Let's face it: Labour would do much better at the local elections if Cherie Blair was the leader instead of Corbyn

For its first five years of opposition, the Labour strategy was to prove its credibility by agreeing with austerity, with comments like: ‘While we fully support the necessary cuts to disability benefits, the government should have drafted them as a country song called ‘Your handouts are eroded, though your liver just exploded’’

Mark Steel
Thursday 03 May 2018 20:46
Local elections: All you need to know

It was touching this week to read the moving tributes from Amber Rudd’s fellow Conservatives.

“It is a great tragedy that someone with such immense talent, a valuable asset to British public life, has had to resign,” they went. “All reasonable people will lament the terrible luck that led her to accidentally spend years promising to reduce immigration and then deny she’d ever done it. We all do it, and maybe we should reconsider why our standards for politicians are so ridiculously high.”

Indeed anyone seeking to take any advantage of this situation is being disrespectful to victims of Amnesiac Target Straight-Face Denial No Shame Jeffrey Archer Syndrome.

The sympathy from Conservatives for Rudd must be because she has a particularly cruel strain of this condition, in which she writes letters in her sleep. Then she conks out again when she’s making speeches, and where some people in their sleep blurt out “There’s a LEMON in the car behind the caterpillar!”, she stands upright and delivers a 20-minute account of how much she’s going to reduce immigration by, because she’s tough.

Luckily most people are kind towards her. For example, the obsessively anti-Corbyn columnist Dan Hodges wrote that she appeared safe as a result of the latest revelations. To be fair he was accurate, because he wrote this a full five hours before she resigned, and obviously he only meant she was safe until 8.20pm, because no one can make predictions further in advance than that.

A certain Independent columnist who remains an admirer of Tony Blair wrote on the day she resigned: “Amber Rudd is in a surprisingly strong position, because the prime minister can’t afford to lose her.”

Now the local elections are in full swing, those types of columnists have probably written columns about the local elections stating: “The big winners are likely to be Emmanuel Macron’s La République Party, which I tip to take the London boroughs of Ealing and Wandsworth. Meanwhile, get ready for a Whig resurgence in Maidstone.”

These slightly wayward guesses seem to fit a pattern in which the old fans of Blair underestimate the mess the Conservatives are in, as they love to point out that Labour can’t ever do well under Jeremy Corbyn.

For example, they suggest Labour would be way ahead by now if the party had a proper leader, such as Yvette Cooper.

It’s easy to forget that for its first five years of opposition, the Labour strategy was to prove its credibility by agreeing with the government’s decisions. Then they would propose an amendment such as: “While we fully support the necessary measures put forward to cut disability benefits, the government should have drafted them as a country song, called ‘Your handouts are eroded, though your liver just exploded’.”

Local elections: All you need to know

Amber Rudd may not have been in any trouble if Labour had a more “typical” leader, because previously Labour went along with the shrieking about immigration, even producing mugs boasting they would bring in “Controls in immigration”. This was seen as appealing to their working class voters, though Peter Mandelson probably objected that it could seem too common and suggested they promise to control immigration on a Wedgwood 24-piece bone china tea service.

Since the 2017 election, the Conservatives have no idea what they stand for, because the ideology they thought would keep them in power for decades has proved much less popular than they thought.

So they’ve abandoned most of their plans, from a programme of austerity to bringing back fox-hunting. Whereas if they were facing the pre-Corbyn Labour Party, which largely went along with the cuts, by now they’d be cutting benefits to claimants unless they agreed to be a human firework to entertain Jacob Rees-Mogg at a garden party, with a £10 penalty if they didn’t make it over the drawbridge while strapped to a rocket.

You can understand why some Labour politicians want to return to the Blair method, because it seemed popular 20 years ago, so surely it will be forever. Similarly, there must be people who stand for the town council in Rome who say, “If we return to the moderate policies of 45BC, such as invading everywhere and bringing back gladiators, we can’t lose.”

But maybe they have a point, because around the world, left-of-centre parties who are seen as backing big business have achieved plenty of success. In Greece the old governing party Pasok made it to 4 per cent, possibly in solidarity with the Labour centrist Liz Kendall, who lost out to Corbyn in the leadership election with the exact same percentage. In France, the Socialist Party went from winning in 2012 to 6 per cent in 2017, and in Germany and Spain their vote is half what it was 10 years ago.

Or Labour could copy the Democrats in America, and Tony Blair’s wife stands at the next election. This would raise much-needed funds for the party, because Cherie and Tony could go canvassing together, and at each door, after speaking for three minutes, they’d hand you a bill for £80,000 as their standard rate.

But eventually Labour must see sense and choose a leader acceptable to the establishment, such as Hillary Clinton, who did so well in America. Then Labour can be truly bold and ambitious, and lose to absolutely anyone. That’s why, on the day after the next general election, we could hear: “Following his surprise victory, Gary Glitter is set to announce his first cabinet this morning.”

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