“The era of New Labour has passed,” said Ed Miliband on Sunday, and boy was I happy to hear that.
I am, I suppose, of the New Labour generation – Tony Blair swept to power in 1997, just as I was turning 12 years old. I stayed up late to watch the votes roll in, more excited by the fact that I was simultaneously maths-geeking with half the population than I was knowledgeable about how a Labour or Tory win would affect me.
But from about that time, the dawn of my political awareness, Labour has been New Labour. Miners’ strikes and Poll Tax riots are creatures of the history books to me, and trade unions just aren’t things a 12-year-old cares about. Labour, to me, was about the cult of personality and of spin, Mandelson’s scandals and Blair’s toothy grin. They were about Middle England and unpopular wars and sacrificing our liberties at every turn for our protection from today’s terrorist organisation of choice.
After a while I turned 18, and like the good proto-Socialist that I was, I voted for what I perceived as the most Left-leaning party on the ballot sheet.
The Liberal Democrats.
Five years later, well, that alleigance didn’t work out so well.
But while I’m glad that Labour’s new leader has called the end of the Blairite regime, I’m a little saddened by how quickly the possibility of a “lurch to the Left” has been dismissed. Ed Miliband has said that he wants to “redefine” the political centre ground, but where does that leave our political landscape?
We have the Conservative party, on the centre-right. The Lib Dems, approximately at the centre. And now Ed Miliband’s Labour, redefining… the centre.
Centre, centre, centre. Should we be bracing ourselves for a continuing era of utter dullness in politics? If we discount the tiny Greens, the loony-fringe UKIP and the despicable BNP, and if post-New Labour continues Blair’s obsession with winning Middle England’s votes, everyone’s manifestos start looking suspiciously similar.
Time to just say “sod it” and run as a candidate for the Pirate Party or something?
(Sources for the Milliband quotes are the Financial Times’ website, which I’m not linking to because it’s got Murdoch cooties.)