The Trans Debate and the Labour Party

Mar 7, 2020 by

by Jonathan Rutherford, Blue Labour:

The future of the Labour Party hangs in the balance. Its fourth consecutive defeat has finally severed its relationship with its traditional core vote in the ex-industrial regions of the North and Midlands. It drifts, unmoored from its old national coalition and without a new one to replace it. The leadership contest, lacking spark and barely willing to acknowledge the scale of its crisis, has failed to ignite much interest. The hustings format rendered it unwatchable. But this handicap aside, it has had nothing to say about how the party can redefine itself and forge a new coalition, bar repeating current Labour orthodoxies. What exactly is the purpose of the Labour Party in 2020 and the coming new period?

An answer came when the five women candidates signed up to the pledges drawn up by the small Labour Campaign for Trans Rights. For a brief moment the contest showed clarity and a sense of moral purpose about Labour’s mission. Diversity is its defining value, inspired by the belief that every individual has the right to be their own true and authentic self. Identity is a struggle between self- definition and being defined by more powerful others in a negative way. The Labour Party is on the side of the oppressed and marginalised.

This kind of radical liberalism has entered deep into modern consciousness. The philosopher Charles Taylor describes it as a new phenomenon in which we are called upon to be true to ourselves and to seek our own self-fulfilment.1 But Taylor warns that defining one’s own identity crucially depends on our relations with others. It has to be won through exchange and recognition. It is only intelligible to others if it is part of shared ordinary human understanding and the ordinary life of family, work and love. Disconnected from this realm identity politics is unconstrained by the reciprocity that holds a society together and quickly descends into ideological fantasy.

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