Corbyn is leading an effective opposition

As a regular Facebook user, I frequently find myself sharing all sorts of items on my own page that have particularly struck me and do so because it is something I feel my “friends” will do well in knowing or, as is the case here, in order to fuel debate. The article in question is titled “Corbyn is leading an effective opposition”, arguing emphatically that he is. It begins “the Tories expected to write a script for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour as a weak, irrelevant opposition. Yet, as they review the wreckage of their budget, they must surely know this is not going to plan. Indeed, polling suggests some of their key policy proposals are now more out of touch with the British people than ever before — from benefit cuts for disabled people, to the need for action to save our steel, to the forced academisation of schools. In terms of disability benefits, the Labour opposition and its leadership can take a lot of credit for the Government’s u-turn” and continues in a similar belligerent vein. While I recognized there might be some bias given the author was Ken Livingstone, I felt that Red Ken did make many good points, and it gave rise to some lively, often dissenting, comments by some of my friends. My own contributions to the discussion were:

“I recall when “Sunny” Jim Callaghan lost the General Election in 1979 that soon after there was an internal struggle for the heart and soul of the Labour Party. In the end Michael Foot, seen by many as being on the extreme left, won the leadership and the rise of the SDP was part of the collateral damage. It meant many years in the wilderness for Labour while the rise of Thatcherism meant a vision for the nation whose consequences we still endure to this day. Later Tony Blair with his appeal to middle England voters managed to turn it around for Labour but at the cost, some will argue, of becoming Tory in all but name. In the election last year for the Labour leadership, the three early front runners struck me as virtual Blair clones and in a strange way I was glad when the dark horse Jeremy Corbyn won it by a convincing margin. It is still early days to see where all this is taking us and, while the present crop of Tories led by Dave and George have shot themselves in the foot several times, some credit must be given to Jeremy for asking pertinent questions especially around social justice. Whether Corbyn and McDowell will do the same as did Foot and Benn by making Labour virtually unelectable remains one of the key unanswered questions. I hope not but am pretty sure that if Jeremy doesn’t deliver real power that Labour will find itself a Messiah in the mould of Blair who will. I merely look on as an interested onlooker whose confidence is in the Almighty rather than in Dodgy Dave or Jezbolla Jeremy.

… Isn’t it funny how we can look upon past politicians, either favourably or not. These days I try to see good in all although I am struggling a bit with Dave and George. I agree John Smith would have made a very good Prime Minister but for his untimely death, but we will never know. As a young teenager I was quite political and supported old Labour (nationalization and all). My hero was Harold Wilson, who I felt did a creditable job against all sorts of difficulties. I also liked his successor, Jim Callaghan. My mentors following my teenage conversion persuaded me that politics was not something I should be involved in but my interest never went away entirely and became a floating voter. Maggie came along at an opportune time: Britain was seen at the time as the sick man of Europe needing financial bail outs and continually held to ransom by the unions. She changed all that and gave Britain back a spring in its step. At the same time she stood resolutely against anything/one who stood in her path: The Soviet Union, the EU and General Galtieri to name but three and for a long time gained unlikely support (including my own mother a lifelong Labour supporter), although I fear we are still counting the cost. While Neil Kinnock took on the baton from John Smith he was not popular and Tony (opportunist, king of spin and nannies, I don’t do God) Blair turned things around to get Labour elected. As you may gather, I was never a big fan of Tony Blair and imho if you are going to do social justice Blairism is too half baked and while I am fearful of the baggage he carries I am more inclined to Jeremy. While local election outcome is not a predictor of what might happen if there were a General Election, it does provide a barometer to how the people are feeling, so May’s elections will be interesting, especially here in Southend where I sense Labour have become stronger in the past year and who controls the council will be interesting. ”

As I indicated, the jury is out on how effective an opposition Corbyn is leading, but have little doubt if the membership feels he is ineffective as an opposition leader they will ditch him for someone who they hope will, so that Labour will regain power. As a subscriber to Churchill’s belief that “democracy is a bad form of government but better than any other form of government”, it is with the caveat that for the latter part of the statement to remain true there must be an effective opposition.  Comments by a judge on yesterday’s “Today” program of ways Parliamentary power is being bypassed and scrutiny becoming weak is worrying, along with all sorts of other indicators that democracy is being eroded (probably a subject of another blog article). One of the ways is at the heart of the EU remain / leave debate – that of unelected bureaucrats imposing things on us with little redress. It was interesting listening to today’s Today program to Hilary Benn, speaking about the speech that Corbyn is about to make urging the voters to vote to remain in the EU, in the forthcoming referendum. I couldn’t help seeing the irony in Benn’s “we are on a journey” comments given his illustrious father, Tony’s own euro-skepticism and also that of the current leader in years gone by. A further two fold irony is that it is likely to be as a result of Labour support that the government will get the response it wants and there is likely a considerable swell of opinion among grass roots Labour supporters that Britain should leave, given immigration fears.

In three weeks, we will be voting in the Local elections. While there are significant differences when it comes to voting locally and voting nationally and often elections mid-term reveal an element of protest prior to returning to the status quo at the next General election, it will nevertheless provide some barometer as to how well Labour is doing. In my own town, Southend, we are on a knife edge when it comes to whether or not the Tories regain power. I for one hope they don’t and that Labour will do well.

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