Another summer, another Labour leadership contest. Here we go again.
Last summer’s shenanigans were pure comedy. We all filled up Order Order’s pages with jokes and backslaps as the Labour fraternity went into overdrive seeking to fill the leader’s boots following the departure of Red Ed. Let’s face it: the boots were neither big, nor well filled, but that is a tale for another time.
I have to confess that I expected better. Following the GE defeat I had one of those rare weekends where Her Indoors did not work for a day and was not averse to me going fishing. So I bought a Graun (or Observer), pitched up, chucked the carp rods out, brewed up and read up on the defeated’s take on their sorry situation. It was very enjoyable.
Lots of different lefties, lots of different metrolibbies, lots of different versions of what happened and what should have happened. A few of them even got close to the facts. However, my favourite was Toynbee’s article despairing that our position in Europe was now at risk; we should be so lucky I thought.
The summer rolled on, the leadership rules became clearer, the candidates began to flip flop and coalesce. Chucker came and went. Our Jezza was floated.
I have never been entirely sure why Labour expressed concern at low turnouts in elections. Were they navel gazing, or did they worry about winning power with such low voter engagement as in 2005? Was it just lip service to excuse 2005, and possible future repeats? I was always sure a blind eye was turned to the true reason for low turnouts. Some of that reflection was surely carried over into their own backyard when they allowed any old bod vaguely associated with the “Labour movement” to cast a vote on who should be Labour leader. Another ill thought out metro-libby idea, and this time it backfired on them and them alone.
One backfire, however, is not enough to water-board Labour. A second was a necessary ingredient. The problem with the self-proclaimed ‘progressives’ is that they are so naïve; they need to ooze selflessness… preferably someone else’s selflessness. Rather than leaving the hard left to its own devices, some foolish members of the PLP (having just been given a lesson in real democracy by the GE) took it upon themselves to enable the hard left in the interests of widening the debate about the Labour leadership. An exquisite moment.
So with the perfect storm Labour got an ‘any old bod’ electorate combined with a hard left candidate just after getting a beating at the ballot box. And the result was a dishevelled old Trot as Leader of the Opposition. How we chuckled. A true Lefty in charge of Labour!
They have had it coming for a while Labour. I was just a primary school kid when Wilson and Callaghan were in during the 70s. By all accounts they were not that much worse than Heath and Barber who, like Cameron and Osborne, had a penchant for handing control to foreign powers. I can still remember sitting in candle light as a small boy reading books and waiting for the leccy to come on; sometimes the battery powered wireless would pick something up. Power cuts, bread shortages, petrol shortages, strikes here, strikes there… all through the 70s it was a tale of self-destruction and leaders who just would not get a grip.
They spent the 80s and early 90s moaning about the Tories, some justified, some not. And then the snake oil salesmen arrived. They out-slicked the slick Tories, played on a long period in power, and won big in 1997. The turnout was good, they won on a fair share of the vote.
Then they began to show their true colours, the cultural revolution was thrust on an unwilling country and instead of fixing the growing immigration mess left behind by the Tories they deliberately worsened it, with appalling consequences for their voters. Nothing is going to worsen the situation of disadvantaged Brits more than an additional pressure which forces up housing costs, forces down wages and increases demand on public services, but they did it anyway.
Everyone has their own Rubicon, everyone has their own pressure points and triggers to cross it. For some it comes early; I first voted UKIP in the 1994 Euro elections. For some people I have known in the past it was unthinkable to vote for anyone but the chosen legacy party. For some it stopped being unthinkable in Blair’s final years, for other’s in Brown’s and for some the moment came in Cameron’s time at No10.
Labour spent quite a lot of money in the aftermath of their 2010 defeat getting researchers to find out why. Experts in politics, interviewing and polling spent time identifying critical voters and getting their feedback. None of it was listened to. You don’t learn much when you are spouting, and for free the Labour establishment could just have spent a bit more time reading comments on the internet to get a feel for what was happening in the electorate; none of it was rocket science.
Did they seriously expect that importing direct competition for jobs, housing of all types, parking space, road space, school places, GP time, seats on busses and trains, and hospital beds was going to go down well with their core vote?
After the 2015 debacle Labour spent another load of money on research to find out why they did so badly. The answers were the same. One research company that interviewed 2010 Labour voters who did not vote Labour in 2015 reported that when it came to immigration the group would have talked about nothing else all night.
And then came the EU referendum. Labour MPs emerged from their Westminster and constituency bunkers, went forth, and engaged with the public over the issue of whether the UK should remain in the EU. These were people who thought that Cameron’s government were wrong to refuse to open the floodgates for thousands of (allegedly) Syrian refuges in the summer of 2015, even after the five hour gang rape of a 17 year old special needs girl in a care home in Maidstone by the first wave that Cameron foolishly allowed in. These were people who complained about the wealth gap between the propertied and the un-propertied whilst shouting for more immigrants to be let in to overwhelm the housing market.
Labour voters, many of whom had voted out of a sense of history, continuity, or of community finally met their representatives or, having temporarily engaged with politics courtesy of the referendum, heard about what they said. A quarter or so found them wanting. Of the little they still had.
For to be a lefty or socialist does not mean you hate your people or your nation, as many of us ‘righties’ think. One can be a believer in high taxes, taxing the rich, high spending, high levels of state intervention in all aspects of society and the economy, and yet still believe in the British state. One can believe in all that and still want strong borders and very tight immigration policies; indeed perhaps a genuinely big overbearing state is consistent with a robust immigration policy.
Labour’s vote has collapsed at a national level, and every poll or election shows it. Outside of the big cities, where a new form of electorate is resident, they are a failing species. Where those voters go who are left wing, but who do not accept the metro-libby dictat is anybody’s guess.
One thing is for sure, the Labour leadership battle looks more and more like relatives battling over a diminishing Estate after a funeral.