A spectre is haunting Europe, the spectre of socialism – from Syriza to the SNP to Podemos – and in Jeremy Corbyn this spectre is now haunting the Labour Party! Poor ghost! Like Hamlet’s father, socialism is trapped in purgatory, awaiting its liberation. We can liberate the ghost of the socialism we loved, in its greatness and its tragedy, neither by avenging its defeat nor by faithfully echoing its ideals: but by laying it to rest.
The Clause 4 moment of today is actually a Clause 1 moment. Socialism belongs to the Party’s history. The Party must drop its symbolic and/or real commitment to democratic socialism, enlighten frustrated hopes for a socialist society, and propagate a British social democratic identity, with a vision of a thriving social market economy and greater equality. It must speak honestly about the successes and the failures of the New Labour years in working out the limits of the market, which it wishes to optimize in a socially progressive way. It must not indulge in using ‘capitalism’ as a dirty word or in portraying ‘capitalists’ or even ‘Tories’ as an enemy within.
The last few years have been dominated by the deficit. But the time will come for renewed public investment. Britain will become more optimistic again, and will vote Labour again. We need a candidate in place who knows how government works, is politically tough, who is familiar with New Labour’s successes and failures, and who has the broadest possible appeal to the public.