The UK’s official Opposition is the Labour Party, though on present showing you might not guess that. On one hand it has at once been utterly and indefensibly useless at challenging the Government over the EU referendum. On the other, internecine fighting and political blood-letting over its own leadership has gone out of control. These pose serious questions about Labour’s moral authority and its fitness to govern.
First the party’s ruling body, the National Executive Committee, decided to prevent members who had joined within the last six months from voting. This was because the NEC is currently filled with Blairites. They want the elected leader, Jeremy Corbyn, out and think that all the new members are Corbyn supporters. That should speak volumes about how they regard democracy.
The High Court threw the ban out, but on Thursday the Appeal Court overthrew the lower court. Thus Labour’s moral authority reached a new low. It is happy to take £25 from you for membership (per annum) but you can’t vote. Nice.
The Appeal Court did not establish the NEC’s moral authority to do as it did. It just decided that the NEC had not actually broken its own rules.
Labour’s moral authority was jettisoned the day it put Tony Blair, an unashamed Thatcherite, in place as leader. It has no moral authority, now, for it to lose. It is just another would-be Tory Party.
You cannot out-Tory the Tories.
I think I might go hoarse saying this, but you cannot out-Tory the Tories. Blair got in because voters were fed up of 18 years of Tory Government. In other words, Blair did not win in 1997, the Tories lost. There’s a huge difference.
A tide of anti-Tory resentment always builds up as they are shown to be the self-interested, self-serving chancers they are. This means it should have been obvious that if a couple of barrow-boys and a bunch of gibbering idiots could actually win an election outright, Labour’s tide was out.
Now, it’s a lot worse for Labour. The Tories are on the front foot again, with a credible leader and a competent Cabinet. Labour’s ‘old guard’ (who are actually the out-of-date Blairite ‘modernisers’) have simply not understood what is going on.
We are seeing the Tory Party arranging things so they can have the next 20 years in power. The only way to challenge that is for Labour to radically change its approach. Owen Smith and the Blairites, who are challenging Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, are determined that such a change will not happen.
Labour will not win in 2020.
Under either Smith or Corbyn, Labour will not win in 2020. The Tories are no longer led by Tweedledum and Tweedledee and a bunch of rank amateurs, but the best and most respected members of the party. Just look at the roll-call of names that Theresa May has put in senior positions.
May is a lifetime ‘one-nation’ Tory and she intends to impress. Her first challenge is how to bury Brexit. Given that the Opposition are incapable of mounting any credible challenge to her, she has a free hand. She only needs to outmanoeuvre the swivelly-eyed Eurosceptic Right.
However, though he can’t win in 2020, Corbyn might possibly be able to lay the groundwork for a victory in 2025, by developing a mass movement that actually addressed people’s aspirations. It is, paradoxically, how the SNP wiped Labour out in Scotland and it would seem wise to learn from that. Clearly, Corbyn himself could not lead Labour into that election, so arguments about his personal electability are irrelevant.
All that Smith offers is same-old-same-old. It won’t work. May will eviscerate him at the Despatch Box, in the Media and in the country.
Labour’s moral authority is the only lever it has.
Labour’s moral authority has never been more tarnished. Without it, the party can only win if the Tories really piss off the electorate, as they did in 1996 with a sequence of corruption scandals.
May is a Centrist. This makes her what Thatcher would have called ‘dripping wet’. She will aim to re-unite the nation (which she thinks is the UK) and she may well succeed. However, Labour’s pull to the Right under the Blairites is effectively snookered by a Tory Party moving to the Centre, as it just did.
The Men In Suits who actually run the Tory Party have made a decision — Rightwing extremism is yesterday and one-nation Toryism a la Ted Heath is back. That is why May won the leadership election and Leadsom did not. The legions of swivelly-eyed rabid rightists have been told: your time is up.
You cannot out-Tory the Tories. By letting the Tories set the agenda and decisively shift their position towards the political centre, a centre-leaning Labour Party becomes irrelevant.
Labour’s moral authority is the only lever it has to edge itself ahead of the Tories. That makes the party’s wanton abandonment of it all the more absurd.
Note: It’s amazing to see, two years after this was written, just how comprehensively Theresa May has fucked it up. She was handed glory on a plate and threw it in the garbage. Idiot. Rod Fleming. 10/09/2018
Also published on Medium.