Friday, 12 August 2016
Westminster manoeuvres v public appeal
There is just time to listen again to an enlightening interview with Vince Cable on
Sir Vince (as he now is, and probably the only one of our lot to deserve it) seems pretty pleased with himself, and I've no quarrel with that. He's rightly proud of several ways in which as Business Secretary he was able to introduce a few Liberal ideas, and also prevent the Tories from implementing a few bad ones.
Unfortunately the way politics is conducted these days that is not enough. People are simply not prepared to look at the small print (or even, sometimes, the large print, as the EU Referendum result shows). In terms of public impact, Cable's successes were minor compared to the major gaffe of conniving at the raising of student tuition fees when the party was pledged not to do so. It's student fees that pulled the rug from under Liberal Democrat support and it will be years before we regain the public's trust.
I think there's a lesson here for the Labour Party in their leadership election. Jeremy Corbyn has "lost the confidence" of his parliamentary party (PLP) for allegedly bad management, failure to work with his colleagues and inept performances at Prime Minister's Questions. Well, maybe so, and maybe his challenger, Owen Smith would do a better job of it. Maybe if Smith wins and does, the PLP will "hold the government to account", win a few minor victories and the Labour MPs will feel pleased that they're serving their purpose and earning their salaries.
But, as with Cable's little victories, will anyone notice?
These parliamentary manoeuvres may make a big impact in the Westminster bubble and associated media, but do not resonate with he public. I've observed that much the same happens with local government councillors, who get very excited over various tactical successes, of which the minority who read the local paper may have some inkling but the vast majority are indifferent.
Jeremy Corbyn's advantage is that he does have the ability to communicate successfully with a vast swathe of the public that the others don't reach. No other current politician is able to draw and enthuse crowds as he does.
I strongly suspect that if Smith wins the Labour leadership (which at present seems unlikely) then the PLP will be heartened, our politicians will continue their semi-private game and the Tories will continue with what they take as their God-given right the rule and remain in power at the next election and beyond.
One positive message we can take from the Referendum result is that the electorate is fed up with
"the mixture as before."
True, supporting Corbyn is a chance but it is just, just, possible that, under his leadership, and if he and his party recognise the necessity of working with others on the left (Liberal Democrats, Greens, SNP) then the disgraceful xenophobic right wing hegemony could be defeated.