Vote chasing and selling out…….
Posted on July 13, 2015
I’m relieved to see there’s now a bit of a backlash following Harriet Harman’s pronouncement yesterday that the Labour Party will not be opposing the Tory government’s welfare cuts. According to Harman, the current interim leader of the party, Labour won’t be voting against the proposed welfare bill and its MPs shouldn’t even think about opposing the Tory plan to limit child tax credits to two children.
Harman’s bizarre rationale is that because the Tories won the election, opposing their policies would be some kind of affront to the voting public: that by doing what any self-respecting left wing opposition party should be doing and standing up for working people, the poor and the vulnerable, and (god forbid) for some socialist principles, Labour would essentially be telling the voters they got the election all wrong.
Apart from the moral bankruptcy of this argument, what’s tragic about this line of thinking is that if we take it to it’s natural conclusion we’re left with a Labour ‘opposition’ in Parliament that opposes nothing; a ‘left wing’ alternative that simply rubber stamps every Tory proposal that comes along. And ultimately, if Harman and some of her acolytes get their way, we’re also left with a party so busy chasing votes and trying to win elections for the sake of winning elections, it has no policies or principles left to speak of and is indistinguishable from the very party it’s trying to defeat.
Unsurprisingly, both Liz Kendall and Frank Field have been busy defending Harman this morning, but then they’re both in the wrong party anyway and have been for years. What’s reassuring is that aside from Kendall, the three other Labour leadership hopefuls, Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham and Jeremy Corbyn, have all come out against Harman’s suggestion that the party ditch its principles for the sake of a few more votes.
What I really don’t understand about all this though, what genuinely baffles me, is what on earth Harriet Harman, Liz Kendall and others who support this nonsense, think politics actually is? What do they think the point of politics is if it’s not about standing up for the things they believe in?
If, as appears to be the case at the moment, they believe that the point is to win elections and get into power simply for the sake of winning elections and getting into power, then why did they ever bother getting involved in politics at all?
Harriet Harman and her supporters are now openly clones of the Tory party because they are uttering the same lies as Fascist Cameron; Duncan Smith et al. Once upon a time decades ago Labour party stated it existed because it believed in Social Justice rather than demonising impoverished women and men; disabled women and men and women and men who cannot work because of long term medical conditions.
Just because too many voters are blithely accepting the Fascist Tory party lies that ‘work will set you free’ and the State must not provide financial assistance to impoverished women this means the Labour Party must not debunk these lies. Doing so would apparently mean the Labour Party will be unpopular with the voters!! So therefore why does the Labour exist?? The Labour Party should disband and become Tory clones given their MPs are too frightened to challenge Tory lies and Tory propaganda.
Tories have always demonised impoverished women and men because it works and gullible female and male voters believe ‘I will never lose my job; suffer a long term medical illness; become disabled.’ Meanwhile the wealthy boys are becoming even wealthier via fascist Tory policies and this is called ‘fairness’ by the Tories!
>>If, as appears to be the case at the moment, they believe that the point is to win elections and get into power simply for the sake of winning elections and getting into power, then why did they ever bother getting involved in politics at all?<<
You don't give any clue to how old you are in your 'About', but I can only guess you are not old enough to remember Thatcher and the Labour Party in the 80s.
Throughout that long decade, and past in into the early 90s, the Labour party pulled itself apart, splitting into the SDP on one side and Militant on the other (with the bizarre result at one point of the Militant, that is Trotskyist, controlled council in Liverpool sending redundancy notices to workers in Taxis).
The lesson from that period is that Ideological Purity without power gives you nothing. Blair and New Labour may be much derided now, but compared to the inability of Kinnock and Foot to actually *do* something for the poor and working class they were manna from heaven. There was a mantra in the 80s from the left after successive lost elections that they'd lost because they were somehow not left enough. As if the majority electorate would suddenly hold up their hands when confronted with far left policies, the scales would drop from their eyes, and they'd vote for the trotskyists in droves. Pure fantasy, but dangerous fantasy too which caused countless misery as it prevented labour attracting enough support to oust the Tories for at least one election, and arguably two, longer than they might have.
Harman has a solid point about the perception of welfare among a majority of the working class, and to win again Labour must define and occupy the centre ground. The point of practical politics surely is to help people, I'm sure that's why Harman is in politics – and as someone who cut her political teeth in the 80s she'll have that lesson in her blood. Having political power is everything, without that you simply can't achieve anything of use.
Actually I’m fast approaching 50, so sadly I well remember Thatcher and the Labour Party in the 80s – it’s when I first joined and became a political activist.
I take your point about practical politics and how not being in power means you can’t achieve anything, but I think there’s a valid question to be asked around how far you should compromise your politics in order to gain that power. What is the point of fighting for and holding power if all you have left to offer is the same as the right wing party that went before?
Personally I think where Labour has failed in recent years is not necessarily in having the wrong policies – they’re certainly not pie-in-the-sky far left trot policies anyway, but in failing to communicate those effectively and to win over the voting public. And I think a large part of that is because whenever they’re challenged on anything, they appear to either backtrack, or to change their position (as Harman is now suggesting they do again) in order to pander to some right wing Daily Mail narrative.
During the election campaign there were moments when Labour reps were nearly out ukipping the ukippers when it came to the immigration debate for example. And now suddenly we’re being asked to contemplate a Labour Party that no longer believes in or supports the welfare state.
The Labour Party has to stand for something, there have to be some core principles, lines in the sand and all that. If not, what is the point of it? What is the point of politics if there are no politics left?
Ah, well my commiserations for having suffered the trauma of Thatcher too
>>What is the point of fighting for and holding power if all you have left to offer is the same as the right wing party that went before?<>but in failing to communicate those effectively and to win over the voting public<<
I'm afraid I've always considered comments like that 'radical elitism'. It implies that somehow the people doing the explaining understand how the world is and the rest of the people are too stupid/uninterested/gullible to understand – . It's deeply patronising. I think the vast majority of people are perfectly capable of understanding politics and making decisions which they consider fair in reflection of their own lives. I always greatly admired Tony Benn on that – I disagreed with him fundamentally on many many things (like Militant), but he was a democrat to his core. I recall after (I think) the 1992 election a reporter asked him if he'd have preferred a result where Labour would have won by tactical voting (which was quite possible) he was adamant that he wouldn't because it would have been anti-democratic.
Take the 'third child' benefits issue for example. I'd suggest that Harriet is actually correct on this – economic considerations are important for many couples when deciding family size, and a large number of people will have decided to have two children rather than three because of that (I certainly know that it was part of the consideration with my family – we wanted to have the money to do more with the two I have). So I think most people see the Tory restriction on this as fair as it's coming in from 2017. Similar considerations apply to benefit caps and the like – I don't think it's because people hate the poor, or misunderstand the policy, it's what is perceived as fairness. We should trust their instincts, which is, in essence, what Harriet is doing.
“I’m afraid I’ve always considered comments like that ‘radical elitism’. It implies that somehow the people doing the explaining understand how the world is and the rest of the people are too stupid/uninterested/gullible to understand – . It’s deeply patronising”
No, that’s absolutely not where I’m coming from: I’m not saying the rest of the people are too stupid to understand, I’m saying that the Labour Party is crap at communicating it’s message, or even at having a coherent message in the first place. The fault lies with the Labour Party and its PR and media machines, not with the general public.
If the Labour Party itself is confused about where it stands on issues, how on earth is anyone outside of it supposed to understand what it represents? I genuinely think that’s where we are at now.
As for the welfare reform issue, I agree with Andy Burnham’s comments this afternoon on this:
“The welfare reform and work bill is unsupportable because it doesn’t do what it says on the tin – support work. In fact, it does the opposite. It diminishes work incentives with its changes to tax credits and the ESA. It doesn’t encourage people into work. It fact it might do the opposite. It contains some punitive measures in respect of child poverty. If you ask the public about welfare reform, they would be in favour of welfare reform, as I am – I am in favour of welfare reform. But they would say ‘Create more incentives to work and don’t punish children or those who can’t work’. The bill abolishes the measurements around child poverty and at the same time has measures that will push children into poverty. That seems to me to make it a very duplicitous bill.”