Tuesday 28 July 2015

Whither Labour?

Whatever the outcome of the election for the leadership of the Labour Party, one thing is certain: whoever wins, the press will waste no time in vilifying him or her, just as they did with Michael Foot, Neil Kinnock, and Ed Miliband.  So, since it's going to happen anyway, they might just as well elect Jeremy Corbyn: he does at least seem to believe in something.

The current Labour Party's problem is that they are no longer sure what they believe in: perhaps they haven't since the 1950s.  It has been said of the major parties  in the US that they both share the same fundamental principles, but that the Republicans claim to be able to run the country more efficiently and the Democrats more humanely.

Much the same now applies in the UK, though we can no longer be sure that the UK's Labour Party   has even any  claim to be more humane.   Nothing illustrates their loss of confidence  more than  the failure to oppose the Tories' Welfare Reform and Work Bill, with its proposed cap on benefits to an arbitrary figure per family, regardless of numbers and need, and the removal of child benefit for any more than two children per family.

A fundamental principal of social security (not welfare, now a pejorative term) in a civilised society is surely that it should be based on need.  To take the most obvious example, how can it possibly be justified that children should be plunged into poverty simply because their parents are careless, feckless, just unlucky, or maybe for perfectly genuine reasons (better gender mix, actually like kids) want more than two children.

In the parliamentary debate on the Bill I gather that George Osborne patronisingly taunted Labour's acting  leader, Harriet Harman, that she could not rationally oppose his welfare cuts because they were supported by the majority of the public. Rather than responding that the majority of the public also support taking the railways backs into public ownership, so why doesn't he do that,  Harman meekly caved in.

Labour seems to have forgotten that one of the main functions of a political party is to campaign, educate, explain to, even enthuse, the public on its policies.   If elected leader, there seems every possibility that Corbyn will do this, rather than  simply follow the passing whims of  focus groups.

If the term "left" is now seen as a term of abuse it is worth looking at Corbyn's policies and assessing them on their merits. According to his website he:
  • sees government austerity as "a fa├žade for the same Tory plans;"
  • would borrow to invest;
  • wants the fortunate to contribute more;
  • regards the Tories' pitch for a "Northern Powerhouse" as so much hot air;
  • advocates public investment in a publicly-owned infrastructure.
All very much in line with Keynesian Liberalism.

And of course, like the Liberals, he voted against the Iraq war.

I get the impression that that he is an  honest and principled man, untainted by the triangulations of the Blair government, who will make a good fist of confronting the disingenuous Cameron at Question Time.

Indeed, on the face of it he seems just the sort of chap we Liberals could work with.  Under his leadership maybe a re-alignment of the left would be possible. I wonder what his views are on proportional representation by single transferable vote in multi-member constituencies?


  1. Thank you, Peter. Another excellent article. What probably depresses me most, there are lots of things, about the current government - probably Labour, if ever in power again, would do the same - is that their past and present legislative programme seems to be based around setting traps for Labour, rather than doing anything for the good of the country.

  2. Thanks for your support, SB. The Tories are riding high and think they can get away with anything. They are playing the political "game" with great dexterity and succeeding in making Labour look foolish (Osborne in particular is very good at this.)

    However, they may get heir comeuppance down the line, given that the economy is actually in a very fragile state (deplorably low productivity and a massive balance of payments deficit.) Corbyn could be a game changer, and bring some honesty, sincerity and relevance into the system

  3. The Tories seem to be reviving the early modern distinction between the 'deserving' and the 'undeserving' poor. At least Corbyn would pour scorn on this reactionary attitude.
    It id ironic that two Etonians should claim to define those worthy enough to deserve social security. The two child limitation is worthy of Chairman Mau. When will the electorate wake up and realise the blatant class bias of this bunch of hypocrites?

    1. True, and, alas, Labour also seem to have bought into this distinction between the deserving and undeserving poor, even, via the limitation on child credit, deserving and undeserving babies.