The Labour Party and Britain’s political future

I have just been reading an intriguing article titled: “Catastrophic Corbynism is steering us full-steam towards the iceberg” which got me thinking regarding the forthcoming General Election.

The author elaborates: “Maybe it’s the catastrophic local election results finally sinking in. Maybe because it’s now just 33 days until the General election. Whatever the reason, I’ve had enough. The consequences of Corbynism are looming on the horizon like the iceberg that tore open the hull of the Titanic. Theresa May is going to win the General Election and Labour is going to take an absolute shellacking. While the result has been obvious for a long time, what follows is now starting to hit home. The housing crisis will become a housing catastrophe. Homelessness will continue to rise. The NHS will stumble from winter to winter, with waiting times rising and disquiet among nurses and doctors continuing to grow. The police will continue to be squeezed, as will the armed forces. Schools will carry on asking parents to buy their own books, and who knows what other supplies. Refugee children will remain stranded. Disabled people will continue to bear the brunt of deeply unfair cuts. Small businesses will continue to be at an unfair advantage to the giant multi-nationals who are able to pick and chose whether they pay tax. Grammar schools will be reintroduced. And so on. None of this has to happen, but it will happen (and who knows what else is around the corner). It will happen because Jeremy Corbyn and his cabal of cronies will carry on their current course of calamity. Jeremy Corbyn can’t win…”

As I have pointed out on a number of occasions, I am as politically neutral as one can reasonably be, whilst holding a set of mix and match strongly held and vociferously articulated views on a variety of politically related subjects. I have also made mention that the nearest I ever got to joining a political party was in my mid teens, and it happened to be Labour, having been swayed at the time by of all people my parents that the Conservatives did not care about the poor and fairness and it was the nice Labour people who gave us better education, health and welfare etc. Then I got religion and after that I came to see the other side and from henceforth I became a floating somewhere around the middle voter without being politically engaged other than seriously reflecting on the very issues politicians argue about. I suppose for much at the time I hankered after Labour but besides feeling my calling laid elsewhere there were always ideological barriers to me becoming a signed up member. As a result when it came to voting it tended to be on the basis who would serve their ward / constituency / country best.

As I reflect on the current situation, especially in the light of last Thursday’s local election results, I do so with a sense of foreboding. While l like the idea of the Tories given a decisive vote of confidence ahead of some likely awkward Brexit negotiating to come, I struggle beyond vague notions like economic stability and financial prudence to come up with firm reasons why I prefer them to the alternatives. It is hard to see what the alternatives are. What traditionally would have been that alternative, the Labour Party, has failed to convinced, in much the way the author cited above has articulated, but then that also goes for all the other political parties. A quick survey of Labour under leaders in my living memory would look on Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan favourably but it would have been downhill after that. Michael Foot, despite noble ideology, was a disaster much as many, including in the Labour Party, view Jeremy Corbyn. I really didn’t like Tony Blair – all spin and little substance and by the time he got the top job Gordon Brown was a spent force. Neil Kinnock struck me as being a cocky windbag and nice Ed Milliband, sadly, was out of his depth. The one I did like, the best Labour Prime Minister Britain never had, John Smith, died before he got the job, which likely he would have, and this leaves today’s Labour with Jeremy Corbyn, who on one hand has attracted new members but on the other has alienated its traditional base and, more importantly, the electorate. Strangely enough, when as the dark horse outsider he first put his hat in the ring when first contesting the leadership election, he was my preferred choice, despite many qualms, based more on principles than pragmatism. All this is a pity, as the country does need an alternative to today’s Tories or at least an effective opposition. There is no doubt in my mind that there is a plethora of social justice issues where Labour would do better. Given Tory safe seats, like the two Southend constituencies, have now become safer because of the flawed electoral system that operates in the UK, it is not only irksome but a pity when there are good candidates if only they could be elected.

I can’t speak for Labour; they must do what they must do, although with only a month to get their act together this is nowhere near long enough and other than some highly unlikely change in the political scene between now and then it is hard to predict anything other than a Tory victory with a substantial majority. But if Labour were to ask me what I think, besides the obvious as far as the guy I quoted is concerned, i.e. appoint a leader that can lead and give confidence to “Middle Englanders” (who will tip the scales one way of another, although no-one springs to mind), just as Tony Blair once managed to do, here are some of my thoughts. It should be recognized these are personal views and many a political pragmatist or Labour ideologue would reject them. Yet the not addressing of these matters is what has kept me from flying the red flag with relish. So if any were to ask me my opinion, from the top of my head I would say:

  1. Respect the EU Referendum result (which likely entails “hard” Brexit) and don’t pander to pressures to back track, but rather negotiate a deal (if at all possible) that is in the British interest.
  2. Besides the economy, the next thing people care about (and so should you) is feeling safe and secure. While it may be tempting to ignore, ensure we are adequately policed and defended.
  3. By all means offer an alternative to austerity, a weakened NHS, draconian sanctions regime, increased homelessness etc. (actually you need to do this given Tory failures) but cost your programs and work toward balancing the books while you are at it.
  4. Realise that there are non PC, wannabe Labourites, like me, who follow the golden rule and love our neighbor whoever he/she is, fear immigration and Islamic extremism, obey the law, hold conservative views on marriage, abortion and religious liberty and prefer national identity over globalism. Don’t make them feel left out or demonized. Political correctness is poison and Labour have sadly been guilty of pushing it. All of which makes me wary.
  5. Abandon the nanny state; stop giving it more money to deliver social programs, and exercise greater control as a first resort, but rather see this as a last resort should other measures fail. Reward and encourage individual responsibility and initiative. Stop tying peoples’ hands with petty bureaucracy and your agenda.
  6. Play to your past strengths – don’t interfere in wars you can avoid, work toward just and sensible solutions to matters like the refugee crisis, go back to the ethical foreign policy idea and do not pander to foreign tyrants and remember the poor and socially excluded.
  7. Look to building more houses, restoring morale to schools and hospitals, ensuring the “haves” pay their fair share without quenching enterprise. Stop creating a culture of dependency and simply taking from the rich to give to the poor out of spite.

Putting my views on the individual parties to one side, and while I look on Britain’s political future along with the spiritual etc. state of the nation with foreboding, I also see a glimmer of hope and is why I am happy to put my head above the parapet in presenting my views and do my part on making our country a better place.

Edit 16/06/17: how perceptions can change in a short time. Rather than being a vote loser, Jeremy Corbyn has in the light of the General Election result, and contrary to expectations of even many Labour loyalists, has proved to be a vote winner. Given Conservatives are in disarray and another election is a distinct possibility, Labourites now have a sniff of power.  I remain on the peripheral as I still need satisfaction on my 7 points made above. Today’s story titled “John McDonnell calls for one million people to take to the streets to force Theresa May from power” add to that foreboding. Yet I remain a Labour wannabe.

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