Edmund Griffiths  

E d m u n d   G r i f f i t h s

Moderate Labourism: an informal descriptive sketch

This is the first in what I hope will become a series of short, informal reconstructions of some contemporary belief systems. It is not my present purpose to advocate or to debunk either Moderate Labourism or any particular proposition that features in it; I hope readers who find flaws in the reconstruction—whether or not they are themselves believers in Moderate Labourism—will feel free to email me with their criticisms or suggested amendments.

Moderate Labourism, like many other belief systems, includes mythic or narrative elements as well as pure doctrine. For the avoidance of misunderstanding, I should make clear that the term ‘myth’ is here being used in accordance with the definition given in Towards a Science of Belief Systems, §67: ‘a narrative (strictly, a plot) giving an account of supposedly true events that are believed to be explanatory or revelatory or typical of propositions occurring in a belief system.’ No comment is implied as to whether the events in question did actually take place as described. It is, however, essential to the definition that somebody believes they did: this is how myths can be distinguished from fables, parables, etc.


1. The free market system is the most efficient and progressive way of running an economy that has yet been devised: it has created unprecedentedly high standards of living, and for the remotely foreseeable future there is no alternative to it—nor is one desirable.

2. But the free market can only deliver its full potential when the state plays its part too—by guaranteeing a safety net for people left behind, by providing high-quality public services, and also by continually encouraging reform to deal with the challenges posed by globalization, by new technologies, by the ageing population, etc.

3. This can be done most justly and effectively by a government that is not wedded to any particular sectional interests.

4. The free market system is inseparable from the other rights and freedoms that are ensured by liberal democracy and by a commitment on the part of the state to uphold human rights.

5. These rights and freedoms are most securely entrenched in Western countries, which is why the West is hated and attacked by terrorists, dictators, and extremists.

6. Western governments must therefore be prepared to defend themselves against these threats

7. and, where possible, to promote free markets and human rights overseas.

8. Members of the general public are not usually very political; but they do understand that (1) and that (6)

9. and it is therefore impossible for any party that rejects these basic postulates to win an election.

10. Conservatives understand that (1) and that (6),

11. but they are often mean-minded, backward-looking, and in hock to sectional interests that benefit only a few

12. and they are apt to forget that (2–4) and that (7).

13. At its best, Labour has a clear understanding that (1–7)

14. and a Labour government is capable of promoting modernization more effectively and less painfully than a Conservative government could or would.

15. Therefore, the principal aim of the Labour Party must be to win power and form a government.

16. Therefore, Labour must resist any temptation to question whether (1) and (6)—which would disqualify it from power (however popular its other policies might be), because (8–9).

17. Therefore, anyone who urges Labour to forget that (1) and that (6) is consciously or unconsciously working for a Conservative government, because (8–10).

18. Therefore, leading positions within the Labour Party must be held by people who understand that (8–9) and (15–16).

19. Therefore, when this is not the case, the overriding priority must be to bring it about.


20. Mrs Thatcher came to power in 1979.

21. Some of her policies were necessary reforms, but they were implemented with unnecessary cruelty and harshness — which is typical of (11–12).

22. The Labour Party adopted extreme left positions denying that (1) and that (6)

23. making it unelectable and leading to crushing defeat in 1983 — which is revelatory of (8–9).

24. Gradually, Labour moderates were able to regain control and rebuild the public’s faith in Labour as a responsible party aware that (1) and that (6) — which is typical of (18–19) —

25. while the Conservatives fell increasingly out of step with modern Britain — which is typical of (11) —

26. resulting in 1997 in a landslide victory for Labour

27. and the formation of a government that was able to pursue modernization, prosperity, human rights, and social justice — which is revelatory of (1–7) and (13–14).