Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Stephen Hawking identifies another black hole, called Corbyn

The possessor of one of the most formidable minds of the world today, Stephen Hawking, has joined the growing chorus of Labour supporters calling for the leader, Jeremy Corbyn, to resign.

“I regard Corbyn as a disaster,” he told the The Times newspaper, and “I think he should step down for the sake of the party”.

Stephen Hawking sees politics clearly as well as physics
Hawking is one of the leading experts on black holes. No wonder he sees the black hole into which Corbyn’s taking us. Many voters share his vision but not, unfortunately, most Labour Party members: an Election Data poll of members found that he would be re-elected leader if he had to stand again today.

They’re clearly not reading the evidence of approaching disaster the same way as the rest of us, including Hawking.

As is well known, Hawking is a long-term sufferer from Motor Neurone Disease. This led to a fine transatlantic interchange in 2009, when Republicans opposed to Obama’s healthcare reforms made the bizarre claim that the NHS would have regarded Hawking’s life as “worthless” because of his disabilities and refused to treat him. As Hawking replied, “"I wouldn't be here today if it were not for the NHS.”

That’s particularly relevant today, faced as we are by a new Conservative budget. It continues the seven years of austerity that we have already had and which have had no impact on the scale of the country’s debt, which keeps climbing to peacetime records. Another group of people has now been attacked, this time the self-employed who are being forced to pay higher national insurance contributions.

This explicitly breaches a pledge made by the Conservatives in the run up to the last election under two years ago.

The Chancellor, Philip Hammond, has found some additional funds to back the ‘free school’ initiative, in reality a most expensive form of schooling, for which the results have been at best mixed. Education desperately needs funding but not in this unnecessary way.

Meanwhile, even the police and prison service, generally the parts of the public sector least abhorrent to the Conservatives, are creaking at the seams, unable to act effectively against smaller crime or control the prison population.

What’s most terrifying, though, and must be particularly hurtful to Hawking is that there is no attempt to address the desperate financial crisis facing the NHS. Two thirds of English hospitals are running at a deficit. Accident and Emergency services are struggling, and frequently failing, to cope. Waiting times for operations are on the climb again, having been brought down to acceptable levels – eighteen weeks maximum – by the last Labour government.

Why is this being allowed to happen? The Conservative majority is wafer thin. With a half-way effective opposition, it would have to think carefully about continuing to undermine the NHS. It would have to wonder whether it could get away with breaking its election pledges.

None of that applies if the opposition has an ineffective leader, leaving it incapable of mounting an effective resistance to its rule. Labour is reduced to meaninglessness under Corbyn, seen by too few as an alternative Prime Minister. The Conservatives could even, as has been rumoured, hold an election shortly and trounce him. Why would they do that? They may be bold enough to feel they can count on Corbyn refusing to step down, on the grounds that he’s had too short a tenure, encouraging Conservative hopes that they could thrash him again five years later.

In February, Theresa May, the Prime Minister, held a 17 point positive rating: 53% of respondents to a survey by Ipsos MORI were satisfied with her against 36% who were not. The same poll found Corbyn had a 38 point negative rating: 24% satisfied and 62% dissatisfied.

If you’re tempted to object that polls get figures wrong, it’s worth bearing in mind that in the UK they tend to overstate not understate Labour support.

The Election Data poll of Labour members meanwhile tells us that 51% of Labour members think Corbyn is doing well, against 47% who think he’s doing badly.

It feels to me as though the gulf between voters and Labour Party members is as wide as I’ve ever seen it. No wonder people like Stephen Hawking feel things are heading in a catastrophic direction.

Sometimes I have a nightmarish vision in which backing for Corbyn continues to fall until there are only 300,000 supporters left. Sadly, they are precisely the 300,000 Corbyn supporters who dominate the Party and keep him in office. Giving the Conservatives all the encouragement they need to break their pledges and decimate public services vital to us.

The police. The prison service. Education.

Above all the jewel in the crown, the service that matters so much to Hawking, the National Health Service.

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