While others hark back to the 1980s for a comparison with the recent travails within the Labour Party – or the Democratic Socialist Front as it will no doubt soon be called – I do prefer to remember more recent events. Back in the late 1990s, when Tony Blair was at the height of his powers, the perpetually unfunny tone-deaf socialist comedian Jeremy Hardy would compare the Conservative party to an elderly relative rendered incoherent by dementia. The party was heavily split as it debated whether Britain should join the euro or not. This schism prevented the party from gaining office for a decade. But it was a vital debate about this country’s economic and political future in the post-Cold War world. The Conservatives did the country a great service by this, at great harm to their electability.
The Labour Party chickened out on the euro debate. It simply did whatever Gordon Brown said. But then Lenin-style Democratic Centralism is a characteristic of left-wing regimes. And the upper reaches of the Labour Party at the time seemed to have more former Communists than appeared reasonable after the fall of the Berlin Wall and also looked to be intensely relaxed about this. Ex-communist Peter Mandelson no doubt used his experience of Marxist-Leninist party discipline to make sure that the media and thus the general public did not really notice.
The current split within Labour is a result of the final collapse of this Mandelson-inspired new order that kept the obvious ideological divisions within that so-called ‘broad church’ hidden from casual view, even though most professional commentators knew it was there, but chose not to share this fact with the average voter. Had there been leading Conservatives who had flirted in their past with the BNP then this would not have been the case, but then this is a limit to equality that even Labour should acknowledge.
For anyone with an interest in British politics, the identities of the left-wing players in the current drama hold no surprises. That some Labour MPs were dumb enough to nominate Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership simply when they had no intention of supporting him lays bare the mindlessly religious nature of socialism that should have no place in potentially governing the lives of millions and guarding the fate of a nation. It is to be hoped that these moron MPs are punished in the 2020 election should they dare to face the electorate. There was no rational reason to allow Corbyn anywhere near a responsible position in the party, given his incontinent quasi-Marxism and wilful serial disconnection from his party’s policies. But then this may be due to the fact that Labour have not actually been the party of opposition for five years.
While Ed Miliband – remember him? – may have enjoyed the title and rewards for being the Leader of Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition In The United Kingdom, his methods and policies indicated some kind of Marx-based influence. His performance in the House could be summed up with this video, while his electoral policies bore a close resemblance to this. Joking aside, for the last five years the true leader of the opposition was in fact the deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
Unlike Miliband minor, Clegg had real power to stifle Conservative ambition as government policy had to be passed by the ‘Quad’, a now-defunct constitutional development, being a committee of Nick Clegg, David Cameron, Danny Alexander and George Osborne. The irony was that during the half-decade, Clegg was popularly vilified for going into coalition. This was in fact a heroic action in the national interest at a time of global instability, for which Clegg and Alexander deserve high reward, and David Cameron should be generous enough to do this after a decent interval. That the Liberal Democrats, the natural party of coalition, have been punished in the polls is mainly due to the unsophistication of the average British voter. It’s possible that it was expected to go into coalition only with Labour. Nobody told Clegg.
For decades, the Liberal Democrats had benefited from anti-Tory tactical voting to win dozens of seats. In 2010, this anti-Tory party was – horror of horrors – in government with the Tories. Had the anti-Tory British voter supported Clegg at by-elections which Labour or the Tories normally would win, building up Liberal-Democrat seats, Clegg’s rising prestige would have increased his power in the Quad to drive policy. Clegg had real power that Ed Miliband could only dream of. Instead Clegg was punished at the polls by people who should have supported his ambition and ability to keep the Tory government in check.
It has become clear that the people that gave Liberal Democrat majorities in former Tory seats were actually Labour voters in seats where Labour was usually the third party. This explains in part why the Tories captured so many Liberal-Democrat seats in May. They were ones that had been shed by the Tories over the last 30 years due to tactical voting by Labour supporters. With the Liberal Democrats keeping the ‘hated Tories’ in power, these people returned to their former loyalties. Eastleigh, the former seat of convicted liar Chris Huhne, is a prime example of this. A Liberal Democrat seat since the bizarre death of Stephen Milligan in 1994, the Tory vote more or less held up to the levels it had in the 2010 election, while the Lib-Dem lead was redistributed amongst the other parties, the Labour vote rising by 40 per cent. Eastleigh is now a Conservative seat for the first time in 21 years. A regional party, the SNP, now has the right to ask more questions of David Cameron than the Lib-Dems every Wednesday afternoon. The party in Parliament has been cruelly kicked back to the days of Jeremy Thorpe. But that’s politics.
So here we are. David Cameron has a majority just in double figures, but he faces a main opposition party whose supporters are openly out of tune with voters and most of the party’s MPs. The second main opposition party is a nationalist entity that has an explicit policy of alienating most voters outside where it stands. The current plight of the Labour party has been largely recognised to be due to Ed Miliband’s incompetence in leading his party and his changing the rules to avoid union-rigged ballots of the kind that got him elected as leader to allow another, more open, kind of rigging.
It was not meant to be this way. It may be that Miliband simply bet his party’s future on the election falling into his lap. This may not have been unreasonable.
That the British economy has entered into a period of severe turbulence may seem a prize understatement. But history suggests that in such times the British electorate will tend to switch support between parties at successive elections. This was the case in the 1920s up to 1931, which saw leaders of all three major parties being Prime Minister at one time until an emergency coalition was established that held office, mutating into a wartime government of national unity, until 1945. This was also the case between 1964 and 1979.
Ed Miliband, hailing from a highly political family and consorting with Labour grandees – well, Tony Benn – from an early age, must have been aware of this. He could have had reasonable grounds for assuming that Cameron had as much survival potential in office as Edward Heath. Had the euro gone into meltdown, dragging Britain down the same sinkhole, or the wars in the Middle East triggered a massive energy price hike, Miliband’s strident anti-capitalist message may have resonated with a shell-shocked British public just recovering from the collapse of the British banking sector that wanted an end to successive recessions. Certainly the extended arm gestures of Ed Balls – remember him? – at Prime Minister’s Questions indicated some kind of desire. Events, dear boy – as Macmillan was fond of saying – could have done Cameron in.
Informed opinion has written off Labour in government until after Dennis Skinner dies, and he seems to be still going strong some 18 years after the age at which he said he would retire from his seat below the gangway. Labour is seen as being required to confront once again the consequences of being this ‘broad church’ such that one part of it supports strong business and defence while another is organised around a neo-communist polar opposite. It is a ridiculous state of affairs that in this day and age we see powerful elements of the Labour party and its backers openly support the establishment of what would be in effect a socialist one-party republic in the UK. The major unions are little more than pressure groups for this objective. And yet this aim is never made clear in Labour’s policy documents and manifestos. However, numerous Labour MPs and supporting organisations, including Britain’s largest trade union, use speeches and pamphlets to openly associate themselves with hard-left organisations that back this move.
What are these extreme leftists doing in a mainstream political party that forms the official opposition? Why have they not been kicked out to form yet another party of the Left as happened to bearded ex-MP Dave Nellist and his fellow travellers twenty-four years ago? Nellist went on to form the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition that got about 36,000 votes all told at the general election and a 100 per cent record in lost deposits. Surely the threat of expulsion into obscurity is a real one if Labour decided to use it, even if it failed when applied to Ken Livingstone, who benefited from a cult of personality. It does not appear possible to insert a cigarette paper between the views of Nellist and Corbyn and their views on razors are quite clear. Part of the socialist religion that informs Labour seems to make the party only capable of turning the other cheek after the first one has been slapped bright red by militants, and nothing more.
Labour now seems incapable of ridding itself of infestation by neo-communists. This is the deliberate dishonesty of mainstream socialism in Britain that uses the camouflage of community division, identity politics and the alleged travails of the supposedly vulnerable to conceal the fact that it is still in thrall to ideas that have been rejected by the peoples of countries where they took root with catastrophic consequences in the twentieth century. The reasons behind the rejection of Labour as a party of government in the 1980s and most of the 1990s are ignored. Labour has deliberate amnesia over how it enjoyed 13 years in power. It has performed a lobotomy on itself.
Labour’s remaining strategy is that David Cameron’s party steps on a landmine some time in the next five years. Two obvious ones right now are the expensively-postponed euro meltdown and the fall-out from the various 1980s sex scandals that have started to permeate the popular consciousness in the wake of the Savile revelations. Labour at present seems to have no other chance of gaining power.
So what kind of opposition should the Conservatives have, now that Labour is a Slowly Dying Party? There is a historical inevitability that the Conservatives will fall from office, even if that unfortunate event is being pushed further into the future by the increasing irrelevance of Labour. Nick Clegg provided better opposition to the Tories while being in coalition with them than Miliband and Balls ever did across the aisle. The best outcome may be periods in government for the Tories, with intervals of coalition government with the Tories as the major partner. The danger for any minor party contemplating coalition is punishment at the polls by former supporters who refuse to accept political reality. Labour’s lack of a coherent policy based on reality and a serious talent shortage following the purge of Blairites may preclude them from office. However, a coalition between Ukip and the Tories would be mutually beneficial, so long as the former Labour supporters who seem to make up Ukip’s emergence in Labour’s neglected power-base in England rid themselves of their tribal hatred of Conservatism in an age where such tribalism is obsolete and has been taken for granted by Labour for decades.