So then, it looks like we’ll be seeing a lot more of Mr Jeremy Corbyn! And how could it have been any other way when his opponent was so utterly ghastly? What were they thinking? The troubles though do not end here. It does seem that Labour is in a real mess.
the Labour party elected not to have a debate about Brexit at their
conference and all we’re getting from them is mixed signals based on a
shallow understanding of what Brexit entails. Nearly all of Labour’s key
people cannot make the distinction between the single market and the
customs union and none can specify whether they want access to the
single market or membership of it. We can read a lot into that.
that says is that the left as a whole don’t really care about Brexit as
an issue and have no real intention of forming themselves into a
coherent opposition. That’s a problem. I am all in favour of Brexit but
there are many different paths to achieving it and I do not want the
Tory right setting the agenda with their obsolete ideas. This is a
shameful dereliction of duty.
Instead, Labour has
spent the week bickering over Trident, the UKs nuclear deterrent. What
this tells us is that Labour is engaged in an ideological retrenchment.
The issue of Trident is not actually the subject of any rational
analysis. It’s just a totem of the old left. Mr Corbyn wants to reshape
the party in his own image and is willing to shed support in order to do
it. It’s a bold, if flawed strategy.
remarked in the Guardian this week that there are two competing
approaches as to how Labour should address the question of electability:
marketing, and movement-building. The marketing approach treats the
electorate as consumers with fixed preferences, where the ideal
politician is a polished salesperson armed with a perfectly calibrated
retail policy offer. The movement-building approach treats public
opinion as a changeable landscape, where elections are won not only by
competent politicians but by social forces mobilised in support of a
The marketing approach is the
approached favoured by centrists and was successfully employed by Blair
and Cameron. The pitfalls of such an approach are that politics becomes a
hollowed out shell where politicians of principle are replaced with
identikit anodyne clones. It spawned a substance free politics that we
are all uniformly sick of. This in some way explains Mr Corbyn’s appeal.
You may not like his politics but he is at the very least an authentic
leftist who believes in all the things leftists are generally supposed
to believe in.
It has been a long time since anybody
can say that. It has been a long time since there has been any real
choice but the status quo at the ballot box. That at the very least is a
welcome development. The problem though is that Mr Corbyn’s
transformative agenda is an old fashioned one. I could very well see a
movement-building approach working but at the heart of any revolutionary
movement there needs to be a tangible set of relevant demands and
ruthless political competence. This cannot be said of Mr Corbyn.
Mr Corbyn I’ve heard all the classic leftist mantras such as
renationalising the railways, building social housing and dropping
university tuition fees, but he suffers from that time honoured leftist
ailment; an inability to specify how it will all be paid for. We are
told that he intends to borrow the money - but what that tells us is
that he is formulating a fantasy agenda without any reference to what is
happening in the real world. Likewise the suggestion that we should
reopen coal mines - at a time when we are closing down our coal fired
power stations. It tells us the man has only a passing relationship with
Had this suggestion come from anyone else I
might think that it was a piece of devious populism but I genuinely
believe he thinks it’s a viable idea. It is now inescapable that Mr
Corbyn is caught in a timewarp and has little to say to modern Britain.
also raises a lot of serious questions about his political competence.
Brexit is the single most significant change in the balance of power
since World War Two and he has vacated the field entirely, leaving it
for the Tories to do as they please. In all my days I have never seen
such criminal impotence. If the role of the Labour party is to stand up
for the working class then it has abandoned that role in order to
indulge in philosophical navel gazing.
As it happens
Britain is quite safe from the fantasists on the Tory right in that they
are so completely unhinged that Mrs May can safely ignore them and we
will get a more moderate Brexit – but that will be no thanks to the
Labour party. In that, though, Mr Corbyn will have missed a genuinely
The truth is that Mrs May
does not want to leave the EU. Few in the establishment do. They know
they won’t get away derailing Brexit or holding a second vote but they
can engineer a Brexit so that things stay pretty much as they are. If Mr
Corbyn wanted a window of opportunity and a genuine “democratic moment”
then this is the time to engage fully in the process.
in the very first instance gives the UK control over trade, aid,
fisheries and energy. These are the polices areas that could redefine
everything. There are massive opportunities for increasing wealth and
reducing the cost of living. This is where we could see a transformation
of public administration. The referendum campaign was fought on the
promise of “taking back control” and if that applies to Westminster then
why should it not apply to our local authorities too? If Labour wanted
to make themselves relevant then this is the golden ticket.
then we are suffering a wider crisis of competence in government.
Throughout we have lost any sense of political maturity. Public scrutiny
is a dead art. MPs are no longer capable of focussing on grown up
issues and applying their intellect. Everywhere you look adult areas of
policy, Brexit especially, are dominated by show-boating imbeciles
playing to the media for political advantage. This is not sustainable if
we wish to remain a first rate power in the world.
was said during the referendum that an issue like the EU was too complex
for the public to be able to vote on and that it should instead be left
to the deliberative process. What we have seen though is that our
politicians on both sides of the divide have an embarrassingly limited
notion of what the EU is and what it does - and that they are ill
equipped for such a momentous task. It seems that political competence
is a thing of the past – if it ever existed at all.