David Cameron famously staked a claim to become Prime Minister during his first Prime Minister’s Questions when he told Tony Blair that: “He was the future once”. Nevertheless, his words still resonate with the Labour Party over a decade later. The party that claims to represent the people represent fragmented parts of the electorate in which it can claim an electoral base – among minorities, among public sector workers and among the young. This is no structured support base, but a selection from society that desires change from Conservatism. To bring about this coalition of support Labour has stepped away from being a beacon of the future and instead recycles tired ideas while allowing the internal Labour Party to be redefined by their new support base.
As an example, one of Labour’s key pledges in the 2017 General Election was to abolish tuition fees throughout the UK. Previously a Liberal Democrat promise, they soon realised the impracticalities of this pledge and used pragmatism in reconstructing the tuition fee system. It was unpopular but necessary to keep universities funded and has increased entrance to people from poorer backgrounds. Labour used this as a headline policy to attract voters, despite offering no real answer as to how to cover the shortfall in university funding. Indeed it allowed Labour to win seats like Canterbury and Sheffield Hallam, but it does not show responsible governance. Responsible governance was a cornerstone of New Labour’s pitch, but it was replaced with reckless, popular policies that would cripple Labour in government.
The General Election also demonstrated how unprepared the Shadow Cabinet are to form a Government. The funding John McDonnell promised to raise from increasing corporation tax and raising the top rate of income tax – although both good ideas – would not have raised enough revenue to fund policing, education, health, construction, defence and all of the other ideas that were raised during the General Election. Labour purposely ignored the question – pretending it did not exist – which cannot happen from a shadow Government that have any serious intention of becoming the actual Government.
New Labour made the Labour Party the party of opportunity. It was not the party of equality anymore, but allowed those who had ability or passion to rise and encouraged those at the bottom to pursue better opportunities than their predecessors. Sure Start, EMA and increasing vocational courses all contributed to allow people to find their skill and make something of it. However, the party has gone back to the party of equality that was voted out of power for 18 years. Not everyone is equal, meaning people should not rise equally. Those at the top should not be constrained for those at the bottom as Labour proposed with a policy to only allow a CEO to be paid 10 times the salary of their most junior staff. This stifles creativity, opportunity and encourages laziness.
Whilst doing this, the Left are using their power to perpetuate themselves. The McDonnell amendment sought to lower the percentage of MPs needed to put an MP on the ballot for a leadership bid from 15 per cent to 5 per cent. What command can a leader enforce when only 5 per cent of the Parliamentary Party believes in their ability to lead?
The party are also pretending to be oblivious to the problems of Anti-Semitism. Jeremy Corbyn has spoken at a ‘Mend’ event, who have previously hosted extremist Islamist speakers, will not remove and only suspend Ken Livingstone after he called Hitler a “Zionist” and did not protect Ruth Smeeth MP after one of his activists attacked her for “colluding” with the media. This attitude has trickled down through the ranks and has found itself prominent in CLP meetings, on the doorstep and within Labour members. It is as repugnant as it is prominent.
The Left, Momentum and other groups all want to seize power from long-standing members. Fair elections, at least in my constituency and I have heard many stories about others, are a thing of the past. Where is the incentive to campaign, to work for a party that allows factions to sweep in under your feet? There is none, and it is degrading.
Even more importantly, Labour are still not poised to win the next General Election, even if they were to gain the most seats. They remain within three points of Theresa May’s shamble Government and have no clear position on Brexit, the economy or tax policies. For all this change, Labour has achieved parity with a Conservative Party that is too weak to reshuffle their Cabinet. The Labour Party must reclaim the politically homeless – in all directions – to be a Government for all. But I could not, in good conscience, support them to become a Government in their current form.