No U.K. political series on 2016 would be complete without mention of the state of the Labour party. We were still reeling (or celebrating depending on which way you see things) from the EU referendum result when the so-called coup was initiated by the resignation of most of the shadow cabinet, orchestrated by the former shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn, a move which tactically turned out to be a horrendous political miscalculation and ended up strengthening comrade Corbyn’s position.
It is astonishing to watch Labour’s very own remake of the charge of the light brigade. The party has now convinced itself that the reason it lost the last two elections were that its platforms were too far to the right. This to anyone sensible seems crazy when you consider the country voted in the coalition in 2010 and the Conservatives in 2015, both with platforms further to the right of labour. Within the party, hatred of Tony Blair, the party’s most successful leader, has turned visceral. A man who delivered three labour victories and made major changes (most of which were for the better) to the country, you would think his victories alone would mean the Labour party would have the good sense to respect and listen to his advice.
Listening to the debates earlier in the year between Corbyn and Smith, it is easy to see why Smith was so resoundingly defeated. Painting himself as the Corbyn-light candidate was never going to work. Why would anyone vote for a lighter version of what they really want? To me the whole debate should have been dubbed the battle of the idiots, with each contestant (and their relevant backers) competing to out-idiot the other. The next labour government will spend an extra 200 billion says one, the next labour government will spend an extra 500 quadrillion says another, the next labour government will put the railways under public ownership says one, the next labour government will put your thoughts and beliefs into public ownership says another and round and round the debate goes.
I suppose one could see the attraction of voting in protest for Corbyn during his first leadership election in protest when faced with three alternatives with the combined charisma of a brick wall. I have no doubt any of the three alternatives would have been resoundingly defeated by Osborne and Cameron, but clearly, now when things have changed and the country so badly needs an effective opposition, the joke is over. Having said that the tactics deployed by the ‘moderates’ to dislodge Corbyn were all wrong, Smith’s platform was in the wrong place, the timing was off and the support amongst ordinary members was not there.
While the world moves forward the labour party moves backwards. Even if it were desirable to have a big super state, funded by taxing everything to the hilt, in the modern world where capital flows freely it certainly isn’t possible.
We could all wish for a world without nuclear weapons but this is not the world we live in, with an increasingly aggressive Russia, and many states around the world one move away from falling to Islamist extremists. Given Britain’s seat as a permanent member of the UN security council and an increasingly inward looking United States it would be sheer madness to give up our own independent nuclear deterrent, as would any further cuts to our armed forces.
On welfare, again, even if it were desirable to be increasingly generous with handouts the country cannot afford its overly generous payments. Of course we should help the most vulnerable, but work must always pay, with welfare offering the most basic lifestyle. It is absolutely right that there should be caps on how much can be earned via the state. None of us would accept infringements of our individual liberties, yet why is it that so many on the left seem to think you can have individual liberty without also having individual responsibility over our own lives. It cannot be right that there are now entire communities across the country where living on welfare (i.e. someone else’s hard work) has become a lifestyle choice.
On so many issues labour is now intellectually in the wrong place. Ideas which were defeated decades ago have resurfaced. History shows us how quickly political parties can disappear, it could very well now be the case that we may never see a Labour government again.