David Marquand calls this the progressive dilemma:
‘How to transcend Labourism without betraying the labour interest; how to bridge the gap between the old Labour fortresses and the potentially anti-Conservative but non-Labour hinterland; how to construct a broad-based and enduring social coalition capable of not just giving it a temporary majority in the House of Commons, but of sustaining a reforming government thereafter.’
This is the test by which the New Labour government should be judged. When critics attack New Labour for caution, for failing to be radical enough, early enough, for making tough economic decisions, for trying to impose order and discipline, they are trapped in the conservative mind-set that kept Labour in opposition for so long. If a progressive coalition can govern Britain for a majority of the time then more poverty will be removed and more real change implemented than could ever be achieved by short, sharp, occasional spasms of radicalism. Lasting change can only happen over time, as part of a progressive project for government. The alternatives have failed Britain and its people. We lack schools that are good enough, hospitals that are modern enough, streets that are safe enough. The British people lack skills, opportunity and ambition. Our public infrastructure has been allowed to crumble, our national identity is uncertain. We have let people who do not use our schools run our education system, and people who do not use our health service run the NHS. This is the price Labour has paid for losing the last century. We need a new long-term radicalism, to ensure that progressive instincts become rooted in the institutions of the nation, just as conservative instincts were in the past. New Labour may have won an election, but now it has to win a century.
This is a fine articulation of why electoralism must underpin the progressive project.