OPINION: Labour must learn from Tory mistakes, or suffer the same fate

Me6 “The best laid plans of mice and men gang aft awry” used to be a common saying when I was footloose and thirty, but things have changed a lot since then. Today, plans are ‘scoped out’ and then badly executed, or the plan is upgraded to a critical path analysis towards an objective. The path goes critical when it becomes obvious the objective flatly refuses to stay put. As often as not, there simply are no plans…and whatever happens is then post-rationalised to pretend there was one. But surprisingly often there is a plan, and it reaches the objective….which turns out to be counter-productive after all.

It’s glaringly obvious that, since 2010, the new generation of Tory Big Beasts have worked their way through the entire gamut. HS2 was scoped out on the back of Cameron’s hand before facing a firing squad that missed several times before laying it to rest. Osborne’s deficit objective was like a convoy depth-charging U-Boats, only to find that the Kiel shipyard had doubled its productivity. Theresa May never had a plan to get immigration down to the promised level, because Sir Humphrey told her within hours of her sliding those leather-clad legs under the desk that it wasn’t achievable. By 2015, however, she’d developed a script about the national skills shortage…..and thus it didn’t matter that the numbers hadn’t changed.

In three areas, however, the post 2010 Conservatives had a plan, and the objective was reached. Last week, national resentment of these successes cut them down to size. These were first, the suppression of wage levels among the lower paid (especially the young); second, the removal of benefits from disabled, unemployed and otherwise vulnerable citizens; and third, the embezzlement of monies paid to them by mainly post 1953-born ‘Waspi’ women, who were asked (with little or no written warning) to wait for that money in State Pension.

All of these strategies were hatched and carried out by the DWP.  The reduction in spending power they produced shot the austerity “plan” in the head, and electorally it doomed their hopes for an unassailable majority. Equally significant, it gave the IS thowback Jeremy Corbyn the chance to become this year’s new Messiah. And probably worst of all for Britain as a nation, it caused the rebirth of gloating, triumphalist, activist Utopian Labour….and its hopelessly overconfident mantra, “Just one more heave”.

Problem is, once you start drilling down into the stats, it becomes obvious that Corbynite Labour hasn’t actually achieved anything approaching a permanent shift in support.

The Party’s core vote had seaped away to UKIP both in 2015 and the Brexit referendum that followed. In what I still believe to have been a catastrophic error, UKIP’s leaders chose to leave the Tories a relatively clear route to hard Brexit by, effectively, reducing Labour to a rump. Now that Nuttall has gone and Farage is making comeback noises, they won’t do it again….especially given Tory Remoaners are gleefully rounding on May.

Labour’s key problem of low turnout among 18-25s was attacked effectively, upping the level from 43 to 66.4%. But the overall apathy among Labour’s heartland was barely dented at all: the desperate in our society stayed at home, the national turnout figure moving from 66.1% in 2015 to 69.7% last week. Fifteen million largely “natural” Labour supporters remain missing.

In point of fact, Labour got a bonus vote from angry Waspi wannabe pensioners likely to have been well in excess of under 25 year olds. An average of 4,000 Waspis exist in each of the UK’s 650 constituencies, but an awful lot of them are anything but natural supporters of the Left.

I’m not decrying Corbyn’s achievement: almost 1 in 10 new Labour votes poured in compared to 2015. But the reality is that a simple Tory U-turn on State pension delays for 1950s women would bring back most of those over 60 who proved decisive in getting Cameron a second term; and an inevitable return to Labour obsessions with minority Metro-issues could have Welsh and North English workers flocking back to Farage – especially if Conservative Remain backslides on Brexit, and Labour Remain starts spitting idiotic racism charges at UKIP….or anyone else daring to suggest that unlimited immigration simply isn’t an option. The Left cannot on the one hand rightly observe that the NHS and housing starts are in crisis – but then assert that further mass immigration will somehow “be easily assimilated”: it’s the sort of cognitive dissonance, however, which Leftlibs frequently award themselves.

Corbyn too does not have a plan. He comes across as A Man with a Plan, but the expenditure it requires will present an easy target for neoliberal economists. In turn, he was fortunate in his choice of enemy this time: her successor is highly unlikely to be as wooden.

He clearly has no plan about how to deal with an election where some right-wing pundits will make mischief from scare tactics about The New Nazarene looking odds-on to win. Voting in a very British way for the Underdog is one thing; supporting a Party with real Government potential (that’s all over the place on many issues) is another.

Above all, he hasn’t a clue – just as the Greeks and Cameron and May didn’t – how lawlessly ruthless and perfidious the Forces of Darkness can be. I’m talking chiefly of the EC, the Eurogroup, the Bond markets, Wall Street, the Sorosites, the IMF and NATO’s security services. Yanis Varoufakis has a new book out explaining the profundity of their demonic zeal; but I see little sign that either the Tory Brexit “team” or the Left are remotely interested in such stark reality. I suspect a Corbynite activist reading the volume would need counselling for many decades to come.

In short, the achievement to date is an anthill masquerading as the Andes: but the learning curve facing any future Corbyn Government is a Matterhorn climb where there are no ropes, no grappling picks, and an ascent team consisting only of those dizzy with the vertigo of social media success.

We saw how Diane Abbott’s attempt to “wing it” with Nick Ferrari turned out. This wasn’t the old LBC Rightie “bullying” anyone, it was an arrogant ideologue underestimating her interlocutor. It’s been instructive to read, since the General Election, the tweets of lazily uninformed Labour supporters convinced that their time is nigh; after being irritated by the tribe for much of yesterday, I eventually offered this riposte:


The message of this Slogpost for Corbynistas is very simple: your broad-church tanker takes a long time to turn left, a socialist Left agenda remains stuck in the throat of most voters, the man at the helm remains hopelessly vague about the ship’s destination, nobody in the crew has any experience of icebergs, and the navigation equipment is on the blink.

There has to be a plan. A saleable plan. A democratically ethical plan based on the pure gold of ideas, not counterfeit ideology. And above all, a plan for 2017 onwards Brexited Britain, not 1917 Bolshevik Russia.

The Tories could indulge in seat-of-the-pants envelope stunts because voters thought they probably knew what they were doing. The electorate beyond the young naifs and old believers does not think the same about Labour.

You have been warned: wake up, reach out, embrace New, be prepared.


Connected at The Slog: Think for yourselves, or go blind