Suppose it’s a bluff. Harriet Harman says Labour won’t oppose welfare reform – it seems quite sensible that women who have been raped must prove so in order to deserve tax credits for a third child, for example – in order to rile the left into action. The more they agree with the the Tories, the more they shift the “centre” to the right, the more they throw their hands up and admit defeat on every argument they should be having, the more the fightback begins.
Say that’s the case. Say Harman is trying to rouse Labour from its slumber. Will it work? Will the lack of opposition prickle supporters into getting angry and active? Will it cause an outcry that forces people to demand a change of direction? Or will we all just shrug our shoulders, admit defeat, and get on with a straightforward choice between the Conservative Party or a rebadged, slightly more hand-wringing Conservative Party with a red rose on the logo?
Oh, but you can’t be silly and say that people are Tories if they support Tory policies and do everything the Tories would do, say One Labour, or I Love Labour, or Labour Are Nice And We’re Not Tories, or whatever the faction that votes Anyone But Corbyn call themselves at the moment. You mustn’t call us Tories, that’s not fair. We are Labour, because we call ourselves Labour. We identify as Labour, even if we aren’t. Therefore, you don’t get to decide whether we are or not.
“Do you want to win an election?” they snarl. And once again a binary choice is placed before the entire spectrum of left thinking in Britain. It is either The Centre or Socialist Nonsense. It is either Election Victory or Doldrums. It is either Convincing Marginal Voters or Being In Opposition Forever. (But seeing as “opposition” at the moment doesn’t appear to involve opposing anything, would that make such a difference?)
Perhaps Labour should forget everything they’ve ever fought for – and won – every principle they’ve ever had, everything they’ve ever wanted, everything they have historically stood for, and just try to win an election. Just as they gave up trying to fight the lie that they crashed the economy, they should give up fighting for the truth that austerity won’t work, and will hurt. Stop fighting. Give up. We lost that argument, so it doesn’t matter. Listen to the voters. They said – well, 30-odd per cent of them said – vote Tory, so we should listen to that, rather than the people who voted for us. (Forget listening to voters in Scotland, though. Can’t understand that. Very odd. Forget about Scotland, it’s gone now.)
In the meantime, a Government with a tiny, slim majority dismantles the BBC, attacks benefits, ruins schools, breaks up the NHS, erodes workers’ rights and sets its sights on even more – getting rid of holiday pay, maternity pay, sick pay. And Labour covers its mouth and watches. “Well, if this is what the people want,” they mumble, “then we must agree with it”. And then, just like that, it’s all gone.