The Plastic Hippo

July 13, 2015

Absinthe drinkers

Via Edgar Degas 1834 - 1917

Via Edgar Degas 1834 – 1917

The thousand yard stare usually associated with unfortunate souls enslaved by addiction and substance abuse would appear to be increasingly evident on the benches of the House of Commons. Instead of derelicts and drunks, the people staring blankly into the middle distance belong to what was once known as Her Majesty`s Most Loyal Opposition. Addicted to unobtainable power, their behaviour has gone from erratic to unpleasantly anti-social.

The parliamentary Labour Party seem incapable of learning from past mistakes. The interminable process to elect a new leader is still set to rumble on for months exposing further internal divisions, acrimony and nastiness. As in 2010, Cameron and Osborne have a clear field set the agenda, construct their arguments and invent myths that become ingrained in the collective unconscious. These myths went unchallenged then and remain unchallenged now. A disturbing proportion of the electorate still believe that Gordon Brown crashed the world economy by flogging gold to Lehman Brothers and that Andy Burnham murdered neglected patients in disgusting Mid Staffordshire hospital wards. It said so in the Sun and Daily Mail so it must be true.

Just before the election in May, Cameron was still waving a piece of paper about like a sweaty version of Neville Chamberlain. This was the note left at the treasury about there being no money left. During the same broadcasts he said that child tax credits would not be cut. Clearly Mr Cameron has difficulty in distinguishing between a weak joke and a big, fat lie but is fortunate in that he remains unchallenged by anything remotely resembling an opposition.

Strange then, that Harriet Harman should suggest that Labour will support Osborne`s benefit cap and a deliberate policy to increase poverty and, more importantly, child poverty. I cannot recall a leader of the Labour Party, acting or not, that agrees with a budget that benefits corporations and the owners of expensive houses to the detriment of the working poor. Stranger still that instead of shrieking like a harridan at Osborne`s shameless pinching of the best bits of Labour`s manifesto, she remains curiously silent in the hope that power will return by being as nasty as the Tories.

Perhaps she has been at the Pernod or perhaps she is being very clever indeed. The endless leadership contest which is getting dirtier by the day; has been enlivened with three of the four hopefuls allowed a platform to dismiss this class treachery and set out their stalls. This might bust the flush of the Blairite candidate that nobody has ever heard of and might just start a discussion about old-fashioned socialism. It`s a risky strategy but it could result in Labour remaining the party of Kier Hardy, Atlee, Bevan and Tony Benn and not repeat the crude opportunism of Shirley Williams, David Owen, Peter Mandelson and Tony Blair.

If Harman needs a more recent lesson in what happens when a political party abandons principle for power, she should take a look at the House of Commons car park as every Liberal Democrat MP with the exception of Nick Clegg – nobody talks to him anymore – arrive for work in a single Renault Espace. An opposition is there to oppose and not mimic in the futile hope of approval. The next five years will change this nation and it is time for Labour to remember the reasons it came into being.

The thousand yard stare might be the result of Absinthe dependency or blatant self interest but regardless of the motives, this country desperately needs an opposition.

Burnham seems an honest sort, Corbyn has his merits and the Blairite that nobody has heard of must be good at something. Yvette Cooper seems intelligent, capable and shrewd.

She should, however, avoid the Absinthe.


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