13 October 2015

Corbyn, Watson and McDonnell should all be removed


Consider the state of the Labour party today. The leader Jeremy Corbyn gave an atrocious, inept speech at party conference and his sinister allies (on the anti-market hard left) have followed that up by establishing a front organisation that is menacing decent Labour MPs with the threat of deselection.

Deputy leader Tom Watson, puffed up with his anti-free press antics, turning a legitimate investigation into media wrong-doing into a show-trial, is in trouble over his excitable conduct in relation to the historic sexual abuse investigation. He made himself the supposed champion of victims and accusers, using highly colourful language that led to the trashing of the reputation of people who had the right to be considered innocent until guilty. Although investigations are ongoing, it is fair to say that there are grave questions about the claims Watson aired. That does not mean that there was no abuse. Terrible things were done to children and young adults in the 1970s but not every claim made in the middle of media fire storm, of the kind that attracts vulnerable people, will be true. Anyone who has ever worked on a newspaper or been in a court of law can tell you that. Anyone who doesn’t grasp it needs to go straight home via the bookshop and read The Crucible, Arthur Miller’s play about witchcraft and false denunciation.

The irony there of course is that Miller was attacking the hounding of those Americans accused in the 1950s of harbouring Communist sympathies. There were significant numbers of Communists in key positions, it turned out, but not as many as the witch-finders suggested and not everyone accused was guilty of treason or anything close to it. The truth was murky.

Which is another reason senior politicians should display calm and judgment‎ during a moral panic. That cannot be easy when journalists are jumping up and down shouting, of course. Yet that, a calm head in a panic, is what is expected by decent people of those who run political parties.

Watson is the deputy leader of the Labour party. Try and imagine war hero Denis Healey behaving the way Watson behaved over the abuse claims. No, you can’t.

Now the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has somehow managed to outdo himself. I thought this was impossible, following his miserable half-apology for praising the IRA but he has pulled it off in a fashion that makes his predecessor Ed Balls look like a modern Gladstone. McDonnell may be the worst person at politics this century.

At party conference, the Shadow Chancellor said that he would vote for George Osborne’s fiscal charter, which is meant to enshrine surpluses (in good times) in law. Two weeks later McDonnell has read it, or finally understood it, and rapidly changed his mind and party policy without consultation. Or he was ordered to by Corbyn’s backers. Guido has an account of what unfolded at this week’s meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party. The PLP is in uproar. The Opposition is an embarrassing shambles and it is getting worse.

As it happens, I’m sceptical of golden rules and excessively rigid fiscal rules imposed by law. They are usually rooted in political game-playing by the Chancellor of the day. Who knows how policy or the global economy will develop? Just try not to inflate bubbles that blow up the economy. Keep taxes as low as possible to encourage innovation and enterprise. Don’t think it is different this time. Try not to do mad things.

‎Those concerns, however, are matters for those in government. The Labour party has no chance anytime soon of being anywhere near government. Indeed, the party may be dying as a serious force, wiped out in Scotland and declaring war on swing voters in England.

Labour moderates who haven’t woken up to the scale of the challenge need to, urgently, and they need to organise a fightback. This trio at the top are a calamity for their party and for the country. Until Corbyn, Watson and McDonnell – all of them – are removed there is no hope of saving Labour. It may already be too late. But, Labour friends, it’s worth a go, surely?

Iain Martin is Editor of CapX.