Thursday, January 21, 2016

Labour's shambolic opposition is great for Conservatives but bad for the country

In many ways this is a great time to be a Conservative activist. Even those of us who didn't quite manage to win whatever election we fought last May nearly all had the satisfaction of watching the election of friends who did, have seen many of the things we fought for put into effect, and, extraordinarily, have watched Labour bending over backwards to maximise our chances of winning whatever election we hope to fight between now and 2020.

Even if Corbyn is replaced before the 2020 election, it will be extremely easy to point out how Labour's last attempt to elect a leader who had learned from the mistakes of the past led first to the 2005 invasion of Iraq and then to a leader who had learned nothing since the 1970s.

The biggest threats to the Conservative party at the moment do not come from the opposition: they come from the possibility of a world recession (and nobody of any party can remove that risk) and from the possibility that in the absence of any remotely credible opposition from the Labour party we might get into the habit of providing our own opposition.

Already Select Committee Chairman Andrew Tyrie has been described in the press as the real leader of the opposition, having been far more effective at holding the government to account than anyone in the Labour party.

And because there will be good Conservatives on both sides of the EU Referendum debate it is most important in both the national and party interest to manage that disagreement in a positive, constructive and respectful way - both to ensure a better debate which has the optimum chance of producing the best outcome for Britain and so that the country remains governable afterwards (whichever way it goes.)

But even as a loyal Conservative I am worried that the astonishing complete and utter uselessness of Labour at the moment is against the national interest because the government is not being adequately challenged.

I've always thought Disraeli was dead right when he said that

and the reasons are plain to see now.

Question time in the House of Commons has ceased to be an opportunity for the government to be held to account and instead is now an opportunity for the Conservatives, and sometimes other parties as well, to have a good laugh at the Labour leadership's expense while, as one journalist wrote  here,

"David Cameron and his backbenchers take turns to trash Mr Corbyn, hooting in terrible joy, while Labour MPs just sit there, deflated and useless, like row upon row of punctured footballs."

He added

"... however long Mr Corbyn remains Labour leader ... Any question he asks the Prime Minister, on any topic ... will be met with an onslaught of jeers about Trident, trade unions, terrorism, Marxism, patriotism, pacifism, the Falklands, Hamas, Stop the War, NATO, Paris, Syria and Hilary Benn.
Helplessly scrambling to shield themselves, the Labour party will be unable to advance an inch."

Margaret Beckett's remarkable report into why Labour lost the last election answered the question  not in what it said but in what was revealed by what it failed to say - a complete inability to move outside the comfort zone of the writers and audience of the report which has become a defining characteristic of the party. From the positive things it said about Ed Miliband you would think he had won the election!

But if I wasn't impressed with it that is nothing to the reaction of some present and former members of the Labour party. Atul Hatwal wrote on Labour Uncut an article entitled "The Beckett report reminds us of the utter uselessness of labour's establishment."

"The Beckett report is a woeful reminder of the paucity of insight that characterised Labour’s pre-Corbyn establishment," he wrote, and "manages to be both asinine and anodyne in equal measure."

I doubt that many Conservatives could manage to work up the dripping contempt for the Labour party establishment in the condemnation which concludes the article:

"Beckett is a product of the same mode of lazy, smug, wrong-headed politics which has gripped Labour’s upper echelons for most of the last decade.

It’s tone is reminiscent of the response of organisations such as FIFA, the IAAF and UCI when first confronted with evidence of their failings.

As with these bodies, Beckett tells a tale of an organisation that has fundamentally failed to grasp the magnitude of the problems that face it.

Jeremy Corbyn is patently a disaster. But anyone interested in the notion of another Labour government should be thankful for one casualty of the Corbynite deluge: Labour’s old ruling class.

No moderate should mourn the passing of these cossetted time-servers.  While the hard left must be defeated, there’s little point to rebuilding the rotten edifice that gave us the 2010 and 2015 campaigns, which indulged Gordon Brown’s manias, that enabled Ed Miliband’s junior common room posturing and where something like Beckett would have passed muster as strategy.

No. No. No."

Dan Hodges has a similar response to the Beckett report in his article which says that

"Labour won't win an election until it stops believing in fairytales."

Indeed. While a Labour government would patently be a disaster for Britain it won't happen, but in the meantime their failure to the job of holding the government to account means that the country will be less well governed. It is in everyone's interest that they get their act together - but I see no sign whatsoever of that happening soon.

During the long period of electoral disaster for the Conservatives between Black Wednesday and David Cameron becoming Prime Minister I went through many low points. But the worst was not being shouted at, sworn at, or even losing elections although that could be pretty bad.

No, the worst was the moments when I was talking to people in other political parties and realised to my horror that the expression on their faces was pity.

And looking at the Labour party today I am beginning to understand how those people felt.

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