Labour is in trouble – its farcical leadership race shows that

labour leadership contenders 2

Less than three months into a long, drawn out Labour leadership contest, you’d be forgiven for sympathising with the Conservatives’ election message that the Labour Party equates one thing: chaos. One of my personally favourite statements about the whole debacle was a tweet from @ChrisDeerin, who asked if someone could switch the Labour Party off and then on again (to which @GoldKonig responded that simply switching them off would suffice).

This was all supposed to be an expansive process of looking into those personalities vying for Labour leadership, giving them maximum publicity so that Labour could ‘reach out’ to those vast swathes of the general public, millions of whom positively voted against their agenda for chaos on May 7th. Rather like the 2005 Conservative leadership race, it was a grand attempt to engage the public with the party, and get the electorate at whole to look into options for its future. But in contrast to the Conservative leadership race a decade ago, Labour’s equivalent never quite had the personalities or potential to deliver; looking into options for Labour’s future, the party is having a nervous breakdown as the public looks on in astonishment.

Back in 2005, the Conservative race comprised of David Davis, with cross-party credibility as a political bruiser who at the time had weight behind his punch; Ken Clarke, previously the Chancellor who, for all his eurofanatisism, bequeathed to New Labour the strongest economic foundations any government has ever inherited; Sir Malcolm Rifkind who, despite more recent negative stories, was at the time a highly respected and capable politician and international statesman; Dr Liam Fox, a credible and persuasive bulwark of the party’s Right; and David Cameron, a young, fresh talent who excited public imagination and went on to lead the party back to government, winning a higher share of the vote in his second election being leader of the party than in his first.

In contrast, Labour have four candidates whose collective and individual magnetism appears to be having the opposite effect, repelling potential voters even after this, a particularly sour electoral failure for the party.

First, we have Andy Burnham, the Health Secretary who presided over deaths and disaster at Mid-Staffordshire Hospital, and who has incredulously attacked Conservatives for ‘privatising the NHS’ after having himself tendered to market the largest single transferal of NHS assets into private hands in the organisation’s history. Secondly, there is Yvette Cooper, the other dull, “everything was fine under Brown and Miliband – the public are wrong” candidate, whose elfish charm fails to inspire the hearts of Labour supporters, let alone the general public. There is Liz Kendall, whose naïve political manoeuvres and mannerisms thus far fail to arouse a belief that she is the new ‘heir to Blair’, a politician whose political shapeshifting and Machiavellianism led Labour to their only electoral successes in the last four decades. And then there is Jeremy Corbyn, whose parliamentary nominators have publically regretted their erstwhile backing for his candidacy after having been called ‘morons’ by an advisor to Labour’s erstwhile government. Corbyn’s clapped out, statist politics died off, really, with the collapse of the Berlin Wall – a miserable epitaph to the failed and fatal formula of socialism that had once held this nation back from its potential, as well as plummeting half the world into economic, cultural, and social darkness. And yet still, this final obscure candidate has taken the lead in so many private polls and constituency party nominations.

From this, there are two things that can be said: firstly, the Parliamentary Labour Party obviously lacks any girth of talent, and has been left with a ‘least worst’ shortlist. That shortlist comprises of Andy and Yvette – more of the same in terms of recent themes and failures – Liz, lacking in political credibility to drag the party kicking and screaming back towards the centre ground, and Jez, a clapped out socialist who is to the left of Michael Foot, Labour’s most catastrophically out-of-touch leader, possible ever.

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Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, this illustrates that the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) had underestimated quite how barmy those Labour supporters who remain aboard the Red Titanic have become. MPs have admitted to supporting Corbyn’s candidacy in order to help the party have a debate, without truly hoping he becomes leader. Margaret Beckett, who once stood in as leader of the party following John Smith’s death, has publically come out as regretting nominating the socialist CND-er – she, and other nominators, clearly didn’t believe that their membership would be so unwise as to vote for this odd breed of 1970s soviet socialism, and are regretting having given that option to them. But they are.

Rather than being the ‘debate-worthy’ academic inclusion to procedures envisaged by Labour’s elite, Corbyn has consistently claimed the support of vast swathes of Labour’s loony stormtroopers. In late July, a leaked private poll showed Corbyn claiming 42 per cent of first preference votes to Yvette Cooper’s second place on 22.5 per cent. Out of all Labour Constituency Parties, Corbyn was endorsed by 162 with Cooper, again, coming second with 121. The PLP is now concentrated on withdrawing shadow cabinet members’ involvement in the event of a Corbyn victory, and is busily infighting with the party at large.

Whoever wins the leadership contest, Labour is in trouble. A process that was designed to include the public has left them in stunned silence as the party publically rips itself apart, furthering the impression that it is not currently a potential party of power, and more of an estranged and conflicting pressure group whose clients consist of middle class students, public sector managers, and the inhabitants of Benefit Streets across the land. While the PLP glibly debates between the slender merits of Blairism, Brownism, and Milibandism (I really don’t think the last ‘ism’ was ever going to gain traction), the membership at large has moved further back, so enraged by so-called austerity – at a time when overall government spending has actually increased – and so obsessed by the idea that we are in the grips of some neoliberal conspiracy to slash their beloved state benefits, that they are left debating between Kinnock, Foot, Che Guevara and Stalin. Wolfie Smith and the Tooting Popular Front would be proud of their Labour Constituency Party comrades in the leafy, Three Counties market town of Bedford, for instance, who nominated the self-styled seventies socialist, Corbyn, for leadership of the party. Everyone else just thinks they’re bonkers.

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Labour needs to realise that they are the only group of people left believing this claptrap, and that the electorate backed the Conservatives’ more sensible approach already in 2015. The truth is that government spending as a proportion of gross domestic product (GDP) is currently still higher than at any point under New Labour pre-crisis levels, and it is around £100 billion higher than it was in 2010. Whilst the Conservatives are trying to eliminate our deficit, the idea that we are going through some sort of stone age of welfare destruction is plainly ludicrous, and people know it. The idea that we have suffered a tidal wave of ‘austerity’ is incredible.

Furthermore, the idea that we are in the midst of a neoliberal conspiracy is also plainly wrong. The theory goes that, “in 1979, Margaret Thatcher set about liberalising the financial services sector and slashing the state; the recent financial crisis was caused by the former and justifies furthering the latter”. It’s wrong. Firstly, the deregulation mantra is little more than a myth. Thatcher presided over a government that actually illegalised insider trading, introduced regulation of the life insurance industry after a century of next to no regulation whatsoever, introduced bank deposit insurance, regulated the sale of insurance and investment products for the first time ever, and oversaw the first ever regulation of UK bank capital under Basel I, agreed during that Conservative government. The central tenet for which Thatcher was attacked was her government’s commitment to controlling money supply in the economy as a key priority. It was a Labour government under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown that saw the money multiplier in the financial services sector rise to over £30 for every £1 put in after having introduced incentives for banks to lend unsustainably from the 1990s onwards – the money multiplier almost doubled under their tenure. The same people who attacked the Thatcher governments for keeping too tight a control over money supply are now claiming that money gushed too freely due to those governments: they were wrong then, and they are wrong now.

Neither Thatcher, Major nor Cameron would ever have taken Britain into the most recent global financial crisis with a larger budget deficit than that which we had coming out of the previous crisis. But Labour did. During a recession, economists expect the deficit to increase via automatic stabilisers as tax receipts diminish and spending increases. Despite that, the reason for cutbacks in some elements of spending is because Labour governments accrued a mammoth deficit, larger going into 2007/2008 after years of growth than that in the early 1990s, coming out of a global crisis. We were on track to get to Greek levels of deficit disaster in 2010, and people know in their bones that this would have been catastrophic for Britain.

The Labour membership is wrong about their diagnosis of Britain’s woes, and so they are failing to provide the prognosis. The PLP is slightly closer to reality (although still a fair mile off), and so they are more aware of the problems that lie ahead for them in terms of definition of strategy and message – given the lack of talent, no-one appears to have stepped forward to offer to do that for them and to bring the membership with him or her.

Until Labour gets real about the problems they caused, and the disastrous consequences of the alternative to what is actually quite a relaxed deficit reduction programme under this government, they cannot, will not, and should not be trusted with a single penny of taxpayers’ money. Perhaps someone will have to switch the Labour party off and on again to achieve this. Or maybe their problem is too ingrained and permanent. As Hayek said: “if socialists understood economics, they wouldn’t be socialist.” The British people know in their bones that any breed of socialism would be disastrous for Britain, and most erstwhile moderate Labour voters know in their heads that the heydays of picket lines, trade union hegemony, state ownership of industry, and limitless spending are inconsistent with the needs of a modern world and aspirant population. If the die-hard lot that remains as the Labour party membership cannot feel in their hearts that 1980s-style, opposition-based politics is internally cacophonous and jarring with modern Britain, then perhaps Blair – their only leader to have won an election in over 40 years – is right: they will need a transplant. Whoever wins, Labour is in trouble.

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We won the election; now to win the cultural battle – why in 2020, it should be Proud Tories and Shy Labour

david cameron

It is 2015 and David Cameron has been returned as Prime Minister, with the Conservatives securing a majority of seats in Parliament. Despite all the gloomy polls; despite the threat of UKIP splitting our vote; despite an electoral disaster in 2010 for Labour where ‘things could only get better’ for them; despite woefully uneven constituency sizes that favour Labour’s fortunes; we won! The British people came out in their swathes to back our party and our plan for Britain to continue with the recovery and enjoy the fruits of our country’s hard work to turn the corner in recent years.

It is an important moment for our party. Many of us had feared we were fighting an unwinnable battle. Many of us wanted Cameron to change course to attract UKIP voters back to the fold; many of us wanted grand gestures and became frustrated with all those odds against our return to government.

Those concerns were proved wrong; Cameron was proved right. As with the wets who wanted Thatcher to change course in the early-80s, dangerous friction had occurred on several occasions. But as with 1983, the British people stepped up to the plate in May and saved our country from the calamity that would have ensued from a hopelessly out-of-touch, deranged, and oblivious Labour Party being anywhere near the levers of government.

The only times Labour has won elections for decades is when they have pursued a Conservative-looking agenda, sympathetic to the concerns of an aspirational, proud nation whose peoples’ instincts are generally conservative. It is amazing to think that Labour hasn’t won a single general election in over forty years for which Tony Blair was not their leader.

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It is now time for the broader family of conservatives to unite around Cameron’s leadership and the Conservative Party’s battle to win the hearts and minds of modern Britain. Labour pursued a poisonously envy-fuelled campaign directed at securing the 35% of the vote needed for them to get back into government. We fought a battle across 100% of Britain to win the backing of people from all walks of life who had a common belief in Britain’s future, and who had the courage to secure it. We won that battle, and Britain will benefit from the result.

Having finally secured another majority, it is now our key political task to press ahead and ensure that we reverse the phenomenon of ‘shy Tories’, who end up backing us in the booth but fail to admit their allegiance publically. That way, more people will come to the fold – we will reach out to more voters and more of Britain. People should be ashamed to have supported Labour, not the Conservatives. Our records are starkly different, and our record is just so much better.

Going two centuries back, it was a Conservative, William Wilberforce, who led the abolishment of slavery in Britain. It was a Conservative, Benjamin Disraeli, who extended the vote to working men, and Conservatives in power who opened the vote to women and then equalised the voting age for women. It was a Conservative, Winston Churchill, who led the defence of common civilisation against barbaric fascism, liberating millions from the tyranny of Nazism. It was a Conservative, Harold MacMillan, who introduced the concept of a property owning democracy, and another Conservative, Margaret Thatcher, who realised that dream, extending the right to own your own house to people who had never dared dream of such a privilege. She went on to help end the Cold War, freeing millions of the world’s most oppressed from the clutches of Soviet oppression after years of Labour’s appeasement and sometimes reverence of this failed and miserable human experiment. We have produced the first female Prime Minister and the first British Asian Secretary of State; Labour has produced neither.

Over the last five years, we have helped with the creation of some 2 million jobs, enhancing self-worth and opportunity for some of the most vulnerable in our society. We have raised the income tax threshold so that low-and-middle-income earners pay no tax whatsoever on over £10,000 of their earnings. We have gained greater control over public finances, ensuring that families were spared from the desperate desolation that would have followed from Labour’s woeful mismanagement of the country’s finances in preceding years. We have opened up choice and raised standards in state-sponsored education, ensuring that not having enough money doesn’t necessarily preclude you from providing a better start in life for your child.

On the other hand, Labour left this country in a ruinous mess, harming peoples’ lives. We were on track to have a larger deficit than that of Greece’s under Labour; small businesses and families had been bankrupted by their economic ineptitude. Sudden public spending savings that had to be found without the preparation of time after years of Labour’s splurging of taxpayers’ money harmed some of the weakest and most vulnerable in our society. They cut the NHS in Wales, destroying services in that area of the UK; they destroyed Britain’s ability to compete in the world and to create more jobs for the unemployed; they stuck perfectly able people onto the drip of state dependency, sapping the life out of communities and families even before the economy turned sour under their stewardship.

If anyone should be ashamed of their record, it must be Labour, which has left this country with higher unemployment and a harmful economic climate every single time they have left office.

In the wake of the Conservatives’ electoral victory, it was so-called ‘anti-Tory protestors’ who disgracefully defaced a war memorial to the dead women of the Second World War. These people should be publically held to account, and the smug self-righteousness of this malicious part of the modern British Left should be exposed for what it is.

memorial tory scum

If the likes of Russell Brand and Eddie Izzard spent more of their time coming out in outrage against this type of appalling behaviour and less time making vague and imprecise attacks against ‘the Tories’, how much more the majority of us might respect them when they sincerely try to enter the political stage and attempt to argue a point.

A politics based on envy is not inclusive. A class-based politics built from hatred is not pleasant. A politics propped up by economic insanity is not benign.

Next time our country goes to the polls, frankly, I hope there aren’t any Labour supporters left. And I believe that those who are left would have every reason to be shy. Next time, I hope the Conservatives will have proved our worth to the British people, and that we will be talking about proud, not shy, Tories. We have just won the election; now we should aim to re-win the cultural battle, bringing the British people on side in an open, positive way.

Labour’s inept ‘zero hour contract’ policy is another reminder: if you thought things were bad under Gordon Brown, you ain’t seen nothing yet

Labour’s latest back-of-a-napkin policy is to compel companies to fully hire workers on regular hours after twelve weeks of ‘zero hour’ contractual work. It stinks of Labour’s woeful ignorance of how business and the economy works. They have no understanding of markets and, short of a Marxist revolution and the overturning of Western civilisation, this can only possibly have disastrous consequences for working people.

Back in 1997, the British people elected a ‘reformed’ Labourite, Tony Blair, who had come to accept that – in order to better peoples’ lot across society – you have to work with the markets, not against them. Now, in 2015, Ed Miliband and Ed Balls seem to present an alternative of ineptitude and turmoil for the British economy.

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The key problem with this policy is that a lot of employers will simply rearrange their handling of zero hour contractual employment to avoid unnecessary cost. Like most people in society, they won’t gleefully choose to pay more or be constrained more than they have to – that’s how a market works; choice is one of the many aspects of freedom.

If forced to pay a great deal more to the government after twelve weeks, a lot of employers will terminate those zero hour contracts after eleven weeks. Simple. That means that people who would otherwise be working on zero hour contracts will not be working at all – they will be poorer. It also means that people (such as students, young parents, and close-to-retirement workers) who prefer the flexibility of zero hour contracts will no longer be able to work within that parameter of flexibility under a Labour government – they will be poorer and less free to make their own choices.

Whatever ‘good intentions’ the Labour leadership might have (if they do, which is far from certain), this is a policy that attacks jobs, workers, and some of the very poorest people in Britain. And it does so because Labour has ditched Blair’s guise of a reformed ‘Third Way’ in politics, and has reverted to full-blooded, unreconstructed state socialism – a crackpot set of ideas that has only ever harmed workers and the poorest in our communities.

As the son of someone currently on a zero hour contract, I don’t believe that every person on them is an exploited surf being crushed by the system. A lot of them are people who have found themselves in a situation where this is preferable to the alternative, or even their first preference. Labour’s universal loathing of more flexible employment is out of touch with reality.

But it doesn’t stop at this policy. Labour’s promise to ‘freeze’ energy bills somewhat backfired when energy costs came down and so customers received cuts in their energy bills. If those previous higher prices had actually been frozen – as was the Labour mantra – we’d all now be paying artificially higher energy bills; even higher than the energy companies wanted to charge us. It was madness to promise a freeze without any knowledge of how the markets would perform in the next year – it comes from a deep-seated ignorance of how the economy works and a wilful decision to reject reality and revert to socialist dogma.

Along with a whole ream of current Labour policies, these are examples of how out of touch with reality the Labour party really is.

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Our economy is starting to look a lot healthier after a prolonged period of gloom following the economic crash of 2007. We now have more people in work than ever before, the highest growing economy in the developed world, and the deficit has been halved since 2010. Some would like to have gone further with the deficit reduction programme, and there is plenty to debate about what is best for the British economy in the next five years. The work so far has been successful, but not everything is suddenly made ‘perfect’, and so there are debates to be had.

But those debates should be based on reality and sensible proposals, working with the world as we find it rather than wishing it away. Unfortunately, under Ed Miliband’s stewardship, the Labour party has become an outdated, out-of-touch rabble, completely ignorant of economic reality. It is an incredibly dangerous mix, and could be disastrous for ordinary, working people across Britain.

If you thought that rising unemployment, a spiralling deficit, and destructive management of the economy under Gordon Brown was bad, there is one thing to be said if Ed Miliband enters Number 10 after this election: you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Why announcement of the Community Work Programme makes me proud to be a Conservative

Today, the Conservatives announced the intention to introduce a ‘Community Work Programme’, to be rolled out if elected with a majority by the British people. In short, the points are that:

  • Young people out of work, education or training for six months will have to do unpaid community work to get benefits.
  • It will involve 30 hours a week of mandatory community work, such as making meals for older people and other local charity work.
  • Those from the ages of 18-21 who have not been in employment for six months will stop receiving Job Seekers’ Allowance, and would instead receive a Youth Allowance with these conditions – refusal to work would end any sort of taxpayer-funded allowance.

There are two reasons why this is a brilliant policy.

Firstly, what we saw under the last Labour government was manifestly unfair. 1997-2010 saw a massive explosion of ‘Benefits Britain’, where swathes of the population felt entitled to refuse work, safe in the knowledge that they would continue to receive often unjustifiably high levels of welfare payments. These generous payments were necessarily funded by everyone else who was working – sometimes long hours and without great rewards – to support their own families while also paying an increasing amount of tax.

As a society, most people would think that it is unfair for someone working long hours to be made poorer than someone who has not been working for a prolonged period – this phenomenon was widespread under Labour, and it is this Conservative-led Government which has started to readdress the balance. On the one hand, we have reduced income tax on the lowest earners and, on the other hand, we have capped welfare payments to ensure less absurdly high levels of welfare benefits for people who sometimes haven’t worked for decades. It is only fair, and only sends out the right incentives for people to be productive, if it pays to work and doesn’t not to.

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The second reason this is such a good policy is that people at a young age are building their paths for their future lives and, with young bodies and young minds, should always be encouraged to do something rather than nothing – for their sake as much as for everyone else. A life without contributing anything to society and without taking responsibility for your own affairs is a less enriching life – not just materially and financially, but in terms of less tangible things such as self-worth, self-value, and self-direction.

Look across ‘Benefits Britain’ and you will see higher crime statistics, litter on the pavements, higher drug abuse, and a lack of purpose and pride in local communities and families matched with general lethargy and apathy. Taking away from more and more people the fundamental responsibilities of housing and income has, unsurprisingly, dented what were traditionally seen as ‘British’ values of self-reliance and social responsibility. No-one blames someone who is temporarily made unemployed and who has to rely on welfare payments for their financial sustenance; as a country, we are generally proud to provide a safety net for the unfortunate. But that is a very different phenomenon to the existence of communities and families who have never worked a single day alongside a culture which sees dependency as more desirable than self-reliance.

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To use the old cliché, this policy tells young people that you can’t just rely on getting ‘something for nothing’ – without first fulfilling an obligation, you have no fundamental entitlement to live off the hard slog and grind of others. It also channels young people into something positive and – most would conclude – a ‘social good’. Even if you aren’t lucky enough to have been brought up in a family which teaches you the virtues of hard work and the self-worth sought in self-reliance – which many people haven’t – you will now see first-hand how much human value a young person can get, as well as give, from cooking and waiting on an elderly person whose lack of company during the day imbues them with a special sort of gratitude for that service.

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This policy says to young people: “it is not OK for you not to work, and it is not OK for you to permanently rely on the efforts of others without feeling you should contribute anything”. It says to society: “we are not going to leave communities forgotten and abandoned in an ever-consuming culture of dependency; we are going to create the right framework for young people to learn the value of self-reliance and the self-worth found in acting responsibly. We are going to rebuild our community spirit and encourage young people in less affluent and more dependency-gripped areas to raise their aspirations and learn the value and pride in being part of a more independent and confident generation of young Britons which engages with the world around it.”

For that reason, today, I was proud to be a member of the Conservative Party.