Deep in the heart of Labour Land there is a crisis. Correction, there are crises. Leadership, policy and identity are three of them and I’m sure many more lurk beneath that oh so thin skin. Andy Burnham says, “By gum, that-there immigration IS a problem after all,” and “Let’s have a referendum.” And while Labourites on Twitter instinctively cleave to the #toryscum hashtag, party spokespeople are doing their best to appear wise after the event yet still fail to fully grasp how far from their core voters their bubble has wafted.
Giles Fraser, Owen Jones and Polly Toynbee have done their public handwringing and confirmed what we already knew – that Labour hold the British public in such contempt that they don’t believe they are intelligent enough to wield their vote wisely. Pretty much in their own words – certainly in Giles Fraser’s words – they just don’t know what’s good for them. Tony Blair’s focus group approach to policy doesn’t seem so cynical now, does it? To get their vote you have to give them what they want… even if they are too stupid to know what that is.
Not left enough? Too far left? Where does the party want to be? Well, in power, that’s where, for the raison d'être of any party, even the former party of the people, is to rule over the people, preferably with an ironclad majority. The irony is that to obtain the power to make the little people dance they must first be offered inducement to vote the right way. And this time round Labour’s politics of envy will be labelled ‘aspiration’. In prospective leaders’ inner circles think tanks are being formed to decide what level of envy – I mean aspiration – will appeal to the Benefits Street generation; who do they want to be jealous of now? And how can we dress that up as compassion?
The food bank rhetoric is just bouncing off as nobody can identify a single person who would be dead of starvation for want of a discretionary food parcel. The NHS just refuses to lie down and die and much to Labour’s chagrin has just returned its best overall satisfaction survey in twenty years. Wages are starting to rise and homes are being built. The thing is, ordinary people are just getting on with their lives and the serried ranks of academics on the left have no idea how to deal with it. Mondeo Man and Worcester Woman have moved on; they have worked out, without the ‘help’ of government, that wealth needs to be amassed before you can start sharing it out. They have also worked out that the state is not a good arbiter of that dividend.
A tank is a big, lumbering war machine. A blunt instrument, with blind spots and an inability to wage subtle, stealthy warfare. A tanker is a giant ship with such momentum that it takes many miles to change direction. Labour’s think-tankers have similar problems and they are starting, perhaps, to realise them, but it will take them many years before they finally understand that the political offering which most appeals to the electorate is the one they just selected. I look forward to the day that particular penny drops and Labour finally gets that the people’s flag is not red at all, but deepest blue.
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