8th August 2016
–By Keith Nieland-
Battle Rages While The Skylarks Sing
It is high Summer. Skylarks sing merrily high above the newly harvested fields. Down by the seaside waves gently lap ashore while children play happily in the surf. Meanwhile, in the world of politics, battle rages. In the Labour Party a winner-takes-all struggle is on with no quarter asked or given. The very future of the party is at stake as Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith slug it out. This is a fight not just for the heart and soul of the party but its kidneys, liver and backbone as well! I have been following the election on social media and have found it to be a deeply distressing pastime and best avoided. Seeing Owen Smith portrayed as a goose-stepping Nazi because he had the temerity to have once worked in the private sector, and for a drug company at that, was enough for me. I also took a peek at the social media accounts of some of the female MPs that have spoken out to see comments that do not belong in a civilised society. I just wonder about the authors of all this invective. Who are these people? Have I sat next to one on the train? Why do their parents let them out?
Nobody should be surprised at Owen Smith’s challenge for the leadership. If you elect as leader of a political party a person who in over 30 years in Parliament has never shown the slightest interest in leadership or responsibility, and who set a new standard in disloyalty by voting against his own party over 500 times, disaster is bound to follow. If you add in his various plots to remove previous leaders and the hypocrisy of happily being re-elected three times on the manifesto of Tony Blair, a man Corbyn would quite like to see in jail, then you hardly start in the job with a well of goodwill.
If I have learnt nothing else from Twitter and Facebook I now know that there is a plot to remove Corbyn from the leadership which I understand MI5 and the mainstream media are orchestrating. The polls should be ignored because they are commissioned, interpreted and published by Tories. I watched one of Jeremy Corbyn’s speeches on Sunday to learn that he has no intention of talking to the main stream media because they do not like him. Watching a politician in full victim mode is a pitiful sight. Twitter also tells me Corbyn is the most popular politician in the country. A Momentum group gleefully published that the polls must be wrong as the author had never met a Tory. My answer must be “you need to get out more”.
All this would be highly amusing if it were not so serious. The campaign is a wonderful example of the post-evidence society in full swing. Believe what you want, portray yourself as a victim if anybody should say the slightest thing against you and avoid a proper debate with your rivals. I half expect Donald Trump to appear at one of Jeremy Corbyn’s rallies – after all they are both fans of Putin apparently and think we should not be in the EU. They both think the main stream media has it in for them and could be the victims of rigged elections.
As somebody who lives well away from any of the locations for the leadership hustings I would have liked to have seen both more hustings and at least one of them on television. By all reports Corbyn has killed off any chance of either of these happening. I guess he must be too busy going around the country saying the same thing to rally after rally whilst avoiding any questions.
Meanwhile over at the Owen Smith campaign it is all a bit boring. Boring in the sense that Smith is travelling around the county doing traditional things like delivering detailed plans that turn slogans into action and happily taking questions from anybody who cares to ask.
In reality Smith has a mountain to climb. He was a not very well known backbencher until recently so has a recognition challenge to overcome, plus Corbyn remains very popular with vast sections of the party. Smith’s strategy has been quite clever in that he believes in much of Corbyn’s manifesto but talks about plans to take that beyond mere slogans into deliverable action plans.
My suspicion is that Smith may not expect to win outright but is seeking to win amongst full members of the party leaving Corbyn’s victory dependent on registered supporters. This would stop Corbyn bragging about his mandate, embolden MPs even further and make life tricky for Corbyn at September’s party conference.
For me it is vital either Owen Smith wins or is able to severely wound Jeremy Corbyn and I will explain why. In a first past the post electoral system you have to have broad based parties to win power. Therefore, the right wing of the Tory party has more in common with UKIP than it does with the left wing of its own party which in turn has more in common with the right wing of the Labour party which in turn has little in common with its own left wing which has more in common with the Green party. However, MPs in both main parties realise that to gain power and be able to achieve anything they must compromise. Hence you find Kenneth Clarke and Liam Fox in the same party.
I do not believe Jeremy Corbyn signs up to this compromise system of government. He wants to see politics moved more on to the streets with a Labour party permanently positioned well to the left. After all the social movement he talks about can only mean demonstrations, rallies, placard waving, marches and petitions. Issues of the day would be settled on the streets and not on the green benches of the House of Commons.
The problem with this is that there is not a shred of evidence that voters want this change. The majority of voters expect their government to get on with it and they will deliver a judgement every 5 years. A system of representative democracy is well embedded in the British psyche. If UK voters were up for revolution why did they vote the Tories into power in May 2015? A vote to leave the EU is as near to revolution as we are likely to come. Away from the conspiracy theorists Corbyn’s poll ratings are just awful – just take a look at the @BritainElects twitter account. Outside his bubble of self-adoration voters do not want Corbyn or his politics and if he remains around they will take their revenge on the Labour party at the next general election.
At least a Owen Smith leadership would give Labour a chance. He would unite the party in Parliament, make use of all the talent on the backbenches, would embrace the necessary compromise the first past the post system demands and improve the party’s performance at PMQs. He is articulate, and has a spark and personality sadly lacking in Corbyn.
If the skylarks are not to sing above a Tory England for decades to come those voting in a few weeks’ time need to think very carefully about the choice they make.