Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Labour: the greatest fun for the greatest number

No one’s ever disappointed by the British Conservative Party. It always entirely fulfils expectations, which it has learned to set painfully low. So it generates indifference rather than enthusiasm, shrugs rather than frowns, murmurs of “whatever” rather than cries of “betrayal.”

People hope for much more from Labour. Expectations seem to range from ushering in the earthly paradise down to, at a minimum, ending poverty, eliminating nuclear weapons and teaching business executives a sense of community.

The Party is currently in a contest to elect a new leader, to replace underwhelming and soundly beaten Ed Miliband. And, inevitably, that has engendered disappointment.

The campaign is generally deemed stodgy, dull, uninspiring. Why, even David Cameron, minimally revered Conservative Prime Minister, has got in on the act, warning journalists that Labour seemed not to have learned a thing from its election defeat. It’s a view to be taken as seriously as one would expect, given the acumen he has shown, along with his concern for the good of the Labour Party.

The disappointment’s unfair. The contest has provided many edifying sights. For instance, after calling the 7 May General Election lamentably wrong, you might expect a period of humbled silence from the polling organisation. So it’s been a delight to see YouGov publishing its findings that Jeremy Corbyn, the veteran Left Winger, was set to win the election. By the way, he’s always often to as “veteran”: it seems that the word just means 66 years old, or possibly having been in parliament for 32 years.

Jeremy Corbyn:
Labour's way of spreading delight across the political spectrum
YouGov had Corbyn winning over Andy Burnham by 53% to 47%. Another poll, organisation unnamed (presumably because commissioned by one of the candidates), showing Corbyn winning over Yvette Cooper by 51% to 49%. So polls maintain the track record of consistency which is such a fine indication of reliability.

It’s the election itself, though, rather than polls that is giving the best value for money.

Basing myself mostly on what I can see happening in my local constituency Labour Party and the one next door – both firmly in the Corbyn camp – rather than on polls, a Corbyn win does feel likely to me. In which case it seems to me time for the public to recognise the service that Labour is providing: this is surely the result that brings the greatest happiness to the greatest number.

Most people in the Labour Party will be pleased if Corbyn wins. After all, he says what so many feel. In the past, certain policies that don’t stand a chance of winning majority support have been dropped – say nationalisation of many industries, thoroughly discredited by the experience of the fifties to the eighties: they cost a fortune and delivered lousy service. So instead we preferred to concentrate on the goals that measures such as nationalisation were intended to meet, like reducing poverty, setting out to achieve them by other means.

With Corbyn in charge, though, we could drop all such mealy-mouthed restraint. We can once more proclaim the post-World War 2 commitment to nationalisation, whether voters like it or not.

Moreover, those in the Labour Party who preferred a more “politician-like” response to events have to salute him too. Just a few days ago Corbyn wouldn’t rule out campaigning for Britain to leave the European Union; now he’s clarified his position and favours Britain staying in.

Isn’t that wonderful? Corbyn’s not above the “clarification” ploy, the standard means by which a politician realigns his views when he realises they aren’t popular. And the “won’t rule out” stance is an excellent preliminary to the ploy: it means “I’m keeping my options open until I work out which way the wind’s blowing.”

Clearly the veteran’s come of age. He may not be quite the Tony Blair yet, but he’s shown that he too can play the duplicitous game.

So Corbyn has everything to please the Labour Party, across the spectrum. And as for the Tories, a Corbyn will delight them. The Conservatives couldn’t possibly hope for an adversary preferable to Corbyn. They’ll pick out quotes from his speeches to turn him into a bogey man to frighten the timid back into their camp. They just have to hope he won’t clarify his position on renationalisation of industries.

It’s hard to imagine what else Labour could do to please so many people, from its own ranks to those of the Tories, in one simple step. Indeed, the only ones who might not be pleased will be far-right UKIP: the radical right probably don’t want to see a radical leader emerge on the left, who might steal some of their thunder.

Still, you can’t please all of the people all of the time. I think if we’re doing the Conservatives a favour, that’s already enough in the way of cheering the right. UKIP can look after itself.

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