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Homeless

Comments Off on Homeless 16 June 2017

Homeless

Not for the first time, I am in despair at the state of British politics. Recent events confirm, surely beyond reasonable doubt, that the country is bereft of leadership at a national level and those waiting in the wings of opposition are little better.

Allow me to put my cards on the table. I am a card-carrying member of the Labour Party and have been since the late 1970s, apart from a 12 year absence when I resigned because of the Iraq invasion in 2003. I came back with little enthusiasm in 2015 other than to engage in the debate as to who would succeed Labour leader Ed Miliband. I had almost rejoined Labour five years before when David Miliband was favourite to succeed Gordon Brown but, thanks to Len McCluskey and the comrades, we got the wrong Miliband. I remained in exile.

I watched as David Cameron led what was in effect a right wing Tory government propped up by Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats. Cameron himself was a smooth political performer and he was rarely threatened by his opponents. When Miliband was defeated in 2015, Cameron had it easier still when his opponent turned out to be not Andy Burnham who I supported, but by career backbencher and serial rebel Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn rarely laid a glove on Cameron but the Tory PM was destroyed by the issue that has destroyed every Tory leader since Thatcher: Europe. By calling a referendum on the EU in order to manage internal party machinations, he steered Britain towards a disastrous exit from the EU and deservedly his own career went down with it.

As we know, Cameron was succeeded by Theresa May. The public knew little about her, other than the fact she had been home secretary for six years. She campaigned halfheartedly to remain in the EU but once Cameron self-destructed she moved swiftly to succeed him and to campaign for a hard Brexit. Her opponent across the despatch box was still Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn saw off a challenge to his leadership with a landslide majority and was unassailable. He too was a reluctant remainer and, like May, campaigned less than enthusiastically to remain in the EU which was the position of the Labour Party. To show his contempt for the EU, he even went on holiday halfway through the campaign. I was less than impressed when the country voted narrowly leave the EU.

Little more than a week ago, Theresa May lost her parliamentary majority in a snap election cynically called to capitalise on Corbyn’s supposed lack of popularity in the country and to win a landslide victory. We all know what happened. May’s limitations were ruthlessly exposed as she did little more than parrot stock phrases over and over again and avoid the public. Corbyn, by contrast, exceeded the lowly expectations and achieved a successful defeat for Labour. Corbyn, as the loser, was the winner and May, as the winner, was the loser. Are you still with me?

The tragic fire at Grenfell House has further diminished the PM in terms of her public response. I am one of the few, it seems, who felt May’s reason for not meeting the public near the disaster seemed reasonable. Her spokesperson said it was for “security reasons”. But today, the Queen and Prince William turned up and there didn’t appear to be any security reasons at all. I will not try to extract political capital out of May’s absence but the more I think about it, the bigger an error it seems to be.

So, May is diminished. She now leads a coalition of chaos with the DUP and I cannot see her lasting long. But by the same token, I see no obvious successor other than, perhaps, Amber Rudd. Boris Johnson has turned out to be an opportunist and a shyster, no one seriously sees the likes of Liam Fox or Michael Gove as potential prime ministers; the cupboard in the Tory Party is empty. But what of Labour?

Jeremy Corbyn is master of all he surveys. His astonishing victory defeat has cemented him as Labour leader for as long as he wants to be leader. The hard left tightens its grip on the levers of power in the party. Corbyn himself even looks and sounds like a potential prime minister on occasions, not least because of his authenticity to an electorate tired of spin. However, I have not changed my mind about Corbyn the man. For all his success, his authenticity and his affability, I still see him as a rebellious backbencher with a lot of bad ideas. More than that, I don’t see him as a strong leader. I don’t really see him as a leader at all. And when it comes to the EU, Corbyn makes me as angry as May. Perhaps more so.

Brexit is the big issue of our generation. May has shown herself as out of her depth and completely incapable of negotiating for Britain, not least because her government does not have the slightest idea of what it is negotiating for but Corbyn and Labour spent seven weeks in the election campaign saying nothing at all about Europe. Worse, Labour’s position on Europe, it’s support for a hard Brexit leaving the single market is little different to May’s. To summarise, May has no idea what she wants bar a hard Brexit and Corbyn has no idea what he wants bar a hard Brexit. Great. I stayed with Labour despite Corbyn increasing his support in the party, but despite the improved election result it’s nearly time to go. I remain a remoaner and if that can’t be achieved, I want the softest of soft Brexits, basically like Norway.

The election result has unleashed something very different in our country, which has been amplified by the reaction to the Grenfell House disaster. The country, or at least significant parts of it, demands that politicians listen to the people and acts to make the country more equal and fairer whereas I suspect they will get little more than gestures and platitudes. This will not go away. The genie is out of the bottle.

I see our people as lions led by donkeys and with few exceptions that’s how things have always been. The events of recent weeks have done little to change the narrative and perhaps they have confirmed my worst fears, leaving me political homeless.

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