Jamie Walden asks why we have no real political alternative in the UK.
The two reasons prominently cited for the lack of a serious Labour opposition to the coalition government are;
That the Labour Party has shuffled too far to the left since it lost the 2010 general election
That Ed Miliband is doing an abysmal job as leader
Number one is a bizarre piece of conventional wisdom. There has been no noteworthy announcement of any ideological or positional change. Whether or not you think the Labour Party was too leftist before their comprehensive defeat is irrelevant; there is no reason to believe it has become any more leftist since then.
It seems that pseudo anti-cuts posturing and insincere speeches stuffed with vague propaganda about ‘fairness’ has convinced many that the Labour party has sought to position itself on the distant left of the government, in principle, not just in rhetoric. It has not.
The coalition is cutting public spending by £16bn in each year of this parliament. Labour was planning to cut it by £14bn. Both, therefore, were to cut public spending to the equivalent of 1.5-2% of the £900bn national debt per year. That is in effect the same policy on public spending cuts from the government and the opposition. Somehow though it is believed that public spending cuts is the grounds on which the coalition and the Labour party part company. It is clear, from the facts, that there is, rather than a chasm, barely a crack between them.
The coalition has not, as is alleged, adopted a policy to cut our way out of debt, which Labour is objecting to. The cuts are merely a performance, an attempt to show the world that we are on top of things. It is intended to build financial confidence in the country. That is the position of the coalition, and that is the stated position of the Labour party.
In opposition the Labour party have the luxury of posing as opponents to ‘nasty’ public spending cuts. However if they were in government they would be making those ‘nasty’ cuts.
Number two has some truth to it. Ed Miliband is painfully robotic, has a vocabulary which is publicly limited to no more than a few hundred condescending words, and appears, if I may borrow from Wodehouse for a moment, like a sheep with a secret sorrow.
But Labour Party activists are beginning to drip into the Conservative party. This cannot be just because Ed Miliband is an inadequate figurehead. It would be laughably capricious if one was to move from one party to another because of a temporary lack of charisma on Wednesday lunchtimes.
Perhaps credulous activists feel alienated in the Labour party because they believe the first reason I mentioned to be true, despite the fact that it is not. Whilst that may explain why Luke Bozier made the switch from red to blue and others I am sure are considering doing so as well, it does not explain why Labour is failing to provide an opposition to the government. For that we need a third reason.
The Labour party are failing to produce serious opposition to the government because, broadly speaking, the views of the Labour party do not oppose the views of the coalition government.
This is not to say that the Labour party is in anyway right-wing. It has been falsely alleged by many that the radical Prime Minister Tony Blair and New Labour were right wing, particularly among those who were anti-Blair within the Labour party; a large group consisting of those who have yet, embarrassingly, to evolve their thoughts away from supporting a command economy even now it has been demonstrably and repeatedly shown to be a failed model. The Blairite left realised that the dreams of past leftists could come to fruition under the post 1997 revolution by different means.
Often the anti-Blair faction will think of themselves as old school socialists. Not even the ABC of socialism, but simply the first thing anyone claiming to be a socialist should know is that its most basic belief is that the means of production ought to be put into the hands of the workers- a noble tradition. This is the reverse of what Labour party members who consider themselves to be on its socialist left do. They believe that the means of production should be controlled by the state.
It seems to be the more intelligent Labour party supporters who understand and support New Labour as it is the workable way of achieving leftist goals, and the less intelligent, who remain unreconstructed failures, who think of it as being ‘right-wing’.
The actual reason Blairites can waltz from Labour to the Tories is not because they were right-wing and the post-Blair Labour opposition has migrated to the left, leaving them with nothing to do but to find a new right-wing home.
It is, in fact, the Tories who are no longer controlled by anything resembling the right and are thus easy for New Labour supporters to be a part of. They still have a sizeable but ineffectual and pitifully loyal clan of social conservatives in parliament and many who for some reason still vote for them. But those in control of the Conservative party are New Labour.
Cameron said he was the heir to Blair and demanded an enormous round of applause for him on the latter’s last ever Prime Minister’s Questions. The Tories supported New Labour’s spending before the crash and would have matched it and the Labour party, as discussed above, would have been cutting virtually as the government is now had they gotten the chance.
As well as public spending, Cameron’s Tories and New Labour agree on all the big issues of modern British history; crime, membership in the EU, schools policy, energy and global warming, the war in Afghanistan, the liberation of Iraq, the intervention in Libya, Israel-Palestine and the fantasy of the two-state ‘solution’, the sexual revolution (sex education, abortion, divorce etc.), multiculturalism and immigration (Cameron offered a populist speech, as had Brown and Blair, yet has done nothing to oppose these things he claimed to believe had failed) and so on.
Tiny fragments of disagreement are exaggerated out of all proportion to make it look as if the two parties are different. But broadly speaking, on all the major questions they are on the same side.
That is why New Labour politicians like David Cameron, Michael Gove and Louise Mensch can be in the Tory party (the latter has been cultivating Blairites online, observing that the Tory party is for them). That is why Luke Bozier and the others, who will follow him, can be Labour one day and Tory the next; because they want to be in the New Labour party which has influence. That is why the Labour party (the one that goes by that name) cannot provide serious opposition to the government; because they do not oppose any of their views, other than the trivial details. We are perilously close to living in a one party state.
I am aware that the “they’re all the same” assertion has become a cliché, but just occasionally clichés can be accurate.