While there is much to admire within the arguments of Bradley Allsop’s piece there is also much to disagree with. He is right to pin down George Osborne’s political chancellorship. Rather than necessarily focusing on a sound economic plan, Osborne’s moves on the budget responsibility lock, the minimum wage hike, and the benefit cap have all been made through political calculations. These calculations are twofold, firstly he wants to move in on Labour territory by taking stances on certain issues such as the minimum wage ,and secondly to force Labour into a no win decision. The budget responsibility lock was a classic example, voting for it showed Labour agreed in principle with government cuts, something which the core die hard labour support want nothing to do with. However voting it down, shows Labour aren’t fiscally credible, and they cannot be trusted to run the government by ‘middle England’.
Bradley is also correct to highlight the lack of a firm vision for Labour under Ed `Miliband, however his vision of a party united by a stunning Corbyn victory is nothing more than a hope built upon a prayer. Leading MP’s such as Liz Kendall, and Yvette Cooper have already argued against the idea of serving in a Corbyn shadow cabinet. Chuka Umunna has already lashed out against the Corbyn fan base stating they believe in the politics that cannot win, he argued “There is no glory in opposition”. If the unlikeliest outcome turns out to be the reality, one of two things will happen. Corbyn will either be deposed within a matter of weeks or months, or the party shall split in two. A political movement can be a broad church, New Labour proved the party can sustain heavy differences in ideology. However, it cannot survive outright civil war and at the moment the Labour party is on the brink of just such a situation. If it launches head first into such a battle the only winner will be the Conservatives who will mop up the fractious remains in 2020.
As I have highlighted in my previous piece about Jeremy Corbyn, many of the arguments that are made about him can be made about Donald Trump. They both energize the base of their political parties, they both have grabbed the competition by the scruff of the neck and put the rest of the candidates on the back foot. There is some support in polling for bite size pieces of Corbyn’s agenda, certainly with regard to re-nationalization of the railways but to then compute that into support for a socialist government is to misread how the British people think about things.
As the Fabian report has suggested, the two key issues which sunk us was on leadership, and economic trust. Will Corbyn give the leadership required to signal that we are ready to be in government? A man who has never held a front bench position, A man who turns irate the minute he is questioned on phraseology is also unlikely to perform well when under heavy scrutiny. On the crest of a wave even an idiot can look like a good leader, but when your poll numbers are in the toilet and there are murmurings in your party, that is the test of leadership. Will Corbyn give Labour the trust it needs to win an election?
It wasn’t just the Fabians who highlighted leadership and economic credibility being key to Labour’s chances next time. Another report entitled ‘Labour’s lost voters’ found economic credibility and leadership at number 1, and 2 for concerns. As the report argued people do worry about inequality but don’t see traditional tax and spend policies as the credible solution. In fact one of the solutions they thought would be effective is if they saw businesses and schools working ever more closely together, something which wouldn’t resonate within the Corbynite faction. Changing the economic paradigm isn’t the answer, changing the conversation in that tone can only be done in desperately bad situations. Our economy isn’t in that state at the moment nor is it likely to reach peak desperation. If there was a time for a different approach it would have been several years ago when the prevailing consensus was vulnerable. There’s also no evidence to say people would be receptive to a socialist Labour party and a changing the paradigm, and as the above two reports highlight there is at least some evidence to suggest even more support would melt away with the crucial voters which Labour needs to win the next election. This isn’t just my ‘gut’ feeling, which is all Corbyn supporters can offer hoping the post war consensus era returns in a rush of socialist fervor not yet seen in modern British political history.
No-one is calling for a return to Blairism as in policies centered around 1997, what people are calling for is a return to Labour becoming electable once again. No-one I have heard in the Labour party is calling for a lower minimum wage, for worse schools, and fewer hospitals. The politics of Blairism is meant to be what works in public services while accepting private enterprise, not public ownership of utilities and services for its own sake. Examples of progressive centrist values can be seen with Kendall’s views on early intervention in schooling. These are far more progressive than Corbyn’s 10 billion dead weight regressive policy to fully fund everyone’s tuition fees. Kendall’s foreign policy is also internationalist, and her policy of not inviting Hezbollah to Parliament unlike Corbyn is one to be congratulated. Corbyn while campaigning for sanctions against Israel has obviously ignored a genuine apartheid regime which is currently in swing in Lebanon, which bars Palestinians from certain professions. Too many people now believe that the means for becoming a society which gives better chances for everyone matters more than the ends, this is where the frankly bizarre attacks on Kendall have come from. The left aren’t defending Blair’s record, they’re trying to turn back the clock and attacking everyone who isn’t on the far left as ‘Tory light’. Bradley was right when he argued the electorate cared about honesty, and at the moment in my mind sections of the far left are failing that test.
Bradley also cites the lack of people voting being a serious issue, he believes that if Labour offer a ‘radical alternative’ people will come flocking to the ballot box for Labour. Except there isn’t a shred of polling evidence for this. The poll he uses from Survation doesn’t back up the case he’s making at all. For example, 47% of the people polled didn’t vote because either they didn’t know enough about politics, weren’t interested in politics, or couldn’t obtain a postal ballot or get to a polling station. If you add in the 3% who don’t believe the UK parliament is important, then it sets a trend of a rejection of the political world altogether, rather than a frustration about specific party politics. Yes 42% of those surveyed also said that their view wasn’t represented, and all the parties were the same. However this survey doesn’t map those views and if it did why didn’t radical left wingers vote for the Green party? To assume they’re all socialists who would be awakened like a virgin on prom night by a socialist Labour party is the kind of mistake which leads to electoral landslide defeats. The numbers on what it would take to persuade someone to vote are just as bad for his argument.
Another myth about the last election is to claim there was nothing left wing about Labour’s commitments in their manifesto There was a package of left wing measures and sentiment within the manifesto. Levying the top rate of tax, cutting winter fuel payments to the rich, a freeze on energy bills, a mansion tax, not extending VAT to essential items, a national affordability scheme for water companies, a finance bill to close loopholes in the tax system, and guaranteeing jobs and apprenticeships to young people are all measures out of the left wing textbook. Those are just a small selection of what was on offer, yes there was little to no prevailing narrative which was what killed him but this was hardly conservative light politics. If Labour looks to Corbyn then we will not just be out of power for an election but for a generation, and I sadly i have to say the party will deserve political wilderness.
As ever please comment if you have anything to say, and if you enjoy what i write whether you agree or disagree please follow me 🙂