Harriet Harman, the Blairite ex-home secretary known for suffering from Qatada syndrome, tried to get labour to not vote against the Tories welfare reforms. While she did succeed in getting some labour MP’s to abstain, a large number voted against it, including labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn, prompting the usual stories in the right wing media about old labour and loony left socialists.
However, I cannot help but notice that not only did 50 labour MP’s vote against it, and the SNP, but also the lib dems, Plaid Cymru, the SDLP and even the DUP. Yes Ian Paisley Jnr, a man we can all agree is about as far removed from the term leftie as you can get, voted against the government on this issue. And its not hard to see why.
This welfare reform bill will seriously cut the income, perhaps even impoverish, the very poorest working families in the country. While giving a tiny benefit to the wealthiest, one so small they probably won’t notice. Its not so much robbing Peter to pay Paul, its mugging Peter and slipping a blood stained copper coin into Paul’s back pocket.
So opposing it is the sort of thing that in a past era that was pretty much a no brainer for labour. However it shows how far they’ve shifted to the right. As well as the danger of setting policy based on the feedback from focus groups. And it also shows how labour’s biggest problem is that they are terrified of the old labour label, even when its quite obvious this label is just misplaced name calling (go call the DUP socialists and see how far you get!).
Take the issue of Jeremy Corbyn as the possible new labour leader. Oddly enough, the Daily Telegraph has been encouraging its readers to join labour and vote for Corbyn as this will “doom the labour party” as they see it. Ya, well I wonder how smart those Tories dumb enough to do this will feel if Corbyn actually ends up as PM and promptly begins to undo everything they’ve done since Thatcher.
And if that sounds far fetched, keep in mind that several of the things the Tories are committed to do in this parliament, these welfare reforms, part privatisation of the NHS, their EU referendum, all have the potential to be very destabilising and could easily lead to a dramatic shift in politics. A vote to leave the EU would inevitably result in some sort of economic correction and there will be a political price to be paid by the Tories for that. In that context the left wing views of Corbyn might not seem so loony after the Tories have managed to loose 14% of the country’s GDP. Just look at Greece, a country that has never had a left wing government in its history.
And its also worth noting that the leader of the opposition is always only a few steps away from number 10. If for example, in the wake of a Yes vote on Europe, with the Tories at war with each other (a realistic possibility), with mass defections to UKIP and Cameron no longer able to maintain a majority, there is always the chance of whoever is in charge of labour being asked by the Queen to lead a government of national unity.
Note that I’m not trying to construct a pro or anti Corbyn argument, I’m merely pointing out the flaws in the right wing media’s dogma. While yes, labour would stand a better chance next election with someone like Andy Burnham in charge. However that assumes that the next election will be fought on the same terms as the last one. Which is a bit like Field Marshal Haig preparing for World War I on the assumption that it will be fought in a similar manner to the colonial wars in Africa (in which case the most serious threat is sharpened fruit!).
And while labour squabble amongst themselves, the Tories are going after the Freedom of Information Act and renewables subsidies…so you’d best print this article off, I’m not sure how much longer it will be up for!