The government has given Labour enough rope. Corbyn’s using it

by Greig Baker

Too few people understand that the easiest way to get something done in politics is to let someone else take the credit. That’s as true for political parties as it is for individual politicians, and it holds whether you’re trying to deliver your own agenda or hobble your opponents’ plans. It should be slowly dawning on Labour that they are being given plenty of rope to hang themselves by this Conservative government – and Jeremy Corbyn seems to be quite happy to pick up the noose.

I’d cite three examples of this approach in practice.

First, it has been widely recognised that Tristram Hunt’s move to the V&A had to be explicitly approved by the government. In other words, Theresa May knew about a Labour MP’s resignation before Jeremy Corbyn did – and she was quite happy to facilitate it. If you listen carefully to Labour MPs being asked for comment on Mr Hunt’s move, it is clear the Opposition is braced to lose yet more high profile (and capable) MPs to tempting jobs outside Parliament over the coming months.

All the Tories have to do is let the Labour leadership keep hammering moderates’ morale and then give resignation-minded MPs a worthy and salary-plated parachute. Long term, this trend could pose problems for the centre-right: Conservative voices have long bemoaned the fact that public bodies are often led by people who have an active and left leaning political agenda of their own. But in the short term, it just helps roll the pitch for polling day.

Second, and in part to facilitate those resignations, it’s notable how the Conservatives continue to hold off direct attacks on the policies, statements and personal alliances of the leader of the opposition and his shadow chancellor. Outside of the pantomime of PMQs, when was the last time you heard Theresa May criticise Mr Corbyn or Mr McDonnell in public? The Tories have a huge incentive to help keep the Labour leadership in post. Suggestions by senior hard left figures like Len McCluskey, Diane Abbott and Ken Livingstone that there could be a reckoning for the leadership if Labour’s poll ratings haven’t improved within a year have given the Conservatives much more cause for concern than any fumbled policy announcement from the Opposition frontbench.

And third, talking of fumbled policies, today’s political terrain encourages the Labour leadership to demonstrate again and again that its own prescriptions for the country are entirely alien to the vast majority of the centrist and swing voters who actually decide elections. Jeremy Corbyn bashes all of the parts of the EU that people want to protect (free trade) and boosts all the parts people don’t want (limitless immigration). The Conservatives can provide an easy fillip for UKIP candidates in Labour areas by mentioning the Tory approach to these issues and then standing back and letting Labour loudly oppose all the wrong bits.

By letting Labour be its own hangman, the government can focus more of its attention on holding its own side together, working on its policy agenda and preparing the ground for the next general election, which could still be held early… If the Tories can’t get a substantive domestic agenda, let alone their Brexit deal, through the Commons (where they have only a slim majority) or the Lords (where they are outnumbered), then the chances of an early general election shoot up – and if current trends are anything to go by, on polling day Labour could need all the gallows humour it can muster.

Greig Baker is Chief Executive of political intelligence firm GUIDE 

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9 Responses to “The government has given Labour enough rope. Corbyn’s using it”

  1. LordBlagger says:

    Then when those Labour quitlings speak out against the government when May has a large majority, its in with the boot. Kick them out, replace them with Tories.

  2. Alf says:

    The Conservatives’ tactic of tempting greedy Tory-lite Labour careerists with well-paid jobs is despicable. But the party is better off now that the divisive Blairite old guard are finally leaving.

  3. David Robinson says:

    Hard to disagree with any of that.

    The Conservatives can tilt authoritarian-nationalist to try and get UKIP supporters back on board, knowing Labour poses no threat to its centrist supporters.

    The current Labour leadership is also trying to ward-off the perceived UKIP threat and tighten its grip on the party – rather than making any coherent attempt to win over Conservative voters.

    It’s tactics complement those of the Conservatives perfectly – attack UKIP, keep Labour focused on the left end of the political spectrum.

  4. Tony says:

    “the vast majority of the centrist and swing voters who actually decide elections.”

    They can only decide elections if there is a base remaining to add them to.

    I see that the BBC has admitted that it misrepresented Corbyn in a 2015 interview.
    An answer that he gave to one question was presented as an answer to a different

  5. paul barker says:

    This site continues its drift to The Right : note the assumption here that the “Vast Majority” of voters are obseessed with immigration.
    A lot of the points made here are correct, up to a point, but they dont look very far.
    Of course The Tories would love an early Election but because of The FTPA they cant just call one, they can try but they might fail. A failure would be humiliating & would mean yet another Leadership Contest. Labour MPs have a role here, they dont have to vote for an Election just because Corbyn tells them to.

  6. Tafia says:

    David Robinson “The Conservatives can tilt authoritarian-nationalist to try and get UKIP supporters back on board”

    Actually, most UKIP supporters (and activists and members) in the north of England and Wales are ex-Labour voters. many also active Trades Unionists.

    But please, do carry on with your fantasy..

  7. john P Reid says:

    Tony ,I can take what you’re saying and applying it to the idea ,that Labour had the working class who’d bought their council Home in the early 80’s, by the late 80’s were back voting labour as unlike in 1983 we weren’t standing on manifesto to buy them back and then the swing voters we needed but couldn’t quite get in 1992 were the Aspiring lower middle class, skilled blue collar voters

    Labour so obsessed with the middle class vote lost the working class vote, maybe some to the Libdems in 2005 over Iraq, maybe some stayed at home, some went Tory in 2010 and Yes some went ukip in 2015 so labour now has to regards the middle class public sector voter, or stay at home Mum as our core vote and the working class as the swing voter

    so David robinson ,are you saying labours strategy, is good or bad, by the way as with the BNP 15 years ago,the poeple who vote Ukip up north are Different to those who vote down south (not that I’m comparing the two)

  8. Martin says:

    Do the Tories control who is offered jobs in Sellafield at the V & A and elsewhere? I had not realised state control had reached this point.

    Is Labour supposed to gain from falling in line with anti-immigrant, benefit scrounging propaganda? How this works when it was largely a non-existent problem is to move on to broaden and heighten benefit scrounging hysteria in general.

    Other than that, you have a point that wherever the rope is coming from, Labour appear to have an instinct to use it. That being so, is it not rational, that there are a number who want to get out, before they are left dangling?

  9. whether tories control jobs outside Whitehall is not an issue for a website, the laws of libel being what they are, but the approval of the Prime Minister for the V&A job is very likely. Not that I would comment on anything but formal processes. However what is interesting about Hunt and the V&A as Peter Wilby commented in the statesman this week, is that he appears to have no qualifications to run a major museum. I stand to be corrected but he has an academic record of sorts, but I am unaware of him having any administrative or managerial experience. Please correct me if I am wrong. And has no record in museums at this level.

    The contrast with the Tate’s appointment ten days later is instructive. This major gallery appointed a highly successful, award winning Manchester art gallery director with a stellar record of running two galleries to great acclaim. the V&A should explain why they have made this appointment.

    I hesitate to point out that his was Miliband’s worst appointment, an education spokesperson with no track record and a massive failure to make an impact – and I speak as someone who spent half an hour in his office talking about local schools before he was appointed. No glimmer of understanding so I walked past the old Victoria Ground thinking well at least he will never be a front bench spokesperson. A month later he was shadow spokesperson.

    While Tristram Hunt is not the only sign of the total failure of New Labour, he was a hand picked standard bearer of the new right. What exactly makes this man a golden boy to so many people in the establishment? Telll me honestly, outside academic history what qualities does he have?

    Trevor Fisher

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