Much to the almost certain consternation of Harriet Harman, forty-eight labour MPs did the honourable thing by voting against the Tories’ welfare reform legislation. As I alluded to previously, Harman’s concession to the Tories was predicated on the belief that Labour has to move right in order to be electable.
Given the Liberal Democrat’s close ideological proximity to the Tories during their power sharing term, and their subsequent virtual demise following the last election, the strategic move by Harman and the party hierarchy is clearly a calculable risk.
Harman’s assumption appears to be that there is no longer any more political and electoral traction to be gained by appealing to a diminishing band of traditional left wing voters. But the question is, are the abandoned merely lying dormant and waiting to be awoken from their slumber by a parliamentary opposition worthy of the name?
If we accept that the class structure remains in tact and that the real life experiences of the vast majority in the country will be made worse by the impending cuts, then rationally the answer to the question is they will at some point make their voice heard. But neither Harman or any of the Blairites competing for the leadership will be the catalyst.
In essence, there is no fundamental difference between the people of England and the people of Scotland. And yet, with the exception of a solitary seat, the latter wiped out from power a pro-austerity party, while the opposite was true for the former.
Outside the relatively small band of Labour Party dissenters, the opposition to benefit cuts in England will come from the SNP, Plaid and the Greens. The dominance of the SNP in Scotland and the popularity of both Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon, puts the lie to many of the claims in the corporate media that you have to be right wing to win elections. The forthcoming labour leadership battle is likely to bring this myth into even more of a sharper focus.
The reality is the people of England are inherently no more right wing than the people of Scotland. But the media who marginalize, ridicule and smear those with left wing views, most certainly are. So it’s not a question of their being no appetite for left wing views among the public, rather, the issue is one in which a right wing consensus is arrived at between the political establishment and the media. This is a policy that works.
We can expect greater media vilification of Corbyn as his campaign gains momentum in the coming period. The notion that a singular right wing ideological elite are first and foremost motivated by an overriding quest for the reins of power, has been addressed by former UK Ambassador, Craig Murray.
As Murray contends, persuasively, not only are the supposed parameters between left and right upon which electoral battles are fought based largely on an illusion, but as evidenced by successively low electoral turnouts, there is little enthusiasm for their leaders either.
Blair may of been the exception, but as Murray points out, his popularity was predicated on a set of left-wing policies outlined in his manifesto that he subsequently u-turned on once gaining power. As people discovered that New Labour were “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich”, to quote Mandelson, their popular support plummeted. “The great communicator” Blair for 90% of his Prime Ministership was no more popular than David Cameron is now. 79% of the electorate did not vote for him by his third election.
Nevertheless, since Blair’s election victory in 1997, successive Tory-lite labour strategists have appeared to have taken the view that the preferred direction of travel for the party is that which is undertaken by their opponent. This ignores the fact that this ‘race to the bottom’ is in nobody’s interests other than the narrow careerist and financial ones of those at the top. And that, as far as Harman is concerned, is clearly the crux of the matter.
Increasingly, the political battle lines are being drawn, not between the ruling party and the opposition, but between the ruling party, opposition and the rest of us. I don’t remember a time when the disconnect between the political establishment and the people has been greater. For the vast majority of the political establishment and their paymasters in the corporate media, they really are all in it together. But that doesn’t mean that left wing views are unelectable as Nicola Sturgeon has shown. Maybe Jeremy will become England’s Nicola. We need him.