Whatever else it is, I have never regarded Labour as a socialist party but I am well aware that the Labour Party contains socialists. Occasionally they get to dominate one or more key party committees and even more rarely they get to elect the Leader, which tends to end in tears.
When George Orwell was writing in the 1940s he was looking at a world where the major powers included vile dictatorships of what would traditionally be seen as extreme left and and extreme right. He saw them as behaving in very similar ways. This equivalence was later echoed by our own Donald Wade MP with his oval diagram in the 1960s. In “The Lion and the Uniform” Orwell delightfully suggests that goose-stepping armies could never be imported into this country because you cannot keep control if people are laughing at the army’s parade-step.
I suspect that Liberal Democrats need to avoid banging on simultaneously about the extremes of left and right. Followers of the more overt forms of socialism are always prone to factionalism, which hinders their progress. They are hardly a current threat. The real and present danger – some of us would say the evil forces we have to resist – is down to the third-rate politicians running the country. Orwell would probably be bemused by the way they don’t mind if we laugh at them but he would have had some understanding of people who use distraction and destruction as tools for dismantling democracy.
One of the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic is the lack of opportunity for mass protest and I am sure that the enemies of the people (i.e. the Johnson/Gove/Cummings gang) know that only too well. In “normal” times deliberate attacks on the rule of law and contempt for Parliament might have inspired large demonstrations in every major city in the land – hopefully with opposition MPs and even some Tories joining in. Rarely has the no.1 political enemy been so obvious and the means of combating it so problematic.
* Geoff Reid is a Bradford City Councillor and a retired Methodist Minister.