Where is the left when the country needs it?

by David Seymour

In the furore over Vince Cable’s comments on Rupert Murdoch, the media generally ignored something else he said which has far more relevance.

Cable believes that the Tories are engaged in a right-wing Maoist revolution and he is right.

The cuts are a cover for the reversal of more than half a century of social advances. While Cameron continues to project an image of hugging hoodies, huskies and happiness, Osborne, Gove, Lansley and the other gang members are undermining welfare, education and the health service.

Thatcher came nowhere near doing that. Her administrations accepted the welfare state and universal benefits, even though she might personally have done so through gritted teeth. Not this lot, despite all the rhetoric about wanting to help the disadvantaged.

Take just one of the measures they are introducing and which the Liberal Democrats seem too hungry for power to grasp. The question is: why are tuition fees trebling? The answer: funding for higher education is being cut by 80 per cent. That can have little or nothing to do with reducing the deficit and everything to do with abolishing widespread university entrance.

This is the sixth richest country in the world, yet apparently we can’t afford to fund higher education. That isn’t just ridiculous but short-sighted. While the rest of the world prepares for an increasingly skilled and knowledgeable workforce, we go backwards to an age when only an elite minority went to university.

A variation of this dogma is behind the attack on schools launched by Michael Gove, who may soon be recognised for being as bonkers as I have said for years he is. He believes all schools should be like in Tom Brown’s Schooldays, with polite children wearing neat blazers and doing Latin prep. He has been overturned twice recently – on sports funding and the ending of the Booktrust grant – but don’t expect it to be three strikes and you’re out for the minister who shares the Cameron family schoolrun.

As for what they are doing to the NHS, could a doctor please examine Andrew Lansley as a matter of urgency?

This government just doesn’t understand the lives of ordinary people, and that includes the middle classes. They are being particularly harsh on the poor, who are to be robbed of a significant proportion of their income. It may be only a tenner a week to Iain Duncan Smith but to them it is 10, 15 or even 20 per cent of what they have to live on.

So we go into 2011 with a right-wing revolution getting into its stride, the government rapidly becoming unpopular, the Tory right assembling its firepower to replace Cameron (for being too liberal) and the Lib Dems flapping in the wind.

This is not just a terrific opportunity for Labour but for a resurgent left. But where is it? Where is the leadership? Where is the movement?

Students have at least roused themselves and taken to the streets. The unions are making noises but are inevitably being accused already of self-interest.

This is the time when the country needs a leader who can speak up for the people of Britain, articulate their anger and turn the big guns of genuine opposition on the government.

It is unfair to attack a new leader for not hitting the ground running. And particularly unreasonable to expect Ed Miliband to take over after 13 years of Labour government and immediately have a prospectus handy for taking back power four years and a million unemployed down the road.

But someone has to. Someone must expose the outrage over bankers’ bonuses and bosses’ pay, rather than hum along to the tune of “We’re all in this together”, when we patently aren’t.

War has been declared on us. If we don’t defend ourselves, the cost of defeat will be terrible.

David Seymour has written more newspaper leader columns than anyone in history. He is a doyen. He blogs here.

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7 Responses to “Where is the left when the country needs it?”

  1. william says:

    Britain sends 40 percent of school leavers to university, Germany 25 percent. Which country is more successful?Which government abolished the 10p tax rate?Where is the leadership?It’s on page 24 of today’s Times,denying that the deficit is a problem, was Labour’s fault…We lost the 2010 election by the proverbial mile because the electorate realised the disastrous consequences of Gordon Brown.We need a period of reflection on our own failings,rather than hysterical rants like ‘War has been declared upon us’.

  2. doreen ogden says:

    David – Hear Hear. Only I did expect Ed to hit the ground running after so many months campaigning for the leadership a nd considering what the government was and is getting away with.

  3. You’re going to be waiting a long time if you’re waiting for a new leader to emerge and lead the left. Those days are long gone, people don’t trust leaders anymore.

    What we’re seeing the beginnings of is a new politics, but one with similarities with very old politics – those of syndicalism and the Great Unrest. 100 years ago, workers gave up on politicians and union leaders and recognised their own powers. Four years of radical trade union action shook Great Britain and Ireland.

    The radical street politics of the students, UK Uncut and others is doomed if it goes looking for leaders. It needs to learn the lessons of history. I’ve written about the movement here: http://wp.me/pej53-2n

    I’d also recommend you read Douglas Rushkoff’s 2003 paper for Demos: http://rushkoff.com/books/open-source-democracy/

  4. Art Li says:

    You are asking the wrong question. The Left will always be there, what is missing is the policy package that will please a large swathe of the electorate and which will not, for example, repeat the mistake of increasing the National Debt by over £200 billion in just over five years from 02/03 to 07/08, prior to the banking crash. Until Ed Miliband comes up with a credible alternative economic policy (and using language of war popular with the Left), any missiles fired will be “blanks”.

  5. David Seymour says:

    William – Although you say only 25 per cent of young people in Germany go to university, a far higher proportion – and well above our40 per cent – carry on into higher education. One of the fundamental problems with Britain is that we are just about the only country in the developed world that doesn’t prize education.
    I am afraid you aren’t right that Labour lost the election by a mile, although the Tories were well ahead on the popular vote. The actual difference in seats was small and there was no overall majority for the Tories, hence the need for a coalition.
    There is no appetite for Tory government and there increasingly won’t be for cuts on the scale they are being introduced.

  6. william says:

    David-the Tories polled 7 percent more votes than Labour, who in turn lost over 90 seats, while being voted for by only 29 percent of voters.I call that a mile.And frankly that result shows there was no appetite for a Labour government.

  7. Robert says:

    And yet you say the Tories are cutting welfare, would that be by using labour own cuts, WCA, ESA, brown telling us that DLA was a wasted benefit. sorry but the difference between labour and the Tories well the difference is slight to all most impossible to see.

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