We all knew, on some level, what the Conservative Chancellor’s budget would look like: a modern-day Sheriff of Nottingham drawing every last coin from the poor in order to furnish his bed with piles of gold, while professing to be doing it for the good of those same “hard-working people.” Back in the Middle Ages the disabled and those who do not work barely even exist, and survive entirely at the mercy of charity and the kindness of their fellow man – certainly not the state. The Daily Mail seems to be taking a similar view, preferring to not even acknowledge them.
It disgusts me, but it doesn’t surprise me. We expected this. We knew this would happen, because that’s what the Conservative Party is all about: feeding the rich on the economic ruin of the poor, using a discredited ideology to justify their actions. So it’s no surprise to me that the Chancellor’s latest budget is exactly what it would have been, only without the Neoliberal Democrats’ restraining influence.
What does surprise me, however, is the New Labour party’s reaction to it.
Loathe as I am to bring up the former worker’s-republican-turned-lord-in-waiting himself, another former chancellor has at least broken ranks with other members of his party and placed some responsibility for New Labour’s failures onto themselves:
The opposition is in complete dissaray(sic) at the moment because we don’t have a leader.
We are paying the price of not having a credible economic policy. We should have made a virtue of our legacy – the fact is the economy was growing in 2010.
If you don’t have that credibility you are open to the charge you would only have borrowed more and taxed more.
Look at what George Osborne did yesterday – he’s borrowing more, he’s taxing more, and yet it’s alright.
“We didn’t have a credible economic policy” is at least a better excuse than “we weren’t right-wing enough.” Yet the Lord-to-be also said he agreed with much of that same budget at an Edelman UK event:
Alistair Darling says he agrees with much of yesterday’s budget #edelbudget
— Siobhan Hill (@SiobhanHill1) July 9, 2015
If I didn’t know better, I’d almost think Alistair Darling was a Conservative himself.
Still, the Lord-to-be is a former MP, one who had neither the spine nor the wits to save his seat, secure in the knowledge that he would be up for a seat in an institution which is antithetical to what his party’s supposed to be all about. Surely you’d think a sitting MP – the acting leader, even – would be more vociferous in criticism of the Chancellor’s budget?
Of course there need to be tough decisions to get the deficit down.
Had we been in government, we would have cut spending outside protected departments and reduced the welfare bill.
So there are measures in the Budget which we will give serious consideration to.
When you’re in Opposition, the temptation is to oppose everything the government does – and believe me…I feel that temptation.
But we best serve this country by being a grown up and constructive opposition.
So while we will fiercely oppose policies that hit working people and we will expose policies that are unworkable, where the Government comes forward with ideas that are sensible, we will be prepared to look at them.
We will be a different kind of Opposition.
Just so we’re clear: Harriet Harman, as acting leader of the New Labour Party, is saying that cutting spending outside protected departments and reducing the welfare bill are “ideas that are sensible,” and that not opposing such policies even when we know that they are destructive is “grown up and constructive.” In other words, they’re legitimising the Conservatives’ attacks on public services and welfare services – and thus, attacks on those who rely on those services. They’re looking at the Tories laying waste to everything Keir Hardie and Nye Bevan and Clement Attlee sweated and bled and toiled for, and their response is essentially “we would do the same.”
And don’t just take the acting leader’s word for it: Chris Leslie, the Shadow Chancellor – i.e. the person who would be doing George Osborne’s job in five years if New Labour were remotely electable – confirmed New Labour’s complete lack of opposition.
Reducing the benefits cap, which the government’s own internal advice claims will plunge 40,000 children into poverty? “Necessary.” Greater restrictions on benefits? “It’s difficult to say why those who should be in work, but are not, should get those benefits.” Austerity, which has proven to be a con? “We are predisposed to supporting it.” Real-terms public sector pay cuts? “We accept that pay restraint is sadly necessary over this period.”
There comes a point where Hanlon’s razor proves untenable: that this cannot be adequately be explained by incompetence or stupidity, but that only outright malice – complicity – suffices.
Yet what other possible explanation is there? Broadly speaking, New Labour agrees with the Tories on a great many things. The shadow welfare minister said “We are not the party of people on benefits. We don’t want to be seen, and we’re not, the party to represent those who are out of work.” The most likely candidate to lead the Scottish Branch Office said “Too often in the recent past it has looked like we are only on the side of one group of people – the most vulnerable in society” as if that was a bad thing. One of her predecessors wanted to end the “something for nothing culture.” One of Scotland’s former MPs claimed his party “weren’t set up as some sort of charity to help the poorest in society – the long-term unemployed, the benefit dependent, the drug addicted, the homeless.” And a frontrunner for party leadership said New Labour must reject the left-wing anti-austerity policies of Syriza as “fantasy politics,” describing the democratically elected government of Greece as “extremists.”
So any criticisms or opposition New Labour make against the Conservatives is completely and utterly neutered if they say they would more or less do the exact same thing. Just like with immigration, housing, nuclear weapons, and any number of other policies which they should be disagreeing with. Think about it. If New Labour really wanted to defeat the Tories, then why do they make such pains to prove them right – admitting that they would have done more or less the same thing as their supposed idealogical antitheses?
This is the depth to which New Labour’s complicity with the Conservatives has plunged: not only do they fail to challenge them on welfare, immigration, social security and democracy, they are actively setting themselves up to fail. They have built themselves as an opposition made of straw, bending their chin towards the Tories, goading them to give them a right good smack. And when the Tories belt the chaff off the opposition, they can rightly say they destroyed them – for what good are an opposition that crumbles at the slightest tap, save to the other side?
That’s why Osborne’s phony attacks on “the left” are never challenged – because the party he’s calling “the left” is a phony party. It’s a party whose entire existence is not to oppose the Conservatives in any meaningful way, but to take the fall and make the Conservatives look good. They are the no-name local talent hired to make the big prize-fighters look like world-beaters. They’re the Tomato Can Party. Winning elections is no longer New Labour’s role – their role is to justify the Tories’ greatest excesses by throwing the fight. They’re the Jobber Party. They are a party of straw politicians who issue slogans and sound-bytes, but collectively fall to even the most inept, most incompetent, most despicable of Conservative governments in decades. They’re a party of straw, tomatoes, jobbers and phonys.
And the horrific thing is, it’s a phony party of New Labour’s own making.