Monday, 14 March 2011

Labour are still the party of reactionism and authoritarianism

Despite Ed Miliband's efforts to rebrand the Labour Party, it is clear that they have not shaken off the New Labour 'tough on crime' obsession, as well as the fascination with pandering to the tabloid press. This week has once again shown it. Sadiq Khan has apparently faced a backlash from within the party after delivering the following comments during a speech to the Fabians:

"Reoffending rates are still too high, as is the prison population. I'm clear that this is one area where our scorecard in office would have said 'Could have done better'. Much better, in fact.

We became hesitant in talking about rehabilitation and the merits of investment in bringing down reoffending rates. It was almost as if we had to give off the impression we were even more tough on crime just to demonstrate we weren't soft on crime.

Playing tough in order not to look soft made it harder to focus on what is effective."
So while Ed, and seemingly Sadiq, attempt to make small steps toward a slightly more liberal Labour Party, vast sections of the party are refusing to comply. The New Statesman highlights the point with a series of quotes from various Labour insiders. According to the New Statesman, one shadow frontbencher said "if anyone thinks I'm following Ed Miliband or Ken Clarke's line on this stuff they can think again." Another insider complained about the inconsistency: "a couple of weeks a go we had Ed in the Sun piling into Cameron for being weak on crime. Now we've got Sadiq popping up saying he wants to hand half the prison population the key to their cells. We're just confusing people." While the insider is criticising the inconsistency, the language used shows clear contempt for the rather sensible comments made by Sadiq Khan.

It is also worth pointing out that Ed's liberal direction would certainly not be deemed liberal by most people's standards. However, it would seem that it is still far too liberal for Labour's reactionaries. In his first speech as leader, Ed conceded that mistakes had been made with regard to 90 days detention without trial and "the broad use of anti-terrorism measures for purposes for which they were not intended." However, he also said that these mistakes "undermined the important things we did like CCTV and DNA testing." Despite his talk of Labour being more liberal, he is proud of Labour's terrible record on surveillance and is also proud of the routine holding of the DNA of suspects, despite it being declared illegal by the European Court of Human Rights.

Contrast Labour's secretive policy making, as well as it's illiberal, punitive and authoritarian attitude to crime, with the open, democratic and liberal debate held by the Lib Dems in Sheffield on matters of crime and youth justice. It is clear to me which party is the real home of liberal progressives.

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