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No need to cry over the disaster of the UK Labour Party today

Tim Montgomerie, over at the CapX site, writes about his fears of how the UK will fare longer term while the main opposition party, Labour, slides further and further into lunacy. That it is becoming more brutishly statist/mad isn’t in doubt. We have Jeremy Corbyn’s support for secondary picketing in union disputes with employers, calls by him for powers to ban firms from paying dividends if they are not deemed to pay staff enough, ending a nuclear deterrent – while keeping submarines (for what, deep-sea fishing?); potentially moving to give Argentina some sort of stake in the Falklands, talk of reaching out diplomatically to ISIS, “people’s quantitative easing”, and so on. It is a mixture so mad, so evidently mad to anyone with a basic understanding of state-craft and economics, that I remain convinced that Corbyn is not really interested in winning power soon, but is interested in discrediting the very tradition of parliamentary democracy by enabling the Tories to retain power for a long time and hence building up resentment about it. Maybe I am, however, assuming too much in the way of feral cunning on the part of Corbyn and his unlovely allies. Maybe these men and women are sincere, and just unbelievably thick.

Montgomerie’s point about the dangers of their being a miserable excuse for an opposition is true in a sense (competition is healthy) but it is worth noting that when, as in recent years, parties competed over who could provide the best sort of managerialist/half-capitalist/half statist arrangement, the quality of governance was not notably great, in my view. And consider this shocker of a paragraph from Montgomerie, who is, remember, a supposed Conservative:

I can think of many things that the Blair-Brown governments did that benefited Britain and which a Tory-led government would unlikely to have initiated (but has now embraced – and sometimes extended). The minimum wage. Free access to museums and galleries. The targeting of institutional racism in public bodies like the Metropolitan Police. The smoking ban in public places. The (near) abolition of hereditary peers. The establishment of the Department of International Development. Active measures to increase the diversity of parliament. A lower age of consent for gay men.

The minimum wage. This is an economically illiterate measure that to the extent it makes a difference, does so by raising unemployment, particularly among the young, unskilled and among minorities. True, the current Tory government has embraced the idea, but that was more out of low political calculation over trying to “shoot the Labour fox” than out of understanding of labour markets. Bad idea.

Free access to museums and galleries. I am a taxpayer  and pay for museums and galleries. Anyone who buys anything like a pint of beer or fills up a car with petrol pays taxes. Clue to Mr Montgomerie: these things aren’t free. Someone get this man an economic textbook.

The targeting of institutional racism in bodies like the Metropolitan police. “Institutional racism”: a sloppy term. Just because the share of police officers on the beat doesn’t match 100 per cent with the makeup of the population in area X does not, ipso facto, prove that there is racism around or that it was a decisive factor at work, absent other forces. And the same applies to arrest data – that X per cent of arrests in London are among young males from ethnic group X does not, of itself, prove there is a problem unless you could prove intent. To discriminate is to choose – which involves a conscious agent. A lot of nonsense gets committed by ignoring this basic point.

The smoking ban in public places. This was a draconian step that, while it is good for non-smokers such as me, is not so great if you value tolerance. Appallingly, it applies to spaces owned by private sector bodies, such as offices and pubs, where the decision should be down to the owners of said as much as possible. With publicly-funded bodies, the taxpayer rightly should have an important say in the matter. A genuine Conservative ought to be able to make that distinction, rather than support a blanket ban.

The (near) abolition of hereditary peers – well, if this system was to be replaced by one that meant the House of Lords remained a vigorous check on the Commons and prevented foolish, ill-drafted legislation getting through, that would be worthwhile. The jury is out.

The establishment of the Department of International Development – a body that takes taxpayer’s money to fund government-to-government aid. There is now quite a body of research proving that much state-backed of foreign aid is worthless, if not actively harmful, and far less effective than encouraging free trade and open access to markets so as to build self-reliance and foster growth. Also, there is the small matter of taxpayers having the right to decide what to do with their own money if possible, as the default position. (Which is what Conservatives are supposed to assume, right?)

Active measures to increase the diversity of parliament. Translation: more women and ethnic minorities. The composition of a political party should be down to the party and its members, rather than decided in any other way. By “active measures”, does Mr Montgomerie support coercive interference with how MP candidates are selected? I should hope not. Parties are voluntary bodies and paid for voluntarily, and should remain so and retain autonomy to select MPs how they like, whether it be for rational or daft reasons.

A lower age of consent for gay men. Sure, encouraging the notion of respecting relations between consenting adults is a good idea. Shame it is honoured so rarely by what passes for respectable opinion these days.

The current plight of the Labour Party is a source for some concern but unlike Montgomerie, I don’t feel particular sorrow over its demise. Labour has presided over a number of disasters in our history. To give some examples, its nationalisation of much of British industry post-1945, based on notions of state control and central planning, did immense harm, and the punishingly high income tax rates after the war, which the Tories did not really reverse until 1979, meant the UK had little in the way of a start-up, entrepreneurial culture for decades. There may have been some incremental good done along the way (some of the criminal law reforms in the 1960s were good) but by and large the achievements of Labour have been negative. If Corbyn finishes this lot off, I am not going to cry into my cornflakes. Sooner or later, the market for a moderate liberal/left, if it is big enough, will be filled.

27 comments to No need to cry over the disaster of the UK Labour Party today

  • Rob Fisher (Surrey)

    Not only am I paying for the museums, they are so crowded I can barely visit them.

  • Matt

    Hotellings Law is what bothers me. Crazy Labour could mean that the Tories are free to propose whatever agenda they want, so we get proper Tories. Or it could mean they run onto Labour’s turf, making it much harder for a Lab come-back when & if the party gets sane again.

    My sense is that Osborne at least is going to try to steal the middle rather than start to act like a Conservative.

  • lucklucky

    So many reasons to not vote the so called “Conservatives”…

    I don’t agree with conclusion of this piece. Politics is accepted by everyone like in the past Religion was. So it is impossible to have a void. Does not matter if Labour is now a full blown Marxist party, they are invited to the BBC they will get votes.

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    luckylucky: my point is that if Labour is a full-blown Marxist party, cooing over ISIS, Argentinan territorial ambitions and trade union bully boys, then people who want a non-mad, centre-left political party alternative to the Tories will create one to fill the void vacated by Labour’s shift to the shores of insanity. It has happened before (the SDP); anyway, it may be that after a decade in the wilderness, there may be another push to take Labour back towards something better, but it could be a long wait. There is a lot of craziness in the air.

  • Cal

    “And consider this shocker of a paragraph from Montgomerie, who is, remember, a supposed Conservative”

    But the Conservatives are a New Labour party. They make no secret of that. Montgomerie is also New Labour, and is simply making that fact explicit.

  • Mr Ed

    if Labour is a full-blown Marxist party, cooing over ISIS, Argentinan territorial ambitions and trade union bully boys, then people who want a non-mad, centre-left political party alternative to the Tories will create one to fill the void vacated by Labour’s shift to the shores of insanity.

    But first, Mr Cameron and his gang will go as far left as they wish, knowing that there is no one else to vote for. We get Labour policies, but Labour don’t get the Ministerial salaries and limos (Mr Corbyn apart of course).

  • Laird

    “Mr Cameron and his gang will go as far left as they wish, knowing that there is no one else to vote for.”

    Isn’t that the reason for the rise of UKIP? Aren’t you in fact seeing the effect of competition “filling the void” created by that leftward drift? I’m certainly no expert on this, but it seems to me that is the chief virtue of your multi-party parliamentary system over the US’s systemic political duopoly. Here, the leftward/statist drift of the nominally conservative Republican Party is being resisted by the rise of the Tea Party movement, but absent the ability to create a functioning third party with any legitimate prospect of gaining real political power it will ultimately prove ineffectual. Here, there truly is no one else for a political conservative to vote for.

  • Johnnydub

    Tim M, like Matthew Parris knows fuck all about being a conservative. Mind you neither does 99% of the current Tory party.

    You talk about a “moderate center left” party – we already have one; they’re called the Tories.

    I on the other hand am desperate for a proper conservative political party. Is no different in the US. The republicans are shite as well.

  • Mr Ed

    Yes Laird, (as Johnnydub notes, the USA has the same problem). The further Left Labour go, the more they allow the Conservatives to follow, and the 2015 General Election showed that the FPTP system (approved in a referendum a few years back) effectively suffocates parties with diffuse support, so those with geographic appeal (Greens/Labour/SNP) all profit from their concentration of support, the Conservatives mop up the rest as a legacy/habit/tribal vote, and those who disagree with the progressive consensus get nothing, except heroic Clacton.

    Should Labour drift back to the centre, then the Conservatives would simply promote themselves as better ‘managers’, rather than opposition.

  • Paul Marks

    Alas the conflict between Mr Corbyn and Mr Cameron reminds me of Ayn Rand’s description of the Russian Civil War.

    “The Reds believed in Plundering and Rule by Terror – and the Whites believed in NOTHING”.

    We all know how that war turned out.

    A random walk policy (“we will talk about austerity whilst spending money like a drunken sailor – and we will impose regulation burdens on the economy, the “living wage” and so on, whenever we fell like it”) is no way to defeat the Reds.

    I hope Perry and the rest of you are far away from this country when things play out.

    Although most of the West is just as bad – or worse.

  • Paul Marks

    Laird – American pro free market people still do not “get it”.

    There is no hope for “Third Parties”.

    Liberty is won or lost in Republican PRIMARY contests.

    Nominate people who actually want to reduce the size and scope of government – or kiss civilisation goodbye and prepare for a Mad Max future after a break down. As Edmund Burke pointed out – despotism and chaos are not opposites, the one leads to the other (they are brothers-in-blood).

    You have the potential of getting Republican candidates who actually want to get government under control.

    Whether they are nominated and elected or not is up to people.

    Do people want less Government Departments and less Government Agencies or not?

    If “not” – then fine, just prepare to die.

    But if people do want less government – then back candidates who agree with this position.

    Such candidates do exist.

    Try living in a country where they DO NOT EXIST.

    Try living here.

  • Stonyground

    Isn’t the problem with an ever growing state that it is those that work within the State that get to call the shots? That being the case, it is probably going to be hard to find people who are willing to vote themselves out of a job.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Johnathan: if Labour is a full-blown Marxist party[…]

    Actually, what strikes me about the list of statist/mad policies in the 1st paragraph of the OP, is how much they contrast to Soviet policies.
    Secondary picketing in union disputes? there are no labor disputes in a socialist country: there are only deviationist troublemakers.
    Ban firms from paying dividends? the Soviet Union did, but not because they were not paying staff enough (which they weren’t): it was because there were no shareholders to pay dividends to.
    Ending the nuclear deterrent while keeping submarines? well, the Soviet Union did keep submarines.
    Giving another government some sort of stake in a Soviet territory? on the contrary: it was the Soviet Union that had some sort of stake in other countries’ territories.
    Reaching out diplomatically to Islamists? only if it helps to raise oil prices.
    People’s quantitative easing? something like that could have been done by removing exchange controls; it wasn’t.

  • Snorri Godhi

    PS: i did not mean that Corbyn is not a Marxist: just wanted to note that, to paraphrase Richard Pipes, Corbynism and Bolshevism are two very different heresies of Marxism.

  • NickM

    “for what, deep-sea fishing?” – JP in the OP about SSBNs without the BNs.

    Clever. Of course the real reason is sub-Keynesian make-work to keep his union chums happy. Which means they keep him. Can we resurrect Nelson or something to tell people (at cutlass point) that a navy has to be about killing people and breaking things. Please.

    Not entirely unrelated. Jada Smith has gone off on one about the lack of black Oscar nominees. Undertone to this is her hubby didn’t get one.

    Not entirely unrelated because they are both examples of bizarre toys out of the pram thinking.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Kind of funny, NickM, as the Oscars are a lefty-liberal luvvie hug-in these days, so it is amusing to see all this.

    My hope is that The Martian gets a gong for the best hard SF film I saw this year.

  • Mr Ed

    Corbynism and Bolshevism are two very different heresies of Marxism.

    Corbynism is the slow train to Kolyma.

    Lenin’s ‘Peace, Bread, Land‘ was code for ‘War, Famine and Collectivisation‘. The Bolsheviks did not openly campaign for mass murder, even if it was implicit, until they felt secure. Those who fawn over the Soviets and their satellites are not well-meaning, they should be taken to know what the Soviets did and to wish to replicate it, or else to unleash forces that will replicate the Soviets’ deeds.

  • RAB

    Corbyn seems to believe that successful British Foreign policy can be conducted akin to going into a high stakes Poker game with all your cards facing up. After all he is a sincere and righteous man, his friends Hamas, Hezzbollah and ISIS would never abuse his trust, would they?

    Frankly he isn’t very bright. A dour and dull raving Marxist, who like most raving Marxists haven’t read any Marx beyond the Manifesto and probably wouldn’t understand Das Kapital even if he tried. He will also be 71 at the next election. The last time we had a leader that old was Winston Churchill and there was a bit of a crisis on.

    And to add to the unarmed submarines Nick, we should add those nice new shiny aircraft carriers that have yet to be launched, you know the ones we haven’t got any planes to fly off them.

  • Mr Ed


    You cannot put the ‘thin-air’craft carriers at the door of Mr Corbyn, this was planned when he was still an obscure backbench Menshevik.

  • RAB

    I didn’t mean to Mr Ed. But if Corbyn became PM he’d have to cope with the cost of two large tin cans that don’t do what it says on the tin.

  • Paul Marks

    Snorri appears to believe that Lenin and co were not Marxists either.

    Fair enough then, no one is a Marxist – including Karl and Fred.

    The Red Flag of Lenin (and Corbyn) is not the Red Flag of Karl Marx.

    And the Black Flag of ISIS is not the Black Flag of Islam.

    And I am Flash Gordon.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Snorri appears to believe that Lenin and co were not Marxists either.


    I was just paraphrasing Richard Pipes, or more precisely Jonah Goldberg:

    Richard Pipes described Bolshevism and Fascism as twinned heresies of Marxism.

    Actually i think it bloody obvious that any form of Marxism must be heretical, if it is to appeal to anybody who is not completely delusional. That is because anybody who is not completely delusional would have noticed, even before Marx’s death, the blatant falsification of his predictions.

  • Chris

    As Labor goes further into the arms of the Toxic Left, what will happen to the moderates and center-left of Labor? Won’t they simply move to the Lib-Dems and rejuvenate that party’s electoral prospects?

    Is there anything to prevent existing MPs to transfer allegiance to the LibDems in Parliament? Or are they forced to caucus with a Labor Party that no longer represents them. I would think that a First-Past-the-Post system would allow this, but I’ve never read anything that suggests this.

  • Nicholas (Andy.royd) Gray

    We used to have a drink called ‘Claytons’, the drink you have when you’re not having a drink. 0% alcohol, I think.
    Corbyn seems to be the leader you have when you’re not having a leader! He’ll only last until someone better comes along, but until then, have a Corbyn, comrads!

  • Mr Ed


    Is there anything to prevent existing MPs to transfer allegiance to the LibDems in Parliament?

    Nothing except fear. An MP may change party whip at any time, or have it withdrawn and be regarded as ‘independent’. Most noted party changer? Winston Spencer Churchill.

    There was a Labour breakaway in the early 1980s called the Social Democratic Party, led by 4 ‘notables’, called the ‘Gang of Four’ after Mao’s lot, with some irony/mockery perhaps. Then flared up as an alternative, them bombed and merged with the Liberal Party to form the Liberal Democrats, a party now with 8 MPs. There is a huge tribal element in Labour that probably holds them back, as the Lib Dems pick up Lefties from the middle class who are a bit put off by the ‘workers’ image of Labour, whilst Labour is for working-class dullards/thugs and middle-class Destructionists who hate the UK and all its parts.

  • AngryTory

    Cry? We should rejoice!

    The existence of Labour and Green and Democrat parties is an affront to capitalism and an anathema to freedom. The sooner the UK and US adopt a German-style constitutional court to ban parties that act against the basic tenets civil order, the better.