Monday, 14 June 2010

"Why I am a Socialist", by the leadership candidates

William Brett hears the Labour leadership candidates' each give their personal take on what ideology means for them.

Emma Burnell asked the candidates for the Labour party leadership "are you a Socialist - and what does the word mean to you?" at the hustings event co-hosted by the Fabian Society, Compass, LabourList, Left Foot Forward, Progress and the Young Fabians at the Institute of Education in London. Gaby Hinsliff challenged the candidates to give a "one line" ideology for this final question of the hustings event.

Each of the candidates were happy to use the phrase, though David Miliband was perhaps the most indirect in his answer: "It says on the Labour party card that we are a democratic socialist party, and I am happy to subscribe to that."

He argued that internationalism was central to those values: "we should judge our planet as well as our own society on the fate of the weak, not on the strong".

For Ed Balls, "I am proud to be a socialist", the central principle was about collective action: "There are barriers which people face - disability, income - but if you're socialist you believe that the power of the collective is the best way to breaking down those barriers. The right wing believe that getting government out of the way is the answer: that's wrong and I'll have no truck with it."

Ed Miliband said that "Being a socialist for me is about being willing to criticise capitalism - and saying capitalism produces many injustices, which politics must tackle. It is not about abolishing capitalism but it is about changing it"

Andy Burnham quoted Billy Bragg: "'I've got a socialism of the heart.' I always like to think that line applies to me. Socialism means having a belief in the innate and immutable belief in the equality of every human life. It's about the values of a community, like the working-class community I grew up in. Everybody looks out for each other, and everybody who is able to does their bit and makes a contribution"

Diane Abbott pointed out that the questioner's father was her campaign agent when she entered parliament in 1987, and said that he had done more than anyone in the room to get her where she is today. Ed Balls pointed out that perhaps David Miliband had done even more.

Unfazed, she continued: "I am a socialist. What's it about? Well, I've never been a special adviser, I'm not an intellectual. For me it's about: if you draw a line in the sand, what side are you on? If you come from a minority working-class background, you are acutely aware of what it is to feel marginalised in society. I've always chosen to stand with the voiceless and the powerless."

William Brett

1 comment:

Emmazon said...


As the questioner, I hope you won't mind me directing readers to this blog post on my feelings about the question and responses: