Friday, 17 July 2015

Polly Toynbee, Labour ostriches and the Melanie Phillips factor

There is something inexorably silly about the emissions from Polly Toynbee.  While her strike rate for being right is marginally greater than an infinite number of monkeys tasked with a redraft of Hamlet, she is rapidly becoming the left-wing equivalent of Melanie Phillips - a ubiquitous repetition of self-asserting drivel and intolerance for any view that does not chime with her own.  Her journey from the SDP to Blairite apologist is mirrored by many of the patronising Labour right, who cannot stomach pluralism and alternative priorities to theirs, but her recent toxic oozings in the light of the General Election have moved beyond parody.

A recent piece attacking Tim Farron as someone with the luxury to be outspoken spectacularly missed the point.  Labour's establishment are still in denial about the extent to which their inability to articulate an alternative programme and set of values, at the same time as alienating core voters and floaters alike, is not just a product of leadership ineptitude and more the secular decline of a party whose combination of arrogance and naivety leads it into the trap of "one more heave" and the assumption that people will return to the fold next time.

This may make it easier to be a Liberal at the moment than a Labour supporter.  Paradoxically, the scale of retribution enacted on the Liberals means that they have suffered the equivalent of being ejected in only the clothes they stand up in.  Labour have, in fact, been hoist by their own entitlement and the inability to exploit a collapsing centre-left alternative and an unpopular government.  So the Toynbee formula is a combination of "realism" and tracking to a mythical centre, where the promised land apparently awaits.  Forget that the party is irrelevant and wounded in Scotland for decades, forget that the vagaries of the electoral system and the corruption of the Tories will lock them out in England and Wales as well, and you might just see an increase in support by 2020.

This is the message being peddled in the Labour leadership election.  Naturally Polly seems to want them to be an alternative government with the responsibility round their shoulders of being marginally better than the Tories, which is not really a challenge even for a sociopathic skunk, rather than articulating ideas and setting a programme that might engage with the myriad anti-Tory groups who do not find it either desirable or necessary to shut up and listen to the residue of the Blair cabal squabbling over the pieces.

Every time I encounter the Labour leadership contest, the unreality astounds me.  If you discount Liz Kendall, whose main cheerleader appears to be Tristram Hunt, auditioning to become the next Woodrow Wyatt though right-wing slavering, then both Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham offer more of the same.  Jeremy Corbyn is actually addressing popular concerns and issues - and setting out something that might even on occasion be in advance of public opinion.  Politicians should be leading, rather than being cowed by the commentariat.

The realism needs to sink in that the opposition will need not just to sit and wait but to set itself a task to define both consensus and difference - where there is consensus then adult politics should ensue, rather than an closing-down of the debate that only Labour can drive change.  Adopting a constitutional convention as a challenge is part of that, giving the UK the benefits of the system that drove the Scottish devolution settlement.  We should not be listening to yesterday's Blair-lite agenda, rather spending time defining what it is that would turn the UK into a modern, federal democracy where change is not feared and where politics is not defined by a set of the unrepresentative in fealty to Murdoch.  The BBC is a topic for another day!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.