Ten Labour councillors in Liverpool are the latest recruits to the Jeremy Corbyn bandwagon sweeping the 1% of the population who are members or supporters of the Labour Party. In a letter to the Liverpool Echo they say that “The Labour Party’s first duty should be to oppose the Government and in particular the punishment of the poor and to challenge the narrative that somehow they are to blame for the financial crisis.
“We believe there is a different path than austerity and that the leadership election provides an opportunity for us to debate this with the British public.”
They go on to say that the Tories don’t believe in education, health, or small businesses, in the way that Labour do. I’m not going to allow myself to be distracted by that – though for a party that saw Britain drop down international league tables for maths, English and science like a stone, caused the Stafford Hospital disaster, along with other target driven horrors, and voted against legislation that has led to the largest increase in the number of small businesses in decades, that’s a pretty arrogant statement.
Instead I am more concerned about their view that the Labour Party’s first duty should be to oppose the Government.
It absolutely must not be to oppose the Government. The first duty of a political party is to seek to become the Government, not merely to oppose it.
While it might be more comfortable to be in opposition, insulated from the tough decisions that come with priority setting in Government, it is an outrageously selfish indulgence to become an ideologically pure opposition, rather than seek to become a Government.
In the last election we had Labour activists condemning the Government for the ‘Bedroom Tax’. Caroline Flint came to Ipswich and handed out signed copies of the Bill she was going to introduce to repeal the legislation that brought to an end the Spare Room Subsidy.
We had Labour activists condemning the Government for closing children’s centres, including three right here in Ipswich.
Since the election we have had Labour activists outraged at the £12 billion in cuts to welfare.
Yet the Labour Party is in opposition. Which means that it can do absolutely nothing to stop any of these policies, policies that it claims hurt those it seeks to protect – the poor, the downtrodden, minorities, the disabled.
Without power the Labour Party can say and do whatever it likes. It can go down through the looking glass to Wonderland and pronounce on policy objectives that would see its economic policy tied to printing new money – like Zimbabwe or interwar Germany – or its foreign policy tied to the naïve views of those complacent Guardianistas in northern Islington. It can decide to roll back 1980s union legislation, and return to the policies described in Michael Foot’s “longest suicide note in history.”
Nobody in the Tory party will much care. Indeed there will be those who will celebrate seeing a once proud foe brought so low by its own hubris.
But the country will care. The Labour Party exists for the many, not the few. It exists to improve the lives of the working class. It exists to espouse policies that will lift up the poor, support the disabled, heal the sick. While in opposition it can be as ideologically pure as it likes, but it won’t help a single citizen of this country. Without power, a political party is in a holding position. Without seeking power it is a complete waste of time.
Jeremy Corbyn is not going to win the next General Election for his party. This country has not elected a left wing Government since 1974. The argument that he has personally won elections in Islington is bunkum; the country is not Islington.
There are those who are voting for Jeremy Corbyn in the deluded view that he will be the next Prime Minister. Yes I do believe they are deluded. They are as credible as those Ukippers who were expecting Prime Minister Nigel Farage.
What is more disappointing from the Labour Party is the number of its activists who don’t appear to care that they won’t win a General Election with Mr Corbyn as leader. Who would rather be an ideologically pure opposition than a compromised Government.
These activists do not have the best interests of the Labour Party at heart. They certainly don’t have the best interests of Labour voters at heart. They are selfish and self-indulgent and they are betraying the party of Ramsey Macdonald, Clement Atlee, Harold Wilson, Jim Callaghan, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.