14 July 2015

Harriet Harman has been terrific for Labour since the election


Praising Harriet Harman is not standard CapX fare. I suspect that the acting leader of the Labour party does not much like popular capitalism, or think that markets need defending. Despite that, I’m going to come right out and say it. Harriet Harman has been absolutely terrific for her party in recent months.

When her party was in despair, the morning after the Tory triumph in May, she went to her office and with a few colleagues got to work holding together an outfit that has seemed, in recent weeks, as though it has a death wish. In doing so, she was working at high speed, and perhaps mistakes were made in how the leadership contest is being conducted. I’m sure she has not got every call right. But with good humour, and considerable dignity, she has kept her head while some of those around her in the parliamentary Labour party seem to have gone bonkers.

For this she has been rewarded with a barrage of complaints. When she announced that there was no point opposing the tax credit changes for the sake of it, there was outrage. All manner of muppets who seem to prefer the idea of sticking it to the pesky voters, leaving their party in opposition until 2047, have let it be known that Harman has messed up here. Diane Abbott was also furious. Jeremy Corbyn – Alexis Tspiras played by a sociology lecturer from 1986 – has even been gaining ground in the leadership contest. The Tories are desperate for him to win. The terrific Liz Kendall, meanwhile, is not getting very far.

In the face of this madness, Harman’s message to frontrunner Andy Burnham – cast as the Continuity Miliband candidate – at a recent shadow cabinet meeting was wonderfully refreshing. “Andy,” she said, “you may have noticed that we lost the election.”

Bravo, Harriet Harman, I say. It is as though the general election defeat was a wake-up call for Labour’s hitherto soft-left Brownite deputy and she seems determined to make the increasingly left-wing party at least acknowledge the views of the electorate. Could this ever catch on?

But if not, and if the whiny complaints continue this summer, Harman would be quite justified in telling her party to get stuffed. She should walk away as acting leader and leave Dianne Abbott and the others to sort out the tricky business of winning 100 seats in not very left-wing parts of England.

Iain Martin is Editor of CapX.