally the establishment of a right-wing think tank within a left-wing party already riven by internal disputes would be seen as bad news, particularly as the people identified in Harman’s report as being behind the think tank have been vocal critics of the party to the point where they have often been quoted with approval by Labour’s enemies.
Labour has done an awful lot of thinking over the last seven years, and this thinking has largely coincided with its tanking. So I would normally be inclined to welcome any new opportunity to discuss “Labour values” in the same way that I would welcome genital warts.
However, this time it will be different, because the members of this group have a diabolically clever plan for Labour to win back public office, so they deserve to be taken seriously. It’s a much simpler plan than the alternative, which is to display unity and discipline, adopt a coherent communications strategy, be consistent in what the party stands for, not let opponents frame every issue, and focus more energy on raising money and less on internal-democracy talkfests and party organisation windbaggery.
From what I can tell, this group’s plan is quite simple. It goes like this: if people like the National Party so much, then why doesn’t Labour be more like National?
Labour cannot achieve anything while it wastes away in opposition. Labour cannot make a genuine difference in the lives of those people it traditionally supports, unless it forms the next government.
But Labour cannot form the next government unless it throws a good number of those traditional supporters under the bus.
In other words, Labour can only win power by not being Labour.
It’s a brilliant plan, and I can’t see how it can fail.