Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Dan Hodges on why Labour is in trouble

I do not believe that any political party can afford an atom of complacency at the moment.

Certainly not the Conservatives who have to negotiate the best way for Britain to leave the EU while doing minimal damage to our economy and get the best deals we can with other countries, with a small majority and a whole host of economic, diplomatic and legal minefields to negotiate in the other sense of the word.

Certainly not the Lib/Dems who have sought to claw their way back to popularity by standing up for the minority who voted Remain - in a manner which will have made mortal enemies of the 52% who voted leave and failed to impress those like me who voted remain but believe in respecting the result of a democratic vote. the sheer awfulness of the other alternatives to Conservative rule will drive some people into the arms of the Lib/Dems regardless but they now have a very weak claim to the second half of their name.

Certainly not the SNP, whose policy of calling constantly for another vote on Independence after losing the first one is beginning to grate on many Scots, who expect the people who have been running the Scottish government for a decade to actually start delivering.

Certainly not UKIP who have spent the summer tearing themselves apart although I think their new leader may be a bigger threat to the dinosaur wing of the Labour party than it's small brain has yet realised.

But the party which is making the greatest effort to commit political suicide at the moment is Labour.

It's not just the fact that their policies are very left wing, reminiscent of the disastrous policies which nearly bankrupted Britain with catastrophic results when I was a teenager, leaving the sick unable to get treatment, the dead unburied, and rubbish lying in the streets. I'm not one of them, but there are some people who like left-wing policies.

No, what makes Labour look like a car crash is their inability to look at the wider electorate rather than their own internal divisions or to genuinely engage with the country as a whole rather than particular segments of it.

I do not always agree with Dan Hodges, a former Labour and trade union official, but he has written a very persuasive article called

"Labour's sunk, it just hasn't realised it yet: a Titanic disaster starring Jeremy Corbyn."

He begins by quoting a Tory MP who once served in the military and pointed out that sometimes the worst thing you can do is fail to take a decision: and Labour has made such a mistake by failing to decide who and what it stands for.

Hodges argues that in the wake of the "Leave" vote Britain is split not into two tribes but three, He writes that:

"There is Brexit Britain, tired of ultra-liberalism, and hungry for a return to ‘traditional values’.
 
There is Remainer Britain, horrified at what it sees as a conservative counter-revolution, and committed to driving the ‘Alt-Right’ barbarians from its progressive gates.
 
And there is Middle Britain – majority Britain – which has no real desire to rally behind either of these cultural battle- flags, and just yearns for a modest but measurable improvement in daily life.
 
Labour no longer represents any of these three factions. It does not know how to speak to them. It does not know how to identify with them. It no longer even adopts the pretence of trying to speak to or identify with them."

Hodges argues that Theresa May has made a successful pitch for Middle Britain while holding on to the Tory chunk of Brexit Britain, while UKIP has the rest of Brexit Britain.

Farron's Lib/Dems are well on the way to establishing themselves as the party of Remainer Britain, but Labour have no clear pitch to any of those three tribes.
And until they decide where they stand, Labour are not fit for purpose as the official opposition which is supposed to hold the government to account, let alone as an alternative government.

I'm not complacent about the Tory position, but so far as Labour are concerned I think Dan has a point.

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