23rd November, 2015
Oldham and beyond – Can Labour win again?
Much has been written and said about the current woes of the Labour Party. In ten days time a by election test looms in the ‘safe’ Labour seat of Oldham West and Royton, a seat that in ordinary circumstances Labour would hold easily. But these aren’t ordinary circumstances and post mortem notes setting out the cause of the death of the Labour Party are being penned.
The content of the notes vary, dependent on who you blame for the current problems.
For supporters of Jeremy Corbyn any defeat or collapse in the Labour majority will be blamed on what they see as the enemy within and of course the fact that our candidate wasn’t left wing enough. A quick look on Twitter already shows a liking for the latter tactic.
For those who blame Jeremy Corbyn for the current woes any defeat or collapse in the Labour vote is obviously the result of his chaotic leadership and embarrassing public statements.
But the Labour Party has to get over the current squabbles and that has to happen either with or without Jeremy Corbyn. But Jeremy is the key to all of this. He has to understand that he cannot muse or suggest things when being interviewed. He cannot use TV news interviews to ‘think out loud’. He has to show leadership, stick to his briefings and to policy.
Why? Because while he is musing and thinking out loud people throughout the UK are scared about cuts to the tax credits they depend on. They are worried about cuts to policing at a time when they are concerned about the safety and the security of the United Kingdom.
Every time sensible and responsible opposition is called for to argue against Government policy or support them when necessary, the Labour Party is plunged into chaos by either an unforced error requiring days of clarification or an irresponsible comment leading to yet more, very public and incredibly damaging rows.
So is there a way forward? A way to save the Labour Party?
An immediate quick win for the leader would be to revisit the speech he made in 2013 on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq war when he said:
“On something so fundamental as the deployment of armed forces, a free vote is the right thing to do. Many have said it is easy to send other people’s sons and daughters off to die and then hide behind a veneer of party loyalty, but the issue is much bigger than that.”
By offering a free vote he can both shut down his critics and show that he understands the concerns people have about his inconsistency on issues.
Then on the matter of Trident renewal he should adhere to Party policy until the much talked about review has been undertaken. Of course he can hold his own views but in the new politics he promised he should be championing Party policy not going on TV campaigning against it.
But it can’t be all about Jeremy. There are two sides to every argument.
To his critics I say this: if he allows a free vote on Syria, which incidentally is also supported by his shadow chancellor, you must welcome it. You must publicly applaud him. You should use your media interviews to show that support.
To MPs who have weekly columns in national newspapers, please, in the run up to the by election use your columns to make the positive case for a fantastic candidate. Make the case for Labour policy and if you can’t say anything good about Jeremy Corbyn then don’t say anything – try it! You might find that it helps us retain the seat.
So my plea is to unite around issues that we can agree on. Stop the silly arguments. When interviewed stick to policy but above all understand that we, the voters, want to hear that you are truly on our side. We don’t want to hear anguished groans and points of law from our politicians when someone who beheads aid workers and journalists is killed by a drone.
Now on to the difficult bit; there is another group responsible for damaging the general image of the Party: the members, supporters (three quid and others) and they need to step back and think about their behaviour. Calling Labour MPs “tory lite or red tories” has to stop as does the labelling of all Corbyn supporters as “trots”.
And stop telling Mike Gapes MP to F*** to the tories – he isn’t going anywhere and it makes you look a bit of a prat.
Some of those those you are labelling have been members under Foot, Kinnock, Smith, Beckett, Blair, Brown, Miliband, Harman and now Corbyn, or perhaps longer. The abuse needs to stop and stop now!
The 2020 General Election is still ours to win, but a picture is already being painted and unless we can work through our current difficulties the finished work could well be called ‘The End’
The country is crying out for a responsible opposition.
Whether the Labour Party survives to provide that opposition remains to be seen.
If Labour doesn’t get over its current “problems” the big losers won’t be the MPs who lose their seats. It won’t be the councillors who see their group reduced to a rump. It will be those in real need of change. Those who are forced to rely on food banks; those who because of cuts to tax credits won’t be able to pay their rent.
So the next time there is an unforced error by Jeremy Corbyn or an embarrassing statement that needs clarifying, before you start ranting and calling people names, try and understand why people are so angry. It is because they know every error and careless statement takes us a step further away from government and that is a tragedy for those who need us most and it is for them we need to learn to win again.
So it isn’t a question of can Labour win again it is that they must, but at the moment it appears a long way off.
By Tim C
Please note: articles and posts on ‘Middle Vision’ reflect the views of the individual authors and not of all involved in ‘Middle Vision’