Friday 24 February 2017

By-Elections Disaster - Government Approval by Default

All the intentions and promises in the world made by Labour will count for nothing if Labour cannot win. Labour is not winning; it is failing and disastrously.

It won a by-election in Stoke Central on 7000 or so votes when one lot had 5000, another lot had 5000, and another 2000, plus then the collection of others. In other words, very unimpressive, and a minority of the votes. It went backwards in share of the vote when the government party went forwards. But Copeland is the disaster of a two horse race, when the government increases its vote share by nearly 7% against the opposition and wins.

You wouldn't think that the NHS is starved of investment, that social services have run out of money, that infrastructure is failing, prisons are in crisis, when the business rates face huge rises, that so many people are underemployed and unemployed (I don't believe the statistics anyway), and that we have second rate politicians running key departments of the government. Inflation is up on essentials: we are told the economy is all right - well we have not yet left the European Union. Trade is still tariff free, abroad is still like being at home. Just wait until we do leave.

The first response of Labour to their shambolic performance was a press release, pre-planned, to shore up Jeremy Corbyn. He is an abysmal leader, in practice as well as in ideology. There is no point running a fantasy opposition - an opposition must connect and be ready. The problem is that should Corbyn be challenged, the ideologues will gather again and keep him there. And for what? For a dream of: 'one day we'll have socialism.' Meanwhile, this day we get nothing. Nothing forms, nothing builds: it just slides backwards.

Once again we are crying out for political leadership. Let's not be fooled that the Tories are providing good leadership. They are not: the political economy, the social fabric, the happiness of people, the sense of community, are all going downward. The reason Tory poll ratings are 15 to 20% higher than the main opposition is because the main opposition is on another planet.

We need opposition parties to provide leadership now to do two things. One is to oppose the government, and the other is to form opinion to oppose leaving the European Union. I was noticing how on the evening of the by-elections that BBC Newsnight was explaining how the United States Supreme Court is positioned in the US body politic. Pity then that no one ever bothered to describe and educate how the European Union operates, rather than continue to put it up as a bogeyman and Aunt Sally about bureaucrats and bananas. Pity that the remainer campaign treated it as economic fear alone to come out. With a number of exceptions, MPs seem paralysed at present to go but in one direction only, when this does not take account of the actuality of what is involved in terms of economy and indeed political progress in integrating and mixing with 'people like us' abroad - the richness of European culture and sharing sovereignty.

Now, in 1966, the government won a by-election in Hull North. I'm in Hull East. Harold Wilson, ever the political manipulator, saw his opportunity to go to the country. He got himself the majority he wanted. Mrs May could too, via a simple repeal of the Fixed Term Parliament Act, and get a majority of 120 plus. What is so disastrous is that the by-election results could leave Corbyn and his shambolic office in charge of Labour, and so she does not even need an election and can happily go along to 2020 in the knowledge that Labour gives her a clear run while it heads for the electoral valleys. So analysis one is Labour stays as it is, with the ideologues sending it to defeat.

Secondly, Labour will shape itself up to provide 'loyal opposition' to the government, to get 'a good Brexit deal'. If it succeeds, then Mrs May will take all the credit and the Tories will be re-elected again on that basis alone.

The only hope (if it is 'hope') is that just as the out-vote regarding the EU led to Labour disarray and relative Tory unity (an in-vote creating Tory disunity), so the terms of the exit will be divisive for the Tories in 2019. This is because many Tories regard single market membership as necessary, and others regard it as little better than being in the EU. But Labour is not even pressing to stay in the single market. Labour is as vague about what constitutes 'a good Brexit deal' as the bunch who are heading up the Tory absence of policy.

The fact is that the EU vote divided up politics for the foreseeable future. If you think we should have stayed in, then most if not all scenarios of coming out are negative. Coming out should be opposed. Oppositions don't say, OK you won, we will now be like you. You make the argument. Form opinion to oppose leaving the EU! The Liberal Democrats are shaping up on this, but more is needed and from broader opinion. Some of the Labour 50 should be part of this newer, necessary leadership. We will not get to a point where staying in is a political option in 2019 unless opinion is formed in that direction. It should not be a 'Deal or No Deal' option of coming out only.

Perhaps some of the 50 or so in Labour, who voted not to trigger Article 50, can come to the view that the Labour Party is in a pretty much terminal mess. It won't gain from the Tory inability to produce a deal, because it has the same mixed up message confused leadership, and won't if the Tories do produce a deal. So perhaps it is time to be like Corbyn used to be, and start to restructure politics by doing their own thing, and doing what is of benefit for this land and people.

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