The Worst Government Ever? Then What Do You Call Corbyn’s Labour?
A narrative has formed over the last few months. Theresa May spends her time clinging to the curtain rails of 10 Downing Street, in permanent fear that one day a metaphorical pearl-handled revolver will be delivered and she will be told to do her duty.
Michael Gove and Boris Johnson have formed a government within a government; the same Johnson is a diplomat without the powers of diplomacy nor compensating decency; the Chancellor of the Exchequer is at loggerheads with just about everybody; the EU - already exasperated at Brexit chaos - is preparing for Theresa May to fall.
They do not just have rebels, they have mutineers! That is how bad they are.
This is the worst government ever.
Even the most benevolent of political observers would hesitate to commit to saying much that is positive about May’s post-election premiership. Her Brexit policy appears shambolic. There is no domestic agenda. On both there might be a reckoning. It is too soon to write political obituaries though.
Moreover, if this is the worst government ever, then why aren’t Labour walking it?
They may sing hymns to him at Glastonbury, but outside the pampered middle-classes festivals Jeremy Corbyn remains a drag on Labour. ICM puts the two parties neck and neck; the poll-of-polls gives Labour a 1.5% lead. Labour’s confidence is so out of kilter with reality that it comes across as arrogance.
Emily Thornberry, the shadow Foreign Secretary, declared that Labour could bring down the government at any time. Labour should be careful. Thornberry’s comments either sprang from ignorance or hubris. She did not say how Labour would bring down the government. Or why this supposedly easy task had not already been completed.
The Fixed-term Parliament Act restricts the ability of the House of Commons to bring down governments to specific votes of confidence or motions to call a general election. Labour does not have the numbers for a general election; equally the DUP will never bring down the Conservatives while Labour is led by Corbyn.
On Brexit, the number of Tory rebels are outmatched by those who will walk through the government lobbies. Labour can inflict defeats upon this government. It can highlight its weakness in Parliament. It cannot snap its fingers and bring them down.
There are sufficient number of Brexit fanatics in the Tory party to make the party ungovernable. At times, during the last few weeks as May has been beset by crises, it has seemed that the Tories were entering a death spiral in comparison to 1992-97. Probably what holds this back is the improbably good poll ratings.
Labour-supporters are hiding from the truth
Nobody can say for certain why a Tory slump has failed to happen. As the Brexit party, it may be that May’s party is being held up by the Brexit vote. With Nigel Farage off the scene, there is no one for them to vote for. I cannot remember the name of the new Ukip leader, nor can I be bothered to find it out. Ignorance here is not merely bliss but
What will happen to these votes if there is a Brexit recession? Who knows? But the lesson from across the Atlantic is that, in an age of identity politics, incompetence does not mean a party or leader will lose its core vote. The amazing truth about Trump is that he should be doing far worse than he is.
An alternative is that Labour are paying the price for electing a leader who appeals to its own prejudices rather than those of the country.
The election gave Corbyn a much-needed boost in confidence. He can now take on May at PMQs. Having fought a national election, he has the earned the right to be heard. Just because he was underestimated, it does that follow that he will be prime minister.
To assume that governments cannot recover from spasms of in-fighting and moments of doubt is ridiculous. Even her closest advisers despaired of Margaret Thatcher’s competence when she first became prime minister. Most thought her a one-term disastrous prime minister. As it was, the minutiae of Westminster politics did not matter to most voters.
The Theresa May at PMQs this week looked like a different political animal. The government has an upcoming budget to prove that it has a grip on a domestic agenda. Rhetoric may collide horrendously with reality as the government starts trade talks with the EU27 but until Remainers stop fighting the last war, they may be fighting a doomed fight.
Opinion may have shifted against Brexit, but “here-today, gone-tomorrow” polls are not the same as a strategy to stop Brexit without putting the country into a different political turmoil to the one it is already in. Remainers may have the numbers in Parliament but they have neither a leader nor a strategy.
Labour-supporters are hiding from the truth. Their hysteria puts them in a logical bind.
An opposition that performs as badly against this weak prime minister and government as this one might be described as - well, the worst opposition ever.
About the author
Educated at Durham University and UCL, Graham is Disclaimer's editor and a regular contributor. He has written for numerous publications including Tribune, Out Magazine and Vice. He has also contributed to two books of political counterfactuals for Biteback Media, Prime Minister Boris (2011) and Prime Minister Corbyn (2016).
A democratic republican lefty, he struggles daily with the conflict between his ingrained senses of idealism and pragmatism.
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