As much as I like to apply neutral analysis when I get political on this blog, there is one fact of my politics that I cannot escape: I hate the Labour Party. I don’t wish to dwell on this for too long in this post because I have other things to talk about, but you may as well view this as a disclaimer.
The reasons I hate the Labour Party are manifold, but the thing about them that really sticks in my craw is how they play utterly self-serving politics, all the while justifying their behaviour by scapegoating the Conservatives. Basically, the end always justifies the means because they’re counteracting the Evil of the Tories. The long and short of it is that in the most recent years, Milliband’s Labour threw electoral reform that they supported in reality under a bus to try to force a snap election (this really was why they turned against their own policy and backed the “No” vote on the AV referendum in 2011 – they were hoping that the resulting bad blood between the coalition parties would cause a collapse in the government), and they are continuing to show their colours now by breaking ranks over the attempt to drop Jeremy Hunt out of Parliament*. This second point alone is all the proof you need that Corbyn’s leadership hasn’t signalled a change in the behaviour of the party as a whole, and that any claim they have to be pro-NHS is a lie.
Rant over. On to the proper analysis.
Frankly, a big part of the problem Labour has is the snap election. I’ve said before that Labour need a drubbing in the polls so they can sort out their identity crisis. I stand by that. The problem with a snap election is that the short time scale between the announcement and the poll left them with a choice between reforming the parliamentary wing of the party and running a proper campaign. They chose to campaign, and that campaign has been fairly successful. I’ll talk about why this might be a bad thing in my next post. Last fortnight’s Private Eye, however, phrased best how this has left them in a position where even a landslide Labour victory will not cement Corbyn’s ability to function as leader:
“When May called the surprise election, Corbyn wanted to give his supporters the power to ditch Blairite MPs with “trigger ballots” on whether they could stand again. But he has not secured control of Labour’s national exceutive committee (NEC), which said it would be mad to start civil wars in constituency parties just before an election and ruled that every sitting Labour MP should face the electorate… All local Labour parties had put off selection meetings until they knew where they stood [regarding threatened changes to constituency boundaries], so not one had a candidate in place when the election was sprung. Panels consisting of two members of each constituency’s regional board and one member of the NEC therefore imposed candidates on seats that Labour does not hold. As the Labour right dominates the regional offices, Corbynistas got short shrift.” [Private Eye 1444, 19th May – 1st June 2017]
What this means is that, either in opposition or in government, the Labour Party Parliamentary Shit Show will continue. Corbyn is still short of willing manpower for the Shadow Cabinet, meaning that seats are filled from a smaller talent pool even than the remaining party in Westminster. With Blairite candidates in the constituencies this election, any swelling in the Labour party only increases the queue of Bruti in waiting for Corbyn’s Caesar. (So you’ll excuse me if I find today’s Labour rally outside the old Curzon Street ticket office laughable.)
Despite all of this, Labour making the choice to campaign rather than reform in the time available has shown them to be efficient. And the Conservatives to be an even bigger basket case than Labour are at the moment (a comment I wouldn’t have thought I’d be making a month ago).
Momentum have shown themselves to be as efficient as Progress in being the slimy shadow forces of the party, and they have certainly managed to contain Corbyn’s weaknesses, and the perceived failings of the Labour Party as a whole. When you consider that 1970s Labour managed to basically bankrupt the country (IMF involvement, personae non gratae for credit…) and that the 2000s good times were bankrolled by book-fiddling and fire sales (PFI, raiding of the national pension pot, flogging off of the gold reserves…), if Labour want to end austerity, they have to prove that expensive social policies can be properly bankrolled. So somebody has faced the unenviable task of writing a book full of policies that both fit with the Corbyn message and are properly costed. Heck, the Labour policy wonks have even managed to factor in the inevitable exodus of a number of rich people who will try to hold us to economic ransom over tax hikes. Well done, Labour wonks.
They’ve certainly done better than the Conservatives, who have already been forced into a U-turn over care funding (apparently means-testing is monstrous when they do it, but fair when Labour does. Hands up who’s surprised…). It doubtlessly doesn’t help that May has appointed a competent chancellor only to disagree with him at every turn (and refuse to confirm that said chancellor will still be in a job if she’s returned to power) and that there have been serious disagreements between the policy makers behind the manifesto (as reported in a recent edition of the Sunday Times. I’d link the article, but it’s behind a paywall…).
For that matter, the Conservative campaign has been a joke. May has a talent for getting a good sound bite, then repeating it so often it loses all meaning. Labour cleverly outmanoeuvred the Conservatives by putting Corbyn into the TV debate last minute (meaning that May looked weak for sending an underling, but would still have looked like she was capitulating if she attended herself), and a manifesto centred around continued austerity has only put the top hat on it all. Let’s face it: the point of George Osborne front-loading his cuts seven years ago was that we should be seeing a recovery by now. The economy is recovering, but businesses are underpaying us. If 2017 isn’t the time for us to loosen our belts, the Conservatives’ economics have failed. And Labour have a manifesto that looks startlingly like we can loosen our belts again…
However, there are questions that won’t be answered until it’s too late. Will the Parliamentary Labour Party ultimately back their own manifesto? They’re very quick to defy their whips these days, and have caused some very embarrassing climb-downs for the leadership. Does the leadership even have any idea what the nitty-gritty of the legislation concerned should look like? Manifesto promises always have an element of pie in the sky. And, crucially, will a Labour government really be able to squeeze the juice out of corporations (and individuals) who are using artificial tax structures? The Conservatives have failed miserably, and our regulatory bodies often don’t have the talent, will, or resources to successfully rebut every structure in the courts. Getting the money could be harder and costlier than the party are willing to admit.
* I hate self-referencing in blogs, because it mostly serves to make news blogs look well-sourced when they’re not. But the word-count of this is big enough already with me repeating in detail things I’ve said before.
Nota bene: I will be modding the comments on wordpress and facebook heavily. The rules are here. I will delete comments ruthlessly.