Daily catch-up: ‘Labour in chaos’ and other silly stories, myths and memes

Harriet Harman’s decision to abstain in last night’s Commons vote was a mistake

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The Independent Online

1. I know it’s how journalism works and everything, but the important question about last night’s vote on the welfare Bill is whether the changes are a good idea, not whether Labour is “in chaos”.

Harriet Harman, Labour’s acting leader, and the estimable Stephen Timms, shadow employment minister, said they agreed with some things in the Bill (some stuff about apprentices) but not others, so they asked Labour MPs to abstain. Forty-eight of them rebelled against their whips’ instructions and voted against.

I think Harman made the wrong decision, because the cuts to tax credits are deep, and will increase in-work poverty. George Osborne’s clever wheeze was to try to force Labour to vote “against welfare cuts”. But tax credits are not “welfare” for most people: they are an income-tax relief for people on lower pay.

Such political games are silly, and Harman’s attempt to avoid falling into a trap is the sort of thing that makes politicians seems inauthentic. At this stage of a parliament, Labour can afford to be on the side of the millions of people who are going to be poorer as a result. Although Osborne has made the path to closing the deficit shallower, it should be shallower still, allowing shallower cuts to tax credits.

2. Generally, however, Labour’s problem is not that it is too respectful of the result of the election. I was on BBC Daily Politics yesterday with the youthful idealist Zoe Williams, who likes Jeremy Corbyn’s optimism. I’m afraid I said he was optimistic about a better 1983. I said I had thought the only consolation of Ed Miliband’s leadership was that it would drive home to slow learners in the Labour Party that naive leftism loses elections. I seem to have been mistaken. It is a shame, but it seems that Labour has to lose three or four times before it remembers the lessons of the past. 

3. I know people on Facebook, Twitter and internet comments are not representative, but the overwhelming consistency of online Corbynite denialism is alarming. The following naive-left memes are persistent and tenacious:

(1) 76 per cent didn’t vote Tory.

(2) Ed Miliband wasn’t left wing at all, let alone too left wing.

(3) Tony Blair lost 4 million votes.

(4) Ed Miliband won more votes in England than Blair did in 2005.

(5) Nobody wants the first past the post system.

(6) Millions of non-voters would vote Labour if armed with a bold programme.

(7) The SNP’s success proves a left-wing programme would be popular.

(8) Labour would have won if it hadn’t been for the right-wing media.

(9) Greece proves neolizards and their austerity agenda secretly control this country.

4. And finally, thanks to Moose Allain for this:

“You look a bit grumpy.”

“It’s early.”

“OK then, you look a bit surly.”