Friday, 7 April 2017

Can Labour Survive Chauncey and Livingstone?



Earlier this week Chauncey went into one of his angry rants during an interview with ITV. It wasn't his fault that his party is doing so disastrously in the polls, he said, it is the fault of the mainstream media for not reporting the really really splendid policies he and his colleagues are announcing constantly.

And so this week the media has duly reported one such policy, the brilliant ruse to charge VAT on private school fees in order to raise money for free school meals for all primary school pupils. Let's just repeat that so that Chauncey can relish it. He wants to levy VAT on private school fees making them unaffordable to many parents meaning that there would be even more pressure on state schools who would also have to provide free school meals for all primary school pupils regardless of need.

It's hard to really appreciate, however many times one read and re-reads that how fatuous and facile it is. But that is what Labour actually announced this week and then presumably sat back contentedly awaiting the praise. That it has been met only with incredulity, incomprehension and head shaking is presumably the fault of the mainstream media and its inherent bias. That they have all reported it and found fault with it is immaterial. That they have spoken to the author of a report that Labour managed to find who says that her report does not amount to evidence backing the policy is probably inherent bias too.

In truth this was just a policy written on the back of an envelope as they cast around for something to say to try and make an effort. During a recess there is a lot of blank space to be filled and a good opportunity for an opposition. Labour are probably wishing they had just gone on holiday. Or maybe sent Chauncey to sit on the floor of a train or something.

To be fair this isn't just the fault of Chauncey. It is an affliction of the left. They genuinely believe that when people are receiving a tax incentive such as zero VAT rating on private education it is literally taking the food out of schoolchildren's mouths. And thus was born a travesty in the place of a policy.

When Wallace was leader and George Osborne announced that the Government would be cutting the top rate of tax from 50% to 45% Wallace called this writing a cheque to the rich. This is economic illiteracy so egregious it might as well be written in martian. A tax cut does not mean that a cheque is written out for those in receipt of it. It just means that the exchequer takes less of their money. It isn't public money it is our money,  the money of taxpayers which we all have confiscated from us. Most of us resent this but accept it. We need schools and hospitals and roads and police officers and defence and so on. But the more politicians compulsorily confiscate from us, the higher the percentage they take of our money, the greater the desire to resist and to avoid those taxes. This is perfectly reasonable and rational behaviour. Unless you are of the left.

Cynics would suggest that this half baked scheme, emblematic though it is, was probably actually cooked up as an attempt to distract us from the fact that Labour this week confirmed that it has a huge and intractable problem with anti-Semitism. Ken Livingstone made a number of assertions that were even more brainless than Labour Party policies, but which lacked their entertainment value. They were obnoxious and unapologetically nasty. They were bigoted. They were also, whatever Livingstone says, historically illiterate, as illiterate as that policy on schools but with added bigotry. It is hard to know whether Livingstone actually believes the drivel he spouts or just enjoys being a kind of troll. Or maybe he really is that much of a bigot and cannot see it. Either way any serious party, a party that wants to be taken seriously by the mainstream media, should have thrown him out immediately. He brought the party into disrepute. It has now brought itself into disrepute by failing to despatch him to the wilderness where he belongs.

Labour has a problem. Actually it has a cacophony of problems it either cannot see or refuses to see. It has a real problem with anti-Semitism that has been swept under the carpet or that absurd investigation by the then ennobled Shami Chakrabarti who undid at a stroke whatever credibility she had earned to that point in her career. Anyone else can see Labour's problem in this area. It confuses its reasonable anger at the policies of Israel's government with a general dislike and suspicion of Jews and cannot see why this is problematic. Livingstone is a disagreeable eruption of this general attitude.

But the greater problem for Labour is that it has as its leader a man who is so ill suited to his role he now represents a real and existential threat to the very existence of his party. It isn't just that he comes up with stupid ideas for policy. It isn't just that he cannot perform at PMQs or give a decent speech. It isn't that he cannot give an interview on television without losing his temper. It isn't just that underneath his modest image he is clearly a man in possession of a monstrous ego who cannot admit how useless and out of his depth he is. It is also that he lacks any moral character or leadership. Ken Livingstone would not be tolerated within the ranks of any serious party in British politics. That he remains a member of Labour speaks to its decay. It was in a sorry state after the last general election. After next month's local elections it may expire completely. Will that be the fault of the media?

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