Soon, later this year, I suspect, there will be a general election. It will be like no other in my lifetime. The first general election in which I voted took place in 1979. I had been a Labour Party member for a few years when it came along and had been told by the local activists, who were, shall we say, from the hard left, that Labour would demolish the Conservatives, led by one Margaret Thatcher. We know what happened next.
As Thatcher lurched to the right, Labour lurched to the left. I still stuck with Labour because I was convinced there would be a way back for mainstream members. In 1983, Labour went to the polls with a manifesto described by Gerald Kaufman MP as “the longest suicide note in history” and was obliterated. My MP, Tony Benn was one of the architects of that disastrous manifesto, and the night before the election I attended a public meeting where he spoke along with Bill Owen, Compo from Last of the Summer Wine. It was bonkers
Both Benn and Owen announced Labour were going to win the election, which flew in the face of both the opinion polls and everything we were hearing on the doorstep. The audience rose to its feet as one, as if they had heard from the messiah. As Benn lost his seat in the Thatcher landslide, I realised what I already knew: that Benn was a simplistic dreamer who had a nice line in slogans and rhetoric. And he wasn’t the kindly old uncle that the media later painted him as in old age.
I knew long before 1983 that Labour could only win if it governed from somewhere between the centre ground and the mainstream left. Not only did I firmly believe that: my political views matured so I understand that the aspirations of the working and middle classes needed to be respected, that people wanted to get on and better themselves in their jobs and lives. Neil Kinnock, who succeeded Michael Foot as Labour leader, got that too and started the long journey to make Labour electable. It took until 1997 and the election of Tony Blair’s New Labour to make it all happen.
Fast forward to 2019 and Labour is actually in a far worse place than it was in 1983. Back then, it was at least possible to save Labour. The machinery was in the hands of more moderate people, including some major trade unions. No more. Labour has gone, probably forever. And soon it will be wiped out at the polls.
Jeremy Corbyn is, nominally at least, Labour’s leader. He was elected by accident when moderate MPs nominated him to stand as a way if widening the debate in the leadership ballot. Somehow, his reheated Bennism of the 1980s was presented as something new, which it definitely wasn’t and isn’t. He became leader and the hard left took total control of the party.
In no way is Corbyn a real leader. He’s an elderly career backbencher who has spent his political life on the far left fringes, mixing with various revolutionaries and terrorists. He was disloyal, having voted against Labour more often than David Cameron and he has never had an original idea in his life. Soon, he will lead Labour into an election, as he did in 2017.
Labour lost in 2017 but not by as much as people expected them to. Corbyn’s opponent Theresa May ran the worst election campaign in living memory, managing somehow to lose her own majority. She stayed in office by bribing the Ulster Unionists to support her. As with most Tory leaders, Europe in general and Brexit in particular did for her. 2019 will be very different.
Boris Johnson wants to call an election for 12 December. Whether he gets his way or not, it doesn’t matter. If Corbyn sticks around, I don’t see how Johnson can fail to gain a big majority whenever it does happen, unless Nigel Farage’s so called Brexit party stands against Tory candidates. Johnson’s campaign will be run by his senior advisor Dominic Cummings who believes in destroying the things he doesn’t agree with and replacing those things with stuff he does believe in. (Civil Servants will shudder when they find out the fate in store for them if Cummings is still there in a Johnson government.)
I lent my vote to Labour in 2017. Not anymore. I cannot support Corbyn, with his wretched terrorist supporting past and his laissez faire tolerance of anti-Semitism which has seen Jewish MPs hounded out of the Labour Party and has seen polls suggesting that 93% of Jews could not vote for a party led by Corbyn. I am not wedded to the doctrine of New Labour – I believe Tony Blair could and should have gone further in terms of fairness and equality, but his was still, by a country mile, the best government in my life – but I do believe Labour must be a broad church and that it simply must embrace the centre ground if it is to win. It is about eliminating poverty and making the country fairer and it is also about aspiration, which should not be the sole preserve of the better off.
Johnson’s post Brexit government will be a disaster for Britain. All the things we hold dear will be up for grabs, like access to healthcare that is free at the point of delivery and the very basic employment rights we still enjoy, like holidays and maternity leave. A low tax, small state economy for the few not the many awaits us.
For the followers of Corbyn, the thing that matters is the survival of the so called Corbyn project. A heavy defeat at the election will not be enough to deflect the comrades from their main aim which is the control of the people’s party. Political purity, you see, is everything.
At least with a large Tory majority, the likes of Johnson will have to own the sorry consequences of a hard Brexit. He certainly won’t be able to blame those horrible Europeans or the remoaners. As Britain’s long decline accelerates, Johnson’s buffoon act will not be enough to save him from the anger that I believe will build when people realise they’ve been had. But with Labour in the wilderness, the likelihood is that the Tories will regenerate, elect a new leader and blame those who went before for all our troubles. Corbyn, or son or daughter of Corbyn’s hard left politics, will make things worse, not better. If there is a party left for them to lead.